What do Saint Patrick and Jane Austen have in common?

Guest Post By Cynthia Ingram Hensleyshamrock

Top of the mornin’ to ye, fellow Austenites! And the happiest of Saint Patrick’s Day wishes!

Now, to answer the question: What do Saint Patrick and Jane Austen have in common? Well, probably not a whole lot. However, if you will humor me for a moment while supporting the “six degrees of separation” theory, then we can share some fun Austen facts in Irish fashion on this Saint Patrick’s Day.

TLAs many of you already know, reportedly our dear Miss Austen was once courted by an Irishman named Thomas LeFroy. Actually, Tom was part Irish and part Huguenot. Basically meaning that part of his lineage was French Protestants who left France due to Catholic persecution, fleeing to Ireland under English protection, most likely during the latter part of the 17th century. And though a lesson on European Christendom is quite interesting and rather fitting for Saint Patrick’s Day, we’ll leave the long, tumultuous religious history of that great continent on the back of the hob for now and get back to Jane and St. Paddy, or more specifically, Jane and Tom LeFroy, who was from Ireland of which Saint Patrick himself is the patron saint. See there, that was as easy as connecting Kevin Bacon with Queen Elizabeth II—kind of.

Like most authors of Austen fan fiction, I reached into my favorite Austen novel—for me Pride and Prejudice—and pulled out of that classical and celebrated love story a tale of my very own. And though it was Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy who most inspired me, by no small extent did the courtship between Jane Austen and Tom LeFroy stir my imagination. As a matter of fact, I have probably watched Becoming Jane almost as many times as I’ve watched Pride and Prejudice—mind I said almost.

In Becoming Jane Austen, a biography written by Jon Hunter Spence, Spence suggests that Jane Austen most likely used hers and LeFroy’s personalities for the characters of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with the interesting twist of Mr. Darcy being a play on Jane herself and Elizabeth Bennet being more a portrayal of Tom LeFroy. It was then and there I decided that my Elizabeth Bennet must be a man. And, in honor of Tom LeFroy, the next step seemed obvious…he must also be Irish.

It was with a hopeful heavenly nod from Miss Austen, that I sat down and constructed a story of misinterpretations and mistaken first impressions and, like Jane, took my characters on a journey of emerging understanding to better appreciate the human spirit. Which is an extremely technical way of saying I wrote a love story—a funny, sweet, happy ending, Austen-style love story. So, if you find yourself craving a handsome Irishman with just the right amount of Irish brogue and a wee bit of Irish humor this Saint Patrick’s Day, skip the shepard’s pie and green beer at the pub and instead read (warning: you are about to experience a shameless book plug) the two book series Echoes of Pemberley and The Heart Does Whisper. Pull up a pew (that’s Irish for sit down) and travel back to Pemberley once more and join predictably haughty Catie Darcy (aka: Mr. Darcy, Jane Austen) and—yep, you guessed it—arrogant Sean Kelly (aka: Elizabeth Bennet, Tom LeFroy) on the familiar yet always unique path of the heart and find in this new generation a fresh romance with historical roots and Austen-like parallels that will appeal to the purest of Austenites.

Echoes of Pemberley - Cynthia I. Hensley

As for our dear Saint Patrick, he has an inspirational, uplifting story all his own. So if you do make it to the local pub this Saint Patrick’s Day, lift a glass to himself and then lift a glass to Thomas LeFroy, the man who might have loved Jane Austen…the man who just might have been the muse for Miss Elizabeth Bennet. If that be the case, do we not owe a hearty toast on a fresh round of Guinness to this Irishman? Aye, I’d say we do! So, Sláinte and happy Saint Patrick’s Day!