February 2015

Agonising Christ

—Agonising Christ, wouldn’t it give you a heartburn on your arse?

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 102)


Pick run between two benches around places Simon Dedalus appears


James Joyce’s father, John Stanislaus Joyce has many of the best lines in Joyce’s writings and appears in many different guises. Most obviously he appears as Simon Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as well as in Ulysses.

He was born in Cork on July 4th 1849. He is described in A Portrait:

    Stephen began to enumerate glibly his father’s attributes.
—A medical student, an oarsman, a tenor, an amateur actor, a shouting politician, a small landlord, a small investor, a drinker, a good fellow, a storyteller, somebody’s secretary, something in a distillery, a taxgatherer, a bankrupt and at present a praiser of his own past.

James Joyce. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Page 213)

John Stanislaus Joyce died in Dublin on 29th December 1931, where he had been living on Claude Road in Drumcondra.

In early 1934, Paul Léon wrote to Constantine Curran saying that James Joyce wanted a bench erected on Whitworth Road , opposite Claude Road, and Curran replied saying that he had been in touch with the Corporation regarding siting. (The James Joyce Paul Léon Papers, page 90). I ran by and there is neither bench, nor space for one as Whitworth Road has no footpath on the southern side, opposite Claude Road. I doubled back up alongside the canal, with the railway separating the canal from Whitworth Road. This beautiful section of the canal would be a very fitting place for a bench.

A shared bench dedicated to father and son was finally erected in St. Stephen’s Green on June 14th 1977 and is described in John Stanislaus Joyce, The Voluminous Life and Genius of James Joyce’s Father, (page 438) by John Wyse Jackson and Peter Costello. The text on the bench dedication reads:

In memory of James Joyce, Dubliner and his father John Stanislaus Joyce, Corkonian. 6th International James Joyce Symposium 1977.

John Stanislaus Joyce divided opinion. This may be why the bench is shared and he is pointedly described as being a Corkonian. Stanislaus Joyce had an uncharitable view of his father, which is continuously expressed in his book, My Brother’s Keeper, James Joyce’s Early Years.

In more jovial moments he would tell the fable, culled from Aesop or who knows what medieval bestiary, of how a fox gets rid of its fleas. When the fox is plagued by fleas, he explained, it jumps into the river and swims about until all the fleas collect on its nose. Then it gives one good whiff and blows them all into the water. That’s what he would do with the whole bloody lot of us, with the help of God and His Holy Mother, and go back to Cork. He would quote Goldsmith’s lines,

And as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue,
Pants at the place from whence at first he flew,
I still had hopes, my long vexatious past,
There to return – and die at home at last.

I’ll get rid of you all and go back to Cork. But I will break your hearts before I go. Oh yes by God! See if I don’t. I’ll break your hearts, but I’ll break your stomachs first.

Stanislaus Joyce. My Brother’s Keeper (Page 240)

John Stanislaus Joyce never returned to Cork. There is an old Dublin saying about Cork people, told to me by my own father. When they get off the train in Hueston Station they throw a stone in the Liffey. And if it floats they go home.


References Cited

Costello, P. and Jackson, J.W. (1998) John Stanislaus Joyce: The Voluminous Life and Genius of James Joyce’s Father. London, United Kingdom: Fourth Estate.

Fahy, C. (ed.) (1992) The James Joyce – Paul Léon Papers. Dublin, Ireland: National Library of Ireland.

Joyce, J. (1998) Ulysses. Edited by Hans Walter Gabler, Wolfhard Steppe, and Claus Melchior. Afterward by Michael Gordon edn. New York, United States: Vintage Books.

Joyce, J. (2007) A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Contexts Criticism. Edited by John Paul Riquelme, Hans Walter Gabler, and Walter Hettche. New York, United States: Norton, W. W. & Company.

Joyce, S. (2003) My Brother’s Keeper: James Joyce’s Early Years. Edited by Richard Ellmann. Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States: Da Capo Press.


There is a longer bibliography of background material here


You can see more of my research output on the Technological University Dublin repository Arrow, here