Friday, January 13, 2012

Letters relating to Nora Barnacle

Today marked the anniversary of the death of James Joyce in 1941. A sense of the pressures faced by Nora Barnacle in the immediate aftermath of his death can be seen in the two letters below, which come from one of our collections, Papers relating to the Will of Annie Barnacle (P11). This collection consists of the legal papers relating to the application for an Order of Probate on the Will of Annie Barnacle, 4 Bowling Green, Galway, mother of Nora Barnacle. She died on 9th November 1940, and had made her will in 1936. Complications arose when the original of the will was misplaced, and the letters from Nora barnacle and Miss Weaver to Kathleen Griffin reflect this search. The terse response from Nora Barnacle to her sister [P11/2] reflects the dire straits she was in at the time as a result of James Joyce's death and the fact that she could not contact her daughter Lucia in France. Miss Weaver's letter also reflects how the war impinged on their lives with the news of the arrest of Paul Leon [P11/1]. They have no knowledge of the whereabouts of the original of the will.The rest of the material relates primarily to the work of McDermott and Allen, solicitors for Kathleen Griffin, and their motion for an Order of Probate on the Will of Annie Barnacle. This includes dealing with the legal, medical and funeral costs, as well as the execution of the terms of the will. The material reflects the painfully slow legal process surrounding the case.

The first letter, dated 13 March 1942 is from from Harriet Weaver, 4 Rawlinson Road, Oxford, to Mrs Griffin stating that she had written to Mrs Joyce to see if she had the will. "If the original Will is in Paris it will, I imagine, be quite impossible to obtain it from there. Mr Joyce's secretary-friend in Paris, Mr Paul Léon, a lawyer, has been arrested and interred as a hostage, so Georgio wrote - a terrible fate". She says that Nora is "suffering from bad rheumatism and very lonely", and hopes that the matter of the Will is sorted soon. Note at end stating that this letter was presented as evidence in an affidavit of Mrs Griffin before Tomás Mac Enrí, Commissioner for oaths, on 23rd Jan 1943.

The second letter, dated 8th April 1942 is from Nora Barnacle, Carlion Elite Hotel, Zürich, to Kathleen Griffin, 4 Bowling Green, Galway, saying that Miss Weaver had written to her about her mother's will, and repeats that she doesn't have it. "If at any time a copy of Mothers will was sent to Jim I know absolutely nothing about it" and suggests the lawyer should have a copy. "I may remind you that I have plenty of worries myself Jim's death has been a terrible shock to me Lucia is France and I have no news of her..." Envelope has been opened by the censor.

The Descriptive List for the entire collection is available at and the collection is also the subject of an entry in the Irish Archives Resource at;6750983;6750983 .

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