Dublin’s literary legacy

A Unesco City of Literature, Dublin is justly proud of its literary heroes, and their footsteps are there to be followed at Dublin’s literary landmarks

Is Raglan Road is one of your favourite poems? Take a seat beside the bronze sculpture of poet Patrick Kavanagh and join him gazing out at the Grand Canal. Did Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest leave you in stitches? Tip your hat in thanks to Oscar as you pass his statue in Merrion Square.

A certain Samuel Beckett is remembered with a bridge over the River Liffey. A theatre in Trinity College recalls the Alma Mater of Booker Prizewinner, Anne Enright. If My Fair Lady will always be Pygmalion to you, then George Bernard Shaw’s birthplace should make your literary Dublin list.

But that’s not all…here are another five Dublin literary landmarks to add to that list.

Bloomsday

James Joyce penned Ulysses, possibly the finest novel in literature, and it's set in and about Dublin. The city’s nod to him is the annual Bloomsday bash on 16 June, when Joycean types celebrate the book by dressing Edwardian and going on a Ulysses-reading binge. Any time of the year, you can enjoy Joyce in Dublin though: high-five his bronze self on North Earl Street, pop into the James Joyce centre or pick up lemon soap at real-life Ulysses relic, Sweny’s.

Dublin Writers Museum

You’ll find literary heroes nicely packaged in places like the Dublin Writers Museum. Grainy sepia photographs of a louche-looking Oscar Wilde; postcards from playwright Brendan Behan in Los Angeles; Samuel Beckett’s telephone; and a first edition of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem The Great Hunger written in his own hand… if you’re in the mood to while away an entire day in literary immersion, this is the place.

The Abbey

Lady Augusta Gregory could well be considered the queen of Ireland's early 20th century literary revival. She was a dramatist, a folklorist and you can add theatre manager to that. Along with WB Yeats, it was Lady Gregory who co-founded Dublin’s Abbey Theatre with WB Yeats, thereby beginning the Irish Literary Revival. Yeats himself, George Bernard Shaw and John Millington Synge are just some of the names that were made in the Abbey.

Today, it remains firmly at the centre of Dublin’s literary life by hosting talks, lectures and top theatrical productions.

Also on the Yeats theme, The Yeats Exhibition at the National Library delves into the life and work of possibly Ireland’s greatest poet. According to the New York Times: “The exhibition draws its power not only from nimble navigational tools but also from the intimacy of the encounters.”


Dublin Literary Pub Crawl

The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl eloquently demonstrates Dublin’s affection for literature in verse and monologues, all on a journey of the pubs and places on which the city’s literary luminaries left their mark.

Neary’s, McDaid’s, The Old Stand, and The Palace Bar – all the classics are on the menu. The thought of Kavanagh, Behan, Flann O’Brien et al, bickering, drinking and dreaming makes these places more than just boozers.

With the right book, you can sample Dublin before you even arrive. You just need to know which one to dip into. For Literary Pub Crawl guide Colm Quilligan, the choice is an easy one: “Without a doubt Dubliners by James Joyce…a book written in a style of ‘scrupulous meanness’.”


Binchy by sea

Maeve Binchy’s passing in 2012 was met with sadness, but her work is still eliciting grins and giggles worldwide. And perhaps the odd teardrop.  Circle of Friends, Tara Road and Evening Class flew off the shelves and into bestseller lists.

Maeve is fondly remembered in the boutique seaside village of Dalkey, home to the Dalkey Book Festival (503179), where she used to read her short story about the town; and Finnegan’s pub on The Sorrento Road, where she and her husband Gordon even had their own regular table.