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Rearranging the Furniture at No. 7

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 44, Number 4, Summer 2007
pp. 785-792 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0000

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Why reconstruct No. 7 Eccles Street on paper, as we attempted to do in James Joyce’s Dublin?1 “Because,” to invert the mountaineer’s retort, “it is not there.” The history of No. 7 Eccles Street is one of missed opportunities, neglect, and property speculation. This once-grand Georgian town house declined into a slum in which Clive Hart recalls finding seven families living, one to a room, when he visited it in the late 1950s. In 1965, the property was put up for auction by Jackson, Stops, and McCabe of Dawson Street.2 By 1973, Nos. 6, 7, 8, and 9 Eccles Street had been reduced to single-story facades that were auctioned on 7 March by T. T. L. Overend, McCarron, & Gibbons, 9 Upper Mount Street.3 Ten years later, they were still vacant plots until, finally, the hospital extension that currently occupies the site was built.4

The revision of the Topographical Guide to James Joyce’s “Ulysses” entailed a reassessment of the plans of No. 7 Eccles Street.5 The basic principle behind the revision was to determine certain facts about Dublin in 1904 and compare them with the text of Ulysses. Although a fictional text could not serve as a complete authority on these facts, Joyce’s legendary verisimilitude nevertheless led us back to what we now believe them to be.

Detailed information on the lost No. 7 is in short supply. While Joycean pilgrims from the 1940s onwards have left us numerous helpful and tantalizing shots of street frontage (see Figure 1), no pictures of the internal or rear aspects of the property appear to have been published or preserved.6 Even J. F. Byrne, who lived there from 1908 to 1910, says little about the house itself in his memoir Silent Years.7

The Georgian street facades are seductive. They give an impression of order and conformity, but even a cursory glance at the rear of the properties shows that nearly every one is unique in some way. Builders worked with variations on known formulas, seldom using plans. Among the collections of the Irish Architectural Archive in Merrion Square, there is nevertheless an original plan of No. 33 Eccles, dating from 1822. This gave us the first clear example of contemporary internal structure in Eccles Street. No. 33 had an extra attic story but otherwise seemed to show the correct configuration. The original north side of Eccles Street has completely disappeared, but the south side still exists in varying stages of decay, renovation, and modification. Nos. 2–8 on the north side and 76–81 on the extant south side of the street appear to have been built as a group for they have a smaller bay size than the rest of the street and consist of a basement and three additional floors. Of the still extant buildings, No. 77 seemed to be the closest match to the lost No. 7, having a similar facade and roof structure. No. 77 had been converted into a number of bed-sits, and we managed to get access to the basement, front ground floor, internal stairway, and backyard.

We set about drawing plans of No. 7 and fitting the fictional furniture into the rooms. The ground-floor front room was a little cramped but otherwise unproblematical (see Figure 2); the rear bedroom, how-ever, proved less easy to arrange. In keeping with the front room and the plans of No. 33 Eccles Street, we situated the fireplace on the party wall. This made it difficult to accommodate Joyce’s fictional furnishings. The placing of the bed and the directions in which Molly and Bloom lay were the most serious problems. In addition, the implications in “Calypso” and “Ithaca” that there was only a single bedroom window conflicted with the configuration of No. 33 (see Figure 3).8

We therefore did what we could to make the fiction conform to the facts as we understood them to be. In this, we were greatly aided by a discussion with colleagues at a workshop in Zurich in August of 2003. Figures 2 and 3 show the published arrangements.

After creating cutaway models for James Joyce’s Dublin, we...

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