Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Victorian Smiths in the 1880s

Click here for what this is about. Data here.

Top 10:

1 Mary
2 Ann
3 Elizabeth
4 Alice
5 Florence
6 Sarah
7 Annie
8 Edith
9 Ellen
10 Emily

Sarah has been displaced at #4 by Alice. Florence has continued her rise up, and Annie has been pushed down to #7. There are no new entries, though Ethel has shot from #21 to #12, and Gertrude from #23 to #16. This is also the first 5 year period when all the names chosen have at least one birth.

And now onto the peakers. There are much fewer this time - just top ten staple Ellen, and Rosa and Ruth.

Ellen was used fairly interchangeably with Helen in Medieval times, to the point that it was overused and thus judged a name for the lower classes. The 19th century marked a revival for Ellen. It does not appear on any of the Redmonds lists. A notable example from the 19th century is actress Ellen Terry, though considering that Ellen was in the top 10 for many years in this period, it is interesting that there are not more bearers. This may be a result of it being used principally by the 'lower' classes and thus more difficult for its numerous bearers to become famous.

Rosa is, I believe, the first of the 'botanical' names that came to the fore at the end of the 19th century. Rosa doesn't quite follow the same path- most of these botanical names (Daisy, Lily, Rose, Olive, Violet, Ivy) are unheard of at the beginning of the period, and highly popular by the end. Rosa follows a fairly bell shaped curve - uncommon to more common to uncommon again. Rosa is the Latinate form of Rose, and Withycombe notes that it came into use in the 19th century. Used by Dickens in 'David Copperfield' (not a good depiction) and 'Bleak House' (a better depiction).

Ruth is a solid Biblical name, and one of my own favourites. Used in particular by the Puritans - as a Biblical name, and as a virtue name - ruth meaning compassion. Revived in the Victorian era particularly due to its use by various novelists and poets - Elizabeth Gaskell's novel 'Ruth' was published in 1853, and Dunkling and Gosling note that poems were written by William Wordsworth, Thomas Hood and Felicia Hemans about Ruth. The popularity of Ruth Smith doesn't really change over the period - starts with 56 births, ends with 97 and peaks at 122 - so that's less than 100. The increase could merely be due to population increase. More on Ruth.

Top 10:
1 Mary
2 Ann
3 Elizabeth
4 Florence
5 Alice
6 Annie
7 Edith
8 Ethel
9 Sarah
10 Ellen

So, no change at the top here. But Florence slips in at #4, pushing Alice down. I noted Ethel's rise last time (a name much maligned today), and here it goes into the top 10 at a comfortable 8. Sarah is declining now, Edith is up to #7. Outside the top 10, I have noted the rise of Lily from #19 to #14.

Another manageable number of peaking names this time - Beatrice, Maud and Bertha.

Starting with Beatrice. Used in the 12th and 13th centuries, fell out of favour and revived in the mid 19th century, probably as a result of Queen Victoria naming her youngest daughter Beatrice - prior to 1857, birth of Princess Beatrice, there was one Smith named Beatrice, following it experienced a time of revival. Outside of Princess Beatrice, there are several literary bearers - Beatrice Portinari - who guides the reader through Paradise in Dante's 'Divine Comedy' and was based upon a real person, and Beatrice in Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing'.

Going on with Maud. This contracted form of Matilda was, to an extent, used interchangeably with Matilda in the Medieval period - 'Queen' Matilda or Maud was the daughter of Henry I and challenged King Stephen for the English throne. Withycombe puts its revival down to the Tennyson poem 'Maud', published 1855, and it is also associated with the song 'Come into the garden, Maud'. Used by Edward VII and Queen Alexandra for their youngest daughter, born 1869, who later became the Queen of Norway (from 1905).

And now Bertha, which has received a fairly bad press recently. I suppose, naming a World War One artillery gun 'Big Bertha' doesn't do much to help the popularity of a name. However, prior to that Bertha was a name used since at least Norman times in Britain, declined in the late Medieval period, and was revived by the Victorians.