Giddy to look

Giddy to look

In Brief

At 134 ft. Nelson's Pillar rose high above all the buildings around it, affording a panoramic view of Dublin comparable to the one enjoyed today from the Gravity Bar atop the Guinness Storehouse museum, which stands 144 ft. high. The pillar's viewing platform was exposed to the elements, however, and only simple iron "railings" kept the people who climbed the 166 steps to the top from returning to the ground more quickly. The view from those railings was no doubt sufficiently precipitous to induce vertigo and clinched sphincters. Stephen evokes the physical discomfort experienced by his two protagonists: "they are afraid the pillar will fall. . . . it makes them giddy to look so they pull up their skirts."

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An early 20th century photograph held in the National Library of Ireland documents the view straight down from the projecting viewers' platform, capable of unsettling the bowels even in a two-dimensional black-and-white simulacrum. The image shows the tram powerlines running up Sackville (O'Connell) Street, people entering and leaving Henry Street to the west, and a lone automobile snaking its way up the street through dense pedestrian traffic. Until gasoline engines began to devour the city in the mid-20th century Sackville Street was primarily a wide mall for relaxed pedestrian strolling, as Henry Street is today.

JH 2020
Life on the Raw, drawing #207 from The Cracked Lookingglass website. Source:
Photograph taken from the top of Nelson's Pillar ca. 1921, held in the National Library of Ireland. Source:
Two actual people atop the pillar, in a photograph of unknown date. Source: