Joyce's Youth


Constantine P. Curran (1886–1972)
James Joyce, Dublin, 1904
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo, the State University of New York


James Joyce was born in Dublin in 1882. He was the eldest of a large family, a family at the time he was born was a prosperous family. His father had a job and owned property and got rents from the property. But slowly, his father began to mortgage the properties. His father was a drinker, his father was a waster, and so the family declined and often moved house with bailiffs often in pursuit. And this was his childhood. The city too, the city of Dublin, where he was brought up, was not a prosperous city, it was a city also in decline. There was really no manufacturing base, and there were many living in slums without proper sanitation. And Dublin famously had the largest Red Light District in Europe. And in his book Ulysses, Joyce, James Joyce, would portray these surroundings in detail, he said to a friend that it were so complete, that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth, it could be reconstructed out of my book.

In University College Dublin, Joyce developed literary interests, but he disliked the prevailing insularity and cultural nationalism, which was growing in Ireland. And this really was part of his decision to leave Ireland in 1904. And a few months before he left the city, he met Nora Barnacle who would become his companion for life. And the first date they had was on the 16th of June 1904, and that was the day on which he said his novel, Ulysses.