- Joyce, James
- Autograph letter signed ("Jas. A. Joyce"), to Augusta, Lady Gregory
A remarkable letter of dizzying ambition by the twenty-year old Joyce, denouncing the Catholic Church and the civic authorities in Ireland and expressing his fierce independence. This is the most important letter by Joyce to appear at auction since the Stanislaus Joyce collection in 2004, and is also among the earliest known letters by Joyce (only three earlier letters appear in the Letters and the Selected Letters). It is particularly enthralling as its themes and attitudes are so deeply woven into Joyce's later literary works. The idea of exile, portrayed dramatically in this letter, was of course to be an abiding theme of Joyce's work, whilst the young Joyce's devotion to literary creation and anti-clericalism, not to mention his arrogant tone, are recalled with affectionate irony in Stephen Dedalus's "revolt" in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
This letter was written to the great patron of the Irish Literary Revival, Augusta, Lady Gregory, and followed a dinner at Dublin's Nassau Hotel, at which the two had been introduced to each other by W.B. Yeats, and Joyce had shared with her some of his poems. Lady Gregory's response to Joyce's letter survives (the original is at Cornell University): she suggested he might try the Medical school at Trinity, invited him to Coole, and put him in touch with J.M. Synge. She did not, however, supply him with money. Joyce arrived in Paris on 3 December only to discover that he lacked the qualifications to study medicine. The trip was to be far from the complete break with Ireland suggested in his letter: he came back to Dublin for Christmas and returned again in April 1903 on hearing that his mother was dying. It was only in late 1904 that Joyce left Ireland permanently.