“He strolled out of the shop,
the newspaper baton under his armpit,
the coolwrappered soap in his left hand.”
Ulysses, J. Joyce (1922)
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.
The interior of this historical hub is small and quaint, approximately 11ft wide by 14ft long with beautiful high ceilings. Much of the floor space is taken up by the mahogany counters and there is also a small room at the rear of the store.
Today the shop is maintained by volunteers, in the same condition as it was when the young James Joyce first visited. It has been here for Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and the residents of Fenian Street and Westland Row for over a hundred years.
Sweny’s operates as a second-hand book store, also selling new and second-hand editions of Joyce’s works. The shop stocks a small selection of local crafts such as hand-crafted jewellery and hats, as well as vintage silverware and curios. And, of course, our famous lemon-scented soap!
Proceeds from the sale of our famous soap, books, postcards etc. go towards the upkeep and preservation of this important literary landmark.
Sweny’s also holds a number of readings of Ulysses and other works by Joyce throughout the week. Please see our Reading Groups page for more information.