On the Death of Stephen James Joyce

Statement from President Michael D. Higgins on the death of Stephen Joyce, grandson of James Joyce on Friday, January 24, 2020.

 

I have heard with sadness of the passing of Stephen Joyce, grandson of James Joyce, in Paris last night. Thus passes our last direct connection with James Joyce. Stephen was pre-deceased by his wife, Solange, who died just over three years ago and to whom he was deeply attached. On our last conversations he mentioned how much he missed her.

We had a number of discussions both before and after my visit to his grandfather’s grave in Zurich in June 2018. He was very grateful for the care and attention that had been paid to the grave of James Joyce by the public authorities in Zurich. He expressed it as his wish that some way might be found possible for James Joyce’s poem “A Flower given to my Daughter” –

“Frail the white rose and frail are
Her hands that gave
Whose soul is sere and paler
Than time’s wan wave.

Rosefrail and fair – yet frailest
A wonder wild
In gentle eyes thou veilest,
My blueveined child.”

to be inscribed at the memorial in honour of Lucia Joyce.

While scholars will be gathering in 2022 on the centenary of the publication in 1922 of Ulysses, James Joyce’s poems that had as subjects members of his family in, for example Pomes Penyeach have a special beauty of their own.

Stephen, son of Giorgio, son of James and Nora, is the subject of “Ecce Puer” –

“Of the dark past
A child is born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!”

Stephen Joyce worked for the OECD on African Development. He was deeply committed to what he saw was the special duty to defend the legacy of the Joyce family in literary and personal terms. This was not a task carried out in harmonious circumstances at all times with those seeking to engage with James Joyce’s life and works.

Stephen had recently become an Irish citizen and in our last conversation he expressed his appreciation to all of those who had assisted in the processing of this. To his relatives and friends Sabina and I express our deepest sympathy.