Lucia Anna Joyce (1907-1982) was the beloved daughter of James Joyce
, Irish author of Ulysses
and Finnegans Wake
. She was born on July 26th in the pauper's ward at Trieste
Hospital in Italy, where her father was teaching English.
Lucia grew up speaking Italian, and when the family moved to Zurich in 1915 she attended the Volksschule, where classes were given in German. She was put back two grades. She seemed to have inherited her father's eyes and their attendant troubles. She squinted, and attempts were made to correct the condition to no avail.
Lucia was a creative child who studied piano and voice, loved to draw, and danced beautifully. The family moved frequently and Lucia had a difficult time in school, sometimes staying home till she could learn the language of her latest adopted country. Joyce and his wife Nora attributed Lucia's problems in school primarily to their peripatetic lifestyle. They always sought out the best dance instructors for her however, and at one point she actually studied with Isadora Duncan.
As she moved into her adolescence, it became clear that Lucia was troubled. The French writer Valary Larbaud, a family friend, deemed her "strange," and it was during the Paris years, while her father was actively writing Finnegans Wake, that real concern for her mental health was evidenced. A correlation of Joyce's notebooks, letters, and his published works brings the reader to two conclusions: 1) Joyce was obsessed with incest and 2) Lucia's behavior grew more and more unstable. A physician wrote to the American writer Eugene Jolas: "If I were the mother of James Joyce's daughter and saw her staring off into space in that way, I'd be very concerned about it."
Lucia developed a morbid attraction to her older brother Giorgio and was furious when he announced his engagement. She also had an enormous crush on Samuel Beckett, who visited the Joyce home frequently. In 1926 Thomas Wolfe deemed her "rather pretty (like) a little American flapper." Throughout the late 1920's Lucia was taking dancing classes six hours a day, and by 1930 she was dating the 32 year-old sculptor, Alexander Calder. That same year Lucia started a novel, and Beckett wrote in a letter that she was "disintegrating."
On Joyce's birthday in 1932, Lucia threw a chair at her mother and was hospitalized by her brother. Lucia expressed an anxious desire to marry by the time she was 25 and writer Paul Leon's brother-in-law, Alex Ponisovsky, whose intentions were dubious, proposed marriage that same year. Lucia's father was overjoyed, her brother was displeased, but Lucia seemed, for a time, to be happy. After her engagement party, she became catatonic and was diagnosed with hebephrenic schizophrenia, which is characterized by incoherent speech, disorganized ideas, and disheveled appearance. It was at this point that James Joyce banished all young men from the home because Lucia accused them of seducing her.
For the next several years, Lucia was in and out of various hospitals and treatments. She became more violent and engaged in frequent verbal attacks upon her mother. When Ulysses was allowed entrance into the United States in 1932, Lucia cut the phone line to stop congratulatory calls to her father, declaring "It is I who am the artist!"
In 1934, Lucia ran away from home and again, on her Father's birthday that year, she struck her mother. She was sent to Nyon sanitarium and made frequent attempts to escape. In September she set fire to her room, was transferred to an asylum in Zurich, and then to Carl Jung's clinic, where she wrote to her father:
"Father dear, I am very fond of you. Thanks for the pretty pen. Zurich is not the worst place in the world is it? Maybe one day, you can come with me to the museum, father. I think that you are spending a lot of money on me. Father, if you want to go back to Paris you would do well to do so. Father dear, I have had too nice a life. I am spoiled. You must both forgive me. I hope that you will come again here. Father, if ever I take a fancy to anybody I swear to you on the head of Jesus that it will not be because I am not fond of you. Do not forget that. I don't really know what I am writing Father. At Prangins I saw a number of artists, especially women who seemed to me all very hysterical. Am I to turn out like them? No, it would be better to sell shoes if that can be done with simplicity and truth. And besides, I don't know whether all this I am writing means anything to you."
The great Swiss psychiatrist was unable to help Lucia and she was institutionalised at St. Andrew's private psychiatric hospital in Northampton in 1935. She came home briefly, then was sent to yet another institution, this time in a straitjacket because of her violence towards Nora. When Joyce tried to visit her, Lucia attempted to strangle him.
Between 1939 and 1945 she was institutionalized at Pornichet and not allowed visitors. Her father died in 1941. Between 1945 and 1951 Lucia was committed to the institution at Ivry, near Paris, and just before her mother's death in 1951 she was transferred back to St. Andrews in Northampton, where she lived out her days.
Lucia Joyce died on December 12th, 1982 and is buried in Northampton. Her birthday, July 26th, has been designated Lucia Day, to promote schizophrenia-awareness.
It is probable that no writer has ever endured greater daily heartache at home and then transmuted that pain into his art. James Joyce memorialized his daughter Lucia as Milly Bloom in Ulysses and Issy the rainbow girl in Finnegans Wake. It is within the pages of those great works that the soul of Lucia Anna Joyce, literally the light of her father's life, can be found.
Shades of Joyce:
a nice cool glass of Joyce
Anna Livia Plurabelle
Cashel Boyle O'Connor Fitzmaurice Tisdall Farrell
Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker
Issy the Teenage Rainbow
June 16, 2001
Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress
Shem the Penman
Ulysses is not pornography
The Johnny Appleseed of LSD
Bud and Travis
Camaron de la Isla
Wild Bill Donovan
Sidney Gottlieb, the real-life "Q"
king of the queens
Paco de Lucia
the Real McCoy
Robert K. Merton
J. Fred Muggs
Bernardino de Sahagun
A. J. Weberman