Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bloomsday: The Dublin of James Joyce

Happy Bloomsday!

Today I am in London, England, and not in my beloved Dublin; however, my Edwardian döppelganger is standing in for me, dressed in her best, and ready to celebrate all things Joycean on this Bloomsday.

Bloomsday is the day on which the life of Irish writer James Joyce is celebrated. It is annually observed on 16 June, the date on which the events of his masterwork Ulysses take place. It is said Joyce chose this date for the novel because it is the date on which he enjoyed his first outing with Nora Barnacle, the woman who would become his wife. On that date, the couple enjoyed a pleasant walk to Ringsend, Dublin.

The name of this day of celebration, coined in 1954, is derived from the surname of the principal figure in the novel, Leopold Bloom. The 'action' of the novel takes place over the course of one day in the life of Leopold Bloom.

In addition to pub crawls and other gatherings of celebration, one of the principal activities of the day is a tracing of events which took place in Joyce's extraordinary novel, Ulysses. All over Dublin, and other places around the world as well, groups of people will gather together to read aloud from Ulysses. In New York City, revellers will traipse through Bryant Park, wearing period costumes, carrying parasols, and all delighting in everything Joycean.

In St. Stephen's Green is a bust honouring Joyce.
The quotation, "Crossing Stephen's, that is, my green",  is from Joyce's
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
I first encountered the work of James Joyce as an undergraduate reading for an honours Bachelor's degree in English Literature. The first work of Joyce's I read was his book of short stories entitled Dubliners, his novel Ulysses was the second. To be perfectly honest, I was not in love with the text when I first began to work my way through it, but I did feel tremendous pride at the fact that this unusual and challenging novel was written by an Irish born writer. Although it is a work of fiction, within its pages there are many historical figures mentioned, as well as many places from all around Dublin City, and places further afield.

When I began to research my Irish family history, I was surprised to learn that my family is connected to James Joyce, not by blood mind you, but by friendship. Thomas Michael Kettle, a first cousin in my maternal line about whom I have previously written, attended university with James Joyce at the Royal University of Ireland (now called University College Dublin, UCD). Kettle was part of Joyce's group of intimates, which included Kettle's future brother-in-law Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, and the poet and memoirist Oliver St. John Gogarty. How I would love to have been a fly on the wall at one of their gatherings. The family of Mary Sheehy, Tom Kettle's wife, is mentioned in the novel, when Rev. John Conmee greets Mary's mother, Mrs. Sheehy in the street, and asks about Mary's father, M.P. David Sheehy:

He walked by the treeshade of sunnywinking leaves and towards him came the wife of Mr. David Sheehy M. P.
— Very well, indeed, father. And you father?...
Father Conmee was very glad to see the wife of Mr. David Sheehy M. P. looking so well and he begged to be remembered to Mr. David Sheehy M. P. Yes, he would certainly call. 
— Good afternoon, Mrs Sheehy.  (p.180*)

Also, on page 241 of the novel, mention is made of Michael Geraghty, Esquire, of 29 Arbour Hill, Stoneybatter. Since my father, Michael Geraghty, was born in the Arbour Hill area of Stoneybatter, I can always claim a family connection to a fictional character.

As I mentioned, on the pages of the novel Joyce makes reference to numerous places in and around Dublin City. In celebration of Bloomsday, and James Joyce, here are photographs of a few of my favourites along with some of the lines in which they are mentioned in the novel. Click on the images to view larger versions.

Hodges Figgis Bookstore, established 1763.
"What she? The virgin at Hodges Figgis' window on Monday looking in for
one of the alphabet books you were going to write. Keen glance you gave her." (p.40)
Left: Sweny's Chemist; Right: The Hughenot Cemetery.
“Where is this? Ah yes, the last time. Sweny's in Lincoln place. Chemists rarely move.
Their green and gold beaconjars too heavy to stir. Hamilton Long's, founded in the year
of the flood. Huguenot churchyard near there. Visit some day.” (p.68)
Daniel O'Connell: 'The Great Liberator'
“They passed under the hugecloaked Liberator's form.” (p.77)
Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold's Cross, Dublin.
"Do they know what they cart out here every day? Must be twenty or thirty funerals
every day. Then Mount Jerome for the protestants. Funerals all over the world
everywhere every minute." (p.83)
"As he set foot on O'Connell bridge a puffball of smoke plumed up from the parapet.
Brewery barge with export stout." (p.125)
Trinity College.
“Two carfuls of tourists passed slowly, their women sitting fore, gripping the handrests.
Palefaces. Men's arms frankly round their stunted forms. They looked from Trinity to the
blind columned porch of the bank of Ireland where pigeons roocoocooed.” (p.188)
The Bank of Ireland building. (see quote above)
Merchant's Arch.
“They went up the steps and under Merchants' arch.
A dark-backed figure scanned books on the hawker's cart.” (p.192)
“Let me see. Is he buried in saint Michan's?
Or no, there was a midnight burial in Glasnevin.” (p.197)
Prospect Cemetery at Glasnevin, popularly known as Glasnevin.
(see quotation above)
Finn's Hotel, in which James Joyce's wife Nora Barnacle once worked as a chambermaid.
“Striding past Finn's hotel, Cashel Boyle O'Connor Fitzmaurice Tisdall Farrell
stared through a fierce eyeglass...” (p.209)

*Note: the pagination made mention of for each of the quotes from the novel is from Ulysses by James Joyce, The Gabler edition, First Vintage Books, Random House, New York, 1986. Also, the quotations appear exactly as they do in the text, some with little or no punctuation.

Click on photographs to view larger versions.
Copyright©irisheyesjg2013. All Rights Reserved.

2 comments:

  1. Great post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

    ReplyDelete

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Cheers, Jennifer

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