Joyce's early life

Birth, childhood and family life

James Augustine Joyce, the eldest surviving son of John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane ('May') Joyce, was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 2 February 1882.

James Joyce birth and baptismal certificate, image available through Creative CommonsEducation

He attended Clongowes Wood College, a Jesuit boys' school in County Kildare, until his father lost his job as a Rates Collector in 1891. After a brief spell at the Christian Brothers School, Joyce entered Belvedere College, a Jesuit boys' day school. 

In 1894, due to diminishing finances, the family moved house for the fourth time since Joyce's birth. Despite this turmoil, Joyce managed to win a prize for his outstanding exam results. In 1896 Joyce was made Prefect of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a devotional society.

Literature or medicine?

In 1898, when he was just sixteen, Joyce began studying Modern Languages at the Royal University (now University College, Dublin). He became especially interested in the work of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and Irish writer W. B. Yeats. Joyce met Yeats in 1902, whilst on a brief visit to London.

In the same year, Joyce left Dublin to start medical school in Paris (rather than studying Modern Languages). Whilst back in Dublin over Christmas, Joyce met Oliver St John Gogarty, a fellow medical student and poet who was to be reimagined as Buck Mulligan in Ulysses (1922). In 1903, Joyce left Paris and returned to Dublin to be with his cancer-ridden mother who died on 13 August.