General

“What’s your name again?”

Names, names, names… they are identity. They help fix someone in our mind’s eye. In both of those, they may be as important in fiction as in our real life:

Rather than a tweet, I thought this was worth a full blog post. Here are some characters from my two most recent novels… and how I recall inventing their names. All of them – particularly their first names – were chosen for their 18th century reality and country of origin:

“Marie-Thérèse Durand”: Marie-Thérèse I saw among French girl baptismal 17th-18th century certificates I found online. The name reached up even to royalty: King Louis XVI’s daughter (his only child to reach adulthood) had the name too. Durand as a surname may be found in the west of France, where she is from.

“Carolina Beckington”: Caroleena (it is pronounced) was heard in later 18th century England, particularly among the upper classes. Beckington I swiped from a village in Somerset just because I liked it – I kid you not. We had in 2015 almost rented a house in the village.

[Hot Chocolate, Mes Amis cafe, Beckington, Somerset. Photo by me, 2015.]

“Henry (Beckington)”: Again, a common English male name in the 18th century.

“Robert Rutherford”: Robert was as common in America then as today. He is the lead character, so I wanted a name that didn’t read as too odd and “dated” to the modern eye (such as, say, uh, Jedediah). Rutherford I saw as a surname on several historical American men. I liked the alliteration too. Robert of course is also my name, which I am partial to. 😉

“Ana Sánchez”: I took her name from a variation on an 18th century Spanish aristocrat I found.

“Françoise-Geertryud du Varnes”: Her double-barreled first name being half-French, half-Dutch, reflects what she is. Geertryud (Gertrude in English) was common in the 18th century Netherlands. (Today it is I have read “old-fashioned” and I suspect it may be as common among Dutch women as, say, Martha is among Americans.) Du Varnes was an 18th century French surname I stumbled upon.

“John Abbott”: I took South Carolinian “John’s” name from George Washington’s South Carolina-born real aide, John Laurens (who was once largely known only to historians and American Revolution “nerds” – like me – and is now super-famous thanks to the smash musical Hamilton). Abbott was merely a name I saw on some other American of the era and I thought it worked for him.

“Héloïse d’Estaing”: Héloïse was another common 18th century French girl’s name. D’Estaing is from a French real admiral who fought in America allied with the new U.S. She is a fictional relation.

“Aneta Kłosowska”: Aneta being the Polish version for the French name Annette. Kłosowska was evidently about as common a Polish surname in the 18th century as it is today.

“Edward Floyd”: Edward was also common then in the new U.S. As for his surname, he is a fictional nephew of the Long Island, NY real signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Floyd.

[President Martin Van Buren’s grave in Kinderhook, NY. His actual first name was the Dutch “Maarten,” which eventually he anglicized to “Martin.” Photo by me, September 20, 2019.]

“Amelia Stuyvesant”: Amelia was my great-grandmother’s name (she was the daughter of German immigrants) and was not uncommon in 18th century America. Stuyvesant was a common surname among the Dutch of upstate New York.

“Henrik Van Oostende”: Yet another Dutch name, but this one, uh, I don’t actually recall right now precisely how and where I found that beaut. LOL!

I could go on, but you get the point I’m sure.

Have a good day, wherever you are, and whatever your name. 🙂

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