James Joyce’s Dublin Captured in Vintage Photos from 1897 to 1904

dublin 1902

The Google Cul­tur­al Insti­tute has drawn our atten­tion before, with its vir­tu­al exhi­bi­tions on the rise of the Eif­fel Tow­er, the fall of the Iron Cur­tain, and many oth­er notable chap­ters of human his­to­ry. Today, take a look at a Google Cul­tur­al Insti­tute gallery that has a foot in lit­er­a­ture as well as in his­to­ry, Dublin­ers: the Pho­tographs of J.J. Clarke from the Nation­al Library of Ire­land. Sub­ti­tled “a glimpse of James Joyce’s Dublin,” the online show presents pic­tures tak­en by this fel­low Clarke at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry, when he came to the Irish cap­i­tal to study med­i­cine. His “pho­to­jour­nal­is­tic approach to his sub­jects allowed him to cap­ture vivid scenes from the dai­ly lives of Dublin’s men, women and chil­dren.”


This made Clarke a con­tem­po­rary of Joyce, and so his “images also show us how the city looked” to the writer “whose best known works — the short sto­ry col­lec­tion Dublin­ers, and the nov­els A Por­trait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses — are all set around that time, when Joyce too was a young stu­dent fas­ci­nat­ed by the world around him.”

Both the pho­tog­ra­ph­er and the nov­el­ist, in their sep­a­rate forms, set about cap­tur­ing the city, the era, and the cul­ture around them, and the pic­tures of Clarke’s fea­tured at the Google Cul­tur­al Insti­tute could eas­i­ly illus­trate any of Joyce’s books.


I’ve long enjoyed repeat­ing the obser­va­tion that, had the real Dublin crum­bled, we could rebuild it from the details giv­en in Ulysses — or at least we could rebuild the Dublin of 1904. But I now accept that hav­ing on hand Clarke’s pho­tographs, about which you can learn much more at the Nation­al Library of Ire­land’s site, they would great­ly speed the recon­struc­tion process as well. All of the Joycean texts men­tioned above can be found in our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Vladimir Nabokov Cre­ates a Hand-Drawn Map of James Joyce’s Ulysses

James Joyce, With His Eye­sight Fail­ing, Draws a Sketch of Leopold Bloom (1926)

James Joyce Reads ‘Anna Livia Plura­belle’ from Finnegans Wake

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (22)
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  • LunaMoonJune says:

    loved that peri­od… men wore hats, peo­ple dressed up

    • Ann Peoples says:

      Hat­ed the corsets!

      • teledyn says:

        per­haps the *women* hat­ed corsets, but then, if that is true, why are they still so promi­nent in the La Sen­za adverts?nnThen again, con­sid­er­ing how the twen­ties’ flap­pers turned out, I expect the men weren’t real­ly com­plain­ing. (Is that why they called them ‘flap­pers’? Just askin’

      • LunaMoonJune says:

        as love­ly to look at shape­ly too are corsets, be bound by one & instant­ly you too nwould rather a flap­per be LOL

      • LunaMoonJune says:

        as love­ly to look at shape­ly too are corsets, be bound by one & instant­ly you too nwould rather a flap­per be LOL

  • Ann Peoples says:

    Dr Coop­er not with­stand­ing, I believe it had more to do with dance than phys­iog­no­my! nnThe peri­od between the World Wars was a time of social, class, and sex­u­al upheaval.nOther than that, have you ever worn a lace up corset? Let me tell you they are not for the faint of heart! Wore one in a play and — just say­ing!

  • Marek Bogacki says:

    “Had the real Dublin crum­bled . . “? Unfor­tu­nate­ly in a very sub­stan­tial sense the real Dublin has crum­bled. Only a short hop to the An Taisce offices or The Geor­gian Soci­ety web­site will show you the extent of it. Though it is local mess, it con­tin­ues to shape the nation’s image of itself. This is trag­ic for there are good many peo­ple here but the pre­vail­ing polit­i­cal ethos is is far below this coun­try’s best. Remem­ber the thou­sands that demon­strat­ed against the Wood Quay devel­op­ment? The pecu­liar pan­der­ing to the low­est com­mon denom­i­na­tor encap­su­lat­ed so well in the “sure, it’ll do” men­tal­i­ty does no one any favours here. The Irish who remem­ber the Dublin of the 40ties are few in num­ber and for the most part no longer care. In so man ways Ire­land is an extra­or­di­nary coun­try but as a com­mu­ni­ty it lacks a sense that it is self gov­ern­ing and that for all it’s woes no one else is to blame. The anni­hi­la­tion of the Irish rail­way net­work or the destruc­tion of Geor­gian Dublin are but two exam­ples of how hell bent this coun­try was on remak­ing itself. Unfor­tu­nate­ly it went about self def­i­n­i­tion the Tal­iban way. But cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty and a sense of self comes from accept­ing one’s past, from it’s own­er­ship, and the built envi­ron­ment is the very fab­ric in a very con­crete form of that shared sym­bol­ic order, to use Peter Fuller’s phrase.nnThe pride and spir­i­tu­al pay off that comes from the care and recon­struc­tion of the past — what the Poles have done in War­saw for exam­ple — is invalu­able. The rebuild­ing of nation­al her­itage, much of which was destroyed by acts of ide­o­log­i­cal vengeance, would help in no small mea­sure to heal the com­mon psy­che, the col­lec­tive uncon­scious if you will, and allow the Irish to own their past.nnOn a prac­ti­cal lev­el, this pol­i­cy would also re-invig­o­rate the crafts­men arti­san cul­ture and be a boon to the tourist indus­try, nee­dles to say. Again, the rebuild­ing of the War­saw cas­tle is a case in point.

  • David Jazay says:

    Pre-Boom Dublin in amaz­ing high res­o­lu­tion pho­tographs — nev­er seen before:


  • Neil Godwin says:

    If I had a mes­sage for the Irish peo­ple, it is cher­ish your her­itage, even if it was built by the British. We Brits cher­ish our Roman her­itage, and what is left of the Viking raids. It may have been unwel­come at the time, but it is our his­to­ry.
    Do not destroy some­thing because it is not “Irish”, ask only if it adds or detracts from its envi­ron­ment.….

  • Rishikesh Prasad says:

    Wow!! Love­ly nice photographs…really stun­ning..

  • D Banerjee says:

    Wow! Very inter­est­ing pho­tographs…

  • Sourav Haldar says:

    Awe­some! Real­ly very nice pho­tographs.…

  • Gopal Shaw says:

    Wow! Love­ly !!! Real­ly beau­ti­ful cap­tures.

  • shubhashis kar says:

    Nice pho­tographs that gave me some fresh feel­ings.

  • Sanjay Mishra says:

    Thank you so much to shar­ing this love­ly pho­tog­ra­phy. Bril­liant cap­ture. Nice place.

  • Palash Mukhopadhyay says:

    I just want­ed to say thanks. Real­ly nice & excel­lent pho­tographs.

  • Sanjay Mishra says:

    Such an nice cap­tures. Thanks For Shar­ing this great post with us.

  • Sanjay Mishra says:

    Such a won­der­ful cap­tures…

  • Nupur Mukherjee says:

    Love this pho­to­graph style. Real­ly nice cap­tures.

  • Rahul Singh says:

    This cap­ture is very won­der­ful! Love this post!

  • Swarup Mondal says:

    Real­ly awe­some pic­tures. I like all..

  • Bidyut Mondal says:

    Wow!! Awe­some pictures..really stun­ning..

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