Posts Tagged ‘Dubliners’


The Phoenix Park’s association with motorsport started as early as 1903. The Gordon Bennett Cup Race which took place in Ireland in that year is cited as the background for James Joyce’s short story After the Race. Joyce used motor racing to lampoon the aspirations of Dublin’s social climbing nouveau riche. It was one of fifteen stories that appeared in Dubliners and this month marks the 100th anniversary of its publication. A reimagining and rewriting of these stories, Dubliners 100, will be launched today.

This lady was photographed in the Phoenix Park sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Due to petrol rationing racing was suspended during the Second World War and did not re-commence until the late 1940s. On the subject of rationing, I was delighted to have my article ‘Coupons, Clothing and Class: The Rationing of Dress in Ireland, 1942-1948’ published in the latest issue of Costume.

The fashions worn by this women indicate that the photo was taken towards the end of the 1940s or in the early 1950s. Her loose fitting, midi length shift dress and matching jacket were typical of the post-war period. Her stylish outfit reflects the comparative wealth of those involved in motor sport and mirrors the glamour and allure alluded to by Joyce in After the Race.


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Dublin City Libraries have chosen James Joyce’s Dubliners to be the featured title in their initiative One City, One Book. I’ve mentioned the book before in earlier posts, however, the project brought to mind several images from my collection which remind me of Joyce’s references to photography within the short stories. I love Joyce’s descriptions of interiors, particularly in The Dead and the following photographs feature similar subjects and conjure up the same atmosphere as occurs in the stories.

From The Dead:  “Her photograph stood before the pierglass. She held an open book on her knees and was pointing out something in it to Constantine who, dressed in a man-o-war suit, lay at her feet.”

The man-o-war suit mentioned in the story was a version of the then popular sailor suits worn by little boys during the mid to late nineteenth-century. The trousers in this variety were long legged and were often worn with a wide-brimmed straw hat like the example below from the Werner studio of Grafton Street. Joyce himself was photographed as a young boy wearing a sailor suit.

From A Little Cloud: “It was Annie’s photograph. Little Chandler looked at it, pausing at the thin tight lips. She wore the pale blue summer blouse which he had brought her home as a present one Saturday … He looked coldly into the eyes of the photograph and they answered coldly. Certainly they were pretty and the face itself was pretty. But he found something mean in it. Why was it so unconscious and ladylike? The composure of the eyes irritated him. They repelled him and defied him: there was no passion in them, no rapture.”

I think the expression of the woman above matches that described by Joyce in the story ‘The Little Cloud’. Blouse and skirt combinations were very popular during the 1890s and 1900s – the period during which Joyce wrote Dubliners and when the story is set.
From Eveline: “And yet during all those years she had never found out the name of the priest whose yellowing photograph hung on the wall above the broken harmonium beside the coloured print of the promises made to Blessed Mary May Alacoque. He had been a school friend of her father. Whenever he showed the photograph to a visitor her father used to pass it with a casual word:
‘He is in Melbourne now.’ ”

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I took a stroll down to Park Place yesterday to see if I could locate the building from which Guthrie Brothers operated. I have always liked the row of two and three storey houses which are located on an otherwise bleak stretch beside the Phoenix Park. The walk between Conyngham Road and Islandbridge features in James Joyce’s short story ‘A painful case’ where it is described as lonely and desolate. According to the 1901 census the business was in No.7 Park Place, however, I think some of the houses must have been demolished as there is no number 7 on that row now.

The Guthrie Brothers were born in China and South Africa, however, their mother hailed from County Fermanagh. They describe themselves on the census as ‘Photographic Artists’. The business was ideally located beside several military barracks including Islandbridge (Clancy) Barracks and the Royal now Collins Barracks. I believe the man in the photograph served in a regiment called The Buffs otherwise known as the Royal East Kent Regiment. It was probably taken between the 1890s and 1910s and is in the Cabinet Card format. A finger print is visible on the image- perhaps it was one of the Guthrie Brothers or their assistants! This person’s face and demeanor does nothing to dispel the image of the dour and stern military man!  

Like the Guthrie Brothers, Mr Honey (great name) boasts royal patronage. I think the man in the photograph also served with the Buffs though it is a more humane portrait than that taken by the Guthries. The sitter is younger and is not as imposing. The photographer was born in Devizes, Wiltshire and moved to Cork in the 1890s. The 1901 census shows that daughters gave violin lessons. 

The design on the verso of the photograph has some nice little details including a bamboo fan featuring a seascape and some ‘oriental’ patterns and line drawings. I bought the two photographs separately but I think they really make a good pairing!


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