Liberator's form

In Brief

The funeral procession in Hades begins its journey up Sackville (now O'Connell) Street by passing "under the hugecloaked Liberator's form." Daniel 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. His larger-than-life statue near the Liffey marks the beginning of Dublin's grandest commercial street, which has been described as a more intimate version of Paris' majestic Champs Élysées.

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Many of the novel's actions happen on or near this street, and as the funeral cortège passes up the boulevard, the narrative notices some of its prominent features, including several statues erected in memory of other great leaders: Sir John Gray, Lord Nelson, and Father Thomas Mathew. The monument to O'Connell, designed and sculpted by the accomplished Irish sculptor John Henry Foley, was erected in 1882 at the foot of the street that now bears his name. Topped by a 13-foot statue of the great leader, it also features four winged Victories at the lower corners, and many other figures in between, including a personified Ireland trampling on her broken chains and pointing upward to the man who broke them.

In 1904 the grand boulevard was still known officially as Sackville Street, a name given to it in the late 1700s when the street was 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 "sir James W. Mackey (Limited) wholesale and retail seed and bulb merchants and nurserymen, agents for chemical manures, 23 Sackville street, upper." When Bloom thinks in Lotus Eaters of Maud Gonne's letter about getting British soldiers off the street at night, he thinks of "taking them off O'Connell street." As Stephen, Myles Crawford, and Professor MacHugh head to a pub for drinks in Aeolus, "They made ready to cross O'Connell street." In Wandering Rocks Simon Dedalus taunts his daughter as she begs him for money, " I looked all along the gutter in O'Connell street." Bloom thinks in Ithaca of having a throwaway placed in his hand "in O'Connell street lower, outside Graham Lemon's."

The erection of the monument in the 1880s seems to have effected a change in Dubliners' nomenclature long before the new name became official. Members of the Dublin Corporation tried to change the name to O'Connell in the 1880s, but many residents objected, 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 residents. The language in Ulysses suggests that this process was far advanced by 1904. City authorities finally changed the name officially in 1924, after Irish independence.

Ever since the founding of Sackville Street, there has been a pronounced dissimilarity between the Lower and Upper parts of the street. 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 slaveys."

JH 2015
Present-day photograph of the O'Connell monument at the foot of O'Connell Street Lower, just north of the O'Connell bridge over the Liffey. Source: Gareth Collins.
Early photograph of the monument, exact date unknown. Source: www.libraryireland.com.