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Bloomsday: Why James Joyce, Bloom and ‘Ulysses’ are celebrated today

Bloomsday is a celebration of the Dublin wanderings of James Joyce’s character Leopold Bloom in the novel Ulysses. Ulysses follows the life and thoughts of main character Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional – from 8am on June 16, 1904 into the early hours of the next morning. And so June 16th is celebrated by Joyceans as Bloomsday in Dublin and around the world.

If you are lucky – or organized – enough to be in the capital on June 16th, you’ll pass many a person dressed like a character from the book. The hallmark item of Bloomsday is the straw boater hat. Already today, I have passed a dozen and I have just made it into the city centre. Here, it is not only a day of celebrations but a week of readings, performances, breakfasts of liver and kidneys (blame Leopold) and animated walking trails around the city.

James Joyce Bloomsday
Bloomsday is a celebration of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.

Why 1904?

According to Joycean experts, we believe Joyce met Nora Barnacle, his future wife, for the first time on Friday June 10th, 1904 on Nassau Street, near Finn’s Hotel where Nora worked. They arranged to meet on Tuesday June 14th outside Sir William Wilde’s house on Merrion Square. Joyce turned up, but Nora did not. Joyce proceeded to write to her at the hotel asking if she would like to make another arrangement. According to Joyce’s biographer, they couple went walking together on June 16th and Joyce later told Nora “You made me a man”.

It was during this summer of 1904 that Joyce started to write the stories for Dubliners and, after spending almost a week living with Oliver Gogarty at the Martello Tower in Sandycove, Joyce made the decision to leave Ireland.
Some incidents from his summer became material for “Ulysses”. One such incident is when a drunken Joyce was thrown out of a National Theatre Society rehearsal in a hall on Camden Street. In the novel, this event is ascribed to Stephen.


Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy (Ulysses 18: Penelope) James Joyce

Past Celebrations

It was after Ulysses was published in 1922, that Joyce’s friends began to mark June 16th as Bloomsday. Though there were earlier celebrations in France, the first Bloomsday celebrated in Ireland was in 1954, the 50th anniversary. Writers Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien decided to re-enact Bloom’s journey across Dublin. They visited the Martello Tower at Sandycove, Davy Byrne’s pub, and 7 Eccles Street, reading parts of Ulysses and drinking a great deal as they went. Poet Anthony Cronin, who passed away this year, was also present representing Stephen Dedalus.

Favorite Quotes

Recently we read “Best-Loved Joyce written by James Joyce, Introduced by Bob Joyce and Edited by Jamie O’Connell. It is published by The O’Brien Press. Reading it reminded us of some of our favorite quotes from Joyce’s writing. Some will inspire you, we hope, to pour a cup of tea and pick up one of Joyce’s works. Others will inspire you to choose to travel to see us and experience Joyce’s Dublin in person!

To learn one must be humble. But life is the great teacher. Ulysses

A father, Stephen said, battling against hopelessness, is a necessary evil. Ulysses

She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed. A Mother, Dubliners

We were always loyal to lost causes, the professor said. Success for us is the dark of the intellect and of the imagination. Ulysses

One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. The Dead, Dubliners

I resent violence or intolerance in any shape or form… It’s a patent absurdity on the face of it to hate people because they live around the corner or speak another vernacular, so to speak. Ulysses

Good Puzzle would be cross Dublin without passing a pub. Ulysses

I wanted real adventure to happen to myself. But real adventues, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad. An Encounter, Dubliners

James Joyce Bloomsday
Readings and events take place around Dublin to celebrate Bloomsday. Credit: Getty

If you are interested in a Joycean Tour Of Dublin or Literary Tour of Ireland, please contact us by email (info@irelandchauffeurtravel.com) or submit an Enquiry Form.

@LeonieCorcoran