April 2020

23 Castlewood Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin

You can see in the picture above that the house at Castlewood Avenue is substantially larger than 41 Brighton Square, being double fronted and two storeys over basement.

Castlewood Avenue is in Rathmines and it was in this house that Joyce’s brother Stanislaus was born. A pattern was set. For the Joyces, there were to be a lot of houses and a lot of children.

In Thom’s Directory of 1885, 1886 and 1887, Joyce, John esq. is listed as residing at 23 Castlewood Avenue, Rathmines. His occupation, previously given as the col-gens office is not listed, perhaps the first sign of trouble ahead, but he is still to be found in the Nobility, Gentry, Merchants and Traders section.

In Thom’s Directory of 1888, the house at 23 Castlewood Avenue is occupied by a Patrick Carew. Joyce, John esq. of 23 Castlewood Avenue drops out of Thom’s Directory. A Joyce, John esq. is listed as 17 Richmond street, north, and 42 Sackville street, upper. This John Joyce remains in Richmond Street north for many years, causing confusion for people like me, tracing the Joyce family, as well as various landlords searching for John Stanislaus Joyce, ever elusive father of James.

Castlewood Avenue, being a relatively short distance from Brighton Square, allowed the Joyce family to stay in the social structures they were accustomed to, particularly the close family connections of Joyce’s mother May. The next house in Bray was some 20km away, to the southeast on the coast, perhaps deliberately chosen by John Joyce to keep his wife’s relatives away.

In Thom’s Directory of 1888, 1 Martello-Terrace, Strand, Bray is listed as vacant. It was soon to be filled.

The house at Castlewood Avenue is referenced in the list in Finnegans Wake, though like many of the houses Joyce gets the number wrong, understandable given the age he was when lived in the house,

3 Castlewoos. P.V. Arrusted. J.P. Converted to Hospitalism.
James Joyce. Finnegans Wake (p. 420).

This house is listed for rental online for €6,000 per month and if you are feeling flush, or just curious you can see the listing here. There is a plaque, which is to the right of the front door. It features in the listing, noting that James Joyce wrote his first words in this house. As it lists his age as being between 2 and 5 years old they are perhaps not as meaningful as the words he wrote in the coming years. We cycle by with the house on our right and onwards towards Bray.

I chose to cycle along the coast to Bray, enjoying the scenery and fresh air. On this leg, we passed two places that Joyce stayed in. First, we cycled to Dromard Terrace, formerly Seafort Avenue West, just off Sandymount Green, where Joyce spent the famous night of 16 June 1904, the day on which Ulysses is set. From here we cycled along the coast through Blackrock Park, where Stephen runs in A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, before cycling along the coast to where Ulysses opens with the Stately, plump Buck Mulligan on the stairhead in the Martello Tower in Sandycove, now the James Joyce Tower and Museum. Joyce stayed here for a week in September 1904. For some reason Oliver St. John Gogarty thinks it was longer. In, It Isn’t This Time Of Year At All! he writes,

We lived there for two years, greatly to the anxious relief of our parents. Joyce had a job at an adjoining school. I had some reading to do for my medical degree. When the weather was warm we sun-bathed on the roof, moving around the raised sentry platform with the sun and out of the wind. In the evenings we would visit the Arch, kept by watery-eyed Murray, soon to become a widower, or go into the Ship in Abbey Street in the city to meet Vincent Cosgrove or ‘Citizen ‘ Elwood, our friends from the Aula Maxima.
Oliver St. John Gogarty, It Isn’t This Time Of Year At All! (p. 69).

Perhaps living with Joyce for a week seemed like two years, but, by turning him into Buck Mulligan, Joyce made St. John Gogarty immortal.

Leaving Sandycove behind, we keep to the coast, cycling up the Vico Road, choosing it for its associations with Finnegans Wake.

As I went for walks with Joyce in the afternoons I attempted to make landings on and explorations of the territory that was looming before us. Joyce suggested I should read Vico. But had Vico been translated into a language I could read? Yes, Michelet had translated him into French. That was not too easy for me either, and I decided I could get enough knowledge of Vico to pass by reading the article about him in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Meanwhile I could talk about him on our promenades.
“He was one of those round-headed Neapolitan men,” Joyce told me. I forget whom he mentioned as another of them. He told me of Vico’s theory of the cycles in history. These historical cycles connected in some way with the Vico Road that follows the bend of Dublin Bay between Dalkey and Killiney — in Joyce’s mind they did anyway.
Padraic and Mary Column, Our Friend James Joyce (p. 122).

Giambattista Vico was born in Naples and this view south to Bray Head is often compared to the view of the Bay of Naples. The view is beautiful, but not so easy to enjoy when you are cycling uphill into a strong south easterly wind. Once you crest the hill and cycle under the archway at Killiney Hill, it’s pretty much downhill all the way to Bray.