Museum of Literature Ireland

Grafton Street & St Stephen's Green

Newly opened in September 2019, the Museum of Literature Ireland is a digital, interactive exploration of Ireland's deep literary heritage, from the Middle Ages to the present day. Highlights include Joyce's Ulysses notebooks as well as the very first print of the novel. The museum is in two stunning Georgian townhouses collectively known as Newman House, which in 1865 saw the establishment of the Catholic University of Ireland, the alma mater of Joyce, Pádraig Pearse and Eamon de Valera.

The college was founded as an alternative to the Protestant hegemony of Trinity College, which was then the only option available to those seeking third-level education in Ireland. Newman House is still part of the college, which later decamped to the suburb of Belfield and changed its name to University College Dublin.

The house comprises two exquisitely restored townhouses. No 85, the granite-faced original, was designed by Richard Cassels in 1738 for parliamentarian Hugh Montgomery, who sold it to Richard Chapel Whaley, MP, in 1765. Whaley wanted a grander home, so he commissioned another house next door at No 86.

Aside from Cassels' wonderful design, the highlight of the building is the plasterwork, perhaps the finest in the city. For No 85, the artists were the Italian stuccodores Paolo and Filippo Lafranchini, whose work is best appreciated in the wonderfully detailed Apollo Room on the ground floor. The plasterwork in No 86 was done by Robert West, but it is not quite up to the high standard of next door. When the newly founded, Jesuit-run Catholic University of Ireland took possession of the house in 1865, alterations were made to some of the more graphic plasterwork, supplying the nude figures with 'modesty vests'.

During Whaley's residency, the house developed a certain notoriety, largely due to the activities of his son, Buck, a notorious gambler and hellraiser who once walked all the way to Jerusalem for a bet and somehow connived to have himself elected to parliament at the tender age of 17. During the university's tenure, however, the residents were a far more temperate lot. The Jesuit priest and wonderful poet Gerard Manley Hopkins lived here during his time as professor of classics, from 1884 until his death in 1889. Hopkins' bedroom is preserved as it would have been during his residence, as is the classroom where the young James Joyce studied while obtaining his Bachelor of Arts degree between 1899 and 1902.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Grafton Street & St Stephen's Green attractions

1. Newman University Church

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Cardinal Newman didn't care too much for the Gothic style of his day, so the 1856 church attached to his Catholic University of Ireland at Newman House is…

2. James Joyce Bust

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On the south side of St Stephen's Green is a bust of James Joyce by US-born Irish sculptor Marjorie Fitzgibbon (1930–). It faces Newman House, part of…

3. Iveagh Gardens

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These beautiful gardens may not have the sculpted elegance of the other city parks, but they never get too crowded and the warden won't bark at you if you…

4. Adam's Tree

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Between the bandstand and the James Joyce statue in St Stephen's Green is a young oak tree at the base of which are scattered the ashes of guitarist Adam…

5. Iveagh House

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The headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs occupies two splendid Georgian houses that were joined together by Benjamin Guinness when he bought…

6. Three Fates Statue

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This statue of the Three Fates by the southwestern corner of St Stephen's Green was presented to the city of Dublin in 1956 by West German president Roman…

7. Garden for the Blind

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The centre of St Stephen's Green has a sensory garden for the blind, with signs in Braille and aromatic shrubs and plants that can be handled.

8. Countess Markievicz Bust

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This 1954 bronze bust of the Countess Markievicz, in the southeastern corner of St Stephen's Green, is the work of artist Seamus Murphy (1907–75) and…