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"James Joyce and 'Ulysses'" (2004)

Commentaries Nos. 3 & 6 – Thom’s Directory (1904) and census return for Mrs Mack (1901)


1901 census return for Mrs. Mack who appears in the "Circe" chapter of Ulysses.

1901 census return for Mrs. Mack who appears in the "Circe" chapter of Ulysses.

(3) The census return for Mrs. Mack’s establishment tells us that she was 50 in 1901, literate, Catholic, a widow, and born in Cork city. Her five “lodgers” range in age from 21 to 27, two are Protestant, three Catholic, and they were born variously in Bristol, Woolwich, County Louth, Tullow and Limerick. Their occupations are given as Milliner, Dressmaker, Lacemaker, Waitress, and Housemaid. There is also a servant, Rose Thompson, aged 32, a widow born in Liverpool. It is possible that some of the “lodgers” genuinely held these occupations, but they were far more likely to have been prostitutes.

1904 street directory for Dublin City

1904 street directory for Dublin City

(6) The Circe or Nighttown episode of Ulysses is largely set in one of the brothels in Dublin’s red-light district in Mecklenburg Street, by 1901 renamed Tyrone Street. Bloom is searching for Stephen in Mrs. Cohen’s house (no. 81), but thinks he has knocked instead at Mrs. Mack’s (no. 85): “Bloom: Is this Mrs Mack’s? Zoe: No, eightyone. Mrs Cohen’s. You might go farther and fare worse.” Eliza Mack also kept a brothel at no. 90, and was so well known that the whole area was sometimes referred to as “Macktown”. Bella Cohen was no longer in business in 1904, although she is listed in Thom’s Directory for that year, but Joyce revived her for artistic purposes.

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