Mrs MacKernan

Mrs MacKernan

In Brief

Among the many unpaid debts he lists in Nestor, consisting mainly of loans of money, Stephen also lists "Mrs MacKernan, five weeks' board." This was the name of an actual Dublin family (though they spelled their name McKernan) who rented a room to Joyce in the spring and summer of 1904. According to Bowker, the wife's name was Elizabeth. The house was on Shelbourne Road in Ballsbridge, just west of Irishtown.

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Ellmann records that Joyce moved out of his father's house in the spring (late March or early April, it would seem) and "found a very large room that spanned the first floor of a house at 60 Shelbourne Road, where a family named McKernan lived" (151). Drawing on Stanislaus Joyce's diary he adds: "The McKernans liked Joyce well enough, and allowed him to get behind in his rent, though for a few days in June it was politic for him to sleep elsewhere until he had scraped together enough to make a show of paying. He stayed with the McKernans until the end of August" (151). His residence with the McKernans ended at that time because they "went off on holiday and closed their house" (171).

In addition to this history's contribution to the picture of Joyce's extensive debts and frequent changes of address, its timing holds some slight interest for readers of the novel. Unlike Stephen Dedalus, Joyce did not move into Gogarty's Martello tower until September 9. For most of the previous five months he had been staying with the McKernans. The interruption which Ellmann references—those few days when his landlords "encouraged him to leave until he could pay the rent" (155)—began on June 15. Did Joyce make a connection between his own eviction on that date and Stephen's eviction from the tower on June 16?

JH 2022
60 Shelbourne Road today. Source:
Shelbourne Road on Hannah Bailey's simplified map of Dublin.
Source: Chester Anderson, James Joyce.