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Posts Tagged ‘Frances’

Tomorrow is the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, probably the greatest of all nineteenth century novelists — and a contender for the greatest novelist of all time.

His works also provide a mine of wonderful names. To celebrate his birthday, today and tomorrow I’ll be featuring a selection of those which have fabulous potential for a baby born two hundred years on…

And others which make fine names for cats!

  • Abel — a name which features in more than one Dickens novel; there’s Abel Garland in The Old Curiosity Shop, and Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations. Abel is a biblical name still waiting in the wings somewhat,  though he has been rising steadily for years and years and broke the US top 1000 for the first time since records began in 2010. If you like him, use him now!
  • Affery — Affery Flintwinch is a maid in Little Dorrit. Dickens was an avid collector of names, and Affery was one of his finds. A form of Aphra.
  • Agnes — Agnes Wickfield is David’s childhood friend and second wife in David Copperfield.
  • Arabella — buzzing round the baby name boards as a successor to Isabella, Dickens used Arabella in Pickwick Papers for Miss Arabella Allen. In the UK, a name which until recently was regarded as rather archetypical of the Upper Class.
  • Avenger — “The Avenger” is the name by which Pip’s serving boy is known in Great Expectations.
  • Bamber — In Pickwick Papers, we meet with a Jack Bamber. The name  was made familiar to most in the UK by the TV presenter Bamber Gascoigne (b.1935), but not many know there were two eighteenth century politicians also called Bamber Gascoyne, the first born in 1725 — his father was called Crisp.
  • Barnaby — eponymous hero of Barnaby Rudge. Barnaby is another name mostly heard in British public (i.e. very expensive fee-paying) schools. It has never reached the US top 1000, but 224th in England and Wales in 2010.
  • Belle — yes, there is another Belle besides the one in Beauty and the Beast.  Belle was Scrooge’s fiancée in A Christmas Carol.
  • Betsy — with unpretentious and old fashioned charm, Dickens used Betsy more than once. The best known is Betsy Trotwood is David’s crunchy but kind old great-aunt in David Copperfield.
  • Brownlow — Mr Brownlow is the kind old gentleman who adopts Oliver in Oliver Twist.
  • Bumble — the famous beadle of Oliver Twist. Would suit a very fat cat.
  • Buzfuz — what a fabulous name for a cat! Serjeant Buzfuz (Serjeant is his name) is a not-very-nice barrister in Pickwick Papers.
  • Caddy — pet-name of Caroline Jellyby in Bleak House.
  • Charles — how can I leave out Charles? Dickens used his own name a few times, including Charles Darnay in A Tale of Two Cities, and Charles Cheeryble in Nicholas Nickleby. Use of Charles is surprisingly consistent on both sides of the Pond; in 2010 it was ranked 63 in America, and 62 in England and Wales.
  • Cherry — traditional pet-form of Charity, and used as such in Martin Chuzzlewit  for Charity Pecksniff.
  • Chuzzlewitsurname of the eponymous hero of Martin Chuzzlewit, I’d say Chuzzlewit falls firmly in cat-name territory, although there is a Chuzzlewit Mcclintock on the 1880 American Census!
  • Clara — a favorite of Dickens’s, borne by both David’s mother and nurse in David Copperfield and Clara Barley in Great Expectations.
  • Darnay — Charles Darnay, the son of a French marquis, is one of the heroes of A Tale of Two Cities.
  • Dodger — once I would have said Oliver Twist’s “The Artful Dodger” fell firmly in cat name territory, but actually, in today’s climate, maybe the world might be ready for Dodger as a bona fide name? The Artful Dodger’s real name was Jack Dawkins.
  • Dorrit — the surname of Amy Dorrit, invariably known as “Little Dorrit” in Little Dorrit. Could make an interesting variation on Dorothy — but is it too similar to Doritos?
  • Ebenezer — Ebenezer Scrooge is one of Dickens’s best-known characters, and although at the end of the tale he becomes a kind, happy and philanthropic old gentleman, his miserly former self has blighted Ebenezer ever since. But is that changing? With a number of great nickname options, such as Eben, Ben, Eb and Zer, and the meaning “stone of help,” it’s a great name.
  • Estella — the rather tragic Estella Havisham is Pip’s great love in Great Expectations. 
  • Fan — a short form of Fanny, the well-known pet-form of Frances, Fan was Scrooge’s sister in A Christmas Carol.
  • Fern — Will Fern, a character in The Chimes.
  • Fezziwig — another for the cats rather than the children. “Old Fezziwig” was Scrooge’s generous and happy employer in A Christmas Carol.
  • Fizkin — cat name! A candidate for parliament in Pickwick Papers.
  • Granger — Edith Granger is one of the characters in Dombey and Son.
  • Grewgious — what a name for Puss! Grewgious can be found in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
  • Herbert — the genial Herbert Pocket is Pip’s best friend in Great Expectations.
  • Hexam — the surname of more than one character in Our Mutual Friend, including the beautiful and good Lizzie.
  • Hominy — Mrs Hominy is a rather stereotyped “brash American” in Martin Chuzzlewit, her name no doubt a direct pluck of hominy, the dried kernels of corn (maize) used a lot in Southern, Latin American and Caribbean cooking.
  • Jarvis — Jarvis Lorry appears in A Tale of Two Cities, bearing a name which originated both as a medieval form of Gervais and a surname derived from it.
  • Jemima — a name which gets a number of minor mentions in the works of Dickens, such as Lady Jemima Bilberry in Little Dorrit.
  • Job — borne by Job Trotter in Pickwick Papers, Job is a suprisingly neglected biblical name (although it was 88th in Holland in 2010), presumably hindered so much by the fact it looks like the word “job,” even though the pronuncation is different (rhyming with “robe”). Roll it around a few times — I think it makes for a distinctly contemporary choice if you want a simple, one-syllable name with heritage. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the greatest of meanings (“persecuted”), but that’s not stopped many another name…
  • Jupe — the wonderful Cecilia “Sissy” Jupe is a daughter of a circus clown in Hard Times.
  • Kit — Kit Nubbles (Nubbles makes a great name for a cat) is a character in The Old Curiosity Shop.  A classic, old short form of Christopher, Kit has been in quiet independent use in the UK for some time.
  • Lillian — Will Fern’s little niece in The Chimes.
  • Lowten — a clerk in Pickwick Papers.
  • Lucretia — Lucretia Tox is found in Dombey and Son.

Part II tomorrow!

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On our holiday last week we stayed at historic Gurney Manor — sometimes called Gurney Street Manor — in Cannington, Somerset.

It is a very special place.

Rescued by the Landmark Trust in the 1980s, much of the fabric dates to before 1400, with substantial additions in the mid-to-late fifteenth century.

Because it largely came down in the world after the seventeenth century, many of its ancient features, including the fifteenth century covered passage across the inner courtyard linking the old kitchen to the hall, have survived.

Unsurprisingly, it proved quite a good hunting ground for names, which are almost text-book examples of the typical names through the centuries, demonstrating fluctuations in fashion both generally, and across the social spectrum.

The original owners — and the family who gave their name to the manor — were a branch of the baronial family of Gurney, the founder of which came to England with William the Conqueror. Only a few names are known from this earliest period, emerging from the fog of remote history; a RICHARD de Gurney, flourished in 1243, when he put in a claim on the mill, then in possession of his “kinsman” WILLIAM, son of PHILIP.

Richard had a son called ROBERT.

By the end of the thirteenth century, the property appears to have been owned by JOHN de Gurney, who was alive in 1327.

The last of the line at Gurney Manor, and probably the one responsible for much of the parts of the hall dating to the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century, was HUGH, who succeeded to the estate in 1358. Either he, or a son of the same name, was there in 1401, with a wife called BEATRICE.

He had no son, and so the manor passed to his daughter JANE — an unusual name at the time, when the usually feminine form of John was Joan. She married ROGER Dodesham.

Responsible for most of the fifteenth century additions was their son, another WILLIAM, who was a lawyer as well as a landowner.

William had sisters called JOAN and ELEANOR, and on his death in 1480, the Gurney Street Manor passed in trust to Joan’s daughter, AGNES, wife of WALTER Michell, who died in 1487. Agnes and Walter had three sons, who each succeeded in turn, WILLIAM, JOHN, and THOMAS.

Thomas, whose wife was called MARGARET, died in 1503, when the manor passed to his son, another THOMAS. He also had a daughter called ISABEL.

Thomas made a number of improvements and refinements to the house, adding fine windows and new chimneys — but it all came to an abrupt end on December 13, 1539, when he murdered his wife JOAN and sister-in-law ELEANOR, seemingly at Gurney Manor, before killing himself.

He had two known children, another JANE, and another RICHARD.

Richard, who married an ELIZABETH, died in 1563, leaving the manor to his son, TRISTRAM.

Tristram, meanwhile, died in 1574, when the manor passed to his brother, Sir BARTHOLOMEW.

On Bartholomew’s death in 1616, his lands were split between his daughters, JANE and FRANCES. Gurney passed to Jane, wife of WILLIAM Hockmore.

William had considerable property elsewhere, and Gurney’s owners no longer lived there; the house and its acres was let to tenants, so that by the late nineteenth century, it was regarded as just a (large) farmhouse.

The names of most of these tenants is lost, but we still know the names of the house’s owners, and their families.

Jane and William Hockmore, for instance, had six children, SUSANNAH, GREGORY, CHARLES, WILLIAM, FRANCES and RICHARD, not all of whom lived to adulthood.

Gregory, married to MARY, inherited in 1626, dying in 1653, when the estate passed to his son, also called GREGORY (he also had a daughter called JANE).

Gregory II, married to HONOR, also had two children, a son WILLIAM, and, quelle surprise, yet another JANE.

William, who inherted sometime between 1676 and 1680, married another MARY, and had three daughters, MARY, JANE and HONORA; only Honora survived to adulthood, becoming William’s heiress on his death in 1707-08.

She married DAVIDGE Gould (his mother’s maiden name was Davidge) around 1713, and had five children who survived to adulthood: Sir HENRY (d.1794), RICHARD (d.1793), HONORA (d.1802), WILLIAM (d.1799) and THOMAS (d.1808).

Henry, married ELIZABETH, and had two daughters, another ELIZABETH, and HONORA MARGARETTA. Elizabeth married TEMPLE Luttrell; Honora Margaretta, who died in 1813, married General RICHARD Lambart, 7th Earl of Cavan.

And Gurney passed through her to the Earls of Cavan.

(Temple Luttrell was an interesting character; an MP, he was reputedly also a smuggler, and built a folly, called Luttrell’s Tower, at Eaglehurst near Southampton. On his death in Paris in 1803, Luttrell’s Tower passed to the Earl of Cavan too. By pure coincidence, Luttrell’s Tower is also now owned by the Landmark Trust.)

Richard and Honora Margaretta had five children:

  • RICHARD HENRY ROBERT GILBERT (1783-85)
  • HONORA ELIZABETH HESTER (1784-1856)
  • ALICIA MARGARETTA HOCKMORE (1785-1818)
  • SOPHIA AUGUSTA (1787-98)
  • RICHARD HENRY (b. and d. 1788)
  • GEORGE FREDERICK AUGUSTUS (1789-1828)
  • EDWARD HENRY WENTWORTH VILLIERS (1791-1812)

George, who died before his father, married the simply named SARAH, and had five children:

  • HENRIETTA AUGUSTA (d. 1874)
  • ALICIA (d.1913)
  • JULIA (d.1897)
  • FREDERICK JOHN WILLIAM (1815-87)
  • OLIVER GEORGE (1822-98)

Frederick John William’s wife was CAROLINE AUGUSTA, and they also had five children:

  • MARY HYACINTHE (d.1933)
  • SARAH SOPHIA (d.1914)
  • FREDERICK EDWARD GOULD (1839-1900)
  • OCTAVIUS HENRY (1855-1919)
  • ARTHUR (1858-1937)

Frederick Edward Gould’s wife was MARY SNEADE (Sneade was her middle name — her surname was Olive), and their children:

  • FREDERICK RUDOLPH (1865-1946)
  • ELLEN OLIVE (1867-1945)
  • MAUD EDITH GUNDREDA (1869-1940)
  • LIONEL JOHN OLIVE (1873-1940)
  • HORACE EDWARD SAMUEL SNEADE (1878-1950).

Frederick Rudolph had no children by his first wife CAROLINE INEZ; by his second wife, HESTER JOAN, he had two daughters; the first, ELIZABETH MARY was born in 1924.

The following year, Gurney was sold to its tenants of more than thirty years, the Bucknells, and with it an unbroken line of descent, if not of inhabitation, of at least eight hundred years, was finally severed.

The Bucknells were a thoroughly English Victorian middle class family; the father, a classic “gentleman farmer” was a solid and respectable JAMES, his wife an equally establishment MARY ANN. One daughter was ELIZA HARRIS, the other, OLIVE MARY (possibly named in honor of the Countess of Cavan), and they also had a son, BENJAMIN JOHN.

In 1901, there were also three servants living with them at the manor: FRANK, EMILY and MABEL.

Gurney’s time once more owned by its inhabitants was short-lived; the Bucknells sold in 1934, and by the 1940s it had been subdivided into flats. By the 1980s, it was in a sorry, neglected state, with most of the flats empty, but then the Landmark Trust bought it, and the rest is (more!) history…

No-one lives there for more than three weeks at a time anymore, but it has been fully restored to its medieval glory and I think the place rather likes the variety of ever changing faces coming and going, and basks in their rapt admiration.

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Twelfth Night

Today is the Christian feast of Epiphany, the traditional date among Catholics and Protestants when the legendary “Three Kings” visited the baby Jesus.

In parts of Italy, it is at Epiphany, not on Christmas Day, that children get their presents — delivered by a witch called Befana by broomstick last night.

Befana is a much magled form of Epifania — the Italian form of Epiphany — and she almost certainly evolved from the Pagan Goddess Strenia, who presided over the presents given at the New Year. (It also gives us Tiffany).

Meanwhile, in the Orthodox Church, today is Christmas…

In Britain and America, however, Epiphany — which also happens to be the twelfth day of Christmas, that is to say “Twelfth Night” — is often entirely neglected now, though once, when the twelve days were kept with full festivity, it was a big event — so big, it even got a Shakespearian play named after it.

The fabled “Twelve Days of Christmas” have their roots in the Norse Jól, and were originally kept between December 20th and the 31st.

They also have very prosiac origins; at this darkest time of the year, with the harvest gathered in, animals slaughtered, and crops requiring sowing in the autumn sowed, there really wasn’t much that needed doing – making it a perfect time for relaxing, and enjoying the year’s produce while it was still fresh.

I’ve always felt it rather sad that while the shops start celebrating the Midwinter festivals in the summer, and many people can’t wait to get their decorations out at the start of December — sometimes even in November, as soon as the New Year comes, it all gets put away, even though this is the traditional period for still celebrating.

Growing up, my family was one of the few who did keep Twelfth Night, making a special event of the last day of the tree. We still do.

One of our little traditions is that as we take down the decorations, we always sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Unfortately, the gifts sent on each of the days aren’t that name-worthy in their own right, but they do suggest those that are.

And so, to mark the occasion, here are my ideas:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

A partridge in a pear-tree

Airi, Alula, Apion, Betrisen, Ena, Enas, Li, Madaria, Mia, Pear, Pera, Perdiz, Pernice, Perina, Perry, Piro, Primula, Primus, Rika, Una

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Two turtle doves

Aphrodite, Callum, Colm, Colmán, Columba, Columbine, Dove, Dovie, Duo, Jemima, Jonah, Mimi, Paloma, Peleia, Secunda, Secundus, Thania, Trygon, Tuvi, Venus

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Three French hens

Chuck, Frances, Francesca, Francis, Frank, Hen, Talitha, Tertia, Tertius, Tertulla, Thrima, Tria, Trinity, Triskele, Trystine, Wren

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Four colly birds,

Aderyn, Amsel, Bird, Chogan, Colly, Deryn, Lonan, Merle, Merula, Quatro, Quartilla, Quartus, Tessera, Tesseres

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Five gold rings

Aranka, Aurea, Cinq, Cressida, Cyclamen, Eliphaz, Golden, Kirk, Marigold, Morgan, Orla, Quinque, Quintilla, Quintus, Sovann, Sunakai, Suwan

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Six geese a-laying

Anser, Antzara, Gander, Goshawk, Gossamer, Gus, Guska, Hani, Hex, Liba, Sextilla, Sextus, Zoss

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Seven swans a-swimming

Cygne, Cygnet, Cygnus, Ella, Gulbė, Iswan, Joutsen, Leda, Luik, Odette, Septima, Septimus, Seven, Swan, Swanilda

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eight maids a-milking

Aludra, Cora, Corinna, Galatea, Impi, Meinir, Octavia, Octavian, Octavius, Octo, Parthenia, Virginia, Virgo

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Nine ladies dancing

Anassa, Beletili, Caryatis, Ceilidh, Cordax, Creusa, Damsel, Dominique, Dominy, Donna, Jive, Lady, Madonna, Martha, Nephthys, Nina, Nona, Nonus, Nostradamus

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Ten lords a-leaping

Adonai, Anaxandra, Anaxander, Baal, Caderyn, Cyril, Deacon, Decima, Decimus, Dinesh, Dominic, Don, Doyen, Edwen, Lapwing, Lord, Marquis, Meredith, Murdoch, Ner, Nerys, Rakesh, Ramnath, Sacheverell, Tiernan, Tierney

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eleven pipers piping

Aule, Auletes, Auletris, Aulus, Endeka, Doucet, Fife, Flauta, Fletna, Flute, Fretel, Ney, Onze, Pan, Pfeifer, Piper, Quena, Subulo, Tibiae, Tibicen, Tibicina, Undecima, Undecimus

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Twelve drummers drumming

Baraban, Boben, Davul, Drummer, Duodecima, Duodecima, Nagara, Ngoma, Rebana, Tabala, Tambor, Tambour, Timbrel, Trommel, Trumm, Typanon

What meanings lie behind the strange gifts have not been satisfactorily elucidated. Some Catholics claim they arose as a catechism to help teach tenets of Catholicism in England after the Reformation, but there is no proof of this, and it is more likely its roots are far older. I prefer the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes’ interpretation:

Suggestions have been made that the gifts have significance, as representing the food or sport for each month of the year. Importance [certainly has] long been attached to the Twelve Days, when, for instance, the weather on each day was carefully observed to see what it would be in the corresponding month of the coming year. Nevertheless, whatever the ultimate origin of the chant, it seems probable [that] the lines that survive today both in England and France are merely an irreligious travesty.

Happy Twelfth Night!

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