In addition to being a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, Dorian Gray was created in 1890 by Oscar Wilde. Of Irish ancestry (Wilde’s mother, Lady Jane, who wrote poetry under the pen name Speranza, supported the Irish national movement), Wilde identified with the Celtic country in that he saw himself as an outsider. He rebelled against conventional British morality; like his then-shocking homosexuality, Ireland represented his shadow side. Some modern critics consider A Picture of Dorian Gray, with its Gothic and Romantic overtones, to be a national tale of Ireland. Others consider it to be an English novel written by a man with an Irish father (an ear and eye surgeon) who would die, alone, penniless and almost friendless, in a Paris hotel room.
A more well-known symbol of Ireland, trotted out every St. Patrick’s Day (which falls on Friday, March 17), is the leprechaun. Sometimes the word “leprechaun” is traced to that of “bhrogan”, meaning shoemaker. Cobbling is indeed the traditional occupation of these little, bearded men, a cousin of the fairy–interestingly there are no female leprechauns. Depicted as solitary, and often nasty, the leprechaun was originally shown in folklore as wearing red, not green. and clad in a leather apron. Every leprechaun is considered to have one pot of gold which he keeps at the end of a rainbow (the sprite equivalent of a bank). If you ever hear the tap, tap, tap of a teeny hammer you will know that one is near. Be careful, though; charming one minute the leprechaun can easily turn on you and kill you with a glance, especially if he thinks you are after his gold.
What does Dorian Gray have in common with leprechauns? Nothing, actually. They make him shudder; the astonishingly handsome man’s worst nightmare is to wake up looking like this: