Referenced in two of the Dubliners adolescence stories, Dame Street is one of the largest thoroughfares in the city. Today, as in Joyce’s day, the street houses City Hall on the western end and Trinity College at the Eastern end. In between is still the city’s financial district, featuring the Bank of Ireland, several insurance and accounting firms, and high-end retailers. One of these retailers, Waterhouse’s, is referenced directly in “Two Gallants.” Don Gifford describes it as “goldsmiths and silversmiths, jewelers, and watchmakers” (Gifford 57).
The National Library of Ireland’s photo collection also reveals the Lipton company was in the process of opening a store in Dame Street in 1890, and an American publication, The Book-Keeper: The Business Man’s Magazine, features a 1904 article on the company in which they describe this second Dublin location:
One of the Lipton stores is located at the corner of Dame and St. George’s streets, only a few steps from Pim Brothers’ great department store. The Dame street store is in the very heart of the business district frequented by fashionable and middle class purchasers. (St. Clair 25)
Dame Street serves as the energetic setting for the race cars’ entrance to the city center in “After the Race:”
They drove down Dame Street. The street was busy with unusual traffic, loud with the horns of motorists and the gongs of impatient tram-drivers. Near the Bank Segouin drew up and Jimmy and his friend alighted. A little knot of people collected on the footpath to pay homage to the snorting motor. The party was to dine together that evening in Segouin’s hotel and, meanwhile, Jimmy and his friend, who was staying with him, were to go home to dress. The car steered out slowly for Grafton Street while the two young men pushed their way through the knot of gazers. They walked northward with a curious feeling of disappointment in the exercise, while the city hung its pale globes of light above them in a haze of summer evening. (45)
The cars would have been moving west to east. The bank (pictured below) is at the east end of Dame Street, just across from Trinity College, and it is here where Jimmy Doyle and Villona, his Hungarian friend, hop out of the car and make their way to Jimmy’s house. Walking north from the bank, they would be on Westmoreland Street heading toward Temple Bar and the Liffey. Where Jimmy lives is never stated, but since he has money, unlike the children in the previous set of stories who live well north of the Liffey, it’s reasonable to assume Jimmy lives nearby, on the south side of the river.
The bustling Dame Street setting of this story’s opening is appropriate to the tone of Futurism and thriving economy that characterizes the majority of “After the Race.” In “Two Gallants,” the street takes on a more contradicting, even out-of-place, implication. It’s first mentioned as the street in which Corley initially met the girl whom he is about to appeal to for money:
“And where did you pick her up, Corley?” he asked.
Corley ran his tongue swiftly along his upper lip.
“One night, man,” he said, “I was going along Dame Street and I spotted a fine tart under Waterhouse’s clock and said good-night, you know. So we went for a walk round by the canal and she told me she was a slavey in a house in Baggot Street. I put my arm round her and squeezed her a bit that night. Then next Sunday, man, I met her by appointment. We went out to Donnybrook and I brought her into a field there. She told me she used to go with a dairyman…. It was fine, man. Cigarettes every night she’d bring me and paying the tram out and back. And one night she brought me two bloody fine cigars—O, the real cheese, you know, that the old fellow used to smoke…. I was afraid, man, she’d get in the family way. But she’s up to the dodge.”
This girl, who works in the upper-class Baggot Street area and hangs out at night outside of Dame Street jewelry stores is, even though a “slavey,” quite better off than Corley. It’s a wonder how he was able to “pick her up” at all, and this remains one of the mysteries of the story. The street appears again as Lenehan wanders solitary through the city waiting for his friend to finish with the girl:
He went into Capel Street and walked along towards the City Hall. 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. He was glad that he could rest from all his walking. His friends asked him had he seen Corley and what was the latest. He replied that he had spent the day with Corley. His friends talked very little. They looked vacantly after some figures in the crowd and sometimes made a critical remark.
Though the text doesn’t point it out, at the corner of Capel and Dame, just across the street from City Hall, sits Watherhouse’s. That the geographic marker worth noting is City Hall, and not the previously-mentioned Waterhouse, could be indicative of Lenehan’s growing resentment toward Corley. Just prior to Lenehan’s arrival at this corner, he has been pondering his own failures, a rumination brought on by imagining Corley and his girl:
When he had eaten all the peas he sipped his ginger beer and sat for some time thinking of Corley’s adventure. In his imagination he beheld the pair of lovers walking along some dark road; he heard Corley’s voice in deep energetic gallantries and saw again the leer of the young woman’s mouth. This vision made him feel keenly his own poverty of purse and spirit. He was tired of knocking about, of pulling the devil by the tail, of shifts and intrigues. He would be thirty-one in November. Would he never get a good job? Would he never have a home of his own?
Corley clearly represents to Lenehan his own shortcomings, and his focus on City Hall instead of Waterhouse as he turns this corner could signify his unconscious, or even conscious, desire to break with Corley, who he may imagine is holding him back. But in the end, of course, he meets his friend, and nothing seems to change.
The section of Dame Street between Capel and George’s streets also serves as the beginning of a gnomon in Lenehan’s squarish route. It is here where we get a visually discernible parallel to the feeling of emptiness he has just experienced. More on the route’s gnomon can be found in “Two Gallants” Route.
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