In Brief

Bloom thinks three times of a chain of barber shops called "Drago's." The business was an actual one, as is almost always the case in Ulysses, and the proprietors did have that name. Adolphe Drago committed suicide in 1897, and in 1904 the shops were owned and operated by his widow. Neither spouse figures in the novel.

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In Lestrygonians, as he is taking a brief jog down Dawson Street to get from Duke Street to Molesworth Street on his way to the National Museum and Library, Bloom sees a "dyeworks' shopvan drawn up before Drago's." The 1904 Thom's Directory lists an "Adolphe Drago, Parisian perfumer and hairdresser," at 17 Dawson Street, as both Gifford and Slote observe. Slote notes also that the directory lists a second establishment at 36 Henry Street, a block or two northwest of the General Post Office on Sackville Street. There is evidence (details in a moment) that the Drago family lived above the Henry Street shop. Other evidence indicates that there was a third Drago business at 29 Eden Quay, two blocks east of Sackville Street on the north bank of the Liffey. When Bloom thinks in Calypso of "Drago's shopbell ringing," and when he recalls in Sirens that "the barber in Drago's always looked my face when I spoke his face in the glass" (because seeing someone's face makes it easier to understand their words), he could be thinking of any of these three establishments, or more than one.

But the Drago references involve an additional complication. Slote observes that Thom's lists the proprietor of the shops on Dawson Street and Henry Street as "Mrs Drago, wigmaker and hairdresser" (p. 1857). He does not speculate about the disparity between linking the two shops to "Adolphe Drago" and identifying the proprietor as "Mrs Drago," but that apparent contradiction can now be explained. Little was known about the Dragos until recently––Vivien Igoe does not mention them––but this year Senan Molony and Vincent Altman O'Connor have uncovered pertinent information. In the Glasnevin cemetery they have found a monument whose inscription reads,

       In memory of my beloved husband
           Adolphe Drago, 36 Henry St..
  Who died 9 August 1897 aged 40 years,
            a kind and loving husband,
            good father and a just man.
Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on his soul.
     Also their dear son John Francis Drago
               who died 25 Feb. 1926.
                       Rest in peace.

Drago lived on Henry Street, then, and he died in 1897. Contemporary documents identify the cause of death. The coroner's official death certificate attributes it to "Suicide by shooting thro' head with shot gun. Insane." An article in the Irish Independent of August 11 goes into more lurid detail, reporting that Drago died by "blowing out his brains" and noting that "Mr Drago's head was practically blown off." The article presents the coroner's finding that Drago's "mental condition had been very much deranged." His widow testified that "For some time past he was fretting over a matter of business, and was sad and disposed to be melancholy and nervous. Dr M'Ardle had attended him up to about three weeks ago."

Neither spouse figures even slightly in Ulysses, unless "the barber in Drago's" whom Bloom remembers was Adolphe himself––and there is little reason to think that, since Bloom speaks of him so impersonally and never mentions him again. However, the Dragos' known biographical details do hold interest in relation to themes explored elsewhere in the novel. Mrs. Drago's proprietorship (the description of her as "wigmaker and hairdresser" suggests that she was no mere adjunct to her husband) allies her with other enterprising Dublin businesswomen like "John Wyse Nolan's wife." Her husband's struggles with mental illness connect him to figures who seem to have a tenuous grip on sanity, like Dennis Breen and Cashel Boyle O’Connor Fitzmaurice Tisdall Farrell. His suicide in response to chronic depression links him with Bloom's father.

Finally, records in the Irish Jewish Genealogical Society show that the Drago family were of Jewish descent. Bloom's patronage of Drago's shop coheres with the way he seeks out other Jewish merchants like Dlugazc the butcher and Mesias the taylor. Although his father's marriage to a Catholic woman, and his own, have engendered separation from the tight Jewish community in south Dublin, Bloom continues to circle back to his ethnic origins in a spirit of curiosity, solidarity, and perhaps guilt. 

JH 2022
Beginning of a story in the 11 August 1897 issue of the Irish Independent.
Source: findmypast.com.
Grave monument of Adolphe Drago in the Glasnevin cemetery, with inscription penned by his surviving wife. Source: Senan Molony.
Record from the Irish Jewish Genealogial Society.
Source: www.irishjewishroots.com.