Eighty

In Brief

As Bloom returns to his house after his shopping trip, he looks at the "Blotchy brown brick houses" on the other side of Eccles Street: "Number eighty still unlet. Why is that? Valuation is only twenty-eight. Towers, Battersby, North, MacArthur: parlour windows plastered with bills. Plasters on a sore eye." Joyce here transferred what he knew about number 7 to number 88, preserving an impression of the problems plaguing Dublin real estate.

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In 1904, Gifford notes, the house at 7 Eccles Street "was valued at £28 and was vacant." Number 80, by contrast, was valued at £17 and was occupied. So, having moved the fictional Blooms into number 7, Joyce fictively assigned its vacancy and its valuation to a house across the street. And to the parlor windows of that house he attached signs from four different Dublin realtors, advertising its availability and blighting its appearance.

Dublin real estate in 1904 was a disaster. Conditions in the countryside during the 19th century, not least the famines of the 1840s, had impelled thousands of peasants to relocate to the city, turning formerly elegant Georgian brick townhouses into miserably crowded slum dwellings. Many rich and middle-class Dubliners responded by moving to nearby towns that were becoming suburbs of the metropolis, leaving behind them an even more blasted cityscape. On the pages of Thom's, middle-class residents are listed at some addresses, while many others are "Vacant," or "Tenements" housing uncounted and unnamed impoverished families, or "Ruins." Even a moderately prosperous street like the Blooms' would have had many a missing tooth or "sore eye."

JH 2017
Row of houses, many of them tenements, on York Street in the early 1900s. Source: www.pinterest.com.