Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Victorian Smiths in the 1850s

This is post 3. To find out what this is all about, go here.

Top 10:

1 Mary
2 Elizabeth
3 Sarah
4 Ann
5 Jane
6 Emma
7 Ellen
8 Eliza
9 Hannah
10 Emily

A few changes here - Ellen has risen in the list to #7, and Emily has replaced Harriet as #10.

There are three major names that peak in these years (and apologies, I missed out Caroline from 1845-9: it's a Regency/Georgian name, brought to England by the Georgians and borne by 2 Georgian queens - Caroline of Ansbach and of Brunswick). Anyway, the three major names are Eliza, Hannah and Martha (which each time lies just outside of the top 10).

Eliza is a nickname of Elizabeth, the most popular of these nicknames. Rose to prominence in the 18th century, in the 19th century use of other forms of Elizabeth (Lizzie, Betty, Bess) became more popular leading to a general decline in the popularity of Eliza.

Hannah emerged with Puritanism in the mid-1600s (1630 according to the Redmonds list). The Puritans encouraged a return to Old Testament names - Hannah is the mother of Samuel. It is also a neat link between Catholicism and Puritanism - St Anne is represented more in Catholicism as the Mother of the Virgin Mary, such un-Biblical affirmations were rejected by the Puritans. Hannah also ties Old and New Testament - with Hannah, mother of Samuel and Anna, old woman at the temple with baby Jesus.

Martha - another Biblical name, sister of Mary and Lazarus, and friend of Jesus. Emerged after Reformation with return to more Biblical names. It was possibly experiencing more popularity in USA at the turn of the 19th century, due to Martha Washington (wife of George).

1 Mary
2 Elizabeth
3 Sarah
4 Ann
5 Emma
6 Jane
7 Alice
8 Ellen
9 Emily
10 Eliza

A few changes here - Jane is replaced in the #5 spot by Emma. Alice goes in at #7, and Hannah leaves the top 10.

The two names that peaked in these years were Emma and Harriet. I'm going to start with Harriet, as it is interesting me. Harriet has been eclipsed in the top 10 by other names, but it peaks now. Harriet is in the vein of the early Victorian/Georgian feminisations of male names - Charlotte and Caroline, Georgiana or Henrietta spring to mind, taken up in the 17th century, popularised in the 18th, declined in the 19th, disappeared in the 20th century...reappearing in the 21st?

Emma - very much in vogue at the moment, peaked in 1854-9 as well. Emma has quite a long, non-Biblical history. It was brought to England by the Normans (well, slightly earlier but by a Norman): Emma of Normandy married both Ethelred the Unready and Cnut/Canute. Withycombe puts Emma's 18th century revival down to Matthew Prior's poem 'Henry and Emma' - written 1709 or 18. Later literary 'Emma's include Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse, and Gustave Flaubert's Madame (Emma) Bovary, which was published between 1856 and 7. It is also associated with Emma Hamilton, mistress of Lord Nelson.