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France and Ireland in the Public Imagination


Edited By Benjamin Keatinge and Mary Pierse

This engaging collection of essays considers the cultural complexities of the Franco-Irish relationship in song and story, image and cuisine, novels, paintings and poetry. It casts a fresh eye on public perceptions of the historic bonds between Ireland and France, revealing a rich variety of contact and influence. Controversy is not shirked, whether on the subject of Irish economic decline or reflecting on prominent, contentious personalities such as Ian Paisley and Michel Houellebecq. Contrasting ideas of the popular and the intellectual emerge in a study of Brendan Kennelly; recent Irish tribunals are analysed in the light of French cultural theory; and familiar renditions of Franco-Irish links are re-evaluated against the evidence of newspaper and journal accounts.
Drawing on the disciplines of history, art, economics and literature, and dipping into the good wines of France and Ireland, the book paints a fascinating picture of the relationship between the two countries over three dramatic centuries.
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Ireland in the Georgian Era: Was There Any Kingdom in Europe So Good a Customer at Bordeaux?


Irish wine

Many different wines were available in eighteenth-century Ireland, but the consumption of the ← 223 | 224 → red wine of Bordeaux, commonly called ‘claret’, was an integral element of élite socializing and dining. In the public imagination in Ireland, as elsewhere at that period, France was the recognized arbiter of gastronomic matters. Even if her influence in this sphere was sometimes parodied or criticized, her wines were esteemed above all others.1 This fact, operating in conjunction with Irish links with Bordeaux – particularly those established in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries – served to influence élite consumer perception of, and preference for, its red wines, and resulted in a marked predilection for claret by Ireland’s privileged classes throughout the Georgian period.

In the modern era, stout, whiskey, and poitín are the alcoholic beverages most closely associated with Ireland in the public imagination. Today’s modern consumer, whether French or Irish, is largely unaware of the fact that long before ‘la Guinness’ established its iconic relationship with Ireland’s drinkers, claret was the gentleman’s tipple de préférence. The red wine of Bordeaux was consumed so widely and with such relish by Ireland’s nobility and gentry in the eighteenth century that Dean Swift, in a personal letter, playfully referred to it as ‘Irish wine’, confident that his correspondent would recognize the term as denoting claret.2 Claret, though also a preferred wine in England in this period, often ceded its popularity there to that of port,...

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