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.

Read More

Commentators have had remarkably little to say about "a boy for the skins." Gifford glosses the phrase 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) and explains his "linked" bucket as meaning "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 butcher shops—bringing home the bacon, or the impoverished equivalent of Bloom's pork kidney. Kidneys are offal in orthodox Jewish cultures, and in Circe Bloom purchases "a lukewarm pig's crubeen," or pig's foot, and "a cold sheep's trotter," a sheep's foot, so he and the poor boy have something in common. The young girl that he sees next holds a "battered caskhoop," which Gifford glosses as a toy which she too has salvaged from the trash, "the discarded hoop from a barrel." By Gifford's reading, then (and no one has offered anything better), both children are the 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 underclasses 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: