The Corner

Happy Belated St. Patrick’s Day

How many people read A Christmas Carol in January? Well, that’s me: Yesterday, I finished reading St. Patrick of Ireland, by Philip Freeman, a week and a half after the feast day. I mention it here because it’s an excellent book–a short and compelling biography of a historical figure about which very little is known. Because the primary sources are so scarce–just about everything comes from a pair of letters Patrick wrote (both translated in an epilogue)–Freeman spends much of his time discussing context: pagan life in Ireland, the collapse of the Roman empire, the coming of Christianity, the monastic tradition, etc. He also has a knack for colorful anecdotes, such as when he describes “the Burgundian law that anyone caught stealing a dog had to kiss the hound’s rear end in front of the whole village.” If you’ve ever wondered why people wear green on March 17, check it out.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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