Not to be confused with the modern-day Spring Garden Street just south of the Liffey and George’s Quay, Spring Gardens, as it is referenced in “The Boarding House,” was an area well north of the Liffey, between the royal Canal and the River Tolka. Today, as Spring Garden Lane, it appears in the satellite view on the map to be a narrow half-auto-repair, half-residential street. It intersects with North Strand Road and is situated very near the path walked by the boys of “An Encounter.” Spring Gardens, or “Spring Garden” (no s) on the 1883 Letts, Son & Co. map below, is given as the nearest point of reference for where Mrs. Mooney sets up her first business: “She had married her father’s foreman and opened a butcher’s shop near Spring Gardens” (61).
According to John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley’s annotations, “Joyce originally wrote ‘in Fairview'” (53) rather than “in Spring Gardens” which would have put the shop north of the River Tolka, in a suburban neighborhood that houses, among other things, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Dublin, built in 1718. The Jewish colony around Fairview had their synagogue, however, down in the city center, at Marlboro Green (below), just off of Marlborough Street, where Mrs. Mooney plans to attend short-twelve mass. The connection between Fairview and Marlborough Street as references, then, becomes quite suggestive. The deleted reference removes further religious connotations from the already present tension between the story’s bells of St. George’s, which is a Church of Ireland, and Mrs. Mooney’s plans for attending Catholic mass.
Marlborough Street no longer contained a synagogue by Joyce’s time. It had been closed in 1790, due to, as noted by Katherine Butler in “Synagogues of Old Dublin,” “the Jewish community being almost completely dispersed. By 1805 there were only three Jewish families in Dublin and by 1818 there were only two, numbering nine souls in all” (123). This dispersion was partially due, Butler explains, to the same decrees in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that prohibited Catholicism. Mrs. Mooney, a Catholic moving from Spring Garden to Hardwicke Street to Marlborough Street on her path toward her Catholic church, is a significantly more enfranchised echo of the Jewish woman moving from Joyce’s deleted Fairview to the closed and converted synagogue.
As it is, Spring Gardens is a fairly innocuous reference. The shop had been near there, not exactly there. Yet the revision of the reference injects intriguing and suggestive currents underneath a story already rich in religious sub-text, subliminal as it may be.