Dublin's grandest avenue, "O'Connell Street," runs
north from the River Liffey for 500 meters. It is often said
to be the widest city street in Europe, and has been described
as a more intimate version of Paris' majestic Champs Élysées.
A monument to Daniel O'Connell
stands at the southern foot of the street, and today a statue
to Charles Stewart Parnell marks the north end, though at the
time represented in the novel only a foundation stone had
been laid. Other statues of historically important figures
line the route between these two termini. South of the river
and bending west, other streets continue the grand central
thoroughfare of Dublin.
In 1904 the avenue was officially called Sackville Street, a
name assigned in the late 1700s when it began to be widened
and built up. But the novel only uses this name once, when
Bloom thinks in Ithaca of buying lily-of-the-valley
bulbs from a seed and bulb business at "23 Sackville
street, upper." Although the new name did not
become official until 1924, after Irish independence, the
language of Ulysses suggests that this process was
far advanced by 1904. Passages in Lotus Eaters, Aeolus,
Wandering Rocks, and Ithaca describe
things taking place in O'Connell Street, not Sackville.
The monument to O'Connell, designed by the accomplished Irish
sculptor John Henry Foley, had much to do with this change.
Unveiled in 1882, it features a 13-foot bronze statue of the
great leader atop a granite plinth that has four winged
Victories at its lower corners, and many other figures above,
including a personified Ireland trampling on her broken chains
and pointing upward to the man who broke them. The erection of
the monument moved many Dubliners to give a new name to the
street, and members of the Dublin
Corporation tried to make the change official in the
1880s. Other residents objected, however, and the Corporation
did not obtain legal authority to make the change until 1890.
Faced with continuing opposition, it decided to give the new
name time to become popular with the citizenry.
After passing the Sir Philip Crampton
memorial and the William Smith O'Brien statue on the
south side of the river, the funeral procession in Hades
crosses the O'Connell Bridge and begins its journey up
O'Connell Street by passing "under the hugecloaked
Liberator's form." O'Connell was known as the
Liberator or Emancipator for his herculean efforts to
enfranchise Ireland's Catholics and return the Irish
Parliament to Dublin. As the cortège passes up the boulevard,
the narrative calls attention to some of its prominent
features, including statues erected in memory of Sir John Gray, Lord Nelson, and Father Thomas Mathew.
Ever since the founding of Sackville Street, there has been a
pronounced dissimilarity between the part of the street nearer
the river and the more northerly half. O'Connell Street Lower
has always thrived as a commercial magnet, but the Upper
section was too far away from the city center to attract many
upscale businesses. As Bloom rolls along the upper section of
the street in Hades, approaching the Rotunda, he thinks, "Dead
side of the street this. Dull business by day, land agents,
temperance hotel, Falconer's railway guide, civil service
college, Gill's, catholic club, the industrious blind. Why?
Some reason. Sun or wind. At night too. Chummies and
Proceeding south across O'Connell Bridge to the other side of
the river, the grand urban way laid out in the 18th century
continues along Westmoreland Street, passes the former Irish Parliament building
on College Green, and moves west along Dame Street before
arriving at Dublin's two centers of civic and imperial power:
City Hall and Dublin Castle.