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Dublin Between the Covers

By: Anita Draycott

Discover the literary side of Ireland’s Capital

James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw... Few countries in the world have produced so many prolific poets and writers as Ireland. Blame the breathtaking scenery, the island’s isolation, the beguiling history and leprechaun lore or the fact that the Irish seem to be blessed with the Gaelic gift of the gab.

If you’ve got a craving to explore the bookish side of fair Dublin, with a few pints and some indulgences tossed in for good measure, read on.

Literary Corner

The ideal place to start your literary ramble is at the Dublin Writers Museum. The 18th century mansion was once the home of the Jameson Irish Whiskey family. It seems that the “water of life” and writers are never far apart in Ireland. Swift and Sheridan, Shaw and Wilde, Yeats, Joyce and Beckett are among those presented through their books, letters, portraits and personal items. The rooms house such treasures as James Joyce’s piano, an 1804 edition of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and the first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Meet the Dubliners

The City of a Thousand Welcomes is a new initiative to encourage tourists to immerse themselves in local culture and meet true Dubliners. At the Little Museum you are introduced to a local ambassador who will take you to a nearby bar, buy you a pint or a cup of tea and tell you a bit about the fair Dublin. Guaranteed good craic.

Soap Opera

James Joyce’s masterwork Ulysses details a single day (June 16) in the life of Leopold Bloom. At Dublin’s 10-day Bloomsday Festival, Joyceans, often dressed in Edwardian garb, follow in their hero’s every footstep. If you want to tread in Bloom’s tracks begin at Sweny’s, the funky old pharmacy where Bloom purchased a bar of lemon-scented soap.  Today they sell used books, a mishmash of antiques and the lemon soap (€3.50). Every day at 1pm there are Joyce readings by volunteers. You could be that volunteer.

The Pub, the Poets and the Pints

For a night on the town you won’t forget, join Colm Quilligan’s Dublin Literary Pub Crawl where “brain cells are replaced as quickly as they are drowned.” Start your crawl at the Duke pub where you’re invited to buy a drink (or not) and meet two talented actors in a back room who’ll recite some lines from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, (“the only play I’ve seen where nothing happened.”) Then it's past a couple of landmark buildings of Ulysses fame and onto the Trinity College campus where the actors delight crawlers with verses and tales of Oscar Wilde. A few more vintage pubs and a lot more lines and you’ll have had Dublin’s best crash course in history, architecture and literature all washed down with merriment and a few suds. Cost is €12.00 and you buy your own beverage.

Thanks George Bernard Shaw

As a kid growing up in Dublin George Bernard Shaw detested school so he played hooky by hiding out at the National Gallery where the curator turned a blind eye. When Shaw died in 1950, he bequeathed one third of his royalty income in perpetuity to the Gallery, thus enabling it to purchase European masterpieces that had been hid and confiscated during WW2. Highlights include works by Caravaggio, Monet, Brueghel, Rubens, Rembrandt and Titian. Entrance is free.

The Mother of Irish Tomes

Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university, had a knack for turning out many of the Emerald Isle’s literary giants. Swift, Wilde, Stoker and Beckett…to namedrop a few. Trinity is also home to the 9th-century illuminated Book of Kells. Each of the 680 pages in this work of art, surviving from the ages of Celtic Christianity, is decorated with elaborate patterns and mythical animals by the hands of scribes and monks of the monastery Kells.




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