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Gerard Carty on The Shelbourne Hotel
Gerard Carty on Bowen’s Court

Gerard Carty on Seven Winters

17 October, 2022

In Seven Winters (1942), the city of Dublin, where she spent her early years, appears as a reflection, a translation of the felt experience of a seven year old, now in mature years, piecing together the characters of the city, its form and colour where

the tense distances that one only slowly demolished gave a feeling of undertaking to any walk. Everything in this quarter seemed outsize. the width of the streets, the stretch of the squares, the unbroken cliff like heights of the houses made the human idea look to me superhuman. And there was something abstract about this light, with its built up planes of shadow and light*

This small book, almost like a childrens’ story book, captures the character of the house where she was born and first lived, the neighbourhood and its public buildings, characters that are domestic and intimate, civic and monumental, that were her constant companions as an only child. Her description of the terrace house, its piano nobile of social rooms overlooking the Grand Canal, a relatively new piece of city infrastructure at its door, her attendance at the church of St Steven (the pepper canister, where she was baptised) feature, as does the portico of the church facing west, holding the grand axis along Upr. Mount St leading to Merrion Sq. and on to what was then the Royal Dublin Society, (RDS). Formerly, a grand city residence, Leinster house later became the Irish parliament. She describes her fond memories of walks there with her father, traversing its Palladian inspired halls and onwards to Grafton St. a busy premier shopping street of the city. This city derive is now unavailable to Dubliners, but must have made a striking imprint on the mind of the embryonic writer reflected in more mature years. The physicality of Dublin, its plain grain of brick faced houses set alight by the evening sun, the russet and deep orange on summer evenings made a profound impression to the extent that it provoked a necessary description in Seven Winters, as childhood reflection, deeply imprinted of that city;

on such days, Dublin appeared to seal up sunshine as an unopened orange seals up juice. the most implacable buildings were lanced with light; the glass half-moons over the darkened front doors glowed with sun that, let in by a staircase window, felt like a cascade down flights of stairs*

 

* both quotes taken from Seven Winters – Memories of a Dublin Childhood

Gerard Carty on Seven Winters

In Seven Winters (1942), the city of Dublin, where she spent her early years, appears as a reflection, a translation of the felt experience of a seven year old, now in mature years, piecing together the characters of the city, its form and colour where the tense distances that one only slowly demolished gave a […]