Larry O'Rourke

Larry O'Rourke

In Brief

In Calypso, as Bloom approaches the corner of Eccles Street and Dorset Street where "Larry O'Rourke's" sits, he thinks about the proprietor, then civilly greets him, and then thinks some more about the lucrative enterprise of running a pub. The business was real, as was the owner. Joyce's fictional portrait contains some vivid characterizing details: bald head, no-nonsense presence, incisive speech, financial prudence.

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Vivien Igoe observes that O'Rourke was born in Carlow in 1840 and "first listed as a tea, wine and spirit merchant at 2 Fishamble Street. He later ran similar businesses at 9 Lord Edward Street and in 1894 opened a business at 72 and 73 Dorset Street Upper, where he remained until 1911." He was married with three daughters and a son. After his retirement in 1912 the family moved to Rathmines.

It is surely significant that Bloom addresses O'Rourke by name, and with a measure of formal respect, but receives a nameless salutation in return:

     — Good day, Mr O'Rourke.
     — Good day to you.
     — Lovely weather, sir.
     — 'Tis all that.

Bloom is no haunter of pubs, which perhaps explains the lukewarm anonymous reception. But he is a near neighbor, he knows O'Rourke well enough to appreciate the accuracy of Simon Dedalus's impersonations of his speech mannerisms, and Penelope reveals that Molly buys stout from him often enough for O'Rourke to send over presents at Christmas, so it seems more likely that this is one of the many examples of Dubliners never quite knowing or caring who Bloom is.

Molly thinks of the man as ungenerous: "my belly is a bit too big Ill have to knock off the stout at dinner or am I getting too fond of it the last they sent from ORourkes was as flat as a pancake he makes his money easy Larry they call him the old mangy parcel he sent at Xmas a cottage cake and a bottle of hogwash he tried to palm off as claret that he couldnt get anyone to drink." Bloom too has the impression that he is tightfisted: "Cute old codger. No use canvassing him for an ad. Still he knows his own business best."

O'Rourke's hands-on approach to his business is conveyed in both Calypso  and Wandering Rocks by his hovering about the pub in "shirtsleeves," supervising his employees and keeping an eye on the world from his perch on a fairly busy intersection.

John Hunt 2023