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The Real People of Joyce's Ulysses

Vivien Igoe
UCD Press
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From the Introduction

They all belong to a vanished world and most of them seem to have been very curious types. Letter from Joyce to Mrs William Murray, 21 December 1922

The purpose of this work is to provide a reference book on the real people in James Joyce's Ulysses and to inform the readers of Ulysses today about the people of 1904 and other named figures from different periods. It gives an insight into the real personalities on which the work was based in the Dublin of 1904 and a perception of the period and its people, and social history as portrayed by Joyce in Ulysses.

The work focuses on the vast number of real people appearing in Ulysses on 16 June 1904 and others present in their memory, hallucinated or imagined. The entries include historical and contemporary people from Ireland, Gibraltar and other parts of the world.

The book contains information and biographies of many of the characters that had previously been thought to be fictional and who had been accorded little attention as a result. The intimacy of Dublin is made a reality through the personal histories of many of these individuals. Detailed information as to where they lived, worked, frequented, intermingled and found inspiration is recorded. Some people lived at different addresses in the city, which indicates in some instances the individual's rise or decline in fortune.

Many interesting facts of human interconnection become apparent, such as neighbours or street acquaintances of Joyce, or the many friends, enemies and contemporaries of his father who appear in this book. It reveals how Joyce manipulated and drew on his intimate knowledge of the city and its inhabitants in many of the neighbourhoods where he had lived, and it offers a vast mosaic of Dublin life and society in 1904.

Background information on the real people of the novel is relevant as it shows how deeply Joyce's works are embedded in the reality of Dublin. Many of the people were well known in Irish social and cultural circles and were celebrated in different fields in Dublin at the turn of the century, enjoying recognition outside Ulysses, while others owe their immortality to Joyce. The biographical information of this eclectic mixture of people creates a vivid picture of the Dublin at the time, and throws light on many of the passages in Ulysses.

The Dublin of Ulysses had a population of only 290,638. It was a Roman Catholic city, but one in which the Protestant minority, representing about 20 per cent of the population, held most of the mercantile, professional and executive power and wealth. Virtually all the businesses were located within the boundaries of the Grand and Royal Canals. There was also dire poverty and unemployment in the city.

Many of the old, fashionable, residential districts on the north side of the Liffey had been bought by speculative landlords who let out the houses, in flats or rooms, to artisans and working-class families. Gradually, these houses fell into disrepair and degenerated into slums leading to appalling living conditions. Property on the south side of the city fared better. Many of the houses were bought by members of the legal and medical professions in areas around Merrion and Fitzwilliam Squares, and thus held both their status and their value.

There were very definite class distinctions in the Dublin of 1904 ranging from professional, lower middle class, upper working class to lower working class. It was a city of diversity, which was divided by class, wealth and religion. The literary topography and sense of place are important, as the location in which people lived, generally indicated their social status. Joyce loved the circulation of people, and as he was depicting the whole city and not just a segment of it, the characters in Ulysses lived in places, which encompassed the entire urban span and parts of the suburbs.

With the construction of the Dublin to Kingstown railway line in the 1830s and the introduction of the tramway system, the flight of the middle classes began and many of the wealthy professional classes moved to areas such as Rathgar, Rathmines, Terenure, Monkstown, Blackrock and Dundrum or had a house both in the country and in the city.

In the Dublin of 1904, people walked more and as a result they encountered a wide assortment of other citizens wandering through the labyrinth of streets on their way to and from work, in pubs, restaurants, churches, graveyards, hospitals, and all the various places where people intermingle. Everyone knew everyone else and if they didn't know them they knew someone who did. They were involved in and interacted with one another's lives. Therefore there was a complicated set of relationships linking politics, religion, business affairs and personal friendships.

Hundreds of names appear in Ulysses. Joyce was a great user of pre-existing material, which he recycled. He drew heavily from the names of his father's friends. Shortly after the death of his father, Joyce wrote to Harriet Weaver (17 January 1932), 'Hundreds of pages and scores of characters in my books came

from him' (Ellmann, Richard, ed. Selected Letters of James Joyce. London: Faber & Faber, 1975, p. 361). Joyce himself described Ulysses 'as a sort of encyclopaedia' in a letter he wrote to Carlo Linati on 21 September 1920 when he sent him a schema of Ulysses (Ellmann, ed. Selected Letters of James Joyce, p. 271).

Some of the minor people have impressive lives and stories, like Gregor Grey, the artist who lived in Sherrard Street or William Gumley who fell on hard times. Other names are just mentioned or 'dropped', like Father Nicholas who was vicar in St Mary of the Angels, Church Street in 1904. He ministered there for nearly 40 years, and worked unstintingly for the rights of the people in the area. Nicholas Avenue was named after him. All these people made up the fabric of the city: 'How many! All these here once walked round Dublin. Faithful departed' (6.960-1). Many now rest in one of Dublin's three main cemeteries, Glasnevin, Mount Jerome and Deansgrange.

It is remarkable that Joyce could write about so many different Dublin characters, in some cases giving forensic attention to details about them, from portraying a city that he left for the final time in 1912. No one knew the city like he did. Dante portrayed Florence but he did not capture it in the same depth as Joyce did Dublin.

Joyce wrote Ulysses between 1914 and 1921. Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare & Co. first published it in Paris on 2 February 1922, on Joyce's fortieth birthday.