Star of the Sea Church

This week’s featured place, The  Star of the Sea Church, appears in “Grace” as the place where the Kernans were married:

“In her days of courtship, Mr. Kernan had seemed to her a not ungallant figure: and she still hurried to the chapel door whenever a wedding was reported and, seeing the bridal pair, recalled with vivid pleasure how she had passed out of the Star of the Sea Church in Sandymount, leaning on the arm of a jovial well-fed man, who was dressed smartly in a frock-coat and lavender trousers and carried a silk hat gracefully balanced upon his other arm” (156).

The description of Mr. Kernan as “not ungallant” recalls the story “Two Gallants” and suggests an association between the once “jovial well-fed man” in “Grace” and the “squat and ruddy” Lenehan with his “eyes, twinkling with cunning enjoyment” and “his figure [which] fell into rotundity at the waist” (49-50). Possibly an older version of Lenehan, Mr. Kernan is, although older and a father, not necessarily much more mature. But while his story begins with him on the floor of a bar, he returns in the end to another church in Gardiner Street, a geographic reference that connects him with the parents of Joe Dillon in “An Encounter.”

Star of the Sea Church from the National Library of Ireland's digital photograph collection.
Star of the Sea Church from the National Library of Ireland’s digital photograph collection.

The Star of the Sea Church, pictured right in a photograph taken between 1880 and 1900, stands only a few blocks from Irishtown, where the priest of “The Sisters” had grown up. Perhaps Father Flynn attended mass at Star of the Sea as a child. The proximity revealed by the map’s visual interface invites scrutiny into other connections between “Grace” and “The Sisters” and the characters of Flynn and Kernan. While Flynn is hinted to have experienced a kind of fall from grace, Kernan shows signs of redemption “with God’s grace” (174). Viewed in the light of Father Flynn’s troubles, the effectiveness of Kernan’s redemption must be questioned if the vehicle of his redemption is supposed to be Father Purdon, another priest. At the very least, because of what Joyce sets up in “The Sisters,” we have to wonder whether Kernan’s redemption by the grace of God represents a hopeful ending to the story or a piercing, ironic criticism of the church. Is Kernan merely replacing one drug with another when he transforms from the drunk at the bottom of the stairs to the mathematical parishioner on the church bench?

Even though the Catholic church is always problematic in Joyce’s writing, the physical structure of the place in the landscape, its architecture, its design, its music, usually appears in Joyce as something reassuring. The Star of the Sea Church is a memory in “Grace,” a memory that clashes with the cold reality of married, mature life. When mentioned in Ulysses, the church is again placed in a context of solidity and comfort, as “a beacon ever to the stormtossed heart of man, Mary, star of the sea” (U 284).

But to return to Dubliners, incidentally, post-scriptively, notice the similarity of style in the Ulysses description of the sunset and “The Dead” description of the snowfall:

“Far away in the west the sun was setting and the last glow of all too fleeting day lingered lovingly on sea and strand, on the proud promontory of dear old Howth guarding as ever the waters of the bay, on the weedgrown rocks along Sandymount shore and, last but not least, on the quiet church whence there streamed forth at times upon the stillness the voice of prayer to her who is in her pure radiance a beacon ever to the stormtossed heart of man, Mary, star of the sea” (U 284/13.2-8).

“He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead” (D 223-24).

The Corner of Dame and George’s Streets

This week’s featured location is the intersection of Dame Street and George’s Street, where Lenehan of “Two Gallants” meets a couple of friends as he wanders the streets of Dublin waiting for Corley to finish a meeting with his girl:

“Then he turned into Dame Street. At the corner of George’s Street he met two friends of his and stopped to converse with them” (58).

The two friends are unnamed, but the group talks about Corley and a couple other common acquaintances identified as Mac and Holohan, both of whom Lenahan says he’s recently met in pubs. The conversation somewhat anticipates the mood of “Counterparts,” and aside from the fact that “Two Gallants”

Screenshot from the Google Maps version of the Mapping Dubliners Project showing part of Lenahan's (yellow line) and Little Chandler's (green line) paths.
Screenshot from the Google Maps version of the Mapping Dubliners Project showing part of Lenehan’s (yellow line) and Little Chandler’s (green line) paths.

takes place in August and “Counterparts” in February, it might even be possible that the two friends Lenehan talks to at the intersection are versions of O’Halloran and Paddy Leonard on their way to Davy Byrne’s to meet Farrington and friends or perhaps versions of Higgins and Nosey Flynn having already left.

The corner also appears in “A Little Cloud.” In fact, it is at this corner that Little Chandler’s and Lenehan’s paths finally diverge after overlapping each other for several blocks. Lenehan and Chandler, each in his own solitude, wander from the intersection of Capel and Great Britain Streets to Dame Street to George’s Street. During this section of their paths, both men ponder their failings and lament their loneliness or missed opportunities. After Lenehan talks to his friends, he turns right down George’s Street while Chandler keeps going along Dame Street. Chandler actually walks too far along Dame Street “pursu[ing] his revery so ardently that he passe[s] his street and ha[s] to turn back” (74).

The intersection might just be visual clue to the intersection of these stories in terms of their characters and themes.

Gardiner Street

This week’s featured geographical reference is Gardiner Street. The street appears twice in Dubliners: once in “An Encounter” and once in “Grace.” In both cases, the reference is associated with a church located there:

“An Encounter:” “His parents went to eight o’clock mass every morning in Gardiner Street and the peaceful odour of Mrs. Dillon was prevalent in the hall of the house” (19).

“Grace:” “The transept of the Jesuit Church in Gardiner Street was almost full; and still at every moment gentlemen entered from the side door and, directed by the lay-brother, walked on tiptoe along the aisles until they found seating accommodation” (172).

St. Francis Xavier Chapel

Inside of St. Francis Xavier Chapel
Inside of St. Francis Xavier Chapel

According to two historical maps (1836 and 1883) from the David Rumsey Collection, there is only one church in Gardiner Street, and that is St. Francis Xavier, pictured above in photographs taken between 1880 and 1900. The image below shows a Google Earth street view shot of the church as it appears today.

Street view of St. Francis Xavier from Google Earth
Street view of St. Francis Xavier from Google Earth

In “An Encounter,” the second story in Dubliners, Joe Dillon is described as having “a vocation for the priesthood” (19), but his behavior in the story suggests just the opposite temperament, and it is only his parents, not Joe, who are described as attending mass. In “Grace,” the second to last story in the collection, Mr. Kernan feels out of place at the church until he begins to recognizes the familiar faces of his friends (173).

Although the two references connote very different circumstances, the play between the two stories is, at the very least, intriguing. The stories both contain priests (Father Butler* aka “Bunsen Burner” in AE and Father Purdon in G); Leos (Joe’s brother Leo Dillon in AE and Pope Leo in G), secondness (AE is the second story and G is the second-to-last story), and the circumstance of a parent of two boys attending a church in Gardiner Street. In fact, we might even see the Kernans as older versions of the Dillon parents. The Dillons have two young sons, Joe and Leo, and the Kernans have two grown sons who live in Glasgow and Belfast. Though neither of the Kernans’ sons is a priest, the one in Glasgow is “in a draper’s shop,” a location recalling the residence of the problematized priest in “The Sisters.”

Untangling Joyce’s network of characters and versions of characters is an endlessly stimulating process, and this project’s map of geographic references certainly helps in providing leads in this perpetual puzzle!

*In “Grace,” Mr. Kernan also describes going “into Butler’s in Moore Street” with Crofton.

25 July 2013 update: Thanks to Shelby Cook (@ReadingJoyce) for pointing out that this church is also the location of Stephen’s retreat in A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man:

“An Encounter” Route

This week’s featured place is not really one fixed place at all; it’s an entire route. In “An Encounter,” the narrator plans “a day’s miching” with his friends to skip school and go visit the Pigeon House (21). The video above is from the Google Earth version of the map and shows an approximation of the route taken first by the narrator alone and then with Mahony when the two meet at the Canal Bridge.

The Canal Bridge is the first clear reference point on the boys’ route. After the narrator and Mahony give up on Joe Dillon, they begin their journey: “We walked along the North Strand Road till we came to the Vitriol Works and then turned to the right along the Wharf Road” (23). The boys meander a bit around the industrial area before they board the ferry to cross the Liffey. Once across, they wander the streets of Ringsend before settling on a sloping bank of the Dodder. In all, the boys travel about 4.5 kilometers, but since parts of the text describe them walking about or wandering one area for a long time, they could easily cover much more ground than that.

Since Google Earth uses current satellite imagery (not historic), many of the buildings are no-doubt new constructions since the time of the story’s setting. The buildings on what could be the sloping bank, for example, don’t appear to be 100 years old and so probably would not have been there hindering the boys’ path. Still, the end of the route is, like the beginning of it, approximate. Since the text doesn’t specify streets once the travelers cross the river, and the geographic references are more vague, it isn’t clear just where exactly the boys finally have their encounter with the josser.

Even using an approximation, though, we can see the path the boys travel is in some ways similar to the path of “Araby’s” narrator. Both routes begin north of the Liffey near the Christian Brothers School. Both end south of the Liffey, and while they each end in different places south of the river, their two ending locations are connected by the line of the Dodder. Neither story includes a return route, but “An Encounter” suggests a hypothetical return via train.

Great Britain Street

This week’s featured place is Great Britain Street, where the priest of the “The Sisters” lives (or is lying dead, rather).parnellbritain

The street is particularly interesting in that shortly after the 1891 death of Charles Stewart Parnell, a leading Irish Nationalist, the name was changed from “Great Britain” to “Parnell” Street. This booklet published by the Dublin Civic Trust gives some more info on the history of this iconic street as well as its current thriving cultural significance. The booklet includes historical photos as well as building plans for store fronts. Although there’s no “Drapery,” in the diagram, one table shows that between 1845 and 1900, the number of “[c]lothiers, tailors, haberdashery, hosiery and drapery” businesses on the street fell from 17 to 6. The authors accredit this to “a decline in the quality of the street, away from the specialist uses of old towards a business community mainly serving the domestic demands of the local tenement population.”

Here’s the text of “The Sisters” where the street is referenced:

“The next morning after breakfast I went down to look at the little house in Great Britain Street. It was an unassuming shop, registered under the vague name of Drapery” (11).


Kingstown Harbor
“The Harbor, Kingstown. County Dublin, Ireland” from the Library of Congress

This week’s featured place is Kingstown, “a harbour, a town, a sea-front,” that appears several times in Dubliners. The suburban town, southeast of the city center, was called Kingstown only from 1821 to 1920. Today, it’s called Dún Laoghaire. It’s first mentioned in “After the Race,” as the place where Jimmy Doyle’s father “had made his money as a butcher in Kingstown and by opening shops in Dublin and in the suburbs he had made his money many times over” (43). It’s also the setting for the late night party on Farley’s yacht: “They took the train at Westland Row and in a few seconds, as it seemed to Jimmy, they were walking out of Kingstown Station…It was a serene summer night; the harbour lay like a darkened mirror at their feet…They got into a rowboat at the slip and made out for the American’s yacht. There was to be supper, music, cards” (47).

The town is close to Monkstown, where Gabriel and Gretta of “The Dead” live. Many of Mary Jane’s student’s, we learn, live, if not in Kingstown, between Dublin center and Kingstown: “Many of her pupils belonged to the better-class families on the Kingstown and Dalkey line” (176). Gabriel & Gretta opt to stay in a Dublin hotel rather than make the long trek back to Monkstown after the party, but what of Mary Jane’s students? And the crew in “After the Race” reach Kingstown “in a few seconds.” Ah youth!Of course, many factors could be at play here. In “The Dead” it’s winter, and Gabriel is worried about Gretta catching cold like she had the previous year during the cab ride home. The fact that they would be taking a cab rather than a train is most likely attributable to the train schedule and the timing of the party. They leave the aunts’ house in the early morning hours, and the train would have certainly have stopped running, from the Westland Row station by then.

Downes’s Cake Shop

The first featured place of the week is Downes’s cake-shop, where Maria buys penny cakes in “Clay:”

Earl Street. photograph by Robert French from National Library of Ireland's digitized Lawrence Collection at
Earl Street. photograph by Robert French from National Library of Ireland’s digitized Lawrence Collection at

“She went into Downes’s cake-shop but the shop was so full of people that it was a long time before she could get herself attended to…She decided to buy some plumcake but Downes’s plumcake had not enough almond icing on top of it so she went over to a shop in Henry Street” (102).

Don Gifford places Downes’s at 6 Earl Street in Joyce Annotated, 1982. “Earl Street” by Robert French, pictured right, is part of the digitized Lawrence Photograph Collection at the National Library of Ireland.

Maria’s route takes her, via tram, from where she lives and works in Ballsbridge to the pillar, which she approaches from the south. There she disembarks and walks east along Earl Street to Downes’s and then west, past the pillar, into Henry Street. Then she returns to the pillar and heads north via another tram to Drumcondra. The cake-buying interlude effectively creates a cross out of her route, making this service a kind of religious pause before meeting with her brother and his family.