James Joyce, London 1967
Illustrated by Robin Jacques.
Clay is one of the most poignant stories in Dubliners. The main character is Maria, who lives a life of quiet desperation. Her time is mainly taken up by her work in a laundry for fallen women; it is obvious that Maria has never been presented with the occasion to fall. This rather sad life is warmed by her visits to her brother Joe’s house, where she is the maiden aunt whose presence is tolerated sometimes with great kindness but sometimes also with a little mockery. On this occasion her Hallowe’en visit is overshadowed. When she participates in the traditional game in which a blindfolded player chooses one of a number of saucers, Maria chooses the saucer containing clay. This a sign that her death is near. The story reveals that Joyce, even as a young man, had a compassion in him that is at odds with some of the colder and more cynical tales in the Dubliners collection.
This illustrated edition of Dubliners is part of the Dublin City Library and Archive Special Collections.