April 2020

41 Brighton Square, Rathgar, Dublin

James Joyce was born on 2nd February 1882, in the house on Brighton Square, which as most commentators observe, is actually a triangle. The house was relatively new when the Joyces moved in, with Brighton Square established as a trust the year before, in 1891. James Joyce wasn’t actually born in Dublin City. In 1892 Brighton Square was in County Dublin, rather than the City. This was the case with most of the houses the Joyce family were born and lived in.

In Thom’s Directory of 1882, when he is first recorded in Brighton Square, John Joyce appears as Joyce, John esq. col.-gens office. He also makes an appearance in the category Nobility, Gentry, Merchants and Traders as Joyce, John Stanislaus, 41 Brighton square, w. Rathgar. He holds station in Thom’s Directory of 1883 and 1884. In Thom’s Directoryof 1885, he has left Brighton Square.

It should be noted that Thom’s Directory for each particular year gives details for the preceding year as it was published in January of each year, with the information frozen in October of the preceding year. So if you want information on Dublin in 1904, the Thom’s Directory to consult is the 1905 edition.

Joyce references Brighton Square in his work as he does most of the houses in which he lived. In the episode Penelope in Ulysses, Molly Bloom thinks of her early encounters with Poldy,

the very 1st opportunity he got a chance in Brighton square running into my bedroom pretending the ink got on his hands

James Joyce, Ulysses (p. 634).

When James Joyce was 2 years old he underwent the first of his numerous moves, setting a pattern that would continue until his death in Zurich in 1941. In this, his first move, he travelled a short distance, 1.8km northeast to 23 Castlewood Avenue in Rathmines. In John Stanislaus Joyce, Wyse Jackson and Costello (p. 126) say that the reason the Joyce Family moved was one of size, as Brighton Square was becoming cramped.

Between the first floor windows, you can see a plaque announcing this house as the birthplace of James Joyce. After a quick selfie with the house and plaque in the background, our journey begins and Con and I start the short cycle to Joyce’s second home.