Pubs

In Brief

The 1904 Dublin into which Bloom walks at 9 AM, not to return for nearly 17 hours, was an exceptionally homosocial place. Women figured little in its public life, in large part because so much of that life took place in public houses, or "pubs." Although there do not seem to have been outright bans on females, women were scarce in these popular gathering places, which effectively segregated the alcoholic thirst and competitive social bonding of men from the domestic lives of families. Many pubs doubled as grocery stores, though, and women shopped in them for alcohol as well as food, so the gender divisions were not absolute.

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The sheer number of pubs in the city is conveyed by Bloom's whimsical thought in Calypso: "Good puzzle would be cross Dublin without passing a pub." Even a novel as encyclopedic as Ulysses can hardly do justice to such a profusion of watering holes, but it makes a noble effort, as can be seen in the unfinished list appended to the end of this note. Dublin's density of pubs was hardly unusual 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." 

In response to the temperance movement, which took some traffic away from the pubs, many owners diversified into groceries, tea, and wine, advertising themselves as "spirit grocers" or "wine merchants" and offering shopping in the front of the store. In recent years grocery store chains and other large businesses have taken most of this business away from the pubs, but some of them still feature the old language on their shopfronts, as in the words shown here on the façade of the Glasnevin pub called the "Brian Boroimhe house" in Hades: "P. Hedigan. Wine Merchant. Family Grocer." Women who wanted alcohol in Joyce's time could drink at home from bottles purchased from such merchants—like the "bent hag" in Calypso that Bloom sees in front of "Cassidy's, clutching a naggin bottle by the neck"; or like Mrs. Dignam in Circe, "her snubnose and cheeks flushed with deathtalk, tears, and Tunney's tawny sherry"; or like Molly in Penelope, who thinks, "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."

In these details Joyce shows women drinking from all the major food groups—beer, wine, and hard liquor—and also shows public houses doubling as package stores. O'Rourke's is the pub that Bloom passes in Calypso, setting him thinking about how publicans become rich. Tunney's is mentioned twice in one section of Wandering Rocks, when Patsy Dignam thinks of his mother in the house where her husband lies in his coffin, sipping "the superior tawny sherry uncle Barney brought from Tunney’s," and of his father's frequent visits to the pub: "The last night pa was boosed he was standing on the landing there bawling out for his boots to go out to Tunney’s for to boose more." The same establishments often supplied both genders with drink, but men could imbibe in the company of others.

Vincent Van Wyk points out in a personal communication that some Victorian and Edwardian pubs had partitioned rooms called "snugs" where women (or couples, or priests, or policemen sworn to sobriety) could drink privately, often behind doors locked from the inside. But Joyce does not mention any of these. His pubs are places for men to gather, as Mulligan, Stephen, and Haines plan to do at the Ship, as Stephen instead does with his gang of pressmen at "Mooney's," as Bloom imagines the mourners will do 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 at Davy Byrne's, and Tom Kernan downs a couple of glasses of gin at Mr. Crimmin's. Many other pubs receive mention without serving as settings for the novel's actions. In addition, some non-pub drinking establishments that do figure in the action—the Ormond Hotel bar in Sirens, the doctors' commons in the National Maternity Hospital in Oxen of the Sun—feel like public houses in the boisterous camaraderie they foster.

The atmosphere in these watering holes is jovial and relentlessly masculine. The male monopoly on alcoholic celebration is summed up in Sirens when Miss Douce says that men are "frightful idiots" and Miss Kennedy replies, "It's them has the fine times." Joyce himself enjoyed pubs, and he shows his juvenile alter ego Stephen following his alcoholic father's profligate path through them, but he was vividly aware of their social exclusions and costs. His short story "Counterparts" searingly depicts the effects decried by temperance advocates: impoverishment of families, shortened careers, domestic violence. At the beginning of Lotus Eaters Bloom watches a wretchedly poor boy and imagines his daily existence: "Waiting outside pubs to bring da home. Come home to ma, da." In Wandering Rocks Dilly Dedalus buttonholes her father to contribute a penny or two from his pocketful of drinking money to support his starving family, which he begrudgingly does: "Get a glass of milk for yourself and a bun or a something. I’ll be home shortly." In Oxen of the Sun the hospital's halls resonate with the raucous shouts of drunken young men while a woman struggles to give birth in her third day of labor.

Pubs proliferated at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution as havens from murderously dehumanizing workplaces, and Joyce's men clearly do drink as an antidote to their jobs—or lack of them. But they drink also in defiance of their home lives—or lack of them. In this respect Molly has been fortunate in her choice of a mate, and she knows it. She thinks of Tom Kernan "that bit his tongue off falling down the mens WC drunk in some place or other," of Simon Dedalus who "was always turning up half screwed" at concerts he performed in, of Professor Goodwin who "was a patent professor of John Jameson," and of others who regularly waste family funds on the pursuit of insensibility. A rarity in Dublin, and a kind of counterbalance to Stephen, Bloom is a wary outsider in the world of public houses, never having more than one drink and refusing to get drawn into the custom of reciprocal "treating."

On an unusual day when Bloom has come home quite late, Molly thinks, "I hope hes not going to get in with those medicals leading him astray to imagine hes young again coming in at 4 in the morning it must be if not more still he had the manners not to wake me what do they find to gabber about all night squandering money and getting drunker and drunker couldnt they drink water." Bloom may have acted in this way, she supposes, but it won't last: "theyre a nice lot all of them well theyre not going to get my husband again into their clutches if I can help it making fun of him then behind his back I know well when he goes on with his idiotics because he has sense enough not to squander every penny piece he earns down their gullets and looks after his wife and family goodfornothings poor Paddy Dignam all the same Im sorry in a way for him what are his wife and 5 children going to do unless he was insured comical little teetotum always stuck up in some pub corner and her or her son waiting Bill Bailey wont you please come home." The traditional "pub corners" of Ireland are wonderfully comfortable places to drink, calculated to lure many a man away from home and lead him to "squander" the family's income.

It is hard to tell simply from reading Thom's directory whether a "wine and spirit merchant" mentioned in the novel was or was not a pub, since so many shops performed double duty. Leaving out the ones that may have simply sold provisions to go, and the hotels and restaurants whose bars gave patrons places to drink, here are some of the licensed pubs mentioned in the novel, with numbers referring to chapters:

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 connections. 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."

JH 2020
Recent photograph of the Brian Boru pub, formerly the Brian Boroimhe House, on Prospect Road in Glasnevin. Source: www.tripadvisor.com.
Recent photograph of the shopfront of the Brian Boru pub. Source: www.irishtourist.com.
2019 photograph of the Oval bar on Middle Abbey Street. Source: John Hunt.
Recent photograph of John Kavanagh's "The Gravediggers" next to the cemetery in Glasnevin—not the Kavanagh's mentioned in Wandering Rocks, but a more rural-style pub. Source: dublinpubs.com.
Recent photograph of the bar in Kavanagh's. Source: dublinpubs.com.