Joyce’s Dublin: Bloomsday

James Joyce’s love affair with Dublin is well-known. The city is featured throughout his famous works but nowhere more so than Ulysses.

Joyce’s greatest literary work follows Leopold Bloom, as he journeys across Dublin on the 16th of June. Each Bloomsday, thousands of fans recreate Bloom’s steps across the city and visit the famous sites featured in the novel.

Characters in costume at the Joyce Centre, North Great George's Street

Characters in costume at the Joyce Centre, North Great George’s Street

We’ve handpicked some of those Dublin sites found in the book, which you can still visit today and relive your favourite moments from Ulysses.

7 Eccles Street

Possibly one of the most famous addresses in literary history, 7 Eccles Street was home to Leopold Bloom, and his wife Molly, in Ulysses. At that time, Eccles Street was a respectable middle-class neighbourhood in north Dublin, and the ideal address for Joyce’s main protagonist, Leopold Bloom, to call home.

Decades after the book was published, lots of Dublin’s great Georgian houses fell into disrepair, and 7 Eccles Street was no different. The house was eventually demolished to make way for the construction of the Mater Private Hospital.

While fan’s can no longer visit the original house, they can view near-identical houses on the opposite side of Eccles Street, which are similar in style to Bloom’s home. Today, Joycean scholars and literary fans can visit the James Joyce Centre, where the original door to 7 Eccles Street’s is held.

Westland Row Post Office

In the book, Bloom journeys to Westland Row post office, where he receives a love letter from Martha Clifford, which is addressed to his pseudonym Henry Flower. After collecting his letter, he strolls out of the post office and turns right.

This would be inconsequential, if it weren’t for the fact that Bloom takes three more right turns and detours through church grounds to arrive back where he started, before making a left turn.

Hidden in a sea of details, scholars have discovered that Blooms steps make the shape of a giant question mark. This hard-to-find pattern suggests extreme distraction and aimlessness on both the part of the author and character.

Fans can still recreate his famous steps today before making their way to Sweny’s Pharmacy, the next stop on this walking tour of Bloom’s Dublin.

Sweny’s Pharmacy

“Mr Bloom raised a cake to his nostrils. Sweet lemony wax. I’ll take this one, he said”. Described in sumptuous detail in the novel, Bloom enters Sweny’s Pharmacy and admires the lotions, potions and bottles on display before purchasing a bar of lemon soap.

Sweny's Pharmacy

Sweny’s Pharmacy

Preserved through years of neglect, the pharmacy ceased trading in 2009, but it’s interior remains the same as it did 100 years ago. Now a museum and book shop, the store is run by an army of volunteers and hosts daily readings of Joyce’s work.

Joycean enthusiasts can drop by and listen to a reading or buy a bar of Sweny’s famous lemon soap.

Freeman’s Journal, Prince’s Street

The Freeman’s Journal, situated on Prince’s Street near the GPO, was Ireland’s longest running national newspaper before it ceased operation in 1924.

Inside Sweny's Pharmacy

Inside Sweny’s Pharmacy

There are casual references to the Freeman throughout Ulysses, but its most notable for being the workplace of Leopold Bloom. Employed as an advertisement canvasser for the Freeman’s evening newspaper, The Evening Telegraph, the novel’s Aeolus episode is set in the paper’s offices.

Today you can visit Prince’s Street and roam the street where Leopold Bloom would have walked daily.

Davy Byrne’s Pub, Duke Street

Joyce was already a patron of Davy Byrnes pub on Duke Street, before he put pen to paper to write Ulysses. Over time, Joyce developed a special relationship with the bar, hence it’s place in literary history.

In the novel, Bloom enters the pub and orders a, “gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of Burgundy”, before reflecting on his marriage to Molly. The now infamous culinary combination is still served in the bar and is particularly popular on Bloomsday when fans flock to the pub to recreate Leopold Bloom’s steps.

After finishing his sandwich, Bloom daydreams about the statues of Greek goddesses in the National Museum and makes his way there.

Entrance to National Library

Entrance to National Library

In episode nine of Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus discusses his biographical theory on the works of Shakespeare with scholars at the National Library. Stephen believes that Hamlet is based upon events in Shakespeare’s life, namely his wife’s reported adultery.

Upon entering the library, Bloom goes in search of some old ad copy, but briefly and unknowingly encounters Stephen. The scene shows the similarities between Bloom and Shakespeare, as they both have unfaithful wives.

Bloom later encounters his wife’s lover on the streets of Dublin and begins to follow him, which leads us to the Ormond Hotel.

Ormond Hotel

Moving onto the Sirens episode, Bloom spots his wife’s lover, Blazes Boylan, heading towards the Ormond Hotel and follows him out of curiosity. Although worried he might be spotted, he follows him into the hotel, but sits far away.

While at the Ormond Hotel, Bloom lunches with Richie Goulding and watches until Boylan leaves to rendezvous with his wife. The present-day Ormond Hotel (which is set for demolition) is nothing like the hotel of Joyce’s day. The building was completely redeveloped in the 1930’s and lost much of its original character.

Holles Street, National Maternity Hospital

The 14th episode in Joyce’s Ulysses, Oxen of the Sun, shows Bloom visiting Mina Purefoy, who’s in labour at the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street. It’s here that he finally meets Stephen, who’s been drinking with his friends.

As the only father in group, Bloom grows concerned for Mina, and begins to think about his wife and the birth of his two children. He also laments the loss of his son, Rudy, who died young.

James Joyce Statue

James Joyce Statue

One of the most remarkable elements of this chapter is the use of the English language. After a short incantation, the episode starts with Latinate prose, Anglo-Saxon alliteration, before parodying Malory, Pepys, and Dickens and finishing with a haze of incomprehensible slang. The development of the language is said to represent the development of a foetus in the womb.

Today, Holles Street is one of the busiest maternity hospitals in the country. The building’s façade hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years and is a perfect example of Georgian architecture.

Make sure to pack one of our great Dublin Maps when exploring Joyce’s Dublin

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