Lime Street

Lime Street

In Brief

"He turned from the morning noises of the quayside and walked through Lime street." In the first paragraph of Lotus Eaters, having walked eastward along the quay that fronts the river, Bloom turns south onto Lime Street through a very ugly part of town that no longer exists. Near "Brady's cottages" he contemplates the poverty of a boy and a girl who inhabit this wretched slum.

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First he notices "a boy for the skins lolled, his bucket of offal linked, smoking a chewed fagbutt." Gifford glosses "for the skins" as referring to "A boy who has been making the rounds of trash heaps and garbage cans," though he supplies no source for this information. Slote instead cites Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang as authority for his view that the reference is to a tanner's business. The bucket that the boy holds is "linked," Gifford supposes, because it is "Held by a chain or cord rather than a handle." The "offal" in the bucket is less obscure: it refers to those internal organs of animals that are not normally regarded as fit for human consumption. It seems, then, that the boy has been collecting the leavings of a slaughterhouse or butcher shop, bringing home a very poor equivalent of Bloom's pork kidney. Kidneys are offal in orthodox Jewish cultures, and in Circe Bloom purchases a pig's foot and a sheep's foot, so he and the boy have something in common. The eczema-scarred girl standing nearby is "listlessly holding her battered caskhoop," which Gifford glosses as "the discarded hoop from a barrel," repurposed as a toy. Both children may be seen as the Dublin equivalent of Brazil's catadores, trash-pickers.

Brady's cottages lined a small alley off Lime Street. The exhibit from which the first photograph is taken, "Derelict Dublin, 1913," on the website of the Dublin City Public Libraries, comments: "This photograph is one of those taken by W. J. Joyce in 1913 to illustrate the dreadful living conditions in Dublin. Over 50 people lived in this small row of cottages in 1911. It was noted that in some cases this type of cottage was unhealthier than the tenements as there was no possibility of getting access to pure air or to sunlight. The overcrowding in Brady’s Cottages was particularly bad, with up to ten people living in a two-roomed cottage in 1901."

Dublin is still a city in which prosperous neighborhoods live cheek by jowl with blighted ones, but in 1904 the socioeconomic chasms were gargantuan. Middle-class citizens like Bloom, who were proportionally not very numerous, rubbed elbows every day with a vast underclass. Joyce's fictions identify with the striving middle classes, but they cast frequent glances at the hopeless masses that crowded Dublin's "tenements" (mostly decayed Georgian townhouses) and "cottages" like Mr. Brady's squalid development.

JH 2014
1913 photograph of Brady's Cottages by W. J. Joyce. Source:
Another view of Brady's Cottages. Source: