Richmond Lunatic Asylum

Richmond Lunatic Asylum

In Brief

The Richmond Lunatic Asylum, a psychiatric facility in the northwest Dublin suburb of Grangegorman that at the time was the largest and most important in Ireland, is mentioned several times in the novel. In Telemachus Mulligan refers to it mockingly as "Dottyville" and mentions "Conolly Norman," who superintended the Asylum from 1886 until his death in 1908. In Circe Bello notes that "Keating Clay is elected vicechairman of the Richmond asylum," and in Oxen of the Sun one of the medical students speculates that the man in the macintosh has been released from there.

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Mulligan mentions the asylum in connection with his taunting suggestion that Stephen has "g.p.i.," general paresis of the insane. Joyce's fictional interest in insanity parallels Ireland's therapeutic interest in it; the country has a long history of building hospitals for the care of the mentally ill. Later in the 20th century the Richmond Lunatic Asylum became known more respectfully as the Grangegorman Mental Hospital, one part of a complex of buildings called St. Brendan's Psychiatric Hospital. The hospital complex has been progressively decommissioned in the last two decades, however, and much of it either lies in ruins or has been demolished.

JH 2011
2010 photograph by Quasihuman of the Richmond asylum, designed in the 18th century by architect Francis Johnston. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Oil portrait of Conolly Norman by Irish painter Sarah Cecilia Harrison, held in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin. Source: Wikimedia Commons.