Link Love: The Best of St. Pat’s 2013

SI do like a good toast, so on this national day of toasting to the Irish in us all I offer a trip around the blogosphere for some of the best of St. Patrick’s Day.

For Fun

The fun and fabulous Susie Lindau dances an Irish Jig and offers up some toasts for us to try.

Celebrating the Emerald Isle from space! Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield honors St. Patrick from the international space station by singing Danny Boy (not bad!) and wearin’ the green.

If you have green eyes (and I DO), you may be Irish, or female, or both. Laura Dimon offers up the statistics on what makes green eyes so unusual. Plus, the most famous green-eyed lass in literature. Any guesses?

For Food

The how-to video in Irish Soda Bread, the American Way is a mini-visual spectacle. If you replay that bit where she slathers the Irish butter and it melts a little, you can actually smell the warm bread spiced with caraway seeds and currants. I want to invite Melissa Clark to my house to make these buns for me. Like, right now. Yum.

The full St. Patrick’s Day traditional meal explained by Rachel Allen on the WSJ Speakeasy blog. In the category of “I’ll bet you didn’t know that”: her explanation of how Irish coffee was invented.

For the foodies out there an Irish food paradise on Wise Words, the oeuvre of Irish food blogger Mona Wise and her chef husband (winner of Blog Awards Ireland‘s Best Blog for 2012).

For Travel

Our Amazing Planet’s post A Photo Tour of Ireland not only captures images of the Emerald Isle and its people, it presents the history and traditions of the Irish in the photo captions.

My own discovery of Blarney Castle from 2012’s St. Paddy’s Day post, including some blarney from Winston Churchill and my mom.

Lastly, a celebration of St. Patrick’s Day would not be complete for me without my favorite Irish pub song, “The Wild Rover,” sung here by The Dubliners:

Slainte! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, Everyone! Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

Slainte: Toasting Jane Austen

Wherein I reveal my love for all things Jane Austen…

OK so I might be stretching the conclusion of my celebration of  toasting and things Irish by bringing Jane Austen into the picture, but she did have Irish connections, in her books, in her family, and in her love life.


One of the most provocative Irish connections for “Jane-ites” was Jane Austen’s youthful flirtation with Irish-born Thomas Lefroy, nephew-by-marriage of her close friend and neighbor Anne Lefroy. A couple of semi-sarcastic and giddy sentences in letters to her sister Cassandra from the winter of 1795-96 were eventually expanded into the fictionalized speculation of the 2007 movie, Becoming Jane, starring Anne Hathaway as Jane and James McAvoy as Tom Lefroy.

In this clip, the main characters explore the erotic power of words and banter about how Jane’s lack of experience of the world hampers her writing.

For a review of the film in the context with what we know about Jane Austen versus what we WANT to know, see this review by Dierdre Lynch for Slate.

OK one more picture of James McAvoy as Tom. Doesn’t he just rock that waistcoat and cravat?


For Jane’s Irish family connections, we have to look to a later generation. Author Sophia Hillan recently mined the lives and letters of Jane Austen’s nieces, Marianne, Louisa, and Cassandra, daughters of Jane’s brother Edward, who all ended up in Ireland during turbulent times. Here is the description of May, Lou, and Cass: Jane Austen’s Nieces in Ireland from Amazon:

Marianne, Louisa and Cassandra Knight – May, Lou and Cass – were Jane Austen’s nieces. Jane knew the girls well, reading and sewing with them as they grew up, and they were often the subjects of her witty letters.The Knight sisters went on to lead lives that bore a remarkable resemblance to the plots of their aunt’s famous novels. Handsome noblemen, dashing officers and penurious clergymen sought their hands in marriage, and just like Austen’s heroines, May, Lou and Cass experienced the pains of blighted love, the joy of patience rewarded and the sorrow of losing their childhood home.Yet even Jane Austen could not have imagined that her genteel nieces would find themselves in Ireland, a country riven with famine and land wars.

Drawing on diaries, manuscripts and letters, May, Lou & Cass tells for the first time the story of the Knight sisters and their extraordinary journey from the ordered world of Regency England to the turbulent upheaval of nineteenth-century Ireland.


In her works, Jane Austen mentions Ireland and the Irish, but in keeping with her general unwillingness to speculate about areas of life of which she had no direct knowledge (notice the point of view characters in all her novels are women), she does not expound. It is true we all have a certain image of Ireland in our heads that is so different from the image we have of England. A little wild and a little dangerous, Ireland. Perhaps Jane Austen thought so too.

“It was a sweet view — sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive.” ~Emma, Chapter 42

Contrast that idea with the Duke of Wellington’s (a contemporary of Jane Austen) retort when accused of being Irish: “Being born in a stable does not make one a horse.” (Yes, but it might well make one a horse’s ass…) But we will allow Wellington the context of his times too.

For a thorough review of Jane’s references to Ireland and the Irish, including critical historical context, see “Ireland in the Time of Jane Austen” by Joan Duffy Ghariani.


Which brings us, at last, to a toast.

“His leave of absence will soon expire, and he must return to his regiment. And what will then be their acquaintance? The mess-room will drink Isabella Thorpe for a fortnight, and she will laugh with your brother over poor Tilney’s passion for a month.”
~Northanger Abbey

The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England (to which I made a delightful visit in 2007!) has this to say about toasting in Jane’s time“Drinking a toast” to someone or something became immensely popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, to the point of excess. When a gathering would run out of attendees to toast, it became custom to toast absent friends, thus prolonging the drinking.

Anything to prolong the drinking! One more toast:

Here’s to the land of the shamrock
Where Irish hearts are true
Here’s to our blessed Saint Patrick
But most of all, here’s to you!

Do you like to speculate on historical figures’ love lives? Several contemporaries of Jane Austen left few letters. Jane’s letters were largely destroyed after her death by her sister Cassandra, leaving us only speculation about many areas of her life. Martha Washington was one who destroyed all her own correspondence with her husband, George, and King George IV’s (better known as the Prince Regent and the man who gave his name to the Regency Period)  letters and memorabilia were consigned to the fire after the King’s death by none other than Wellington himself. A very different environment from the blogosphere…

Some of my Jane Austen sources:

English Verdure at Austenprose

Who was the real Thomas Lefroy? at Irish Identity

Irish, I Dare Say from The Jane Austen Centre

Slainte: Flash Fiction– “Queenstown”

Moira clutched her mother’s hand as they weaved through ropes and piles of steamer trunks on the dock, wrinkling her nose at the scent of fish and brackish water. Men and women stood in groups, while porters pushed urgently through the crowd with luggage and bags, and seagulls wheeled and cried overhead. A young paperboy, about her size, called out his wares, a pile of fresh newsprint over his arm. Steam hissed at irregular intervals, and acrid coal-fired engines thrummed a steady beat Moira could feel deep in her chest.

“Will they have green grass in America then, Mum?”

Her mother glanced down at her but answered in that voice that said she wasn’t really listening. “Of a certainty, Moira. They have everything that’s green ‘n’ good in America. Not to mention yer Dad’s there waitin’ for us.”

Moira nodded, but a stab in her tummy that wasn’t breakfast porridge sent tears to her eyes. She squeezed Mum’s hand tighter.

“There it is,” said Mum.

Moira looked through the crowd, and her heart fell into her new high button shoes when she saw the ugly little boat. “Is that what is taking us to America?”

Her mother laughed, a clear trill that caused the men nearest them to look over at her. “Lord no, little Moira. That’s only the tender. Our ship is too great to moor here in Queenstown, so they’re sending us out on this boat called the America. Y’see?”

Moira nodded, but she didn’t really see at all why they’d had to leave Cork and Grandmum and Auntie Dierdre and her Cousins Louisa and Molly. She bit her lip, knowing Mum wouldn’t like it if she cried.

After a very long time indeed, Mum and Moira went aboard the ugly boat and it pulled away from the pier, but Moira eyes were droopy and the chuff-chuff of the tender’s steam engine soon lulled her to sleep.

“Wake up, sleepy girl. We’re comin’ up on the ship.” Mum picked her up and pointed into the distance. “There she is, sweetest! That’s our ship! That’s the ship that will take us to New York City and yer Dad.”

It truly was the most enormous ship Moira had ever seen, making all the others in in Cork Harbor seem like toys from her cousins’ toy box. For the first time since Mum had told her they were going to America, excitement bubbled up in Moira’s chest. She hugged her Mum close. As they passed by the stern, Moira read out loud the letters picked out in white on the black hull: T-I-T-A-N-I-C.

* * *

113 passengers embarked on the Titanic at Queenstown (now called Cobh), Ireland on 11 April 1912, many of them Irish immigrants with Third Class tickets. The Titanic itself had been built in Belfast, and its designer Thomas Andrews was an Irishman. Two thirds of the steerage passengers perished after the Titanic struck an iceberg on 14 April. In all only 712 of the 2,225 passengers and crew survived.

A picture of Cobh, County Cork, Ireland looking from the Cathedral out into Cork Harbor.

Irish immigration facts: Between 1846 and 1900 approximately 2,873,000 Irish came to America. Almost as many Irish women as men immigrated. Unlike other national groups, many women of Ireland came by themselves to live here.

For more information on the Irish on the Titanic, see The Irish on the Titanic post by Edward T. O’Donnell.

For pictures of the Titanic on its maiden (and only!) voyage, see TitanicPhotographs.

Did any of your relatives make the boat trip to America? Another what if of history…if the Titanic had had only 500 more feet of warning, it could have missed the iceberg entirely.