Not to be confused with The Stores on the same street, the City Markets were a collection of businesses housed inside a large building in South Great George’s Street. Essentially a shopping mall now named George’s Street Arcade, the City Markets were completed and opened in 1881. The project was commissioned in 1876 and was, according to Christine Casey’s Dublin: The City Within the Grand and Royal Canals and the Circular Road, an “ambitious covered market” to be designed by architects Lockwood and Mawson of England. When it first opened, none of the Dublin public were invited to the private ceremony, causing quite a controversy.
The spot figures only briefly in “Two Gallants” as a point of reference in Lenehan’s walk through Dublin while he awaits his friend Corley: “He left his friends at a quarter to ten and went up George’s Street. He turned to the left at the City Markets and walked on into Grafton Street” (58).
At this point in his route, Lenehan is about to complete the closing line of a gnomon-shaped path that he had begun when he first left Stephen’s Green on his solitary stroll. During his walk, he contemplates all the things that are missing from his life, and it’s only when he again reaches Stephen’s Green that he leaves off contemplating the emptiness and refocuses on the moment near at hand when he will reunite with Corley and learn whether his friend has been successful on his mission. The emotional gnomon is visually reflected in his path, and it’s on this last line of the gnomon when he begins moving more quickly, anxious to meet his friend and shut out the solitude. Is there a reason he moves so quickly here? Is there something other than the possibility of being late pushing him forward at this moment?
The City Markets as a landmark along the route offer complex interpretive possibilities. Naturally, the commercial nature of the place parallels the theme of materialism in the story as a whole. But approaching the reference historically begins to reveal other implications. Earlier in the story, Corley reveals that in an attempt to prove his unmarriagability to his lady friend, he offers to her the excuse that “[he] was out of a job…[because he] was in Pim’s” (51). As discussed in The Stores (aka Pim’s) post, Corley may be confusing Pim’s with the City Markets, which burned down in 1892 and weren’t restored until 1894. If Corley’s fabricated place of employment had burned, his unemployed state would make sense. However, it was not actually Pim’s that burned but the City Markets. And if the story is indeed set during the period of these two years, then when Lenehan turns left at the City Markets, he would be no doubt be confronted with the burnt out or blocked off facade of the building. Even if the story is set after, Lenehan might be confronted with the reminder of the fire through the renovated structure. Is he aware in this moment of his friend’s mistake? Was he always aware? And whether he is or isn’t aware of the inaccuracy, what does he think of his friend’s attempt to not only get out of marriage but also disingenuously elicit sympathy from the girl by making her think he was out of work due to a devastating fire? The underhanded duplicity isn’t unexpected of Corley, but when Lenehan is faced with the ruins or the repairs of the real disaster, what does it suggest that he hurries past, arriving in Grafton Street in the span of a single sentence? Is his indifference yet another sign of his complicity with Corley’s schemes? Does his lack of acknowledgment of Corley’s lies and manipulations at this moment in the story constitute a reversal of his moments-earlier desire to turn his life around?