13 December (1909): James Joyce to Nora Barnacle Joyce

In the letter below, James Joyce writes to his future wife Nora about his private unmet needs.

To Nora Barnacle Joyce (Fragment of a letter)

13 December 1909

Do you believe in my love at last, dearest? Ah, do, Nora! Why everyone who has ever seen me can read it in my eyes when I speak of you. As your mother says ‘they light up like candles in my head.’

            The time will fly now, my darling, until your loving tender arms encircle me. I will never leave you again. Not only do I want your body (as you know) but I want also your company. My darling, I suppose that compared with your splendid generous love for me my love for you looks very poor and threadbare. But it is the best I can give you, my own dear sweetheart. Take it, my love, save me and shelter me. I am your child as I told you and you must be severe with me, my little mother. Punish me as much as you like. I would be delighted to feel my flesh tingling under your hand. Do you know what I mean, Nora dear? I wish you would smack me or flog me even. Not in play, dear, in earnest and on my naked flesh. I wish you were strong, strong, dear, and had a big full proud bosom and big fat thighs. I would love to be whipped by you, Nora love! I would love to have done something to displease you, something trivial even, perhaps one of my rather dirty habits that make you laugh: and then to hear you call me into your room and then to find you sitting in an armchair with your fat thighs far apart and your face deep red with anger and a cane in your hand. To see you point to what I had done and then with a movement of rage pull me towards you and throw me face downwards across your lap. Then to feel your hands tearing down my trousers and inside clothes and turning up my shirt, to be struggling in your strong arms and in your lap, to feel you bending down (like an angry nurse whipping a child’s bottom) until your big full bubbies almost touched me and to feel you flog, flog, flog me viciously on my naked quivering flesh!! Pardon me, dear, if this is silly. I began this letter so quietly and yet I must end it in my own mad fashion.

            Are you offended by my horrible shameless writing, dear? I expect some of the filthy things I wrote made you blush. Are you offended because I said I loved to look at the brown stain that comes behind on your girlish white drawers? I suppose you think me a filthy wretch. How will you answer those letters? I hope and hope you too will write me letters even madder and dirtier than mine to you.