Pubs

Pubs

In Brief

After passing by Larry O'Rourke's in Calypso and conceiving his "puzzle" about crossing Dublin, Bloom leaves home for the day in Lotus Eaters and immediately finds himself thinking of "pubs" once again, this time when he imagines a young boy perpetually waiting for his alcoholic father to emerge from them. In addition to suggesting the sheer number of these establishments in Dublin, Ulysses gives a vivid sense of what a crucial role they play in the social life of the city, for good and for ill.

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The profusion of public houses, or "licensed premises" for drinking, in Dublin was (and is) by no means atypical for Ireland. In Have Ye No Homes to Go to?: The History of the Irish Pub (Collins Books, 2016), Kevin Martin quotes from a speech that temperance leader William Lawson delivered to the Irish Temperance Society in 1902. Lawson noted that, in 1845, the country had 15,000 public-house licenses for a population of 8 million, but in 1902 there were 19,000 licenses for only 4 million people. Anticipating Bloom's remark about Dublin, Lawson quoted someone from Tralee as having told him, "If a man was blindfolded and put standing in the centre of the street, and spun around a couple of times and started off in no particular direction, he could not go twenty yards without striking a public house." 

Even a novel as encyclopedic as Ulysses can hardly do justice to such a profusion of watering holes, but it makes a noble effort. The number of pubs featured in the novel, not counting hotels and restaurants that served alcohol and the many "wine and spirit" shops that may or may not have had a bar in the back, is huge. This list, with numbers referring to chapters in which the pubs are mentioned, is doubtless incomplete:

The Ship, 5 Lower Abbey Street (1, 3, 17)
Larry O'Rourke's, now Eccles Townhouse, 74 Upper Dorset Street (4)
Dan Tallon's, 46 George's Street South and 57 Stephen Street (4)
(James) Conway's, now Kennedy's, 31-32 Westland Row (5)
The Arch, 32 Henry Street (5)
Brian Boroimhe House, now Brian Boru Pub, 1 Prospect Terrace (6)
Dunphy's (Corner), now Doyle's Corner, 160-161 Phibsborough Road (6)
The Oval, still in business at 78 Middle Abbey Street (7)
Meagher's, 4 Earl Street North (7, 13)
(J. and T.) Davy's, 110A-111 Upper Leeson Street (7)
Mooney's ("en ville"), now Madigan's, 1 Lower Abbey Street (7, 11, 15)
The Scotch House
, 6-7 Burgh Quay (8, 10, 12)
(Andrew) Rowe's, 2 Great George's Street South (8)
(T. J.) Manning's, 41 Upper Abbey Street (8)
(Michael) Doran's, 10 Molesworth Street (8)
Davy Byrne's
, still in business at 21 Duke Street (8, 17)
(P.) John Long's, 52 Dawson Street (8)
Daniel Bergin's, 17 North Strand Road (10)
(James) Kavanagh's, now the Turk's Head, 27 Parliament Street (10)
(William) Crimmins', now the Malt House, 27-28 James's Street (10)
Ruggy O'Donohoe's, 23 Wicklow Street (10)
Tunney's, now The Oarsman, 8 Bridge Street, Ringsend (10, 15)
(Gerald) Mooney's ("sur mer"), 3 Eden Quay (11, 15)
Keogh's, possibly at 32 Upper Erne Street (11)
Barney (Bernard) Kiernan's, 8-10 Little Britain Street (12, 17)
(John) Power's, 18 Cope Street (12)
(William) Slattery's, 28 Great Ship Street (12)
Donohoe's (and Smyth's), 4-5 Little Green Street (12)
(John) Burke's, 17 Holles Street (14)
The Moira House
, Trinity Street & Dame Lane (15)
The Signal House, now J. & M. Cleary's, 36 Amiens Street (16)
The Dock Tavern, 1 Store Street (16)
The Brazen Head Hotel, still in business at 20 Lower Bridge Street (16)
The Bleeding Horse, Camden Street (16)
The Old Ireland Hotel and Tavern, 10 North Wall Quay (16)

Other works by Joyce feature some of these houses, as well as others not mentioned in Ulysses. Farrington's pub crawl in "Counterparts," for instance, takes him from Davy Byrne's to the Scotch House, and thence to "Mulligan's of Poolbeg Street," a pub which is still in business and proudly touting its Joyce connection. By one reading of Finnegans Wake, everything in the book takes place in the Mullingar House in Chapelizod, where John Stanislaus Joyce drank away most of the money he earned for three years as secretary to a distilling company. HCE, according to the narrative, "owns the bulgiest bung-barrel that ever was tip-tapped in the privace of the Mullingar Inn."

Many of the chapters in Ulysses show men (and only men) either gathering in such establishments, or planning to do so, or recollecting recent visits. Mulligan plans to meet Stephen at the Ship, but Stephen instead drinks with his gang of pressmen at Mooney's. Bloom imagines that the Dignam mourners will stop for drinks after the funeral at Dunphy's, as the Citizen and his cronies do during the afternoon at Barney Kiernan's, and as Stephen and his medical friends do late at night in Burke's. Bloom takes his lunch with a glass of wine at Davy Byrne's, and Tom Kernan downs a couple of glasses of gin at Mr. Crimmin's. Other drinking establishments that figure in the day's events—the Ormond Hotel bar in Sirens, the doctors' commons in the National Maternity Hospital in Oxen of the Sun—are not technically pubs but feel like it, given the boisterous camaraderie they foster.

Joyce enjoyed pubs as much as his father did, and the consoling presence of these comfortable establishments in every corner of the city radiates through the pages of Ulysses. But the novel also glances, again and again, at the social costs of a culture of omnipresent alcoholic availability. The encouragement of excessive consumption by men "treating" each other to successive rounds of drinks, the unusually high rate of alcoholism, the occasional outbursts of violence, the interruption of work and ruination of careers, the impoverishment of families, the estrangement of men and women, the incapacitations and premature deaths: all of these effects are documented in the novel, most of them repeatedly. By choosing a protagonist who appreciates the effects of alcoholic inebriation but never indulges it to excess, Joyce envisioned a path of moderation that he had scant success practicing in his own life.

JH 2020
2019 photograph of the Oval bar on Middle Abbey Street. Source: John Hunt.
Photograph of Mulligan's in Poolbeg Street, probably taken in the late 1960s. Source: www.rte.ie.
Recent photograph of the Brian Boru pub, formerly the Brian Boroimhe House, on Prospect Road in Glasnevin. Source: www.tripadvisor.com.