6 August (1909): James Joyce to Nora Barnacle Joyce

After hearing a false report that his wife Nora was seeing another man during their courtship, James Joyce writes to Nora to express his anger and despair.

44 Fontenoy Street, Dublin
6 August 1909

Nora I am not going to Galway nor is Georgie.

I am going to throw up the business I came for and which I hoped would have bettered my position.

I have been frank in what I have told you of myself. You have not been so with me.

At the time when I used to meet you at the corner of Merrion Square and walk out with you and feel your hand touch me in the dark and hear your voice (O, Nora! I will never hear that music again because I can never believe again) at the time I used to meet you, every second night  you kept an appointment with a friend of mine outside the Museum, you went with him along the same streets, down by the canal, past the ‘house with the upstairs in it’, down to the bank of the Dodder. You stood with him: he put his arm round you and you lifted your face and kissed him. What else did you do together? And the next night you met me!

I have heard this only an hour ago from his lips. My eyes are full of tears, tears of sorrow and mortification. My heart is full of bitterness and despair. I can see nothing but your face as it was then raised to meet another’s. O, Nora, pity me for what I suffer now. I shall cry for days. My faith in that face I loved is broken. O, Nora, Nora have pity for my poor wretched love. I cannot call you any dear name because tonight I have learnt that the only being I believed in was not loyal to me.

O Nora is all to be over between us?

Write to me, Nora, for the sake of my dead love. I am tortured by memories.

Write to me, Nora, I loved you only: and you have broken my faith in you.

O, Nora, I am unhappy. I am crying for my poor unhappy love.

Write to me, Nora.



From Selected Letters of James JoyceEdited by Richard Ellman. London: Faber and Faber, 1992. 469 pp. 


Read a review of the Selected Letters of James Joyce here.

Enjoy a psychological take on Joyce’s writing here.

James and Nora Joyce’s tumultuous relationship is dramatized in a film starring Ewan McGregor and Susan Lynch, streaming for free on Hulu here.