James's gate

James's gate

In Brief

New space-time. Section 12 of Wandering Rocks follows Tom Kernan on the far western edge of Dublin as he walks eastward "From the sundial towards James's gate," along James's Street, and then north toward the river. His walk is marked by proximity to a pub, a drinking fountain, an immense brewery, and an immense distillery. Three interpolated passages intrude on the narrative, but only one of them takes readers to an action prominently occurring in another section. The other two connect to mere straws––things that seem to barely warrant mention in the chapter.

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Just before the action begins, Kernan has exited a pub run by "Mr Crimmins," where he has secured an order of some tea for his employer while downing two glasses of the proprietor's "best gin." The pub still exists on the south side of James's Street, but today it is called the Malt House. Mr. Kernan has turned right after leaving the premises, heading east on James's Street toward the center of town. The section begins with him congratulating himself on what he considers the brilliantly conversational way in which he has "Got round" Mr. Crimmins. He has walked about half a block from the pub and now stands across from a small plaza where Bow Lane West runs into James's Street from the northwest.

The "sundial" that stands on this plaza is actually an obelisk bearing four sundials near its top and two water basins at its base. Commissioned by the Duke of Rutland (the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), and designed by the architect Francis Sandys, it was erected in 1790. Originally, water apparently flowed from four ornamental heads into a large circular basin at pavement level, but at some point in the 19th century the large pool was paved over and two small drinking basins, manufactured by "T. Kennedy, Patentee," were installed on opposite faces of the obelisk, with injunctions to "Keep the pavement dry." The monument still stands, though the basins no longer quench anyone's thirst or slicken any stones. Dublin Corporation commissioned a company to restore the stonework in 1995, with financial help from Guinness Ireland and the Ireland Fund of Canada.

"James's gate," toward which Mr. Kernan is walking at the beginning of the section, began life in the 13th century as the westernmost gate to the walled city of Dublin. The medieval gate was demolished in 1734, but the name remained attached to the spot at the eastern end of James's Street where it passes Watling Street and becomes Thomas Street West.

The area and the name have been associated with brewing since the 17th century. In 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on four acres and founded the St. James's Gate Brewery. His company later bought those acres and about 50 others nearby, building production and storage facilities south of James's Gate and north all the way to the river, whence barges could transport their product past Carlisle (O'Connell) Bridge to waiting ships for export. Varieties of the famous Guinness stout ("the black stuff" in Dublin) have been brewed near James's Gate since the late 1700s, and at some point the company erected its own gateway into the brewing facilities, opening off the south side of James's Gate, to honor and capitalize on the medieval gateway that once led into the city.

The most direct route for Kernan to take back to his office would be to pass by this gate on his right and continue along Thomas Street, heading east. Instead the narration observes that he "turned and walked down the slope of Watling street by the corner of Guinness's visitors' waitingroom," which the company built across from the gate, on the north side of the street, for people waiting to tour their brewing facilities. As he turns left onto Watling Street Kernan walks by this facility, which no longer exists. In the 21st century its functions have been more than replaced by the Guinness Storehouse, in the block of brewery buildings south of James's Gate. An architecturally ambitious building, the Storehouse contains six floors of museum-like displays and a seventh-floor bar offering excellent 360-degree views of Dublin.

As he walks north on Watling Street toward the river, skirting the Guinness storage facilities on his left, Mr. Kernan sees on the right hand side of the road a jaunting car left unattended "Outside the Dublin Distillers Company's stores." This large two-story warehouse building, which still stands, was constructed in 1866 as part of the huge Roe distillery on Thomas Street. Peter Roe founded the distillery in 1757, and over the course of the 19th century it grew to become the largest in Ireland and perhaps the world. In 1890, George Roe and Company's Thomas Street distillery combined with William Jameson's Marrowbone Lane distillery (different from John Jameson's Bow Street distillery) and the Dublin Whiskey Company's Jones Road distillery to form the ill-fated Dublin Distillers Company. The storehouse at 21-32 Watling Street was one of several buildings purchased by the Guinness company when the Thomas Street distillery closed during the Prohibition era and many of its structures were demolished.

Kernan is then seen approaching "Island street," which intersects Watling one block shy of the river. No further exact indications of his location are given in the section, but it can be inferred that as his interior monologue concludes he passes beyond Island Street and approaches the quays. The section ends with him seeing that he has just missed an opportunity to greet the viceregal cavalcade rolling eastward "along Pembroke quay."

Starting with two glasses of gin in Mr. Crimmins' pub, passing by a drinking fountain, threading the needle of the gargantuan Guinness complex, and finally passing by the largest of all Irish whiskey distilleries, Mr. Kernan's walk seems calculated to register as a geographical salute to human thirst.

As for interpolations, after four paragraphs recalling Kernan's conversation with Mr. Crimmins, two other men greet each other in the street: "— Hello, Simon, Father Cowley said. How are things? / — Hello, Bob, old man, Mr Dedalus answered, stopping." This is not the same street that Kernan is walking along, but rather one found in the scene represented in section 14, which begins, "— Hello, Simon, Father Cowley said. How are things? / — Hello, Bob, old man, Mr Dedalus answered, stopping." The interpolations in Wandering Rocks do not always, or even typically, use exactly the same words found in the remote section whose action is being echoed. In this case the repetition is verbatim.

After another two paragraphs of Kernan's journey comes a second interpolation: "North wall and sir John Rogerson's quay, with hulls and anchorchains, sailing westward, sailed by a skiff, a crumpled throwaway, rocked on the ferrywash, Elijah is coming." One mention of this crumpled piece of paper floating down the Liffey has already occurred in section 4. There will be a third one in section 16, but none of the three sentences is in a section whose action is taking place nearby. They are free-floating echoes of one another, rather than jump-cuts moving readers from one substantial locus of action to another.

Another odd thing about this interpolation (whose syntax too seems oddly garbled) is that it shows the throwaway floating "westward," rather than "eastward" as in sections 4 and 16, which would be the expected direction. The flow of the river should not have been reversed by any incoming tide at this time, as high tide on June 16 occurred at 12:42 PM. The paper is shown being "rocked on the ferrywash," so perhaps its reversed course can be attributed to disturbance caused by the boat's wake. Any such disturbance would be minimal and brief, since Ian Gunn and Clive Hart observe in James Joyce's Dublin (citing an image in John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley's James Joyce's Dubliners: An Illustrated Edition with Annotations) that "The type of ferry in question" is "a large rowing boat" (48). But given Joyce's maniacally precise eye for tiny temporal and spatial details in the chapter, perhaps he wanted to record just such a minute variation in the expected pattern.

Finally, section 12 contains a third interpolation which resembles this second one in connecting to a seemingly insignificant action. Toward the end of the section, as Kernan approaches the Liffey on Watling Street and perhaps looks toward the Queen Victoria bridge crossing the river there, a sentence glances discontinuously at something happening on another bridge far downstream: "Denis Breen with his tomes, weary of having waited an hour in John Henry Menton's office, led his wife over O'Connell bridge, bound for the office of Messrs Collis and Ward." This detail ties in to others in several chapters charting Denis Breen's mad quest to find an attorney willing to file a libel suit on his behalf.

Bloom has run into Josie Breen on Westmoreland Street in Lestrygonians and learned of her husband's odyssey: "now he's going round to Mr Menton's office. He's going to take an action for ten thousand pounds, he says." Westmoreland Street is on the south side of the river, between the O'Connell bridge and College Green. Menton's office was on Bachelor's Walk, on the north bank just west of the O'Connell bridge, so Breen presumably walks north across the bridge after Bloom sees him rejoin his wife. The interpolation in section 12 of Wandering Rocks places him on the bridge again, one hour later, now heading south toward the Dame Street office of Collis and Ward, just a little west of where he was in Lestrygonians. And in section 19, the last narrative unit in the chapter, he is seen attempting to cross College Green toward these offices and nearly being killed by the viceregal cavalcade: "Where the foreleg of King Billy's horse pawed the air Mrs Breen plucked her hastening husband back from under the hoofs of the outriders."

The Breens are mentioned repeatedly in Cyclops, where Alf Bergan's characterization of Denis "traipsing all round Dublin with a postcard someone sent him" reinforces a reader's sense that "U.P.: up" has driven him nearly to distraction, sending him from pillar to post and back again in a vain pursuit of satisfaction. Bergan says, "He was in John Henry Menton's and then he went round to Collis and Ward's and then Tom Rochford met him and sent him round to the subsheriff's for a lark. O God, I've a pain laughing. U. p: up. The long fellow gave him an eye as good as a process and now the bloody old lunatic is gone round to Green street to look for a G. man." Much as in the case of the throwaway heading predictably eastward on the riverflow, and then unaccountably westward, and then eastward again, these details of Breen's itinerant day create a headspinning sense of misdirection.

Is it too much, this commentator wonders, to conclude that these two strange interpolations centered on bridges and the river cohere with, and extend, section 12's remarkable preoccupation with drinking?

John Hunt 2023
The geography of section 12 overlaid on Bartholomew's 1900 map of Dublin. Click on image for more detailed approximation of Mr. Kernan's course (blue), the Malt House (green), obelisk (orange), Guinness brewery (red), Roe distillery (purple), and Pembroke Quay (brown).
Source: Pierce, James Joyce's Ireland.
2019 photograph of the Malt House on James's Street, formerly Crimmins's pub.
Source: John Hunt.
2019 photograph of the sundial obelisk with two of the four sundials visible high up on the monument, looking across James's Street toward the spot where Wandering Rocks begins. Source: John Hunt.
A closer view of two of the sundials. Source: John Hunt.
The gate to one part of the Guinness brewery grounds, near where the old James's Gate once stood, and across James's street from where the Guinness visitors' waitingroom once stood. Source: www.google.com.
The building that housed "the Dublin Distillers Company's stores" on the corner of Watling Street and Bonham Street. Source: www.buildingsofireland.ie.
Sketch of the Thomas Street distillery, published in Dublin, Cork and South of Ireland: A Literary, Commercial & Social Review Past and Present; With a Description of Leading Mercantile Houses and Leading Enterprises (1892). Source: Wikimedia Commons.
An early drawing or engraving of the obelisk, artist and date unknown.
Source: archiseek.com.