James Joyce letter to Lady Gregory in London auction


“The most important letter by James Joyce to appear at auction in a decade,” is how Sotheby’s describes next month’s sale in London of a handwritten, four-page letter sent to Lady Gregory on November 22nd, 1902 from 7 St Peter’s Terrace, Cabra, Dublin. Joyce had been introduced to Lady Gregory by WB Yeats at a dinner in Dublin’s Nassau Hotel and he requested her assistance as he prepared to depart “alone and friendless” for Paris where he hoped to “get a degree in medicine”. He claimed he was being prevented from undertaking medical studies at UCD because he was a “misbeliever”.

Sotheby’s said that Lady Gregory’s response to the letter survives (at Cornell University) in which she suggested he might try the medical school at Trinity. She did not, however, supply him with money.

Joyce arrived in Paris on December 3rd only to discover that he lacked the qualifications to study medicine and returned to Dublin for Christmas. It was not until late 1904 that he left Ireland permanently. The letter, which has an estimate of £30,000-£50,000 (€35,246-€58,744), will be on view on Monday at Sotheby’s Dublin office on Molesworth Street. It was originally sold at Sotheby’s in 1982 by the executors of Major RG Gregory and made £6,000. It was bought by an English collector and is now being sold by his executors.

Meanwhile, rare book specialist Cathach Books, Duke Street, Dublin, has announced a change of name to Ulysses Rare Books from tomorrow, Bloomsday. – MP

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