The only extant play by the great Irish novelist, Exiles is of interest both for its autobiographical content and for formal reasons. In the characters and their circumstances details of Joyce's life are evident. The main character, Richard Rowan, the moody, tormented writer who is at odds with both his wife and the parochial Irish society around him, is clearly a portrait of Joyce himself. The character of Rowan's wife, Bertha, is certainly influenced by Joyce's lover and later wife, Nora Barnacle, with whom he left Ireland and lived a seminomadic existence in Zurich, Rome, Trieste, and Paris. As in real life, the play depicts the couple with a young son and, like Joyce, Rowan has returned to Ireland because of his mother's illness and subsequent death.

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Published by Aeterna Classics 2018

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.



First Act

Second Act

Third Act


RICHARD ROWAN, a writer.BERTHA.ARCHIE, their son, aged eight years.ROBERT HAND, journalist.BEATRICE JUSTICE, his cousin, music teacher.BRIGID, an old servant of the Rowan family.A FISHWOMAN.

At Merrion and Ranelagh, suburbs of Dublin.Summer of the year 1912.

First Act

The drawingroom in Richard Rowan’s house at Merrion, a suburb of Dublin. On the right, forward, a fireplace, before which stands a low screen. Over the mantelpiece a giltframed glass. Further back in the right wall, folding doors leading to the parlour and kitchen. In the wall at the back to the right a small door leading to a study. Left of this a sideboard. On the wall above the sideboard a framed crayon drawing of a young man. More to the left double doors with glass panels leading out to the garden. In the wall at the left a window looking out on the road. Forward in the same wall a door leading to the hall and the upper part of the house. Between the window and door a lady’s davenport stands against the wall. Near it a wicker chair. In the centre of the room a round table. Chairs, upholstered in faded green plush, stand round the table. To the right, forward, a smaller table with a smoking service on it. Near it an easychair and a lounge. Cocoanut mats lie before the fireplace, beside the lounge and before the doors. The floor is of stained planking. The double doors at the back and the folding doors at the right have lace curtains, which are drawn halfway. The lower sash of the window is lifted and the window is hung with heavy green plush curtains. The blind is pulled down to the edge of the lifted lower sash. It is a warm afternoon in June and the room is filled with soft sunlight which is waning.

[BrigidandBeatrice Justicecome in by the door on the left.Brigidis an elderly woman, lowsized, with irongrey hair.Beatrice Justiceis a slender dark young woman of 27 years. She wears a wellmade navyblue costume and an elegant simply trimmed black straw hat, and carries a small portfolioshaped handbag.]

BRIGID.The mistress and Master Archie is at the bath. They never expected you. Did you send word you were back, Miss Justice?

BEATRICE.No. I arrived just now.

BRIGID.[Points to the easychair.] Sit down and I’ll tell the master you are here. Were you long in the train?

BEATRICE.[Sitting down.] Since morning.

BRIGID.Master Archie got your postcard with the views of Youghal. You’re tired out, I’m sure.

BEATRICE.O, no. [She coughs rather nervously.] Did he practise the piano while I was away?

BRIGID.[Laughs heartily.] Practice, how are you! Is it Master Archie? He is mad after the milkman’s horse now. Had you nice weather down there, Miss Justice?

BEATRICE.Rather wet, I think.

BRIGID.[Sympathetically.] Look at that now. And there is rain overhead too. [Moving towards the study.] I’ll tell him you are here.

BEATRICE.Is Mr Rowan in?

BRIGID.[Points.] He is in his study. He is wearing himself out about something he is writing. Up half the night he does be. [Going.] I’ll call him.

BEATRICE.Don’t disturb him, Brigid. I can wait here till they come back if they are not long.

BRIGID.And I saw something in the letterbox when I was letting you in. [She crosses to the study door, opens it slightly and calls.] Master Richard, Miss Justice is here for Master Archie’s lesson.

[Richard Rowancomes in from the study and advances towardsBeatrice, holding out his hand. He is a tall athletic young man of a rather lazy carriage. He has light brown hair and a moustache and wears glasses. He is dressed in loose lightgrey tweed.]


BEATRICE.[Rises and shakes hands, blushing slightly.] Good afternoon, Mr Rowan. I did not want Brigid to disturb you.

RICHARD.Disturb me? My goodness!

BRIGID.There is something in the letterbox, sir.

RICHARD.[Takes a small bunch of keys from his pocket and hands them to her.] Here.

[Brigidgoes out by the door at the left and is heard opening and closing the box. A short pause. She enters with two newspapers in her hands.]


BRIGID.No, sir. Only them Italian newspapers.

RICHARD.Leave them on my desk, will you?

[Brigidhands him back the keys, leaves the newspapers in the study, comes out again and goes out by the folding doors on the right.]

RICHARD.Please, sit down. Bertha will be back in a moment.

[Beatricesits down again in the easychair.Richardsits beside the table.]

RICHARD.I had begun to think you would never come back. It is twelve days since you were here.

BEATRICE.I thought of that too. But I have come.

RICHARD.Have you thought over what I told you when you were here last?

BEATRICE.Very much.

RICHARD.You must have known it before. Did you? [She does not answer.] Do you blame me?


RICHARD.Do you think I have acted towards you—badly? No? Or towards anyone?

BEATRICE.[Looks at him with a sad puzzled expression.] I have asked myself that question.

RICHARD.And the answer?

BEATRICE.I could not answer it.

RICHARD.If I were a painter and told you I had a book of sketches of you you would not think it so strange, would you?

BEATRICE.It is not quite the same case, is it?

RICHARD.[Smiles slightly.] Not quite. I told you also that I would not show you what I had written unless you asked to see it. Well?

BEATRICE.I will not ask you.

RICHARD.[Leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his hands joined.] Would you like to see it?

BEATRICE.Very much.

RICHARD.Because it is about yourself?

BEATRICE.Yes. But not only that.

RICHARD.Because it is written by me? Yes? Even if what you would find there is sometimes cruel?

BEATRICE.[Shyly.] That is part of your mind, too.

RICHARD.Then it is my mind that attracts you? Is that it?

BEATRICE.[Hesitating, glances at him for an instant.] Why do you think I come here?

RICHARD.Why? Many reasons. To give Archie lessons. We have known one another so many years, from childhood, Robert, you and I—haven’t we? You have always been interested in me, before I went away and while I was away. Then our letters to each other about my book. Now it is published. I am here again. Perhaps you feel that some new thing is gathering in my brain; perhaps you feel that you should know it. Is that the reason?


RICHARD.Why, then?

BEATRICE.Otherwise I could not see you.

[She looks at him for a moment and then turns aside quickly.]

RICHARD.[After a pause repeats uncertainly.] Otherwise you could not see me?

BEATRICE.[Suddenly confused.] I had better go. They are not coming back. [Rising.] Mr Rowan, I must go.

RICHARD.[Extending his arms.] But you are running away. Remain. Tell me what your words mean. Are you afraid of me?

BEATRICE.[Sinks back again.] Afraid? No.

RICHARD.Have you confidence in me? Do you feel that you know me?

BEATRICE.[Again shyly.] It is hard to know anyone but oneself.

RICHARD.Hard to know me? I sent you from Rome the chapters of my book as I wrote them; and letters for nine long years. Well, eight years.

BEATRICE.Yes, it was nearly a year before your first letter came.

RICHARD.It was answered at once by you. And from that on you have watched me in my struggle. [Joins his hands earnestly.] Tell me, Miss Justice, did you feel that what you read was written for your eyes? Or that you inspired me?

BEATRICE.[Shakes her head.] I need not answer that question.

RICHARD.What then?

BEATRICE.[Is silent for a moment.] I cannot say it. You yourself must ask me, Mr Rowan.

RICHARD.[With some vehemence.] Then that I expressed in those chapters and letters, and in my character and life as well, something in your soul which you could not—pride or scorn?

BEATRICE.Could not?

RICHARD.[Leans towards her.] Could not because you dared not. Is that why?

BEATRICE.[Bends her head.] Yes.

RICHARD.On account of others or for want of courage—which?

BEATRICE.[Softly.] Courage.

RICHARD.[Slowly.] And so you have followed me with pride and scorn also in your heart?

BEATRICE.And loneliness.

[She leans her head on her hand, averting her face. Richard rises and walks slowly to the window on the left. He looks out for some moments and then returns towards her, crosses to the lounge and sits down near her.]

RICHARD.Do you love him still?

BEATRICE.I do not even know.

RICHARD.It was that that made me so reserved with you—then—even though I felt your interest in me, even though I felt that I too was something in your life.

BEATRICE.You were.

RICHARD.Yet that separated me from you. I was a third person, I felt. Your names were always spoken together, Robert and Beatrice, as long as I can remember. It seemed to me, to everyone...

BEATRICE.We are first cousins. It is not strange that we were often together.

RICHARD.He told me of your secret engagement with him. He had no secrets from me; I suppose you know that.

BEATRICE.[Uneasily.] What happened—between us—is so long ago. I was a child.

RICHARD.[Smiles maliciously.] A child? Are you sure? It was in the garden of his mother’s house. No? [He points towards the garden.] Over there. You plighted your troth, as they say, with a kiss. And you gave him your garter. Is it allowed to mention that?

BEATRICE.[With some reserve.] If you think it worthy of mention.

RICHARD.I think you have not forgotten it. [Clasping his hands quietly.] I do not understand it. I thought, too, that after I had gone... Did my going make you suffer?

BEATRICE.I always knew you would go some day. I did not suffer; only I was changed.

RICHARD.Towards him?

BEATRICE.Everything was changed. His life, his mind, even, seemed to change after that.

RICHARD.[Musing.] Yes. I saw that you had changed when I received your first letter after a year; after your illness, too. You even said so in your letter.

BEATRICE.It brought me near to death. It made me see things differently.

RICHARD.And so a coldness began between you, little by little. Is that it?

BEATRICE.[Half closing her eyes.] No. Not at once. I saw in him a pale reflection of you: then that too faded. Of what good is it to talk now?

RICHARD.[With a repressed energy.] But what is this that seems to hang over you? It cannot be so tragic.

BEATRICE.[Calmly.] O, not in the least tragic. I shall become gradually better, they tell me, as I grow older. As I did not die then they tell me I shall probably live. I am given life and health again—when I cannot use them. [Calmly and bitterly.] I am convalescent.

RICHARD.[Gently.] Does nothing then in life give you peace? Surely it exists for you somewhere.

BEATRICE.If there were convents in our religion perhaps there. At least, I think so at times.

RICHARD.[Shakes his head.] No, Miss Justice, not even there. You could not give yourself freely and wholly.

BEATRICE.[Looking at him.] I would try.

RICHARD.You would try, yes. You were drawn to him as your mind was drawn towards mine. You held back from him. From me, too, in a different way. You cannot give yourself freely and wholly.

BEATRICE.[Joins her hands softly.] It is a terribly hard thing to do, Mr Rowan—to give oneself freely and wholly—and be happy.

RICHARD.But do you feel that happiness is the best, the highest that we can know?

BEATRICE.[With fervour.] I wish I could feel it.

RICHARD.[Leans back, his hands locked together behind his head.] O, if you knew how I am suffering at this moment! For your case, too. But suffering most of all for my own. [With bitter force.] And how I pray that I may be granted again my dead mother’s hardness of heart! For some help, within me or without, I must find. And find it I will.

[Beatrice rises, looks at him intently, and walks away toward the garden door. She turns with indecision, looks again at him and, coming back, leans over the easychair.]

BEATRICE.[Quietly.] Did she send for you before she died, Mr Rowan?

RICHARD.[Lost in thought.] Who?

BEATRICE.Your mother.

RICHARD.[Recovering himself, looks keenly at her for a moment.] So that, too, was said of me here by my friends—that she sent for me before she died and that I did not go?


RICHARD.[Coldly.] She did not. She died alone, not having forgiven me, and fortified by the rites of holy church.

BEATRICE.Mr Rowan, why did you speak to me in such a way?

RICHARD.[Rises and walks nervously to and fro.] And what I suffer at this moment you will say is my punishment.

BEATRICE.Did she write to you? I mean before...

RICHARD.[Halting.] Yes. A letter of warning, bidding me break with the past, and remember her last words to me.

BEATRICE.[Softly.] And does death not move you, Mr Rowan? It is an end. Everything else is so uncertain.

RICHARD.While she lived she turned aside from me and from mine. That is certain.

BEATRICE.From you and from...?

RICHARD.From Bertha and from me and from our child. And so I waited for the end as you say; and it came.

BEATRICE.[Covers her face with her hands.] O, no. Surely no.

RICHARD.[Fiercely.] How can my words hurt her poor body that rots in the grave? Do you think I do not pity her cold blighted love for me? I fought against her spirit while she lived to the bitter end. [He presses his hand to his forehead.] It fights against me still—in here.

BEATRICE.[As before.] O, do not speak like that.

RICHARD.She drove me away. On account of her I lived years in exile and poverty too, or near it. I never accepted the doles she sent me through the bank. I waited, too, not for her death but for some understanding of me, her own son, her own flesh and blood; that never came.

BEATRICE.Not even after Archie...?

RICHARD.[Rudely.] My son, you think? A child of sin and shame! Are you serious? [She raises her face and looks at him.] There were tongues here ready to tell her all, to embitter her withering mind still more against me and Bertha and our godless nameless child. [Holding out his hands to her.] Can you not hear her mocking me while I speak? You must know the voice, surely, the voice that called you the black protestant, the pervert’s daughter. [With sudden selfcontrol.] In any case a remarkable woman.

BEATRICE.[Weakly.] At least you are free now.

RICHARD.[Nods.] Yes, she could not alter the terms of my father’s will nor live for ever.

BEATRICE.[With joined hands.] They are both gone now, Mr Rowan. They both loved you, believe me. Their last thoughts were of you.

RICHARD.[Approaching, touches her lightly on the shoulder, and points to the crayon drawing on the wall.] Do you see him there, smiling and handsome? His last thoughts! I remember the night he died. [He pauses for an instant and then goes on calmly.] I was a boy of fourteen. He called me to his bedside. He knew I wanted to go to the theatre to hear Carmen. He told my mother to give me a shilling. I kissed him and went. When I came home he was dead. Those were his last thoughts as far as I know.

BEATRICE.The hardness of heart you prayed for... [She breaks off.]

RICHARD.[Unheeding.] That is my last memory of him. Is there not something sweet and noble in it?

BEATRICE.Mr Rowan, something is on your mind to make you speak like this. Something has changed you since you came back three months ago.

RICHARD.[Gazing again at the drawing, calmly, almost gaily.] He will help me, perhaps, my smiling handsome father.

[A knock is heard at the hall door on the left.]

RICHARD.[Suddenly.] No, no. Not the smiler, Miss Justice. The old mother. It is her spirit I need. I am going.

BEATRICE.Someone knocked. They have come back.

RICHARD.No, Bertha has a key. It is he. At least, I am going, whoever it is.

[He goes out quickly on the left and comes back at once with his straw hat in his hand.]


RICHARD.O, probably Robert. I am going out through the garden. I cannot see him now. Say I have gone to the post. Goodbye.

BEATRICE.[With growing alarm.] It is Robert you do not wish to see?

RICHARD.[Quietly.] For the moment, yes. This talk has upset me. Ask him to wait.

BEATRICE.You will come back?

RICHARD.Please God.

[He goes out quickly through the garden. Beatrice