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Serendiptious Literary Discoveries in Dublin

Home > Dublin > Books and Writing | Places of Interest | Walks
by Shikainah Champion-Samuel (subscribe)
A great believer in exploring the off beat, non-touristy things hidden inside every city. For my professional practice check www.shikainah.com
Published May 31st 2019
A walk in Dublin's fair city where the sights are so pretty
Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion or its more popular version - My Fair Lady, James Joyce's Ulysses and the poems of W.B Yeats .were always somewhere in my subconscious library, but on a recent visit to Dublin, whilst walking around doing the usual touristy stuff, I happened to see some unobtrusive memorials that testified to these sons of Irish soil who had made their mark on the world.

To begin with, house no. 3 Upper Synge street, slightly away from the main city centre, quietly bears a blue plaque that states 'the author of many plays'- George Bernard Shaw was born here in 1856. Having watched the movie My Fair Lady, shall we say, only about 20 times,
GB Shaw
On the way to Shaw's
I was delighted to take a photo outside this place. I understand it used to be a shaw museum but unfortunately closed down a few years ago due to lack of sufficient patronage.
GB Shaw
Shaw's birthplace


And, then whilst on a cliff walk in the seaside village of Howth, north of Dublin, I chanced upon another little blue plaque on a tiny cottage overlooking the sea, that told us that the Nobel laureate W.B Yeats used it as his summer residence - another accidental find!
Yeats, Dublin
Summer residence of Yeats


20th-century author of Ulysses, James Joyce, who forms part of essential reading for students of Modern English literature, seems to have been born just a stone's throw from the Air BnB we were staying in, in Rathgar.

Last but not the least, Jonathan Swift of Gulliver's Travels fame was found (okay, not the actual person, but his grave) in St. Patrick's Cathedral, where he was Dean from 1713-1745.
Swift
No Lilliput this- here lies Jonathan Swift- a big man in Irish history
A prolific writer and satirist, he is said to have written his own epitaph which, loosely translated from the original Latin reads

Where fierce Indignation
can no longer
injure the Heart.
Go forth, Voyager,
and copy, if you can,
this vigorous (to the best of his ability)
Champion of Liberty


Understanding the political activism that drove Swift, the undercurrents between the British empire and the Irish attempts at Independence would probably make the above epitaph seem less strange and more apropos. The Latin for the first line is actually 'saeva indignatio' which speaks of a 'savage indignation' that alludes to a type of contemptuous rage at certain human follies around. With no real equivalent in English to express such an emotion, this transliterated Latin phrase seems to have found its way into the English dictionary as is. I certainly enjoyed learning that bit of trivia!

My final find was the legendary 'Molly Malone' from the song, 'In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty'. Well, she was not a serendipitous find, strictly speaking. Sculpted in stone along with her wheelbarrow, she occupies a rather prominent spot in the Dublin's main fashion quarter.

Molly Malone
There I met sweet Molly Malone


So, these literary discoveries are, by and large, free of cost, except Swift's, as you would need to pay to visit the Cathedral. I am guessing that these may not be the main reasons you would visit Dublin, but if you find yourself there, why not look out for these!
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Why? An almost free literary fun activity
Where: Dublin
Cost: Free except for St. Patrick's Cathedral
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