Dublin does a fine job of honouring her literary children, even the wayward ones who would have spat in her eye when they were alive. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll spot memorials all over the city.
I’m going to tell you about some of my favourites. It’s by no means an exhaustive list. I’ve no doubt some of you will get to the end, scratch your head and say, But how could she leave out…?
Let’s start with my secret crush.
He’s tall, as far as I can tell. And you know he’s a good sport because he’s sat on a hunk of rock at a very odd angle. Still, he smiles. He’s a fine figure of a man with a rakish sort of charm. Oh, and he’s a snappy dresser.
Would it worry you to learn he’s the statue of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square? Blow him a kiss for me next time you’re in the area. It’ll make his day.
I have a special fondness, too, for John Coll’s statue of Brendan Behan up there on the banks of the Royal Canal at the Binn’s Bridge end. More than most, he seems the quintessential Dubliner. He sits on his bench with his head is turned away from Mountjoy Jail, which is perfectly understandable. He wants only a pint of Guinness to be perfectly life-like.
If Brendan reigns over the Royal, then Patrick Kavanagh is lord of the Grand Canal. He has a bench of his own, of course, down near Baggot Stree Bridge. He’s sat there with his legs crossed and his arms folded no doubt waiting for the river to pour redemption into him.
Your man, James Joyce has a swishy looking piece in North Earl Street near O’Connell Street. What a dandy he looks with his hat at a jaunty angle and his stick in his hand. Not content with keeping an eye on the Spire (well, someone has to), Jim also has a bust in St Stephen’s Green. And a museum. And a library. And a bust beside the library… Sure, anyone would think we loved him.
Oddly enough, there’s surprisingly little in the city to memorialise Bram Stoker. Whitby in north Yorkshire has devoted almost the entire town to him, but I suppose his Dracula did help put them on the map. Still, he has a hotel and a Dracula museum and a park in Merino, so he hasn’t been ignored. I think we’ve missed a trick, though, by not having a statue of him with his bats somewhere in the city centre. Temple Bar with its cobbled streets would be the perfect venue. Mind, it wouldn’t take long till people started hanging garlands of garlic around his neck.
But if it’s memorials of writers you want you can’t do better than visit St Patrick’s Park. It’s right beside the Cathedral, there are plaques to former dean, Jonathan Swift, as well as James Clarence Mangan, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, J.M. Synge, Sean O’Casey, James Joyce, Brendan Behan and Samuel Beckett.
Three of Dublin’s bridges are named for writers.
There’s the James Joyce bridge (2003); the Sean O’Casey bridge (2005);
and the Samuel Beckett bridge (2009).
DUBLIN WRITERS’ MUSEUM
Dublin is a city of sons.
Here, you’ll find first editions, letters, personal items, and works of art. It’s worth a visit. Don’t miss the Gorham Library while you’re there. Oh, and Bernard Shaw’s signed letter to a fan declining to give an autograph…
Coming back to the women for a minute, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there’s precious little evidence of the female sex among the city’s monuments and memorials. The Writers’ Museum offers Mary Lavin’s teddy bear and Lady Gregory’s lorgnette. Veronica Guerin has a bust outside the Chester Beatty Library, but that’s about it. Time the oversight was redressed, I think. I’d love to see a Mount Rushmore type of thing, maybe in the Phoenix Park, with the faces of Elizabeth Bowen, Maeve Binchey, Clare Boylan and Paula Meehan carved into a hunk of rock. Get on that, Dublin City Council, will you, please?
What are your favourite remembrances of our literary giants? Who’s not remembered that should be? Let us know in the comments.