Sweney's Pharmacy, Dublin

Sweney's Pharmacy, Dublin

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Built in 1847 as a GP’s consulting room and later adapted to include an apothecary and then a pharmacy, F.W. Sweny and Co (Limited) opened its doors as a dispensing chemist in 1853, in a fortuitous location in the heart of Dublin’s south inner city. The pharmacy has altered very little since that day. It has been “preserved through neglect” in memory of James Joyce.

Sweny’s mostly became famous by being described in sumptuous detail within the James Joyce’s famous novel Ulysses (1904). The hero, Leopold Bloom, comes into the shop, admires its bottles of potions and compounds and ponders the alchemy that the place possesses. While waiting for the pharmacist Bloom smells the lemony soap on the counter and takes a bar with him. The soap becomes the talisman for his journey and is re-created every year on 16 June, Bloomsday.

In 2009 Sweny’s ceased trading as a pharmacy and the doors closed. Some months later, while photographs were being taken of the interior of the shop, people began wandering inside in search of the famous lemon-scented soap. Sweny’s had no plan to trade, it just evolved, and the doors are still open today - operating as a second-hand book store, selling new and second-hand editions of Joyce’s works.

Sweny’s also holds a number of readings of Ulysses and other works by James Joyce throughout the Bloomsday week. “The sweet scent of lemon soap remains in the air; potions lie unopened and forever mystical. Photos waiting to be collected and portraits in their frames watch us while the pharmacists read aloud and recall romantic Dublin through the words of Joyce.”

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