Venereal disease

In Brief

Gifford comments that Bloom's thought of "an army rotten with venereal disease" is "A frequently quoted (and largely unfounded) bit of demagoguery at the British army's expense." But it is a fact that Dublin brothels and streetwalkers did a brisk trade in servicing servicemen.

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Oliver St. John Gogarty wrote a brilliant "Ode to Welcome" Irish regiments returning from the Second Boer War. Cyril Pearl notes that it was published anonymously "in Dublin's leading—and most snobbish—society magazine."

The Gallant Irish yeoman,
Home from the war has come
Each victory gained o'er foeman,
Why should our bards be dumb?

How shall we sing their praises
Or glory in their deeds?
Renowned their worth amazes,
Empire their prowess needs.

So to Old Ireland's hearts and homes
We welcome now our own brave boys
In cot and hall; 'neath lordly domes
Love's heroes share once more our joys.

Love is the Lord of all just now,
Be he the husband, lover, son,
Each dauntless soul recalls the vow
By which not fame, but love was won.

United now in fond embrace
Salute with joy each well-loved face,
Yeoman, in women's hearts you hold the place.

"There was an unprecedented demand for the magazine," Pearl observes, "when the intelligence was flashed through Dublin pubs and clubs that the initial letters of each line spelled out a less rapturous acrostic: THE WHORES WILL BE BUSY" (Dublin in Bloomtime, 14).

About the large number of prostitutes in turn-of-the-century Dublin, the curators of the National Archives website observe that "The presence of so many prostitutes was determined, at least in part, by the significant military presence in the city. And the military do not seem to have disappointed prostitutes seeking business, judging by the inmates of the isolation ward at the Royal Military Infirmary" (, accessed 11/28/2013).

JH 2013
Photograph of sex workers in the Monto district (Joyce's "Nighttown"), date unknown. Source: