For a new series, I thought I would do one “literary” themed. Hopefully I’ll actually stick with it and will have another city next month to showcase. I decided to begin with Dublin, the lovely yet underrated Irish capital that just oozes literary charm at every corner, not to mention inspired some of the greatest writers to have ever lived.
Oscar Wilde statue-Merrion Square
When I visited Dublin in 2009, I came across this statue of Oscar Wilde rather by chance. Merrion Square was actually between our hotel in Ballsbridge and the city center, so we passed by it any time we wanted to see the sights. After returning from our day trip south one day, we decided to take a stroll through the square (it’s really more of a park, stunning greenery all about), and encountered Mr. Wilde himself, who was in reclining form and looked perfectly at ease. Although he would go on to become one of London’s most popular playwrights, he was a native Irishman through and through. As a baby, Wilde’s family moved to a house at No. 1 Merrion Square so you can see that even after dying prematurely while destitute in Paris, one of Ireland’s most famous sons has indeed come home again.
The Book of Kells-Trinity College
One of the most famous books of all time, truly. The Book of Kells is an illuminated book in Latin that contains the four Gospels of the New Testament along with various prefatory texts and tables. It’s believed to have been created around 800 AD and the manuscript takes it name from the Abbey of Kells, which was its home for centuries. Trinity College Library typically displays two of the four volumes at a time, one showing a significant illustration and the other typical text pages. All I can say is first don’t try to visit when you’re jet lagged as you will be too tired to fully appreciate what you’re looking at and second, it’s Ireland’s version of the Mona Lisa, meaning, there are mobs of people queuing around what is a very small article.
James Joyce Tower & Museum (Sandycove, a suburb of Dublin)
The tower’s most famous guest would be James Joyce who spent six nights here in 1904. The tower was leased from the British War Office by a university friend of Joyce’s with the purpose of “hellenising” Ireland. Joyce parted ways with his friend after an incident in which his friend fired a gun in his direction. The opening scenes of Joyce’s most famous work Ulysses, are set the morning after this occurrence. His friend is fictionalized as “Stately, plump Black Mulligan.” The tower is now open to guests and contains a museum dedicated to Joyce and displays some of his possessions and other memorabilia associated with Ulysses. The living space has been estored to a 1904 appearance.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral was one of the first places I visited in Dublin and remained one of my favorite sites. St. Patrick’s is a protestant house of worship and is only a couple of blocks from the equally historic and prestigious Roman Catholic Christ Church. St. Patrick’s is the final resting place of writer/satirist Jonathan Swift, who served as dean from 1713 to 1745. Visitors can see Swift’s tombstone and epitaph in the repository.
Davy Byrne’s Pub
You can’t describe Dublin without mention of a pub, especially since some of Ireland’s most famous writers had their “preferred” watering hole. For James Joyce, it was Davy Byrne’s. Located on Duke Street just off Grafton, this centrally located establishment was a favorite of Joyce’s (i.e. you could find him here a lot) and is even mentioned in Ulysses. On June 16 when the worldwide celebration of Bloomsday takes place (Bloomsday being the commemoration and celebration of Joyce’s life), you can bet that Davy Byrne’s is filled with ardent bibliophiles, all in period costumes.