Mrs Thornton

In Brief

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. Bloom thinks of her as warmly as the Joyces did. She delivers his eight babies in Circe.

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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 Mrs. Thornton 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 in Calypso 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."

ยง In Calypso Bloom also thinks of the summer morning when Milly was born, "running to knock up Mrs Thornton in Denzille Street." Denzille Street (now part of Fenian Street) lies quite near the National Maternity Hospital on the northeast side of Merrion Square. Gifford, apparently wondering about Bloom's stamina as a runner, observes that this "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 seems flawed. The Blooms were almost certainly living in Pleasants Street (not Lombard, though not very far from it) in that year. More importantly, Molly probably would have given birth in the hospital rather than at home. If Bloom first saw her admitted to the hospital, and then went to alert the midwife, his running the short distance from Holles to Denzille would be quite unremarkable.

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Inscription over the front door of the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street. Source: www.newstalk.com.
Detail of map of Dublin made for Thom's Almanac, showing the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street (blue) and Denzille Street (red). Source: digital.ucd.ie.