Joyce, (John) Stanislaus (1884–1955), brother and supporter of James Joyce (qv), was born 17 December 1884 in Dublin, son of John Stanislaus Joyce (qv), civil servant, and his wife, May Murray. Throughout his adult life he called himself Stanislaus to distance himself from his father. As a younger son, Stanislaus received less attention and fewer educational opportunities than his elder brother, James. He was educated at a CBS (January–March 1893), then at Belvedere College (1893–1902), where the fees were waived on charitable grounds. At school he joined the Sodality of Our Lady in 1899 and served as praeceps in 1901; he omitted this from his recollections (as he did his brief membership of the Gaelic League in 1900–01) because it was at odds with the religious unbelief he developed in 1900 after reading the gospels (followed by some literature on biblical scholarship). James persuaded him not to announce his lack of faith to the Jesuits for the sake of domestic harmony.
Stanislaus was to become much more single-mindedly hostile to Ireland, catholicism, and his family than James. Where James retained a fondness for their father and cherished memories of his wit and extravagance, Stanislaus detested John Joyce as the author of his family's poverty: ‘My father [was] one of the deserving poor who richly deserve to be poor’ (My brother's keeper, 21). James retained a fascination with catholic symbols and theology; Stanislaus was a straightforward rationalist agnostic (shading towards atheism), with a strong suspicion that organised religion was a deliberate imposture maintained for the financial benefit of the clergy. (He admired the writings of the anti-clerical Michael McCarthy (qv)). A radical liberal, who disliked mass movements (including socialism and nationalism) as threats to individual liberty, Stanislaus regarded fascism, nazism, and communism as copies of catholicism. He claimed that he did not share his brother's respect for Sinn Féin and suspected that its emphasis on autarky would make Ireland a Tibet (i.e. a backward theocracy cutting itself off from the world).
At an early stage Stanislaus recognised his brother's genius; he acted as his sounding-board, discussed his work, and encouraged him to draw on their family life for material; he also began to hoard James's manuscripts and correspondence. Stanislaus kept a fragmentary diary (a habit which he compared to smoking cigarettes) on loose sheets of paper, using it to try to articulate his beliefs and make sense of his situation. James regularly read this diary and drew on it for his own work. Stanislaus even claimed that it suggested to James the literary possibilities of internal monologue: ‘He used me as a butcher uses his steel’ (My brother's keeper, 94). Stanislaus destroyed a diary for 1901–3 in 1903; that for 1903 has been published, and an unpublished diary covering his life in Trieste in 1907–9 has survived.
Besides the diary, James also drew on Stanislaus's conversation and letters, sent to him when he was in Paris in 1903, for Dubliners; descriptions in that work of life as a clerk reflect Stanislaus's ten painful months as unpaid apprentice to an accountant (1903–4), followed by a term at Apothecaries' Hall in the hope of becoming a chemist. ‘Ivy day in the committee room’ was derived from one of Stanislaus's letters, which he wrote in scorn, never realising that it could be made into a story. Mr Duffy in ‘A painful case’ is James's portrait of what Stanislaus might be like in middle age; ‘An encounter’ (where the narrator comments that he always secretly despised the Stanislaus character) is based on a real-life experience.
Stanislaus accompanied James to social and literary gatherings in Dublin, where he was overshadowed by his brother and resented it. Their father mocked him as ‘your brother's jackal’ (My brother's keeper, 180). He was jealous of James's close friendships with J. F. Byrne (qv) and Oliver St John Gogarty (qv); Stanislaus feared that Gogarty would encourage Joyce to destroy his talent through drink and self-indulgence, and even suggested that Gogarty consciously desired this. (Gogarty repaid Stanislaus's suspicions by composing an epigram at his expense.) James spoke openly of his visits to prostitutes, and began to drink heavily after their mother's death. Stanislaus avoided alcohol and remained chaste because of revulsion against dissipation and the view that those who frequented prostitutes became accomplices in their exploitation. In Trieste about 1908, however, he decided that chastity was ‘the high road to abnormality’ (My brother's keeper, 162) and altered his behaviour.
Stanislaus corresponded with his brother after James's elopement to Trieste with Nora Barnacle (qv) in October 1904, and they discussed the possibility of living together in Ireland or elsewhere. In October 1905 Stanislaus went to Trieste at his brother's invitation to teach English in the Berlitz language school; he was to live there, except for a period during the second world war, for the rest of his life. He was a punctual and conscientious worker, unlike the wayward James, and he became the mainstay of both Joyce households, remitting what he could to his sisters in Dublin while handing over most of his salary to James and Nora, who spent freely. He also regularly extricated a drunken James from bars by picking him up and carrying him home, and he sometimes vented his irritation with his brother by striking him in anger. Stanislaus held the view that it was his duty to support his brother's genius (and assist their sisters, two of whom came out to join them). At the same time he felt himself exploited and resented his inability to form a home of his own; he also felt (unreciprocated) sexual attraction to Nora.
As an outspoken critic of the clergy, Stanislaus associated with Italian irredentists in Trieste and spoke slightingly of the Habsburgs and the Vatican. These views, and an injudicious tour of the fortifications of the city after the outbreak of the first world war led to his internment in Schloss Grossau, Austria. Stanislaus returned to Trieste on his release (James meanwhile had gone back to Zurich in May 1915, intending to return when the war was over). When James left Trieste after a brief attempt to re-establish himself there in 1919–20, he recommended Stanislaus for his position as professor of English in the Commercial University. The brothers had grown apart during their separation; they saw each other only three more times.
On 13 August 1927 Stanislaus married Nelly Lichtensteiger; they had one son, James (b. 1943). Stanislaus had the additional responsibility of assisting his sister Eileen and her family after her husband's suicide in 1926. In 1929 he wrote a preface to Italo Svevo's Senilitá outlining his brother's relationship with Svevo (James had promised to write it himself but failed to do so). In 1936 Stanislaus was dismissed from the University of Trieste and ordered to leave Italy because of his opposition to fascism. James secured the suspension of the deportation and attempted to find Stanislaus a teaching position in Switzerland; Stanislaus thought the proposed school too remote. He eventually managed to avoid deportation and secure his reinstatement in Trieste.
Stanislaus took out Irish citizenship during the second world war in the (unsuccessful) hope that this would protect him from being treated as an enemy alien. In December 1940 he and Nelly were ordered to Florence, where they spent the war in impoverished semi-internment and Stanislaus translated Everyman into Italian. After the war Stanislaus returned to Trieste, where he worked as an interpreter for the allied military government; he was reinstated as professor of English at the university, and began to sell James's literary manuscripts to collectors. He retained his personal archive of Joyce materials with the intention of writing a life of his brother, but, finding composition difficult, in 1953 he made them available to Richard Ellmann (qv), whose life of Joyce is strongly influenced by Stanislaus's perspective. (His incomplete memoir, My brother's keeper, was published in 1958.) Stanislaus visited Britain in 1954 but refused to visit Ireland, seeing interest in his brother's work there as belated and hypocritical. He died of heart failure in Trieste on 16 June 1955.
Since Stanislaus was not an Italian citizen, his widow was not eligible for a pension. After his death she sold Stanislaus's collection of James Joyce material, including manuscripts (his possession of which he regarded as recompense for his pre-war labours), to Cornell University, where they are still held. (Some items sold earlier by Stanislaus are at Harvard University.) The Cornell manuscripts included pornographic letters written by James to Nora from Dublin in 1909; James's grandson Stephen claimed that Joyce intended to reclaim much of this material, and that the publication of the intimate letters in Richard Ellman's 1966 and 1975 editions of Joyce's correspondence violated his grandparents' privacy.
Stanislaus's view of his brother's work was coloured by their complex relationship. Perhaps in the light of James's drawing on his experience for the book, Stanislaus was irritated when Dubliners was not dedicated to him. And he was affronted by the downgrading – though it was for valid artistic reasons – of the role of Maurice, brother of Stephen Dedalus, when Stephen Hero was revised as Portrait of the artist as a young man. He was ambivalent about the technical innovations of Ulysses (though his admiration increased over time) and he saw Finnegans wake as literary self-indulgence encouraged by uncritical admirers. The fable of the Ondt and the Gracehoper and the relationship between Shem the Penman and his censorious brother Shaun the Postman in Finnegans wake reflect James's attitude to Stanislaus.
Stanislaus's reputation survives through his vital role in documenting his brother's family background and early life; the extent to which he distorts the record is debated, but without him much of the relevant material would not exist. He was portrayed in two screen versions of James's life: in the television film Joyce in June (1982, with a script by Stewart Parker (qv) and directed by Donald McWhinnie) he was played by Stephen Rea, and in the film Nora (2000, directed by Pat Murphy) by Peter Macdonald.