What do you do when you lose your way? Do you plough on regardless? Do you change course? Or do you just stay still and worry that it was all a foolhardy idea in the first place?
I lost my sense of direction around November last year, a situation for which I blame the Arts
Council funding. Imposter syndrome grabbed my viciously by the heart and I lost confidence in what I had done and what I was planning to do.
In fact, I realised I didn't know what I was doing at all.
I knew I was creating a set of images about a particular woman with which I would highlight life for women in eighteenth-century Dublin. But what was the purpose of this work? At whom was it aimed? How would it be presented? Would it be a portfolio of images? An illustrated biography? A walking trail? An unlooked at folder forever hidden on my hard drive?
I found I couldn't go forward until I knew my direction so I stayed still and waited.
And when it became apparent that no path was going to magically reveal itself, I dug out a map. John Rocque, map-maker supreme created this delight in 1756. It claims to show ‘all publick buildings, private dwelling houses, ware houses, stables, courts, yards, &c.' and it really does. Here's a link to an online version where you can zoom in and see for yourself.
As I wandered about the Georgian map, I imagined Peg leaving her house on Pitt Street, visiting her frenemy Kitty-Cut-a-Dash on Grafton Street, browsing for silks and satins in Mr Grogan's on Dame Street, having a stand-up row with actress, Miss Cately near Thomas Read's on Parliament Street, and returning home to dress for a masquerade ball in the Rotunda Pleasure Gardens (image below).
I thought back on the various places I lived in the city and traced my route to work from Merrion Square to Leeson Street. I touched the street at the back of the castle where my friend and I found rascally men. I found the street where my daughter was in creche. I remembered how much living I did in Dublin. I remembered how much I loved Dublin. I wondered if I could create a set of images which featured those parts of Peg's Dublin which are still there today.
I decided to start with Parliament House on College Green. It's a beautiful building where The House of Commons and the House of Lords would meet during the Season. Opposite is Trinity College , a place of learning for young gentlmen. Adjacent Daly's Club House, an elite male social club. Basically this small area of Dublin was jam-packed with men. Peg mentions she made it her business to see and be seen in this spot.
Parliament House has not changed over the years, but the buildings on either side have. Below are some references to the older streetscape.
I imagined Peg and her business partner, Sally Hayes promenading, displaying their wares. Peg tells us of a song she used to sing.
My Pride is to hold all Mankind in my Chain;
The Conquest I prize, tho’ the Slaves I disdain:
I’ll teaze them and vex them,I’ll plague and perplex them:
Since Men try all Arts our weak Sex to betray,
I’ll show them a Woman’s as cunning as they.
I believe she genuinely liked men. But I also think, bruised by her past experiences, she now delighted in wielding power over the opposition. I've included a line from her song in the latest image.
I'm up and running again. I have a direction in which to venture. It may be the wrong direction but I have the energy to delve down this road awhile. I'm going to cross the river and take a trip up Sackville Street. I'm heading to the Rotunda Pleasure Gardens but will stop briefly along the way. You may have noticed the balloonist in the top right hand corner of the image above. I want to tell you about him next time.