Obsessed with the burden of being the only son of an only son, John Joyce himself
fathered no fewer than seventeen children with his long-suffering wife (despite many affairs and many engagements he actually married only once) but was concerned only with his eldest surviving son, James. This was through no intrinsic merit on James’s part but because of John Joyce’s excessive belief in the rights of primogeniture such that all his other children were excluded from his will and those who predeceased him were not even named on the family gravestone. John, as James liked to claim, gave to his son all of his wit: most of the characters in Ulysses are barely disguised friends of his and the incidents from his life pepper James’s fiction. John Joyce was the most important person in James’s life. But as well as the light thrown on the century’s greatest novelist, this is a depiction of the high-spirits, ebulliant passions, deep depressions, good humour and warm linguistic skills of the ultimate Dublin character.