Although Ulysses offers many suggestions that Bloom is not the most muscular or dashing man on Dublin's streets, it would be a mistake to assume that he is sexually unattractive. Sitting across from him on the strand, Gerty sees "the image of the photo she had of Martin Harvey, the matinee idol, only for the moustache which she preferred because she wasn't stagestruck like Winny Rippingham." Even accounting for the lateness of the hour and the rosy glow that drapes all of Gerty's romantic affections, the comparison is highly flattering.
John Martin-Harvey, born in 1863, was an English stage actor whose career took off in the 1890s, long after he joined Sir Henry Irving's Lyceum Theatre company in 1882. His most famous role was Sydney Carton, the lead in The Only Way, an adaptation of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Martin-Harvey took over the business when Irving died in 1905 and added many production credits to his acting resumé. He was knighted in 1921.
Martin-Harvey toured extensively in the UK and in North America. Gifford notes that his autobiography describes his visits to Dublin in the early 1900s as "a series of triumphs." On her Irish photography weblog, Dublin librarian Orla Fitzpatrick observes that "according to The Irish Times of the 26th November 1904, crowds thronged to see him in the Theatre Royal where he performed Hamlet. His photograph was taken in the same month by Chancellor’s of Dublin and doubtless it sold well."
Can Bloom really lay claim to anything like the smoldering good looks conveyed in the celebrity photographs of Martin-Harvey? Molly seems to think so. Recalling the days when he courted her, she remembers the "splendid set of teeth he had made me hungry to look at them." She thinks that "he was very handsome at that time trying to look like lord Byron I said I liked though he was too beautiful for a man."