The Shelbourne Hotel is a Dublin icon, and it makes sense that a work of literature named for and set in the city would make use of its connotative potential as both a temporary or transitional abode in general and a symbol of the Ascendancy in particular. The hotel has been chronicled in at least two book-length studies, one in 1951 by Elizabeth Bowen and another in 1999 by Michael O’Sullivan and Bernardine O’Neill. It has a very detailed history, but in Joyce’s time, that history was less than a hundred years old and not yet outlined in print. What would have been clear to Joyce, though, at the very least, was that the hotel was situated in an area of Dublin known for its Georgian style and well-to-do residents. What would have also been known to Joyce was the hotel’s typical clientele. Each year, explain O’Sullivan and O’Neill, the visiting viceregal court would “do the season” at Dublin Castle and would lodge during this time at the Shelbourne (8). Joyce would certainly also have been aware of the toponymic connotations of the hotel and would not have failed to seize the opportunity to imbue suggestive political overtones through the reference. The hotel, when it first opened in 1824, was named Burke’s, after the founder of the hotel and leasee of the property itself, which he added to and remodeled. But not long after its establishment, Burke changed the name to commemorate William, the Second Earl of Shelbourne, a decision that, according to O’Sullivan and O’Neill, fated it to be “umbilicaly linked, as it were, to the ascendancy” (7).
The Shelbourne appears in one Dubliners story, and it’s one that Donald Torchiana coincidentally argues “reflects the historic pomp and grandeur of Ascendency treacheries that cast long shadows behind the otherwise mean and stunted posturings of Corley and Lenehan near the end of Irish enslavement” (115). The hotel is only mentioned once in “Two Gallants,” but it would have been a significant part of the setting as Lenehan passes directly in front of the facade at least four times during the story, and it would have been in his view many other times. In fact, it’s as interesting to explore where the hotel is not mentioned in the story as where it is mentioned.
“Two Gallants” opens with Lenehan and his friend Corley making their way from the north side of the city across the Liffey to the south. This movement in itself ambulates the shift in wealth from what was once the suburban north to the increasingly gentrified and affluent southern part of the city. They soon make their way down Kildare Street, where they encounter a harpist, a symbol of native Ireland, before reaching Stephen’s Green:
“They walked along Nassau Street and then turned into Kildare Street. Not far from the porch of the club a harpist stood in the roadway, playing to a little ring of listeners. He plucked at the wires heedlessly, glancing quickly from time to time at the face of each new-comer and from time to time, wearily also, at the sky. His harp, too, heedless that her coverings had fallen about her knees, seemed weary alike of the eyes of strangers and of her master’s hands. One hand played in the bass the melody of Silent, O Moyle, while the other hand careered in the treble after each group of notes. The notes of the air sounded deep and full.
The two young men walked up the street without speaking, the mournful music following them. When they reached Stephen’s Green they crossed the road. Here the noise of trams, the lights and the crowd released them from their silence” (54).
Before they cross the street, they would have been walking along the western side of the Shelbourne, but rather than narrate that figure looming on their left, Joyce describes the men as still caught up in the harpist’s tune as they walk “without speaking, the mournful music following them.” If, as Torchiana argues, Lenehan and Corley represent betrayers to Ireland, the harp music they’ve turned their backs on haunts them and perhaps even riddles them with guilt as they slip past the hotel. Furthermore, they cross the street in order to traverse the front of the hotel on the opposite side, perhaps in an effort to escape the guilt of association with Ascendency prosperity. To name the hotel at this particular point in the story would be to undercut the power of that guilt, and so it would seem Joyce is allowing the narrator to join with the harpist in admonishment of the young men’s betrayal.
The next non-explicated appearance of the hotel occurs after Corley has broken off to meet his “slavey,” and Lenehan doubles back to get a look at the pair. After walking nonchalantly down the east side of Stephen’s Green, he crosses the street and returns back up the other sidewalk to sneak a closer look. In front of him and slightly to the left, in the background of his view of the couple, must stand the Shelbourne Hotel. As an off-center backdrop, it frames the couple with connotations of Britain’s looming presence and predatory economics at the edge of daily Dublin life. It’s a telling image foreshadowing Corley’s use of the young Irish girl for her money.
And it is just after this sneaky exchange that the hotel is finally mentioned explicitly:
“Lenehan walked as far as the Shelbourne Hotel where he halted and waited. After waiting for a little time he saw them coming towards him and, when they turned to the right, he followed them, stepping lightly in his white shoes, down one side of Merrion Square. As he walked on slowly, timing his pace to theirs, he watched Corley’s head which turned at every moment towards the young woman’s face like a big ball revolving on a pivot. He kept the pair in view until he had seen them climbing the stairs of the Donnybrook tram; then he turned about and went back the way he had come” (56).
Halting and waiting is an appropriate action to take at a hotel, a site of transitional and expectant tarrying. And so also is leaving it, which Lenehan does when he proceeds to follow the couple. But to return “back the way he had come” reflects that annual aristocratic pilgrimage of the viceroy. The route he takes to follow and return packs in yet another political connotation as it takes him just in front of Duke’s Lawn on Merrion Street. And here again, Joyce’s non-reference to the hotel is coupled by a sense of despair and perhaps guilt:
“His gaiety seemed to forsake him and, as he came by the railings of the Duke’s Lawn, he allowed his hand to run along them. The air which the harpist had played began to control his movements. His softly padded feet played the melody while his fingers swept a scale of variations idly along the railings after each group of notes.
Again, the non-reference to the hotel, a structure which looms on his right more half a block even if he turns midway away from it to circumnavigate the entirety of Stephen’s Green to avoid passing its front door, is paired with a focus on the harpist’s tune. The memory of that moment of shame or guilt when he first approached the Shelboune returns again to Lenehan as he again passes the hotel. And he very well may decide to walk all the way “round Stephen’s Green” specifically to avoid passing its entirety to get to Grafton Street, a route that would have been four times shorter than the one he chooses.
The final appearance of the hotel is again unexplicated and occurs toward the end of the story. Lenahan is making his way back to the agreed-upon meeting place, which means he must again cross from the west side to the east side of Stephen’s Green. Instead of taking the southern route, he apparently steels himself for the necessary and more direct route along the square’s northern edge, right along the front of the Shelbourne Hotel. Rather than ruminating on the emotional or psychological turmoil of the past encounter with the building (perhaps he’s already forgotten it), the narrative seems to rush through the stretch between the College of Surgeon’s clock and Merrion Street, as if hoping to sneak quickly past the ghost of guilt with her noticing:
“He set off briskly along the northern side of the Green hurrying for fear Corley should return too soon. When he reached the corner of Merrion Street he took his stand in the shadow of a lamp and brought out one of the cigarettes which he had reserved and lit it” (59).
His emotional soundtrack is no longer guilt but fear that he might miss the fruits of his friend’s plot–the money. Although his hours of wandering offer moments of possible redemption for Lenehan, by the end, as he smokes his last cigarette, he does indeed seem to have become the betrayer Torchiana, and Boyle and Walzl before him, claims him to be.
Crowe Street appears in “Grace” as the location of Tom Kernan’s office: “Modern business methods had spared him only so far as to allow him a little office in Crowe Street, on the window blind of which was written the name of his firm with the address–London, E. C.” (154). The street is labeled as “Crow” (no “e”) Street on an 1836 map of the city (pictured left), and C.T. M’Cready’s 1892 Dublin Street Names, Dated and Explained also carries a listing for Crow Street (pictured below) but not Crowe Street. M’Cready notes in the opening of the book that Crow was was the name of a property owner, and it was a common convention to name streets after the families whose property essentially established it as a street. Another source, however, John D’Alton’s History of the County of Dublin, lists Thomas Crowe as sheriff in 1685. M’Cready dates the street naming roughly 75 years after the sheriff of that-name-plus-“e” served as sheriff and ascribes the honor of the commemoration to William Crow, who owned the former monastery nearby. That monastery is labeled but not illustrated on a 1618 map of Dublin (pictured above) by Georg Braun. The earlier map does not show a Crow Street at all, so it seems reasonable to assume that William Crow, not Thomas Crowe, was indeed the namesake for the street. So the question is why Joyce appended an “e” to the name of the street when the street name in all the records was spelled without an “e.”
Crowe (with an “e”), in addition to the name of Dublin’s 1685 sheriff, was a common name in England. One that Joyce may have been acquainted with, by name at least, was the clergyman, poet, and orator William Crowe. It may simply be that Joyce hoped to imbue the name with something more of the English to connote the ever-present yoke of England on Ireland, a theme that is ever-present in the collection but especially in certain stories. Crow/e Street runs north and south from Cecelia Street to Dame Street, just south of the Liffey. It’s in the general area of Temple Bar, placing Kernan in the geographical vicinity of Farrington’s office and pub cluster in “Counterparts” and just off of the Dame Street part of the routes traversed by Chandler in “A Little Cloud” and the group of exuberant young men in “After the Race.” Crowe Street is also not far from where Lenehan comes upon two unnamed friends as he turns south into George’s Street from Dame Street. Each of these stories uses geographical or toponymic signs to connote a kind of frustrated Irishness fueled by the inability of characters to escape their economic situations. These situations are intensified by Ireland’s subordination to Britain’s economy and job market. Farrington works a tedious job under a Northern Irish boss and is snubbed my a London actress; Chandler longs to be published by a London press even if it means playing up his Irishness as a charicature; Jimmy Doyle loses his money to his more cosmopolitan friends at cards; and Lenehan, whose path doesn’t quite reach Crow/e Street, wanders aimlessly while his friend tries to find them some more drinking money. Kernan’s ties are as clear as the lettering on his office window. He works for a London-based company, and even though he isn’t bad off for it, he certainly seems to have problems he needs to drink away.
Whether spelled “Crowe” or “Crow” the imagery is more clear perhaps than the etymology. A carrion bird looms in the location of Kernan’s office. It looms on a corner of Dame Street along the path of the insecure Little Chandler and the soon-to-be broke Jimmy Doyle. Its caws can be heard two blocks away in Eustace Street where Farrington fumes in his boss’s office. And Lenehan avoids its talons by turning south a block and a half before he reaches it. Whether its image or its name or its unifying geography is the sign, the signified seems to be the same. Great Britain’s wealth looms, and the Irish are consciously or subconsciously frustrated.
“–But you will come, won’t you? said Miss Ivors, laying her warm hand eagerly on his arm.
–The fact is, said Gabriel, I have just arranged to go——
–Go where? asked Miss Ivors.
–Well, you know, every year I go for a cycling tour with some fellows and so——
–But where?”asked Miss Ivors.
–Well, we usually go to France or Belgium or perhaps Germany, said Gabriel awkwardly.
–And why do you go to France and Belgium, said Miss Ivors, instead of visiting your own land?
–Well, said Gabriel, it’s partly to keep in touch with the languages and partly for a change.
–And haven’t you your own language to keep in touch with—Irish? asked Miss Ivors.
–Well, said Gabriel, “f it comes to that, you know, Irish is not my language.” ()
Belgium, along with France and Germany, is set up as not-Ireland. It represents an alternative, a global or at least continental option.
Likewise, in “After the Race,” Belgium exists as part of a dichotomy, this one with perhaps seditious undertones. It appears in the form of a nationality, specifically that of one of the drivers in the Bennett Cup race:
“The French, moreover, were virtual victors. Their team had finished solidly; they had been placed second and third and the driver of the winning German car was reported a Belgian. Each blue car, therefore, received a double measure of welcome as it topped the crest of the hill and each cheer of welcome was acknowledged with smiles and nods by those in the car” ().
Here, Belgium once again appears alongside Germany and France, but this time it takes the position of a kind of negative space. The Belgian driver is not German and is therefore disqualified, rendering the French “virtual victors.” Because the driver is from Belgium as opposed to Germany, he is disqualified. He has subverted the rules, attempting to cheat his way to a win. In reality, of course, the nationality of a person operating a vehicle manufactured in another country has no bearing on his ability to maneuver the vehicle, how fast he can make the car go. But the predicament calls attention to Jimmy Doyle’s identity as an Irishman in the company of more cosmopolitan, more privileged young men. The disqualification of the Belgian anticipates Jimmy’s disqualification from the group at the end of the story as he sits below deck on the American’s yacht: out of money, out of cheer, and out of place among his peers.Like the Belgian can drive the car, Jimmy can try out the trappings of the continent, as a student and as a friend, but in the end, he isn’t allowed to win.
The not-place of Belgium as a geographical reference in Dubliners works to characterize both Jimmy and Gabriel as perceived failures, highlighting the problematic Irish identity that James Joyce himself struggled with all his life.
Liverpool is referenced explicitly in one story and implicitly in another. In “A Boarding House,” it is the origin of “tourists” who float through Mrs. Mooney’s establishment:
“Mrs Mooney, who had taken what remained of her money out of the butcher business and set up a boarding house in Hardwicke Street, was a big imposing woman. Her house had a floating population made up of tourists from Liverpool and the Isle of Man and, occasionally, artistes from the music-halls. Its resident population was made up of clerks from the city. She governed her house cunningly and firmly, knew when to give credit, when to be stern and when to let things pass. All the resident young men spoke of her as The Madam.”
Along with the Isle of Man, a British crown dependency, Liverpool represents in a general sense the infiltration of Britain into Ireland and its economy, especially in the context of Mrs. Mooney’s business which relies as much on the Manx and English tourists as it does the Dublin clerks for its livelihood. Don Gifford notes these tourists represent an “extraordinarily rowdy citizenry” (Gifford 63) because of their origins, necessitating the stern and cunning qualities Mrs. Mooney projects.
But what is it exactly about Liverpool that would make these “tourists” so rowdy? The answer could lie in the implicit reference to Liverpool that hovers between the lines of “Eveline.” Frank is identified as a sailor who started as a deck boy on the Allan Line. As discussed in greater detail in the Canada essay, the Allan Line maintained several regular routes between Liverpool and Canada. It would be logical to assume that many of Liverpool’s young male population would have been employed by shipping lines like the Allan Line or many others that ported out of Liverpool. Frank may not still work for the Allan Line, which sailed regularly between Buenos Ayres, Liverpool, and Canada, but he almost certainly worked at one time out of Liverpool, the largest nearby port for trans-Atlantic voyaging.
By the time Dubliners takes place, this heritage had been well entrenched, but the American Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation had all but ended one of the port city’s main industries. Still, with emigration and merchant shipping, Liverpool persisted as a British commercial hub and a lucrative base for sailors to find work. In fact, it is more likely that the “tourists” from Liverpool in “The Boarding House” are not native Liverpudlians at all but sailors whose travels place them in Liverpool in between voyages. It’s also possible these tourist-sailors aren’t able to find work, either because of the glut of able young men available for the job or because of some more nefarious reasons.The reputation of sailors at the turn of the twentieth century was complex. The song Frank sings to Eveline, “The Lass That Loves a Sailor” exemplifies some of the more romantic notions of sailorhood. It was written by Charles Dibdin who was commissioned to write maritime-themed songs to boost morale during the Anglo-French wars of the early nineteenth century. That Frank sings this song about sailing soldiers longing for love indicates he perceives himself as part of a romantic Ulyssean legacy of seafaring. But as Judith Fingard explains, by the end of the nineteenth century, such a sailor “belonged to a dying occupation.” Frank is not Odysseus. He is not even a soldier. He is a graduated deck boy sailing between Liverpool (by way of Dublin in his downtime) to North and South America. The hundred years between the song and his reality had greatly complicated the image of the sailor. Fingard traces some of the perceptions in Jack in Port: Sailortowns of Eastern Canada, where she describes the typical mid-nineteenth-century sailor as connoting a stereotype: “His legendary indiscipline, non-productive labour, and frequent foreignness mark him out, along with naval seamen, soldiers, and prostitutes, as a misfit who was there to be seen, but who need not be heard” (3). She adds that sailors were often associated with boarding houses, though they were encouraged by their employers to “act temperately and avoid boarding houses” (5). By the end of the century, she writes, sailors were often met with “disdain” by landsmen “for a proverbially bothersome presence in the streets, taverns, and institutions of health, order, and justice” (6). Such descriptions suggest it would even be likely that Frank, a seasoned if retired sailor by the time he returns to “the old country just for a holiday,” could have stayed at Mrs. Mooney’s when he was in town. After spending downtime in Liverpool and the surrounding areas so long, why wouldn’t these sailors, or “tourists,” like Frank, spend a little time in Dublin? Perhaps they could meet the kind of “lass that loves a sailor” so many seamen were looking for.
“There’s some deal on in that quarter, said Mr O’Connor thoughtfully. I saw the three of them hard at it yesterday at Suffolk Street corner” (127).
“The three of them” could be any combination of the several people the men have been discussing during their early evening fireside chat. One member of the trio is almost certainly Alderman Cowley, who has just been mentioned as the reason Henchy couldn’t get the attention of the “shoeboy” who is supposed to be bringing the men beer. The second could be this young “shoeboy” or, as Henchy calls him “hop ‘o my thumb,” a seventeen-year-old politico in the making who downs a whole bottle of stout between running errands for canvassers and city officials. And the third might be Father Keon, the strange priest who spends suspicious amounts of time in Kavanagh’s with political bargainers. As discussed in greater detail in the Kavanagh’s article, that particular locale was noted as a wineroom where under-the-table deals were made between existing and aspiring politicians, and the symbolic value of a priest meeting there with a politician echoes the inextricable (rather then ineluctable) relationship between religious and political modalities in Joyce’s Ireland.
A block north of the committee room, Suffolk Street, like Kavanagh’s, reflects this confluence of two pivotal sectors in turn-of-the-century Dublin. But whereas Joyce’s use of Kavanagh’s highlights the relationship of politics and religion, Suffolk Street, in the context of the story, represents a symbiosis of religion and commerce. Connecting St. Andrew’s Street, home of St. Andrew’s Church, on its northwest end, and Grafton Street, a thoroughfare known for its retail and financial institutions, on its southeast end, Suffolk Street is a geographic symbol of the economics of religion and the religion of economics. Considering the connotations of St. Andrew’s and Grafton Streets as religious and economic spaces, Suffolk Street becomes an illustration of the thread connecting those two principles. The three men “hard at it” at the corner of Suffolk Street (which corner?) personify those connections while the geospatial markers map the relationship of these factors that fuel the political campaigns and legacies of all the figures in the story, from the fictional Tierney to the real Parnell to the alluded to Dublin mayor to Edward Rex.
The southernmost of three favorite vacation spots for the Kearney family in “A Mother,” Greystones is situated about 17 miles (27 km) south of Dublin’s city center on the eastern coast of Ireland. It is a small fishing village that became a popular summer holiday retreat when the railroad connected the town to Dublin in 1855. Today it would take about an hour to travel to Greystones from Dublin by train. Accounting for number of stops and speed differences, we might estimate a similar if not longer travel time for the Kearneys at the turn of the the twentieth century. The locale is named for the grey stones that form a wall along the center of the coast. On the north end of the wall lies the harbour and on the south the train station and beach.
The reference appears in only one Dubliners story and as a part of a typical Joycean trinity:
“Every year in the month of July Mrs Kearney found occasion to say to some friend:
–My good man is packing us off to Skerries for a few weeks.
If it was not Skerries it was Howth or Greystones.” (137)
Like Skerries and Howth, Greystones suits the economic and Nationalist values of the Kearney family when it comes to vacationing. Unlike Gabriel and Gretta’s continental journeys to France or Germany or even Molly Ivors’s proudly domestic pilgrimages to the Aran Isles, the Kearneys’ yearly weeks-long retreat is always to an affordable destination not too far from home.
The reference to these three places is situated within the context of a description of the family’s practicality, foresight, and educational values. Just before the vacation destinations are listed, we learn that Mr. Kearney is “sober, thrifty, and pious,” and that even though Mrs. Kearney “never put her own romantic ideas away,” she nevertheless “perceived that such a man would wear better than a romantic person” (137). Indeed, he is described as “a model father” partly because he invests money in his daughters’ education. But even though part of this education includes the French language, it seems that particular skill is intended more for reading than for the necessity of speaking the language on any potential visit to France. In a rather stream-of-consciousness style, in fact, the narrative shifts from mention of French to the list of Irish vacation destinations to the Irish Revival and the Kearneys’ decision to hire an Irish language teacher for their daughters.
But rather than the Irish vacation spots serving as characteristics of the family’s Nationalism, just like Kathleen’s name, they actually seem to be a circumstance on which the thrifty Kearneys capitalize in their adoption of Nationalist ideology. As a Nationalist, Mrs. Kearney would not need to defend her husband only taking her as far as a suburban fishing village for a holiday–she could “f[i]nd occasion to say” so. And Kathleen was not named with any Irish mythology in mind–“Mrs. Kearney took advantage of her daughter’s name” only once “the Irish Revival began to be appreciable” (137).
Mrs. Kearney’s fiscal defensiveness is not limited to standing up for her daughter’s economic rights when it comes to the concert. It works in far more complex psychological ways: finding opportunity in marriage and political movements as well as in her daughter’s musical education, and frugality in vacation choices. The Kearneys invest in themselves by educating their children just as they invest in their environment by supporting local recreational travel options.
Dan Burke’s is named in “A Painful Case” as Duffy’s go-to lunch spot in the city. Although he lives in Chapelizod, he works in the city center, at a bank in Baggot Street, and must therefore find sustenance near his office:
“He had been for many years cashier of a private bank in Baggot Street. Every morning he came in from Chapelizod by tram. At midday he went to Dan Burke’s and took his lunch—a bottle of lager beer and a small trayful of arrowroot biscuits. At four o’clock he was set free. He dined in an eating-house in George’s Street where he felt himself safe from the society of Dublin’s gilded youth and where there was a certain plain honesty in the bill of fare” (108-109).
According to Thom’s 1892 Directory (pictured above), Daniel Burke and Co., “grocers, tea, wine and spirit merchants,” had establishments at 50 Lower Baggot Street, as well as St. James Street East, 3 King’s Street South, Ballsbridge, 11 Sandycove Road, and 107 and 108 Stephen’s Green West. A previous directory published in 1883 (embedded below; see left column near top) also lists Daniel Burke as “grocer, tea, wine and spirit merchant” in several of the same locations. An established and expanding business with stores located around the city, Dan Burke’s would have been to Duffy a reliable establishment that appealed to his regard for consistency and order.
Perfectly fitting to the ambiguity of place and movement in the story, the reference to “the Glasnevin road” at the opening of “Grace” is as curiously nonspecific as it is ripe with possibilities: “The car halted before a small house on the Glasnevin road and Mr Kernan was helped into the house” (154).
Not itself the name of any particular Dublin street, notes Don Gifford, Glasnevin road is more a label for a typical series of roads that could lead through north Dublin to the neighborhood of Glasnevin, located roughly 3 kilometers north of the city center (Gifford 102). Though the reference is indeed vague, an 1883 Lett’s and Sons map shows a stretch of road at the corner of the page labelled “Road to Glasnevin.” Further south the street becomes Phibsborough Road. Whether the reference is to this specific street named vaguely or to a vague pathway not quite named, the ambiguity Joyce imbued into the location is thematically appropriate.
The place appears as the location of Tom Kernan’s house, and thus where the cab takes him after his drunken stumble down the stairs in an unnamed bar also somewhat vaguely located in or near Grafton Street. The non-specific home location is appropriate as a landing place for the temporarily inarticulate Kernan at the opening of the story. Having bitten his tongue in the drunken fall, he must rely on his friend, the aptly named Mr. Power, to convey his address to the cab driver. And though we know Power does this (“while Mr Power was giving directions to the carman”), we do not get to hear a particular address or even the general “directions” Power is communicating (153). When Power joins Kernan in the cab and asks him what exactly happened, Kernan can only respond with “I ‘an’t, ‘an,…‘y ‘ongue is hurt” (153). His inability to tell his own story is reflected in the vagueness of space that permeates “Grace.”
Glasnevin road also appears later in the story, in a misleadingly more specific context as the location of Mr. Fogarty’s store:
“Mr Fogarty was a modest grocer. He had failed in business in a licensed house in the city because his financial condition had constrained him to tie himself to second-class distillers and brewers. He had opened a small shop on Glasnevin Road where, he flattered himself, his manners would ingratiate him with the housewives of the district. He bore himself with a certain grace, complimented little children and spoke with a neat enunciation. He was not without culture” ().
The second reference to Gasnevin road is just as entwined as the first with the thematic context of the passage in which it appears. More than just an indication of place, the seemingly specific label gives Fogarty’s shop more permanence than it may actually warrant. We learn that Fogarty’s business practices are perhaps a bit lax as evidenced by his past failure and also his gift of whisky to Kernan despite the “small account for groceries unsettled between [Kernan] and Mr Fogarty” (166). It seems Fogarty is as irresponsibly generous as he is perhaps dangerously enabling of Kernan’s alleged drinking problem. Furthermore, that both men are located on the Glasnevin Road, however non-specific that road may be, indicates a destination toward something much more somber than failed business and a bitten tongue.
Glasnevin’s most iconic feature is perhaps its cemetery, the resting place of prominent political figures such as Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, and many others interred there after the publication of Dubliners. It is also the resting place of Paddy Dignam and the setting for his funeral in Ulysses. Not surprisingly, among the attendees of the procession is none other than Mr. Tom Kernan.
The cemetery was opened in 1832 as an expansion to the nearby Golden Bridge Cemetery, which O’Connell himself had a significant hand in establishing as an alternative to more expensive graveyards that were financially inaccessible to many of the Nationalist figures of the nineteenth century. As Richard J. O’Duffy notes in his 1915 Historic Graves in Glasnevin Cemetery, “All the great movements, in one shape or another, that arose immediately before or after the year 1800, having as their goal the liberation or the good of Ireland–the Emancipation Movement, the Movement for Repeal, the ’48 Era, the Insurrection of ’67, the Home Rule Movement, and that identified with the name of Parnell–all are here represented in this great necropolis of Ireland, either in leaders or their adherents” (2-3).
It is rumored, but not definitively accepted, that Robert Emmet’s remains are at either Glasnevin or St. Michan’s. Incidentally, it is Tom Kernan, not Bloom, who ponders this rumour in Ulysses: “Let me see. Is he buried in saint Michan’s? Or no, there was a midnight burial in Glasnevin. Corpse brought in through a secret door in the wall. Dignam is there now. Went out in a puff. Well, well. Better turn down here. Make a detour” (U 10.769-72). Kernan is one of many attendees at Paddy Dignam’s funeral, which takes place at the cemetery in Glasnevin, and Bloom thinks momentarily about Mr. Fogarty just as the carriage passes a pub at the corner of Finglas Road and Prospect Terrace.
The route to Glasnevin is clear and specific in Ulysses (e.g. Blessington Street, Berkeley Street, Phibsborough Road, Crossguns bridge, Finglas road). As the Walking Ulysses project proves, it is in fact clearly mappable (see above). But in “Grace,” Joyce’s purposefully ambiguous “Glasnevin road” is reflective of the ambiguity associated with the concept of grace itself. The word appears four times in the story. Its first two uses are associated with fashion; the third is in reference to Mr. Fogarty whose first business endeavor failed, whose shop is vaguely located in Glasnevin Road, and whose manners and charms “ingratiate him with housewives” and children; and the final “grace” appears in Father Purdon’s business-themed instructions to the church on how to balance their temptation checkbooks: Well, I have looked into my accounts. I find this wrong and this wrong. But, with God’s grace, I will rectify this and this. I will set right my accounts.” Again the vague “this and this,” like the broad generality of the Glasnevin Road, are deictic markers. They require a contextual anchor. Defining grace, like identifying an explicit sin or an explicit street, requires some interpretation.
Capel Street, a typical yet rather non-exceptional shopping thoroughfare just a few blocks west of O’Connell Street in Dublin city center, appears in both “Two Gallants” and “A Little Cloud.” In both stories, it serves as an artery moving the focal characters from north to south as they walk through the city. For Lenahan in “Two Gallants,” Capel Street is one line amid a mostly destinationless perambulation, a trek that serves to pass the time while his friend Corley is engaged with his lover. And for Chandler in “A Little Cloud,” the street is one section of a mostly direct route from his office in Henrietta Street to Corless’s where he’ll meet his successful London-based friend Gallaher who is in town for a visit. For both men, Capel Street is the setting for a change of attitude.
Capel Street seems only a blip in the timeline of Lenehan’s wandering:
“He paid twopence halfpenny to the slatternly girl and went out of the shop to begin his wandering again. He went into Capel Street and walked along towards the City Hall. Then he turned into Dame Street” (58).
But it is part of a series of stretches and turns that accompany an important internal review for the thirty-year-old gallant. The lines just before the Capel Street reference show Lenehan eating a plate of peas at a pub (likely in Great Britain Street) while he considers his life, first hopelesslessy and then a little more optimistically:
“He would be thirty-one in November. Would he never get a good job? Would he never have a home of his own? He thought how pleasant it would be to have a warm fire to sit by and a good dinner to sit down to. He had walked the streets long enough with friends and with girls. He knew what those friends were worth: he knew the girls too. Experience had embittered his heart against the world. But all hope had not left him. He felt better after having eaten than he had felt before, less weary of his life, less vanquished in spirit. He might yet be able to settle down in some snug corner and live happily if he could only come across some good simple-minded girl with a little of the ready” (58).
The next glimpse we get into Lenehan’s mind is when he meets his firends at the corner of Dame and George’s Streets.But what occupies his mind for the 5 minutes the map indicates it would take him to traverse Capel Street and the additional 5 minutes it would have taken to cross Grattan Bridge, continue down Parliament Street, and then wander east along Dame street to the corner? Have the peas truly placated him, stopping all analysis and self-reflection? The exchange with his firends at the corner is described very matter-of-factly, listing the questions and answers without any embellishment of accompanying emotion besides that “[h]e was glad that he could rest from all his walking” (58). It would seem he’s also relieved to have a distraction from his self-doubts. He would rather gossip with fellow drinkers and drifters than examine his own failings and shortcomings. Indeed, it seems that after he resolves to become “less weary of his life, less vanquished in spirit,” all thought must stop lest it return to the realism of his age and lack of love or vocation.
Chandler, who is more mature than Lenehan (partly evidenced by his habitation of a maturity story rather than an adolescence story), doesn’t stifle his thoughts as he traverses Capel Street. Rather, the 7 minutes it would take him to walk from the corner of Henrietta and Capel Streets to Grattan Bridge appear in the text as paragraphs packed full of reflection.
“He turned to the right towards Capel Street. Ignatius Gallaher on the London Press! Who would have thought it possible eight years before? Still, now that he reviewed the past, Little Chandler could remember many signs of future greatness in his friend. People used to say that Ignatius Gallaher was wild. Of course, he did mix with a rakish set of fellows at that time, drank freely and borrowed money on all sides. In the end he had got mixed up in some shady affair, some money transaction: at least, that was one version of his flight. But nobody denied him talent. There was always a certain … something in Ignatius Gallaher that impressed you in spite of yourself. Even when he was out at elbows and at his wits’ end for money he kept up a bold face. Little Chandler remembered (and the remembrance brought a slight flush of pride to his cheek) one of Ignatius Gallaher’s sayings when he was in a tight corner:
–Half time now, boys, he used to say light-heartedly. Where’s my considering cap?
That was Ignatius Gallaher all out; and, damn it, you couldn’t but admire him for it.
Little Chandler quickened his pace. For the first time in his life he felt himself superior to the people he passed. For the first time his soul revolted against the dull inelegance of Capel Street. There was no doubt about it: if you wanted to succeed you had to go away. You could do nothing in Dublin. As he crossed Grattan Bridge he looked down the river towards the lower quays and pitied the poor stunted houses” (72-73).
The movement from north Dublin to south tranforms Chandler. He becomes more confident as “every step brought him closer to London, farther from his own sober, inartistic life” (73). So what is it about Capel Street that advances confidence or at least has the power to quiet self-doubt? What sights and sounds would have populated Lenehan and Chandler’s walks down this innocuous commercial corridor?
First, Capel Street is only one of two explicit references (along with Dame Street) the two stories share even though an implicit path is also common. So although the shared change of heart both men experience on their Capel Street walks suggests a kind of parallel characterization, their similar experience is perhaps more a product of the location itself than any similarity of personality. As a commercial artery, Capel street is and was a place of common utility for many Dubliners. A Dublin City development plan describes the street as “one of the most historically significant streets in Dublin City. The street formed part of an extension of the city north of the river by Sir Humphrey Jervis who built his estate on the lands of St. Mary’s Abbey. In 1676 Jervis built a new bridge, Essex Bridge [later renamed Grattan Bridge], which established Capel Street as one of the main thoroughfares between the north and south sides of Dublin City” (1). The report explains that “Capel Street was originally planned in the 17th Century for residential use,” and for a time it indeed “became one of the most fashionable addresses” (2). But the area was repurposed in the eighteenth century for commerce. The report continues, “Capel Street took on the its current appearance we see today during the 19th century. During this period retail became prominent on the street so that domestic houses at the top lost their front doors and railings to make way for shopfronts” (4). It wasn’t until the past century that “the Capel Street area was subject to urban decay” and the necessity arose to implement a plan to preserve its historic features.
Capel Street was well established but already in the early stages of its decay during the time period in which Dubliners is set. Perhaps the comfortable and long-cemented bustle served as a kind of reassuring diversion from Lenehan’s perceived individual shortcomings. And for Chandler, “the dull inelegance of Capel Street” filled the role of inferior metropolis necessary to bolster his own imagined sense of superior displacement. More specifically, the inelegance Chandler perceived became a theme for the art he could create outside of Dublin. In both cases, the moments spanned on Capel Street offer a kind of transcendence of spirit while still anchoring their occupants with a kind of inevitability of fortune. It hardly needs to be noted that such co-existence of epiphany and paralysis defines Dubliners, but it is remarkable that this ambivalence can be gleaned through a simple geographical reference shared between two characters on very different paths and in very different stages in life.
Editor’s Note: The following is a guest contribution. Kurt Hochenauer is professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma where he teaches modern British and postcolonial literature. He is the author of the political blog Okie Funk.
One of the livelier intellectual debates in the James Joyce scholarly community situates itself along a spectrum between what I will call the aesthetes and the politicos.
To put it in the most simplistic dichotomy, the aesthetes believe the lasting value of Joyce’s work is in the author’s brilliant use of language and symbolism. The politicos believe Joyce’s political and sociocultural statements are as much central to his work as artistic wordplay or the creation of modern and new literary structures and forms.
Obviously, the binary isn’t so tidy, and aesthetics inform the politics and vice versa, but it’s worth noting as a prelude to any academic discussion of “The Dead,” which appears in Dubliners, or any particular segments of that story, which is the perfect stew of astute political commentary and brilliant literary aesthetics but surely is not Joyce’s last major “political” work of fiction.
Gabriel’s political epiphany to fully embrace his country’s quest for independence and its heritage on a “journey westward” in his hotel room only comes after his cab crosses the O’Connell Bridge, named after one of Ireland’s most famous leaders and agitators for emancipation, Daniel O’Connell. The bridge and its political implications are heavily tied to the theme of the story, and serve as the gateway to Gabriel’s political enlightenment after his encounter with Molly Ivors at his aunts’ home.
In the story, Gabriel and his wife Gretta share a cab with Mr. Bartell D’Arcy and Miss O’Callaghan as the couple go back to their hotel room after the party. Here’s the relevant segment:
“As the cab drove across O’Connell Bridge Miss O’Callaghan said:
–They say you never cross O’Connell Bridge without seeing a white horse.
–I see a white man this time, said Gabriel.
–Where? asked Mr. Bartell D’Arcy.
Gabriel pointed to the statue, on which lay patches of snow. Then he nodded familiarly to it and waved his hand.
–Good-night, Dan, he said gaily.” (214)
The Carlisle Bridge was built to go over the River Liffey in Dublin. It was first constructed from 1794-1798 by James Gandon and named after Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, known as Lord Carlisle. It was later widened in 1880, and was renamed O’Connell Bridge in 1882 when the O’Connell statue was erected in Dublin. There’s an old legend that one always sees a white horse on the bridge, which could be a reference to the white horse owned by British King William III, or “King Billy,” who reigned from 1672 to 1702 and was widely hated by Irish Catholics. By the time the party crosses the bridge, incidentally, Gabriel has only an hour before told the story of his grandfather’s horse Johnny who walked circles around King Billy’s statue because he apparently “fell in love with the horse King Billy sits on” (208).
The bridge’s basic political implications seem almost too obvious to note, but in “The Dead” it becomes a symbolic blending of a basic Dublin iconic place name not only with Gabriel’s later catharsis but also with the numerous ironies and overlaps in the story.
When Gabriel happily and playfully says “Good-night, Dan,” referring to the O’Connell statue, he doesn’t know yet his wife will cry herself to sleep after thinking about a young man who once loved her and who she thinks maybe even died for her. Gabriel remains awake after Gretta’s emotional outburst in the hotel room with “generous tears” in his eyes and makes a connection with “vast hosts of the dead,” which would obviously include O’Connell.
First, Gabriel must lose his old, stifling West Briton identity, the source of his anxiety:
“His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.” (223)
With his self-conscious and self-fawning identity now eradicated, Gabriel can finally embrace the struggle. “The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward,” or, to put it another way, the time has come for Gabriel to become politically realized. The snow that covers the O’Connell statue, which Gabriel noted earlier, continues to fall general across Ireland, uniting him with his historical past and propelling him westward to awakening.
The O’Connell Bridge is a symbolic gateway to Gabriel’s political epiphany and, by extension, Joyce’s political awakening, which the author deployed in both bold and subversive ways in his writing in and after “The Dead.”