Not everyone who comes to Rome is captivated by its magic, a case in point being the great Irish writer, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (1882-1941).
On July 31st, 1906, Joyce arrived in Rome from Trieste to take up employment as a clerk in the bank of Nast, Kolb and Schumacher, which once stood at the corner of Via del Corso and Via S. Claudio. He was twenty-four years old and was accompanied by his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, and their young son George (known as Giorgio). The family moved into a room on the third floor of a house in Via Frattina (n. 52), which, since 1982, has been marked by a plaque.
The plaque hails Joyce as the writer of Ulysses, one of the great works of literature, which was published in 1922. What it, understandably, fails to note is how much Joyce disliked Rome. After a tour of the Forum, which left him distinctly under-whelmed, he wrote to his brother Stanislaus: “Rome reminds me of a man who lives by exhibiting his grandmother’s corpse.” He later wrote another letter lamenting: “I wish I knew something of Latin or Roman history. But it’s not worthwhile beginning now. So let the ruins rot.”
In November, 1906, Joyce's landlady, tired of his drunken behaviour, gave him notice to quit and, in the following month, he and his young family moved to Via Monte Brianzo 51, near Piazza Navona. They didn't stay there long, moving back to Trieste in early 1907. Joyce never returned to the Eternal City.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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