Denzille Street

Denzille Street

In Brief

In Calypso Bloom recalls running to fetch the midwife from her home in "Denzille street." This street holds associations with more than childbirth. It and nearby "Denzille lane," encountered in Oxen of the Sun, also evoke the militant Irish nationalism of the Phoenix Park murders in 1882, connections brought near the surface of the book's consciousness by the typically Joycean device of a strange coincidence.

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Mary Thornton, the actual Joyce family midwife whom Joyce imported into his novel, lived at 19A Denzille Street, as Gifford and Igoe note. But in a personal communication Vincent Altman O'Connor observes that this was also the address of James Carey, the Fenian leader who turned queen's evidence during the investigation of the murders and fled Ireland under state protection in 1883, only to be assassinated by an Irish nationalist on a ship off the South African coast. There is a perfectly ordinary explanation for Thornton and Carey living at the same address: he likely was her landlord. (Assuming, that is, that she lived in Denzille Street before the government took him into protective custody and shipped him out of the country. If she moved in later than June 1893, then she could have rented from his heirs.) Carey had followed in the footsteps of his bricklayer father and become a successful builder and landlord.

There is also a simple explanation for Bloom's knowledge of the man. Regardless of whether Mary Thornton knew Carey in person or merely heard about him from neighbors in the aftermath of his sensational departure, she may well have shared some of the details with Bloom. Whatever the source of his knowledge, Bloom has been turning the lesson of Carey's life over in his mind for a long time, admiring his nationalism, abhorring his criminal violence, envying his courage, deploring his betrayal. Eumaeus records this ever-shifting, parallactic ambivalence: "turning queen's evidence—or king's now—like Denis or Peter Carey, an idea he utterly repudiated. Quite apart from that he disliked those careers of wrongdoing and crime on principle. Yet, though such criminal propensities had never been an inmate of his bosom in any shape or form, he certainly did feel and no denying it (while inwardly remaining what he was), a certain kind of admiration for a man who had actually brandished a knife, cold steel, with the courage of his political convictions."

At the end of Oxen of the Sun Stephen and the other young men debouche for "Burke's of Denzille and Holles," a pub at the intersection of those two streets just north of the maternity hospital. At the pub's closing hour they head back south, bound for the Westland Row train station where they will board for Monto: "Denzille lane this way. Change here for Bawdyhouse." No one mentions why they fail to proceed somewhat more directly via Denzille Street, but perhaps Joyce prized the opportunity to echo a name that one of the drunkards has given their roving band, "The Denzille lane boys." Gifford notes that this was "A Dublin slang name for the Invincibles." It is a common kind of nickname for Dublin gangs.

Joyce scholarship has not paid much attention to the Denzille-Invincibles nexus, but Dublin has. Denzille Street no longer exists; it became Fenian Street shortly after independence and the civil war of 1922-23.

JH 2018
Detail of an Ordnance Survey map showing Denzille Street (red arrow) and Denzille Lane (orange), along with route (green) from the hospital (23) to Burke's pub (22) and then to the train station via Hamilton Row (brown) and Westland Row (blue). Source: James Joyce Centre, "So this is Dyoublong?"
Map from a 2001 site plan to build an eight-story apartment complex on Fenian Street where Burke's pub was once located. Source:
Sign on Fenian Street, whose name was changed in 1924. Source: John Hunt.