This Day in History: 1931-07-04
4 July 1931: James Joyce marries.
“The marriage has been arranged for Saturday 4 July (my father’s birthday and the birthday of my brother George to say nothing of American independence) at the hour of 11.15 am Greenwich time,” James Joyce wrote. In 1931, Joyce and Nora Barnacle were living in the Campden Grove area of Kensington in London. After eloping in 1904, they had been living together as man and wife for almost 27 years and had raised their two children, Giorgio and Lucia. Though bohemian in some attitudes, the Joyces lived a fairly conventional life.
Joyce tried to keep the civil ceremony as secret as possible by waiting until two days beforehand to apply for the marriage license and by declining to fill in the spaces for his birthplace or profession. The pair hoped to marry quietly in a London registry office, but were found out by the paparazzi. Their annoyance is visible in the photographs – Joyce looks grim and Nora tries to hide her face with her cloche hat.
They married for, as Joyce put it, “testamentary reasons,” so that Giorgio and Lucia would be his heirs in the eyes of the law. Ulysses had been published nine years earlier, and at this point, the novel and its author were internationally known.
Nora and James’s last direct descendant died in January 2020. Stephen Joyce was the great defender of his family’s reputation and his grandfather’s writing. He said of Nora, “Nonna was so strong, she was a rock. I would venture to say that [Joyce] could have done none of it, not written one of the books, without her.”