Named in 1768 after Sir Gustavus Hume, M,D., Hume Street is located on the east side of Stephen’s Green and runs between the park on the west and Ely Place on the east. Mention of the street occurs twice in “Two Gallants.” It is where the “slavey” stands waiting for Corley:
“At the corner of Hume Street a young woman was standing. She wore a blue dress and a white sailor hat. She stood on the curbstone, swinging a sunshade in one hand” (54).
And after Corley leaves Lenehan alone, crossing the street “obliquely” toward the young woman, Lenehan continues past them along the park-side of the street before doubling back along the opposite side to get a closer look at her. As he passes the couple, Lenehan gets more than a look; he also gets a good whiff as the air on the corner is “heavily scented:”
“As he approached Hume Street corner he found the air heavily scented and his eyes made a swift anxious scrutiny of the young woman’s appearance. She had her Sunday finery on. Her blue serge skirt was held at the waist by a belt of black leather. The great silver buckle of her belt seemed to depress the centre of her body, catching the light stuff of her white blouse like a clip. She wore a short black jacket with mother-of-pearl buttons and a ragged black boa. The ends of her tulle collarette had been carefully disordered and a big bunch of red flowers was pinned in her bosom, stems upwards. Lenehan’s eyes noted approvingly her stout short muscular body. Frank rude health glowed in her face, on her fat red cheeks and in her unabashed blue eyes. Her features were blunt. She had broad nostrils, a straggling mouth which lay open in a contented leer, and two projecting front teeth” (55).
In general, Lenahan approves of the fume of Hume Street and casually yet inconspicuously salutes Corley, wishing him well in his endeavors. Corley plays along, waiting ten seconds before tilting his hat in response, even though presumably Lenehan’s back should be toward the couple by this time as he continues north back toward the Shelbourne. But the text indicates that Lenehan can see his friend’s covert salute, suggesting that he is looking back to scrutinize the woman from behind as well.
Dr. Gustavus Hume was an eighteenth-century surgeon and property developer. Unsurprisingly, the area of Hume Street, though on the opposite side of Stephen’s Green than the Royal College of Surgeons, was the location of several medical sites, including the Dublin Throat and Ear Hospital, listed in an 1892 directory as located at 5 Hume Street. But Dr. Hume didn’t only build medical facilities. He is primarily responsible for the building of several homes in the Stephen’s Green area, including many in Hume Street and around Merrion Square, as well as some facing the Green on the east side, such as those pictured below, that Lenehan would have passed as he observed Corley’s companion.
Prof. Eoin O’Brien, Chairman of the Irish Skin Foundation, also now located in Hume Street, explains in a lecture that although Hume was a medical doctor, his “dominating interest” was architecture. O’Brien explains,
“Gustavus Hume was elected Surgeon to Mercer’s Hospital in 1758. He was appointed censor of the newly founded Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and was present at the first historic meeting of the College, which was held in the boardroom of the Rotunda Hospital on 2nd March, 1734. He became president of the College in 1795. Though he published a number of treatises on medical topics, the mists of time cannot cloud the dominating interest in his life – building and architecture.”
The first Royal College of Surgeons meeting was held at the Rotunda Hospital in 1784. The Rotunda is in Rutland Square, the very first geographical reference in “Two Gallants.” The movement of the two men to the area of Stephen’s Green where the RCSI eventually moved in 1810, then sets up a kind of distorted parallel wherein Corley, with surgical precision, architects a scheme to make a bit of money for himself and his friend. The slavey, whether patient or customer, is completely charmed and readily accommodates Corley, who seems to be lying to or manipulating her.
Incidentally, according to M’Cready’s Dublin Street Names Dated and Explained, Hume’s daughter and heir married Nicholas Loftus, 1st Earl of Ely, after whom the adjoining Ely Place (formerly Hume Row) was named in 1773 (35, 52). Both Hume Street and Ely Place contained a tram line according to an 1883 map of Dublin. In fact, most of Lenehan and Corley’s route follows the tram line as depicted on the map below. This raises questions about why they chose to walk (most likely the cost) and also calls attention to the part of the route they take that deviates from the line. (They choose to walk down Kildare Street from Nassau Street to the Green rather than Dawson Street a block west or Merrion Street a block east. If they had taken either of those paths, they would not have encountered the harpist.)