Dublin Literary Walking Tour

Ireland, Dublin Guide (A): Dublin Literary Walking Tour

This tour takes in many of the places in Dublin made famous by their literary associations with some of the greatest Irish writers such as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats and Oliver St John Gogarty.
In particular, Joyce’s “Ulysses” is considered the definitive book on Dublin as it was in the Edwardian era, the early years of the 20th Century.
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Walk Route

Guide Name: Dublin Literary Walking Tour
Guide Location: Ireland » Dublin
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: Finn's Hotel   Sweny's Chemists shop   Oscar Wilde house   Oscar Wilde statue   Dermot Morgan seat   Michael Collins bust   W. B. Yeats House   Leinster House   National Gallery   Huguenot Cemetery   Oliver St John Gogarty   Shelbourne Hotel  
Author: Gerard Owens
Author Bio: A retired Chartered Accountant, I live in County Wicklow, the so-called Garden of Ireland. Among my interests are hill-walking, travel, literature, jazz, gardening and Chinese history and culture.
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Finn's Hotel

1) Finn's Hotel

We begin our tour by recalling some of the events described in James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. Joyce first met Nora Barnacle on the evening of June 16th 1904 and immortalised that event by setting all the action of “Ulysses” on that same day, possibly the most important date in literary history. Finns Hotel, where Nora Barnacle worked can be seen on the left in South Leinster Street: it is the first building after Trinity College and the name “Finn’s Hotel” is still clearly visible though it is many years since it operated as a hotel. Leopold Bloom is the central character in Ulysses and his wife, Molly, is thought to have been largely based on Nora. June 16th has ever since been called “Bloomsday” and it is widely celebrated in Dublin to this day.
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Sweny's Chemists shop

2) Sweny's Chemists shop

Lincoln Place features in the book and it was in Sweny’s Chemists shop that Bloom bought a cake of lemon soap for four pence before he visited the public baths which were across the road; the shop today is physically more or less unchanged and many Dubliners make a point of buying lemon soap there each Bloomsday though it costs a bit more than the four pence Bloom paid in 1904. In recent times Sweny’s has been run as a place of Joycean interest and is no longer a chemists shop. It is staffed by volunteers who are doing their bit to keep Joyce’s memory alive; and you can still buy lemon soap there.
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Oscar Wilde house

3) Oscar Wilde house

Another writer associated with this part of Dublin is the famous playwright Oscar Wilde. Oscar was born in 21 Westland Row in 1854, and the following year the Wilde family moved to No 1 Merrion Square; Oscar’s father was Sir William Wilde an eminent eye surgeon and philanthropist; Wilde’s mother was a prominent poet who wrote using the pen-name Speranza and her house served as a famous literary salon attended by many of the most eminent of Dublin’s literary figures. Oscar was a brilliant student at Trinity College from 1871 to 1874 and won a scholarship to Oxford where he continued his studies until 1878. While there he attracted much attention for his extravagant dress and behaviour and went on to become the outstanding figure on the London social scene.
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Oscar Wilde statue

4) Oscar Wilde statue

There is a recently erected statue of Oscar across the road in the park. Wilde wrote eight plays in all of which “The Importance of being Earnest” is probably the most famous; he also wrote many poems, essays of criticism and a famous novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. In later years he ran into trouble on account of his flouting of Victorian conventions and especially over his relationship with the young Lord Alfred Douglas; this was ultimately to lead to his downfall and, after a series of high profile trials he was imprisoned for two years in Reading Gaol; in 1897 he left England for France and died in Paris in 1900. On the plinths of the two smaller classical statues beside Oscar are many of the witty epigrams for which he was famous.
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Dermot Morgan seat

5) Dermot Morgan seat

The Dermot Morgan seat in the park was erected in recent years as a tribute to the memory of Dermot Morgan of Father Ted fame; he also featured in the weekly radio show Scrap Saturday, this was taken off the national radio station because of the unmerciful satirising of our politicians; it was an outrageously funny show. Morgan was immortalised in the Father Ted series, a genuinely funny man who died at the relatively early age of 46 years, he is fondly remembered by his fellow Dubliners.
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Michael Collins bust

6) Michael Collins bust

Also within the Park is a bust commemorating Michael Collins, one of the great figures in the struggle for Irish independence; he was shot dead while visiting Cork in 1922 during the course of the savage Civil War which followed the Anglo-Irish treaty. This conflict was caused when a rift developed between those in favour of accepting the Treaty and those who were opposed to the Treaty on the grounds that it was incomplete and not a satisfactory settlement. In the recent film on Collins his fellow Irishman Liam Neeson played the part of “The Big Fellow” as he was affectionately known.
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W. B. Yeats House

7) W. B. Yeats House

Merrion Square is considered to be the finest example of a Georgian square and it stands supreme for the purity of its architecture, the excellent state of its presentation and the subtle variety of its fanlights and doorways. The poet, W B Yeats lived at No 82 from 1922 to 1928. Yeats was one of the foremost poets of the 20th Century who was also very much involved with the Irish Literary Revival and a leading figure in the founding of the Abbey Theatre. In addition to being an eminent poet, Yeats was a prolific playwright, he wrote many plays for performance by the Abbey and maintained a close association with that theatre for the rest of his life. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first Irishman to be so honoured. There have been three other Irish winners of Nobel Prizes for Literature: George Bernard Shaw (1925), Samuel Beckett (1969) and Seamus Heaney (1995).
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Leinster House

8) Leinster House

Leinster House, the national Parliament building since 1922 is located on Merrion Square West; this was built in 1745 and was originally the town house of the Dukes of Leinster, hence the name “Leinster House”. It then passed to the Royal Dublin Society, the RDS, who used it as headquarters and a place for agricultural and trade exhibitions. The RDS added four important buildings to showcase its cultural and industrial activities: the Natural History Museum, the National Art Gallery, the National Library and the National Museum, one at each of the four corners of Leinster House.
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National Gallery

9) National Gallery

The National Art Gallery contains a number of outstanding paintings. Firstly, the Caravaggio painting “The Taking of Christ”, a world-famous classic which went “missing” for many years before it was discovered in 1993. For decades it had been thought to be the work of a second rank Dutch painter and it was only in recent years that the correct identification was made. The Gallery also has an outstanding Vermeer painting of the girl and the letter, both of these paintings are well worth seeing, as are the Metsu and Jack B Yeats collections. The Gallery has been a substantial beneficiary under the Will of George Bernard Shaw, the famous playwright who also hailed from Dublin. This came about because he generously left a significant slice of the Royalty income earned by his plays to the Gallery; and these became extremely valuable when the musical “My Fair Lady” became a huge Broadway hit in the 1960’s, the musical was, of course, based on his play “Pygmalion”.
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Huguenot Cemetery

10) Huguenot Cemetery

The 17th Century Huguenot Cemetery is located on Merrion Row. The Huguenots were Protestant refugees who fled France in 1572 after the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre. Many of them settled in Dublin and one of the 239 people buried in this ancient cemetery is named Becquett, an ancestor of the playwright Samuel Beckett of Waiting for Godot fame. Beckett was a student in Trinity College and later worked there as a member of the teaching staff until the late 1930’s when he left Dublin for Paris where he was a member of the group of writers associated with James Joyce. He remained in Paris during the War doing humanitarian work as a hospital orderly and is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery not far from Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
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Oliver St John Gogarty

11) Oliver St John Gogarty

Near the cemetery is No 33 St Stephen’s Green, the house with the plaque to Oliver St.John Gogarty; he was a friend of Joyce who features as “stately plump Buck Mulligan” in the opening chapter of “Ulysses” set in the Martello tower at Sandycove; Gogarty lived for a time in nearby Ely Place which we have just passed. He is remembered as one of the most famous of the Dublin wits of the early decades of the 20th Century and as the author of a large number of books of which “As I was going down Sackville Street” is the best known. He was born in 1878 and became an eminent surgeon in Dublin; in addition he was a Senator from 1922 to 1925; a footballer with the Bohemians club; a racing cyclist; and a talented poet, he won a bronze medal for poetry in the literature category in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games! By a curious coincidence the painter Jack B Yeats won a silver medal in the paintings category of the same Olympics for his picture depicting the Liffey Swim.
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Shelbourne Hotel

12) Shelbourne Hotel

The statue at the entrance to St Stephen’s Green is of Wolfe Tone leader of the 1798 Rebellion who had spent some time in France and was inspired by the French Revolution in 1789 to attempt an uprising in Ireland. The Green itself was a gift from Lord Ardilaun, a member of the Guinness brewing family, to the City of Dublin; Shelbourne Hotel has a Constitution Room where the Constitution of Ireland was drafted in 1922 and the upstairs room has been preserved unaltered since that date on account of its historical importance.

With this we conclude our brief tour of literary Dublin. I hope you will have found the tour both interesting and informative.

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