Killarney’s Beauties

U 17.1391-4: The Beauties of Killarney (wrappers). When We Were Boys by William O'Brien MP (green cloth, slightly faded, envelope bookmark at p. 217).

If we continue with the view that Bloom’s library consisted of real texts, then we might look for a real-life counterpart of The Beauties of Killarney. Killarney, in County Kerry in the south-west of Ireland, has been a popular tourist destination since the eighteenth century, and is particularly famed for its lakes to the west and south of the town. Daniel T. Sheehan, one of Joyce’s university friends (Letters, 4 August 1909: vol. II, p. 230-1), was born in 1883 in Killarney, where his father – sometime rebel and nationalist M.P. - ran a tourist hotel.

The expression ‘the beauties of Killarney’ was adopted early by the tourist industry. It occurs in Arthur Young’s Tour in Ireland (1780), and regularly throughout the nineteenth century:

This is the bed of a considerable stream, which forms O'Sullivan's Cascade, to which all strangers are conducted, as one of the principal beauties of Killarney.

Arthur Young Tour in Ireland (1780, ed. 2), vol. I, p. 456

Scenes from Killarney. "The Lakes of Killarney!" Where in the wide world does Nature unfold more beauties, more attractions to her lovers, than by these romantic lakes […] Scotland and the North have their lakes, but they must yield to the beauties of Killarney.

Lady’s Newspaper (1849) 11 August

But despite the existence of the expression, it has proved difficult to pin down the book to which Joyce refers. Fortunately Susan Bazargan has unravelled the truth:

Searching in the National Library of Ireland, I came across the book, a slim volume whose precise title is Picturesque Guide to the Lakes of Killarney. The title "The Beauties of Killarney" appears not on the title page but on the first page - used almost as a chapter heading - except that the "chapter" is the whole book of twenty-eight pages, the heading repeated on every other page. A reader could easily register and later recall "The Beauties of Killarney" as the proper title.

There’s little doubt that the Picturesque Guide is the book to which Bloom refers. Bloom sees the spine of the book in the mirror – and the copy at the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick is catalogued: “Notes: spine title”. So “Beauties of Killarney” is what appears on the spine, as Bloom has led us to believe.

John Simpson

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