in Iona and Peter Opie, The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book (1955)
I’m struggling with naming conventions at the moment – both the conventions of the late 18th / early 19th century when the characters in my book were alive, and the conventions I should use myself as a historian writing about them now.
The main character in my book is Walter Stevenson Davidson, whom I’ve discussed before (see tag). Walter was named after his mother’s brother, Walter (later Sir Walter) Farquhar, who was his godfather. Sir Walter’s wife Anne had the maiden name of Stevenson, so I’m assuming she was WSD’s godmother. I’ve come across this convention before, where godmothers’ godsons are given the woman’s surname as a middle name. So for instance Sir Walter’s daughter Eliza Farquhar was godmother to her cousin’s son, who was named George Farquhar Leslie.
Anne was a widow when she married Walter Farquhar in 1771, with 2 children, John and Elizabeth Harvie. John died young, but Elizabeth grew up and married Simon Halliday in 1787. As Elizabeth Halliday she features regularly in family correspondence and her husband went into partnership with one of Sir Walter’s sons. They were clearly well integrated into the Farquhar network.
So here’s the puzzle: Anne Farquhar went on to have 7 more children with her second husband, 3 boys and 4 girls, and the youngest girl, born in 1783, was named Eliza. I know that families used to recycle particular names, often reusing the baptismal name of a dead baby to ensure that a name survived if it had particular significance. And every genealogist knows, to their frustration, that a small set of first names are repeated endlessly within the family circle. But surely have 2 living daughters named Elizabeth and Eliza would be a touch confusing? Continue reading →
Posted in australian history, biography, european history, historiography, Walter Stevenson Davidson, women's history
Tagged Anne Stevenson, Eliza Farquhar, Elizabeth Fry, family history, Jane Austen, naming conventions, Walter Farquhar, Walter Stevenson Davidson
I haven’t been writing my blog lately because I’ve been busy writing my book. At the moment I’m wrestling with chapters 6 and 7. It’s 1822. Walter has arrived back in Britain, having made a fortune – over £100,000! – in China. I’m trying to set the scene for this transition point, and I keep tripping over Jane Austen.
In many ways, at this point in his life Walter Davidson was a quintessential ‘single man of good fortune…in want of a wife’. It’s a real phenomenon, and one that Jane Austen obviously knew: first, you make your fortune in some far off outpost of empire (or Yorkshire, in the case of the Bingleys), then you return to your local community, or a friend’s community, and shortly afterwards marry an appropriate girl within the extended family circle. Men like this are peppered throughout her novels. Continue reading →
Posted in biography, european history, historiography, Uncategorized, Walter Stevenson Davidson, women's history
Tagged D'Arcy Wentworth, history of marriage, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Walter Farquhar Hook, Walter Stevenson Davidson, writing
Towards the end of Pride and Prejudice there’s an odd phrase. Lydia has gone with the militia to Brighton, as a guest of the Colonel’s wife, and the Bennet family are waiting for her letters,
but her letters were always long expected, and always very short. Those to her mother, contained little else, than …the library …officers … a new gown… a new parasol …was obliged to leave off in a violent hurry.
Her letters to her sister Kitty are rather longer but ‘were much too full of lines under the words to be made public.’ (vol. 2, ch 19)
The phrase is usually taken to mean underlining as a form of emphasis – if Lydia was emailing today, I just know she would use Comic Sans and too many exclamation marks!!! – but it always puzzled me, and I think I discovered exactly what Jane Austen meant one day back in the 1990s when I was reading some family letters outside Braidwood. Continue reading →
Posted in historiography, personal and self-indulgent, Walter Stevenson Davidson
Tagged handwriting, Hugh Gordon, Jane Austen, Patrick Leslie, Pride and Prejudice, Thomas Dowse, Thomas Graham, Walter Farquhar, writing