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25 May 2015

A Rose By Any Other Name (revisited)

Rose Lerner has a great name post over on Risky Regencies, so I thought I'd repost mine today as an additional resourse.

One of the things writers always seem to be discussing is names. Especially historical writers, but I think this applies equally across the board. You want your characters to have distinct and appropriate names, but when you’re writing an historical novel you don’t want to have Princess Brandi tramping about. I keep lists of names that I run across in historical documents, in non-fiction books about my period, etc.

Recently, prompted by a question on a discussion loop that I’m on I made a list of all the names in Who's Who in Late Hanoverian Britain and my 1779 edition of the Peerage. Mostly the same names show up over and over and over:

William

John

George

Henry

Thomas

Charles

Then we have a few names, which while no where near as popular as those above, still show up quite a bit:

Frances/Francis

Edward

Samuel

Richard

James

Robert

Frederick

Philip

Then there are a smattering of names that still seem "normal", but show up only once or twice:

David

Adam

Jeremy

Joseph

Edmund

Gilbert

Daniel

Arthur

Harry

Hugh

Hugo

Douglas

Basil

And then there are the fun ones, many of which seem like surnames used as first names to me:

Cuthbert

Horatio

Theobald

Granville

Richmal

Sydney

Spencer

Rowland

Peregrine

Heneage

Washington

Vere

Willoughby

Anne-Holles (!) yes, first name for a man

Sackville

Brownlow

Spencer

I’d guess that the vast majority of the writers I know are choosing names from this third set. As readers how do you feel about names? Do you care if half the heroes are named Henry or Thomas (as they probably would have been in real life), or do you like our penchant for the unusual?

Which of these two statements sums up your feeling:

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet?

A rose by any other name would wither and die?

1 Comments:

Blogger Elizabeth said...

I've been known to put a book down if the hero's name doesn't ring true to the period. I don't know of many 18th or 19th century English men who were named Hunter or Blake unless that was their last name, not their first.

2:21 PM  

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