The interior of Sweny’s is the same today as when it first opened as a pharmacy in 1847. A testament to James Joyce’s Ulysses, Sweny’s was immortalized in chapter 5 by Leopold Bloom who purchased a bar of ‘Sweny’s Lemon Scented Soap’. Though Sweny’s ceased being a working pharmacy in 2009 it is now preserved in its original state, and run by a group of volunteers led by PJ Murphy, Wendy Conroy and Cecilia Fox. The day I visited I chatted with Davey Doyle who is the volunteer on Wednesdays. Sweny’s has now been transformed into an unofficial Joyce museum. There are colorful cushioned chairs against the mirrored, dark wood cabinets to host the daily readings from Joyce’s works. Books, new and secondhand, are piled on central tables. The cabinets hold pharmaceutical treasures from a bygone era. One drawer reveals unidentified pharmaceutical ingredients in their original brown paper wrappings, another uncollected photographs from the 50’s and 60’s. The lemon scented soap is still a best seller, handmade in Wexford and wrapped in the shop by the volunteers. Davey loves meeting visitors from ‘all nations’ who come to chat about Joyce and buy some soap. An important Joycean landmark, especially on Bloomsday, when there is bedlam in Sweny’s and demand for the lemon scented soap far outpaces the supply.
1 Lincoln Place, Dublin 2