The midwife who delivered the Blooms' children, "Mrs
Thornton in Denzille street," is named for an
actual Mrs. Thornton who lived on that street and delivered
several of Joyce's siblings. In Circe she appears
dressed in a "nursetender's gown," suggesting that
Molly gave birth in what Bloom in Hades and Josie
Breen in Lestrygonians call "the lying-in hospital"—an
expression that reflects the old medical view that women
should lie immobile for a considerable time after giving
Ellmann notes that "Margaret was apparently the first Joyce
baby to be delivered by the midwife Mrs. Thornton of 19A
Denzille Street," and that she "also delivered Charles,
Eileen, and Florence Joyce" (748). Vivien Igoe agrees that
Mary Thornton, "a professional midwife" living at 19A,
delivered Margaret (January 1884), Charles (July 1886), and
Eileen (January 1889), but she includes Stanislaus (December
1884) on the list and makes no mention of Florence. "Mrs.
Thornton was popular with all the Joyce family," she observes.
Bloom thinks of Mrs. Thornton as warmly as did the Joyces. In
Calypso he remembers her as a "Jolly old
woman," and in Lestrygonians as "a
jolly old soul. All my babies, she said. The spoon
of pap in her mouth before she fed them. O, that's nyumnyum."
In Circe she attends him "In nursetender's
gown" as he gives birth to eight male children:
"Embrace me tight, dear. You'll be soon over it. Tight, dear."
The midwife's home on Denzille Street probably holds interest
of a second kind for Bloom,
unrelated to childbirth, and its location near the National
Maternity Hospital also deserves comment.
§ In Calypso
Bloom thinks of the June morning fifteen years ago when Milly
was born, "running to knock up Mrs Thornton in
Denzille Street." Denzille, now part of Fenian
Street, lies quite near the NMH on the northeast side of
Merrion Square but some distance from the Blooms' home.
Gifford, apparently wondering about Bloom's stamina as a
runner, observes that her address "would locate her
approximately one and a half miles northeast of Bloom's
residence in Lombard Street West if the Blooms were
living there in 1889." His reasoning is questionable on two
counts. First, the Blooms were almost certainly living in Pleasants Street, not
Lombard (though not very far from it) in 1889. More
importantly, if Molly gave birth in the hospital, Bloom
probably first accompanied her there and then went to fetch
the midwife, in which case his running the short distance from
Holles to Denzille would be quite unremarkable—if, in fact,
the NMH was open for business in