Monthly Archives: December 2014


    When the order list had been booked the two would go on to the park where an old friend of Stephen’s father, Mike Flynn, would be found seated on a bench, waiting for them. Then would begin Stephen’s run round the park. Mike Flynn would stand at the gate near the railway station, watch in hand, while Stephen ran round the track in the style Mike Flynn favoured, his head high lifted, his knees well lifted and his hands held straight down by his sides. When the morning practice was over the trainer would make his comments and sometimes illustrate them by shuffling along for a yard or so comically in an old pair of blue canvas shoes. A small ring of wonderstruck children and nursemaids would gather to watch him and linger even when he and uncle Charles had sat down again and were talking athletics and politics. Though he had heard his father say that Mike Flynn had put some of the best runners of modern times through his hands Stephen often glanced at his trainer’s flabby stubble-covered face, as it bent over the long stained fingers through which he rolled his cigarette, and with pity at the mild lustreless blue eyes which would look up suddenly from the task and gaze vaguely into the blue distance while the long swollen fingers ceased their rolling and grains and fibres of tobacco fell back into the pouch.

James Joyce. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Page 53)

In an earlier blog I wondered if Joyce ran. The passage above from the opening of Chapter 2 is a strong indication that he did. In his biography James Joyce, Ellmann notes (page 15) that Joyce’s brother Stanislaus recorded the fact that their father John Stanislaus Joyce, ran cross-country whilst at University College Cork.

In his recent biography Gordon Bowker writes of the young James Joyce,

In June 1891 he was removed from Clongowes leaving the bill for his final term at the college unpaid. He also left behind a high opinion of his intellectual capabilities, especially with Father Conmee. The young scholar was now allowed to study at home with the help of his mother.

Gordon Bowker. James Joyce, A Biography (Page 39)

Ellmann writes in James Joyce (page 34) that the Joyce family moved to 23 Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, in early 1892 to the house “Leoville”. Joyce would have been 9 or 10 years old at the time. It seems likely that as he was being schooled at home by his mother and no longer taking part in games at Clongowes, his father arranged for a personal trainer to keep up his physical training in the nearby Blackrock Park.

Carysfort Avenue is one of the locations where Joyce lived that has changed considerably, with a new bypass cutting through the village and exposing the gable end of “Leoville” which you can see in the Google Street View link hereYou can see the changes to the roads on the images from the Ordnance Survey Ireland in the images below. You can access the map directly here. On the map you can see the entrance along the south of the railway line from Blackrock Train Station. Interestingly the Park has changed little and there is an excellent short history here.

The changes to the street layout around “Leoville” are visually unappealing and for this reason I left if off the half marathon route that I developed last summer. Running around Blackrock Park and along the coastline into Dublin is much more appealing.

jj21kMap25_02 jj21kMap25

Oddly Joyce seems to have taken to running in his later years. Bowker writes (pages 353, 564) that Joyce wrote to Harriet Shaw Weaver, when on holiday in Belgium in 1928, at the age of 46. “Most of all he enjoyed the seafront, and took up running, one day covering six or seven kilometres between Middelkerke and Mariakerke.” Interestingly this stretch also has a railway between the land and the beach as you can see here.

Joyce clearly loved walking on the seafront and returned to the days when he ran directly beside it, in Blackrock Park.


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.

Bowker, G. (2012) James Joyce: A Biography. London, United Kingdom: Phoenix.

Click here to see the route details on Runkeeper


Every year in the month of July Mrs Kearney found occasion to say to some friend:
-My good man is packing us off to Skerries for a few weeks.
If it was not Skerries it was Howth or Greystones.

James Joyce. A Mother, Dubliners (Page 117)

Whilst Joyce is primarily known for his writings about the City of Dublin, he also travelled throughout Ireland by train. Stephen Dedalus visits Cork with his father Simon in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Joyce was familiar with the train line running south and north of the city and in the extract above mentions three popular seaside destinations south and north of the City, one of which is Skerries.

In Flann O’Brien’s book The Dalkey Archive Skerries is the location of the narrator’s fictional meeting with James Joyce. The narrator has heard a rumour that Joyce has returned from the continent and is working in a small country pub. O’ Brien uses the passage to sum up Joyce’s work, and the significant interest in Joyce from America.

-Tell me, he said. What do you want to see Joyce about? Why do you want to meet him?
Quite a question, that: gratuitous, impertinent, stupid.
-Anybody’s reasons for wishing to know the man should be obvious enough, Mick said coldly. In my own case, the first reason is curiosity. I believe the picture of himself he has conveyed in his writings is fallacious. I believe he must be a far better man or far worse. I think I have read all his works, though I admit I did not properly persevere with his play-writing. I consider his poetry meretricious and mannered. But I have an admiration for all his other work, for his dexterity and resource in handling language, for his precision, for his subtlety in covering the image of Dublin and her people. for his accuracy in setting down speech authentically, and for his enormous humour.
As a spontaneous appraisal of literary work. this unpremeditated pronouncement was not bad at all, Mick thought. But after all, was he not a well-read man for his age and upbringing, and fearless enough in facing books in which may lurk danger to morals? He was.
Dr. Crewett put down his glass.
-Well by damn, he said, you are certainly fond of your Joyce. I never suspected you of such enthusiasms,
Mick allowed goodwill to return to his face. 
-You might remember that this Colza is not exactly a literary salon. Such matters do not properly arise here as a subject of converse.
-True, I suppose. True.
-I’ve read some of the stupid books written about Joyce and his work, mostly by Americans. A real book about Joyce, springing from many long talks with him, could clear up misunderstandings and mistakes, and eliminate a lot of stupidity. 
-Lord, don’t tell me that you are also an author and exegetist in your own right?
-No, I don’t claim to be that at all but if I could gather together the material, a friend of mine would be able to turn it into a fine, fresh book. I happen to know somebody who can write very well. Stylishly.
-Well…that’s an idea.
-My point is that such a development could take place without disclosing to the public Joyce’s present abode.
-I quite see that, but perhaps Joyce wouldn’t be so convinced of the prudence of such a publication, with its implication that the master is not dead at all.
Mick finished his drink abruptly.
-I think we’ve had enough of this skirmishing, Dr. Crewett. Where is James Joyce living at the present time?
-In Skerries 

Flann O’Brien. The Dalkey Archive, (Pages 103, 104)

Flann O’Brien was one of the pen names of Brian O’Nolan. O’Nolan was one of the famous party that celebrated Bloomsday in 1954, on the fiftieth anniversary of the date on which the novel Ulysses is set. In Flann O’Brien, an Illustrated Biography, Peter Costello and Peter van de Kamp describe the day. O’Nolan arrived having already been in the early opening pubs around the Cattle Market. The plan was to start at the tower in Sandycove and end in the brothel district in Nighttown. But they got no further than the Bailey pub in Duke Street, owned by one of the party John Ryan. Apart from O’Nolan the party consisted of:

    The rest of the party, that first Bloomsday, was made up of the poet Patrick Kavanagh, the young critic Anthony Cronin, a dentist named Tom Joyce, who as Joyce’s cousin represented the family interest, and John Ryan, the painter and businessman who owned and edited the literary magazine Envoy. The idea of the Bloomsday celebration had been Ryan’s grwowing naturally out of a special Joyce issue of his magazine for which O’Nolan had been guest editor.

Ryan had engaged two horse drawn cabs, of the old fashioned kind, which in Ulysses, Mr Bloom and his friends drive to poor Paddy Dignam’s funeral. The party were assigned roles from the novel. Cronin stood in for Stephen Dedalus, O’Nolan for his father Simon Dedalus, John Ryan for the journalist Martin Cunningham, and A.J. Leventhal, the Registrar of Trinity College, being Jewish, was recruited to fill (unknown to himself according to John Ryan) the role of Leopold Bloom.”

Peter Costello and Peter van de Kamp. Flann O’Brien, an Illustrated Biography (Page 15)

One of the party, Anthony Cronin wrote his own biography of Flann O’Brien, No Laughing Matter, The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien, and quotes a funny passage from John Ryan’s book Remembering How We Stood describing an event that day involving Myles na Gopaleen, another of Brian O’Nolan’s pen names, in a pub in Blackrock.

Perhaps it was the sound of our horses and carriages without, or just the somber appearance of Myles (for he was wearing one of those black homburg hats he dubbed ‘County Manager’), or merely the fact that he usually had funeral parties at about this time, that caused the landlord to approach us. He took Myles’ hand to offer condolence.
‘Nobody too close, I trust?’ he queried hopefully.
‘Just a friend,’ replied Myles quietly ‘fellow by the name of Joyce – James Joyce…’ meanwhile ordering another hurler of malt.
‘James Joyce…’ murmured the publican thoughtfully, setting the glass on the counter, ‘not the plastering contractor from Wolfe Tone Square?’
‘Naaahh…’ grunted Myles impatiently, ‘the writer.’
‘Ah! the sign writer, ‘ cried the publican cheerfully, glad and relieved to have got to the bottom of this mystery so quickly, ‘little Jimmy Joyce from Newtown Park Avenue, the sign writer, sure wasn’t he only sitting on that stool there on Wednesday last week- wait, no, I’m a liar, it was on Tuesday.’

Anthony Cronin. No Laughing Matter, The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien (Pages 195,196)

Joyce fictionalised and remembered, with characters, real, imagined and embellished, living on in Dublin.


Costello, P. and Van De Kamp, P. (1989) Flann O’Brien: An Illustrated Biography. London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

Cronin, A. (1989) No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien. London, United Kingdom: Grafton.

Joyce, J. (2006) Dubliners, Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. Edited by Margot Norris, Hans Walter Gabler, and Walter Hettche. New York, United States: Norton, W. W. & Company.

O’Brien, F. (1986) The Dalkey Archive. London, United Kingdom: Grafton.

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Today at the City of Dublin Hospital the Deputy Coroner (in the absence of Mr. Leverett) held an inquest on the body of Mrs Emily Sinico, aged forty-three years, who was killed at Sydney Parade Station yesterday evening. The evidence showed that the deceased lady, while attempting to cross the line, was knocked down by the engine of the ten o’clock slow train from Kingstown, thereby sustaining injuries of the head and right side which led to her death.

James Joyce. A Painful Case, Dubliners (Page 95)

I ran to Sydney Parade Train Station and looped around to cross the tracks where Mrs. Sinico was killed by the northbound train in the story from Dubliners, A Painful Case. The story is one of my favourites, possibly because it seems so contemporaneous. It centres around Mr. James Duffy of Chapelizod who meets the married Mrs. Sinico.

Ellmann in James Joyce (page 133) notes that Stanislaus also told in his diary of a meeting with a married woman at a concert, which Joyce took over for his story. On page 39 he notes that Stanislaus had a fight with one of the local boys, “Pisser” Duffy, and was amused when his unforgiving brother gave the name of Duffy to the hero of “A Painfiul Case,” who in most respects was modelled on Stanislaus.

Duffy is described in the story thus,

Mr. Duffy abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental disorder. A mediæval doctor would have called him saturnine. His face, which carried the entire tale of his years, was of the brown tint of Dublin streets. On his long and rather large head grew dry black hair and a tawny moustache did not quite cover an unamiable mouth. His cheekbones also gave his face a harsh character; but there was no harshness in the eyes which, looking at the world from under their tawny eyebrows, gave the impression of a man ever alert to greet a redeeming instinct in others but often disappointed. He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances. He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a predicate in the past tense. He never gave alms to beggars and walked firmly, carrying a stout hazel.

James Joyce. A Painful Case, Dubliners (Page 90)

Mrs Sinico is killed by a train at Sydney Parade and is remembered by Mr Duffy,

Now that she was gone he understood how lonely her life must have been, sitting night after night alone in that room. His life would be lonely too until he, too, died, ceased to exist, became a memory—if anyone remembered him.

James Joyce. A Painful Case, Dubliners (Page 98)

She seemed to be near him in the darkness. At moments he seemed to feel her voice touch his ear, her hand touch his. He stood still to listen. Why had he withheld life from her? Why had he sentenced her to death? He felt his moral nature falling to pieces.

James Joyce. A Painful Case, Dubliners (Page 98)

One of the puzzles of Ulysses is who is the 13th man in the macintosh who attends Paddy Dignam’s funeral in Glasnevin. Bloom, who attended Mrs. Sinico’s recent funeral in October 1903 wonders,

“Now who is that lankylooking galoot over there in the macintosh? Now who is he I’d like to know? Now I’d give a trifle to know who he is. Always someone turns up you never dreamt of. A fellow could live on his lonesome all his life. Yes, he could. ”

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 90)

    Love loves to love love. Nurse loves the new chemist. Constable 14A loves Mary Kelly. Gerty MacDowell loves the boy that has the bicycle. M. B. loves a fair gentleman. Li Chi Han lovey up kissy Cha Pu Chow. Jumbo, the elephant, loves Alice, the elephant. Old Mr Verschoyle with the ear trumpet loves old Mrs Verschoyle with the turnedin eye. The man in the brown macintosh loves a lady who is dead. His Majesty the King loves Her Majesty the Queen. Mrs Norman W. Tupper loves officer Taylor. You love a certain person. And this person loves that other person because everybody loves somebody but God loves everybody.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 273)

It seems to me that The man in the brown macintosh loves a lady who is dead is James Duffy, who lingers at Glasnevin Cemetery, thinking of the death and of the internment of Mrs Sinico on the 17th October 1903. Mr Duffy ponders his own lonely life and future death, and Bloom too ponders about a man living on his lonesome all his life.

Reality, fiction, life and death are all intertwined over the course of the writings.


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. (2006) Dubliners, Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. Edited by Margot Norris, Hans Walter Gabler, and Walter Hettche. New York, United States: Norton, W. W. & Company.

Click here to see the route details on Runkeeper


    *Before Nelson’s pillar trams slowed, shunted, changed trolley, started for Blackrock, Kingstown and Dalkey, Clonskea, Rathgar and Terenure, Palmerston Park and upper Rathmines, Sandymount Green, Rathmines, Ringsend and Sandymount Tower, Harold’s Cross. The hoarse Dublin United Tramway Company’s timekeeper bawled them off:
—Rathgar and Terenure!
—Come on, Sandymount Green!
Right and left parallel clanging ringing a doubledecker and a singledeck moved from their railheads, swerved to the down line, glided parallel.
—Start, Palmerston Park!

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 96)

Trams feature in many of Joyce’s writings but particularly in Ulysses. The extract above is taken from the opening of the Aeolus episode. The episode opens and closes at Nelson’s Pillar from which the trams depart. Interestingly none of the trams are going to the northside of the City.

Bloom speculates several times on the possibility of having a tramline on the North Circular Road carrying animals from the Cattle Markets to the Quays.

Of course if they ran a tramline along the North Circular from the cattlemarket to the quays value would go up like a shot.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 47)

—I can’t make out why the corporation doesn’t run a tramline from the parkgate to the quays, Mr Bloom said. All those animals could be taken in trucks down to the boats.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 81)

 (in alderman’s gown and chain) Electors of Arran Quay, Inns Quay, Rotunda, Mountjoy and North Dock, better run a tramline, I say, from the cattlemarket to the river. That’s the music of the future.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 390)

A scheme to connect by tramline the Cattle Market (North Circular road and Prussia street) with the quays (Sheriff street, lower, and East Wall), parallel with the Link line railway laid (in conjunction with the Great Southern and Western railway line) between the cattle park, Liffey junction, and terminus of Midland Great Western Railway 43 to 45 North Wall, in proximity to the terminal stations or Dublin branches of Great Central Railway, Midland Railway of England, City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, Dublin and Glasgow Steam Packet Company, Glasgow, Dublin and Londonderry Steam Packet Company (Laird line), British and Irish Steam Packet Company, Dublin and Morecambe Steamers, London and North Western Railway Company, Dublin Port and Docks Board Landing Sheds and transit sheds of Palgrave, Murphy and Company, steamship owners, agents for steamers from Mediterranean, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and Holland and for Liverpool Underwriters’ Association, the cost of acquired rolling stock for animal transport and of additional mileage operated by the Dublin United Tramways Company, limited, to be covered by graziers’ fees.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Pages 590,591)

In his book Through Streets Broad and Narrow, A History of Dublin Trams, Michael Corcoran writes

Bloom also speculated about the possibility of carrying livestock from the cattle market straight down to the North Wall by rail.  This idea could also have come from Joyce’s knowledge of post – 1904 tramway developments in operation by the time he wrote Ulysses. In this instance, a later decision by the DUTC to handle freight resulted in some livestock wagons, mainly from the Dublin & Blessington, being employed for Cattle Market Traffic. However no rails were ever laid on the North Circular Road east of Berkeley Road and cattle droving, from the markets down to the North Wall, continued to be a major nuisance well beyond the end of tramway operation.

Michael Corcoran. Through Streets Broad and Narrow, A History of Dublin Trams (Page 72)

Corcoran highlights an interesting point about Ulysses. It was set in 1904 but was written between 1914 and 1921 so many events that are looming or are being thought or speculated about by the characters have already happened in reality.

I ran along the stretch of the North Circular Road from the Prussia Street end to the junction with Summerhill. It is noticeable that the route of the tram lines is similar to that of the modern day route of the 46A bus, and many of the bus routes simply developed from tram routes. Most transport routes from Dublin radiate out like spokes from the City Centre, hence the groupings of trams at Nelson’s Pillar. There is little lateral transportation routes and hence no tram ran along the North Circular Road to the Five Lamps, where an important outward radial route ran to Dollymount and Howth. Hence in the Wandering Rocks episode of Ulysses Father Conmee has to walk from Gardiner Street via Mountjoy Square, Fitzgibbon Street, the North Circular Road and Portland Row.

Father Conmee also speculates on the introduction of a tram.

    Father Conmee turned the corner and walked along the North Circular road. It was a wonder that there was not a tramline in such an important thoroughfare. Surely, there ought to be.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 181)

This lack of connectivity and a concentration on radial routes persists in Dublin to this day, as there are still no bus stops along Father Conmee’s walk.

In his book A Portrait of Dublin in Maps, published in 2013, Muiris De Buitléir writes,

Conservatism and inertia are also characteristics of Dublin’s bus system. A glance at the map of the original tram system will show a strong similarity with the present bus network, although a century separates the two systems. `Until relatively recently bus routes 1 to 31 followed the routes of the tram, with only minor modifications and extensions. Another unusual characteristic of the system is the centralised nature of the system, centred on O’Connell Street, and the radial pattern of the routes. Almost every north—south bus route crosses o’Connell Bridge, while the other twelve bridges between the toll bridge and Islandbridge carry only a handful of routes.

Muiris De Buitléir. A Portrait of Dublin in Maps (Page 082)

You can read, or listen, to Michael Corcoran talking about the history of Dublin Trams here:

References cited

Corcoran, M. (2008) Through Streets Broad and Narrow: A History of Dublin Trams. London, United Kingdom: Ian Allan Publishing.

DeBuitléir, M. (2013) A Portrait of Dublin in Maps: History, Geography, People, Society. Dublin, Ireland: Gill & Macmillan.

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.


There is a longer bibliography of background material here


You can see more on my research output on the Dublin Institute of Technology repository Arrow, here

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—What is your nation if I may ask? says the citizen.
—Ireland, says Bloom. I was born here. Ireland.

       The citizen said nothing only cleared the spit out of his gullet and, gob, he spat a Red bank oyster out of him right in the corner.
—After you with the push, Joe, says he, taking out his handkerchief to swab himself dry.
—Here you are, citizen, says Joe. Take that in your right hand and repeat after me the following words.
       The muchtreasured and intricately embroidered ancient Irish facecloth attributed to Solomon of Droma and Manus Tomaltach og MacDonogh, authors of the Book of Ballymote, was then carefully produced and called forth prolonged admiration. No need to dwell on the legendary beauty of the cornerpieces, the acme of art, wherein one can distinctly discern each of the four evangelists in turn presenting to each of the four masters his evangelical symbol, a bogoak sceptre, a North American puma (a far nobler king of beasts than the British article, be it said in passing), a Kerry calf and a golden eagle from Carrantuohill. The scenes depicted on the emunctory field, showing our ancient duns and raths and cromlechs and grianauns and seats of learning and maledictive stones, are as wonderfully beautiful and the pigments as delicate as when the Sligo illuminators gave free rein to their artistic fantasy long long ago in the time of the Barmecides. Glendalough, the lovely lakes of Killarney, the ruins of Clonmacnois, Cong Abbey, Glen Inagh and the Twelve Pins, Ireland’s Eye, the Green Hills of Tallaght, Croagh Patrick, the brewery of Messrs Arthur Guinness, Son and Company (Limited), Lough Neagh’s banks, the vale of Ovoca, Isolde’s tower, the Mapas obelisk, Sir Patrick Dun’s hospital, Cape Clear, the glen of Aherlow, Lynch’s castle, the Scotch house, Rathdown Union Workhouse at Loughlinstown, Tullamore jail, Castleconnel rapids, Kilballymacshonakill, the cross at Monasterboice, Jury’s Hotel, S. Patrick’s Purgatory, the Salmon Leap, Maynooth college refectory, Curley’s hole, the three birthplaces of the first duke of Wellington, the rock of Cashel, the bog of Allen, the Henry Street Warehouse, Fingal’s Cave—all these moving scenes are still there for us today rendered more beautiful still by the waters of sorrow which have passed over them and by the rich incrustations of time.
—Shove us over the drink, says I. Which is which?
—That’s mine, says Joe, as the devil said to the dead policeman.
—And I belong to a race too, says Bloom, that is hated and persecuted. Also now. This very moment. This very instant.
Gob he near burnt his fingers with the butt of his old cigar.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Pages 272, 273)

Joyce mentions Guinness throughout Ulysses and extensively in Finnegans Wake. In the extract above from the Cyclops episode of Ulysses the brewery of Messrs Arthur Guinness, Son and Company features amongst the treasures of Ireland including Croagh Patrick and Glendalough.

In his book Guinness Times, My Days in the World’s most Famous Brewery Al Byrne writes, It is claimed that no writer has made more literary allusions to Guinness than Joyce, but Guinness has generally confined its use of Joyce’s references in its own advertising campaigns to Ireland, on the grounds that the average drinker outside Ireland would find them too enigmatic. What, for example, would foreigners make of the following characters from Finnegans Wake, Guinnghis Khan, Allfor Guineas, Ser Artur Ghinis, Mooseyeare Goorness? All the same, one Guinness ad in the UK featured an excerpt from Finnegans Wake,as follows: ‘Foamous homely brew, bebattled by bottle, gageure de guegarre.’

Al Byrne. Guinness Times, My Days in the World’s most Famous Brewery (Pages 159, 160)

The quote can be found on Page 272 of Finnegans Wake.

Guinness advertising also influenced Joyce. In 1929 Guinness released its first newspaper advert with the slogan “Guinness is good for you”. And the slogan made its way into Finnegans Wake when Jute makes the memorable pun comparing the beverage to money.

Jute – One eyegonblack. Bisons is bisons. Let me fore all your hasitancy cross your qualm with trink gilt. Here have sylvan coyne, a piece of oak. Ghinees hies good for you.

James Joyce. Finnegans Wake (Page 16)


Byrne, A. (1999) Guinness Times: My Days in the World’s Most Famous Brewery. Dublin, Ireland: Town House.

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. (2000) Finnegans Wake. Introduction by Seamus Deane edn. London, United Kingdom: Penguin Books.

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My darling I ought to begin by begging your pardon, perhaps, for the extraordinary letter I wrote you last night. While I was writing it your letter was lying in front of me and my eyes were fixed, as they are even now, on a certain word in it. There is something obscene and lecherous in the very look of the letters. The sound of it too is like the act in itself, brief, brutal, irresistible and devilish.

Richard Ellmann. Selected Letters of James Joyce (Page 180)

Joyce loved coincidences and anniversaries and 105 years ago today he wrote to Nora Barnacle from 44 Fontenoy Street. The letter that he had written to Nora the night before and which he refers to in the opening lines quoted above, does not survive. The opening lines of the letter show his romantic side but the letter quickly turns to include salacious and scatalogical elements. The letter then repeatedly shifts dramatically between tone between the two sides. The following quotes are not for anyone of a sensitive disposition.

My love for you allows me to pray to the spirit of eternal beauty and tenderness mirrored in your eyes or to fling you down under me on that soft belly of yours and fuck you up behind, like a hog riding a sow, glorying in the very stink and sweat that rises from your arse, glorying in the open shame of your upturned dress and white girlish drawers and in the confusion of your flushed cheeks and tangled hair.

Richard Ellmann. Selected Letters of James Joyce (Page 181)

Joyce seems satisfied that Nora did not sleep with Vincent Cosgrave when she was at Finn’s Hotel as he ends the letter by calling her his faithful darling. But he was to return to the subject of exactly what Cosgrave may have done in the letters written in the coming days.The letter ends;

    Nora, my faithful darling, my sweet-eyed blackguard schoolgirl, be my whore, my mistress, as much as you like (my little frigging mistress! my little fucking whore!) you are always my beautiful wild flower of the hedges, my dark-blue rain-drenched flower.”

Richard Ellmann. Selected Letters of James Joyce (Page 181)


Joyce, J. (1992) Selected Letters of James Joyce. Edited by Richard Ellmann. London, England: Faber & Faber.

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