Irish Boys' Clothes: James Joyce

Figure 1.--James Joyce wears a white sailor suit in this photograph taken with his parents in 1988. James was about 7 years old.

James Joyce (1882-1941) the Irish novelist and poet was born in Dublin. His father was John Stanislaus Joyce and May Joyce. His farther who was born in 1849 came from an upper middle class family. He grew up in comfortable circumstances, epecially by Irish standards of the day. His father had access to an upper-class Catholic education, but made little of it. He enrolled in Queens College as a medical student, but never earned his degree. Instead of studying, he devoted his energies to singing, atletics, acting, and disapation. He mairred May in 1880 and provided her pregancies, miscairages, childbezring, near peurny, and financial distress. James, the second child, was born in 1882. He was reportedly his father's pet.

His father was in short a wastrel. At first John Stanislaus maintained the family reasonably. He obtained a good paying job as a tax collector and then inherited real estate from his mother. This began to change in 1892 when James was about 10 years old. His father began drinking and mortgaging his realestate holdings. Ill disposed to work, he took odd jobs--if suitable for a gentleman, when he was able to find them. He was willing to work only if the job involved mostly gregarious talk. Debts as a result soon piled up. May died in 1903 after about 16 pregancies. The family was forced to flee from one rented house toanother, one step ahead of the debt collector. James never forgave his father for the havoc and poverty he caused. James himself of course was prone to drink, sloth, and dalliances, but it was his father's recklessness he objected to.

James' boyhood was not an easyone, the families circumstances were caotic as a result of his father's failure to pursue a serious career. Most Joyce scholars agree that agree that many of his father's quirks and grandiosities found their way into his son's writings. A description in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man probably describes his father in fact, if not in detail:

A medical student, an oarsman, a tenor, an amateur actor, a small investor, a drinker, a good fellow, a story teller, somebody's secretary, something in a distillery, a tax gatherer, a bankrupt, and a praiser of his own past.

I have few details on Joyce's boyhood yet. One photgraph taken in 1888 when the boy was about 7 years old show him in a white sailor suit, with long pants.

Joyce was educated at several Irish colleges.

His first published work was the volume of poems, Chamber Music (1907). He esrablished his reputation in 1914 with his next book, the collection of short stories Dubliners, followed in 1916 by the autobiographical novel The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Joyce was a pioneer in the development of the stream of conssciouness technique in the novel, which describe the subjective mental life of the characters in highly detailed accounts of their thoughts and day dreams. Joyce's most famous novel, Ulyses, published in 1922, deals with a singke, minutely described day in the life of two Dublin intellectuals. This novel is notable for radical innovations in punctuation, free use of invented language, and a frankness of language that includes both poetic and poetic or obscene passages. Ulyses has had a great influence on contemporary writing throughout the world. Authors influenced bu Joyce include John Dos Pasos (United States), Alfred Doblin (Germany), and Virginia Wolf (England).

Joyce's last published work, Finnegan's Wake (1939), is difficult reading for anone who is not aanguage specialist. Joycw was an accomplished linguist and philogist, and gave free rein in his work to multilingual puns, allusiins, and double, triple, or quadruple meanings. He thus created in effect a newlanguage which is English only in its basics. His other works are a play, Exiles (1918), and a book of verse, Poems Penyeach (1927).


John Wyse Jackson and Peter Costello, John Stanislaus Joyce: The Voluminous Life and Genius of Janes Joyce's Father (St. Marin's: 1998).

Christopher Wagner

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Last updated: June 15, 1998