Gravel path

Gravel path

In Brief

Not until Stephen leaves his place of employment at the end of Nestor does the reader have any sense of the building's exterior and its grounds. We know that the Clifton School where Francis Irwin briefly employed Joyce in 1904 was housed in Summerfield House, a handsome old building in rich suburban Dalkey, largely hidden from Dalkey Avenue by a high wall and shaded by mature trees. The house still stands, and the details of its exterior mentioned in the narrative correspond closely to what is there today. There are no lions, however.

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After accepting the two copies of Mr. Deasy's letter, Stephen goes out "by the open porch"—a reference, apparently, to the small vestibule that juts out from the front of the house, providing some shelter from the elements for the main front door, rather than a space for sitting. Turning right, he goes "down the gravel path under the trees" to Dalkey Avenue. The downward-sloping path accommodates automobiles now, but it is still paved with gravel, so Stephen's short shaded walk to the gate is easy to visualize.

As he walks, he hears "the cries of voices and crack of sticks from the playfield." This site for the boys' hockey game lies in front of the house, at the end of another short gravel path leading slightly downhill from the front door. When William York Tindall photographed it in the 1950s, it still had some of the appearance of an athletic field, with a heavy iron roller of the kind seen on grass tennis courts parked to the side in the rough. Today, this rectangle is maintained as a parklike lawn. While far short of the dimensions required for adult players, it would suffice for a boys' game.

Passing out through the gate in the wall onto Dalkey Avenue, Stephen goes by "The lions couchant on the pillars." Couchant (Old French for "lying down") is a term from heraldry that describes a predatory animal lying on its chest with its head raised, like those at the entrance to the New York Public Library. The two pillars of the gate remain, but the lions, which must have been considerably smaller than the NYPL's, no longer couch (or crouch) atop them.

These many visual details can enrich a reader's impression of the closing scene of Nestor: Stephen "turning back at the gate" and listening to his employer's final tirade, Mr. Deasy stamping "on gaitered feet over the gravel of the path" as he marches back up to the house, and the sun flinging bright coins on his back "through the checkerwork of leaves."

JH 2019
Summerfield Lodge in winter, date and photographer unknown. Source: meltthecelt-insightsofachameleon.blogspot.com.
Another arm of the path leading down to the "playfield," now a lawn, in 2019. Source: John Hunt.
The playing field as photographed by William York Tindall in the 1950s. Source: The Joyce Country.
The lawn in 2019. Source: John Hunt.