The Pubs of Joycean Dublin

James Joyce enjoyed the sensual things in life, and like any Dubliner worth his salt, drinking in the city’s many pubs was an integral part of all that.

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Dublin is well-known for its watering holes and no trip to the city is complete without a visit to a least a handful of its most famous ones. Leopold Bloom mused in Joyce’s classic novel Ulysses that a “good puzzle would be cross Dublin without passing a pub”. Safe to say, then, that Dublin’s pubs are woven into the fabric of the city’s DNA.

What about Joyce then, where did he drink? We know he personally drank in the Brazen Head, the Stag’s Head, the Bailey, the Duke, the Bleeding Horse. But he also wrote about some in his novels. Here are some of the extant ones worth a visit.

The Norseman, Temple Bar

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The Norseman was once called O’Neill’s and is located in Temple Bar. Yes, Temple Bar is noisy and perhaps a little commercial, but there are some excellent pubs in the area. Here’s what he had to say about one of them in his short story Counterparts:

From the street door he walked on furtively on the inner side of the path towards the corner and all at once dived into a doorway. He was now safe in the dark snug of O’Neill’s shop and, filling up the little window that looked into the bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark wine or dark meat, he called out:
—Here, Pat, give us a g.p., like a good fellow.
The curate brought him a glass of plain porter. The man drank it at a gulp and asked for a caraway seed. He put his penny on the counter and, leaving the curate to grope for it in the gloom, retreated out of the snug as furtively as he had entered it.

Davy Byrne’s, Duke Street

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On Duke Street is another pub mentioned in Counterparts, but more famously in Ulysses: Davy Byrne’s, the pub where Leopold Bloom meets Nosey Flynn and has a glass of burgundy and a gorgonzola sandwich.

Have you a cheese sandwich?
—Yes, sir.
Like a few olives too if they had them. Italian I prefer. Good glass of burgundy take away that. Lubricate. A nice salad, cool as a cucumber, Tom Kernan can dress. Puts gusto into it. Pure olive oil. Milly served me that cutlet with a sprig of parsley. Take one Spanish onion. God made food, the devil the cooks. Devilled crab.
—Wife well?
—Quite well, thanks … A cheese sandwich, then. Gorgonzola, have you?
—Yes, sir.

As Davy Byrnes describes itself, the “décor is original, authentic and pre-Second World War in theme. Boasting an excellent art collection, visitors can appreciate the three educational murals of Joycean Dublin by Liam Proud, the priceless murals of the 1940’s by Brendan Behan’s father-in-law, Cecil French Salkeld and the fine sculptures of Eddie Delaney and John Behan”.

And yes, you can still get a Gorgonzola sandwich.

Mulligan’s, Poolbeg Street

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Mulligan’s is another pub of extraordinary history having hosted some of the most famous figures in Irish literature and journalism. As Mulligan’s website reminds us. “John F. Kennedy was one who savoured the brews back in 1945 when he worked with the Hearst Newspaper Dynasty”. Again, in Counterparts:

When the Scotch House closed they went round to Mulligan’s. They went into the parlour at the back and O’Halloran ordered small hot specials all round. They were all beginning to feel mellow. Farrington was just standing another round when Weathers came back. Much to Farrington’s relief he drank a glass of bitter this time. Funds were getting low but they had enough to keep them going. Presently two young women with big hats and a young man in a check suit came in and sat at a table close by. Weathers saluted them and told the company that they were out of the Tivoli. Farrington’s eyes wandered at every moment in the direction of one of the young women. There was something striking in her appearance.

Dublin is very lucky to have so many unchanged gems of pubs just waiting to discovered by guests. Follow in Joyce’s footsteps by drinking in some!

Derek Hopper

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