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"James Joyce and Ulysses"

Commentary No. 9 - will of John Stanislaus Joyce (1915)

Will of John Joyce, 1915John Stanislaus Joyce died in December 1931 in Drumcondra Hospital. His son was overwhelmed with sorrow at his death; he wrote to his patron, Harriet Weaver: "My father had an extraordinary affection for me. He was the silliest man I ever knew and yet cruelly shrewd. He thought and talked of me up to his last breath. I was very fond of him always, being a sinner myself, and even liked his faults...I got from him his portraits, a waistcoat, a good tenor voice, and an extravagant licentious disposition (out of which, however, the greater part of any talent I may have springs) but, apart from these, something else I cannot define."

In his will, made in 1915, he leaves everything to his eldest son. His address at the time was No. 1, St. Vincent Street, off Berkeley Road, near the Mater Hospital. The will is witnessed by Alfred Bergan, one of his oldest friends, who turns up in Ulysses in the Cyclops episode: "Little Alf Bergan popped in round the door and hid behind Barney's snug, squeezed up with the laughing." He has letters from applicant hangmen, thinks he saw Paddy Dignam, buried that morning, in the street five minutes before, and has a story about a ridiculous libel action. The real Bergan used to take Joyce, as a child, for long walks around Dollymount and Clontarf. He was, at one point, Assistant to the Sub-Sheriff of Dublin, the sort of job which frequently turns up in Ulysses, but is described in the Oath for Executor (he was one, James being the other) as a legal accountant. He was working in the law office of David H. Charles at this point. Joyce entrusted him with erecting a tombstone for his father.

Kathleen Refausse, the second witness to John Joyce's will, was Bergan's landlady at Claude Road, Drumcondra. She was the widow of an official in the postal service. Bergan was still lodging with her when he died in 1947. The Oath for Executor reveals that John Joyce's effects amounted to £665.00.09, a not inconsiderable sum for 1931, but when all debts were paid, his son got £36.12.1.

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