A love letter Joyce wrote to his wife Nora on December 1, 1909, has been found. The letter, until now presumed to have been lost or destroyed, was the first response to a “sexually explicit” letter written by Nora:
Her letter sparked a passionate exchange, and finally a reunion, which led to his writing the epic novel Ulysses, which is set in Dublin on June 16 1904, the day they first met.
The collection to be auctioned includes a telegram from Nora with the one word si (yes) – the last word of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy and of Ulysses – and a purse like a religious reliquary which Joyce had made to hold it. It also includes his spectacles and his bronze medal for singing.
Peter Selley of Sotheby’s said: “My hands were shaking when I held these things. These things are so personal and so closely related to Joyce’s work their impact was extraordinary.”
The family of Joyce’s brother Stanislaus inherited the collection, which includes the only complete set of proofs of an aborted 1910 Irish edition of Dubliners, and a ballad in Joyce’s handwriting.
The biographer Richard Ellman, who edited the letters, wrote at one stage that “Joyce’s letter of 1 December 1909 has not survived”. But it had been overlooked. The letter is expected to fetch as much as Â£60,000.
Now there’s a couple who could have used a nice whirlpool bathtub.