They simply fade away: news on the life and death of an old soldier - Joseph Casey
Joyce met the former Fenian revolutionary Joseph Casey in Paris in 1903, probably at the instigation of his father, who knew the Casey brothers (see for example Jackson and Costello, John Stanislaus Joyce, ch. 20). Joe Casey had been arrested in London in 1867, and his brother Patrick (the celebrated ‘Dynamiter’) and other Fenians hatched a plot to spring him from Clerkenwell prison by blowing down the walls with a bomb. The plot failed disastrously, though it is said that it caused Gladstone to re-evaluate the Westminister response to Irish demands for Home Rule. Joseph was later released and sought exile in Paris, where he worked on various newspapers as a printer and compositor. Joyce used Joe as the model for Kevin Egan in Ulysses ("Joe Egan" in the first draft). He even makes reference to Joe’s son ‘Patrice’ (Patrick), home on army leave in 1903:
Several mysteries remain. Who was Patrice and what was his role in the French army? Did Joe Casey die soon after Joyce met him, as is usually assumed?
An article in the Kilkenny People from March 1915, and reproduced in the Freeman’s Journal on 29 March of that year, gives a potted history of Joseph Casey’s career in Paris:
It was more than Joseph could stand:
Casey maintained his interest in matters over the English Channel. In the 1880s he was close to another exile Fenian, Patrick Egan, in Paris. Casey told the Paris correspondent of the North Otago Times in 1884:
Joyce was clearly fascinated by Joseph Casey’s Republican credentials (see the Dictionary of Irish Biography for a fuller account). But one point which has remained unknown is the date of his death.
The Anglo-Celt of 10 June dates Joseph Casey’s death precisely, to Thursday 8 June 1911, in its review of the highlights of the previous week:
The news did not make a big splash, but it is picked up by newspapers around the world. The Connaught Telegraph for 17 June 1911 gives the event several column inches:
There is news, too, of Joseph’s son Patrice, a native of France born and bred in Paris. From later documentation, his birth may be dated to 1885/6 (New York’s Ellis Island Immigration records online at http://www.ellisisland.org/). So when Joyce met him in 1903 Patrice was presumably 17 or 18 years of age (see ‘he lapped the sweet lait chaud with pink young tongue, plump bunny’s face’: U 3.165). He was in Paris on leave from the army. Full details of his military service are still uncertain, but we do know that at the start of the First World War he was fighting for the French army against the Germans, and was wounded and taken prisoner on 25 August 1914, days after the outbreak of war. Patrice was held as a prisoner of war at Kassel (then Cassel) in northern Hesse, Germany.
We know this from the account of his brother Alexander, published in the Kilkenny People for March 1915 and cited earlier. The author of the article quotes a letter from his friend ‘Alexandre Casey, of Paris, now “Caporal” Alec Casey, of the French Foreign Legion’, which he translates (except for the expression ‘Vive l’Irlande’!). Alec, we learn, is in 1915 stationed in the trenches of northern France ‘where we have suffered a good deal from cold’, having previously been attached to an ‘entrenched camp at Paris’. He tells of his brother Patrice’s misfortune, and states that his brother is ‘badly treated’ in his prison camp. Alex (assuming we believe the newspaper) was then a member of the 4th Company, 3rd Regiment of March of the 1st Legion ‘Etranger’. As the letter-writer comments: ‘Like father like sons’.
Little more is currently known of the brothers, except that Patrice was an accomplished musician – a prize-winning oboeist – and that he was selected in 1918 as a member of Gabriel Pares’s 60-strong orchestra consisting of French soldiers who had distinguished themselves both in music and on the battlefield (having been wounded or taken prisoner). The impresario and celebrated soldier musician Pares took the orchestra on board the SS Chicago in May 1918 from Bordeaux to New York and then on to Washington and across America to play stirring French music at the military training camps of the United States. They played before the wife of the President, Mrs Woodrow Wilson, and their progress is tracked with fascination by the American newspapers. From Patrice’s immigration form we find that we was 5 ft 4 inches in height, with brown hair, and brown eyes, and with a wife back in Paris.
While on tour, more news of Patrice (also Patrick) Casey reaches Ireland:
Joyce's People >