Recently, one of my friends noted that I had used a familiar name or two from where I once lived in Ohio. She thought it quite clever of me, but I explained this was a common practice with authors. In fact, most of my “author” friends have told me of their naming characters and places after people they know.
I, for example, named Chadwick Harrison from Darcy’s Temptation after Chad Pennington, the former NFL quarterback. Pennington showed a great kindness to my son while my mother lay dying. Clayton Ashford from the same book comes from Clay Aiken and my former principal at Parkwood High School. Kim Withey, a regular follower on this site, found her name used for the villain in The Phantom of Pemberley. My son’s godmother is married to a man named Epperly. In The First Wives’ Club, Nathaniel Epperly is Lord Eggleston. Recently, while I was writing a new chapter of my next Austen-inspired novel (tentatively entitled, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy) I was watching Tamara Drewe on a cable channel. A character I introduced in that chapter became Nicholas Drewe. I met a young man at an Enterprise Rental Car outlet in Monroe, North Carolina. His name was Brantley Fowler. I told him that I intended to “steal” his name for one of my character. Bran is matched with Velvet Aldridge in A Touch of Velvet. Velvet is named for a former student – a young lady who was beautiful on the outside, as well as being a compassionate and loving individual.
In The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, James Kerrington is Lord Worthing. My son attended school in Worthington, Ohio. Gabriel Crowden, the hero of my next Regency romance, A Touch of Grace, is the Marquis of Godown. In the Worthing area, Godown Road is a regular cut through between major thoroughfares. (We often called it “God own”-ed.) I have been known to open the newspaper or to switch to a news channel in search of an interesting name for my characters.
Occasionally, I choose a name that is indicative of the name’s meaning. “Aoife,” the heroine of His Irish Eve, is so named because “Aoife” means “Eve.” She is the “Eve” to “Adam” Lawrence, one of the main characters in The Phantom of Pemberley. This novella is a continuation of Adam’s life after Phantom. Likewise, in my Christmas tale, Christmas at Pemberley, “Mary Joseph” is a major influence on Elizabeth Darcy’s life. From The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, one finds such names as “Dolina,” which comes from the Scottish Gaelic Dolag, which means “world ruler,” an apt name for the villain of the tale. Even the last name “MacBethan” was chosen to meet several requirements of the story line. First, “MacBethan” is a derivative of “MacBean.” As I wished the MacBethans to be related to the infamous Sawney Bean, that was important. Secondly, “MacBean” is a patronymic name that comes from the Gaelic and means “life.” As “life” is in short supply in the MacBethan household, it seemed more than appropriate.
So, based on my assumption from above, what is the possibility that our beloved Jane Austen used famous names or those she parlayed from the local newspapers in her stories? Could Mrs. Reynolds in Pride and Prejudice have come about because Jane read a piece about the famous artist Joshua Reynolds?
There was, for example, a real life George Morland, a man known for his paintings of rustic scenes. Could William Hodges have lent his name to Emma Woodhouse’s housekeeper? Hodges is best known for his paintings of exotic locales, especially those he visited while accompanying James Cook on the captain’s second voyage to the Pacific Ocean.
Charles Hayter was a painter who specialized in portraits of navy men. Is there any wonder that Hayter gives his name to a character in Austen’s book of seafaring men, that of Persuasion? (By the way, the real-life Hayter taught Princess Charlotte about perspective and was later given the title of Professor in Perspective and Drawing.)
Also in Persuasion, one finds Sir Walter openly declaring that Frederick Wentworth was “[q]uite unconnected; nothing to do with the Strafford family.” One must recall that in her early History of England, Austen defended Thomas Wentworth, the first Earl of Strafford and the architect of Charles I’s design for absolute government. In fact, scholars have traced the Strafford connection to Austen’s novels. It shows that in the 13th Century Robert Wentworth married an heiress named Emma Wodehous. Coincidence?
One of the things that I often found ironic in Austen’s novels is the number of “Whig” names she used: D’Arcy, Fitzwilliam, Dashwood, Wentworth, Woodhouse, Watson, Brandon, Churchill, Russell, Steele, and Bertram. Could our dear Jane have spent time with her nose buried in the Peerage of England? For a Tory daughter, she certain gave the Whigs prominence!
For a more in-depth study of these names, please visit, Janine Barchas’ “Artistic Names in Austen’s Fiction: Cameo Appearances by Prominent Painters,” Persuasion. 2009. Volume 31.
Reinbold, Amanda Katherine, “Jane Austen and the Significance of Names.” (2009). University of Tennessee Honors Thesis Projects. http://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_chanhonoproj/1313
Hopefully, you enjoyed my look at the basis of names. To celebrate, I am offering an autographed copy of The First Wives’ Club, as well as an autographed copy of A Touch of Velvet. Both of these Regency romances have wonderful new covers designed by Abigail Reynolds’ daughter, Rebecca. They are available on Amazon, Createspace, and Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.
NATHANIEL EPPERLY, the Earl of Eggleston, has married the woman his father has chosen for him, but the marriage has been everything but comfortable. Nathaniel’s wife, Lady Charlotte, came to the marriage bed with a wanton’s experience. She dutifully provides Eggleston his heir, but within a fortnight, she deserts father and son for Baron Remington Craddock. In the eyes of the ton, Lady Charlotte has cuckolded Epperly.
ROSELLEN WARREN longs for love and adventure. Unfortunately, she’s likely to find neither. As a squire’s daughter, Rosellen holds no sway in Society; but she’s a true diamond in the rough. Yet, when she meets Epperly’s grandmother, the Dowager Countess Eggleston creates a “story” for the girl, claiming if Rosellen is presented to the ton as a war widow with a small dowry, that the girl will find a suitable match.
BARON REMINGTON CRADDOCK remains a thorn in Eggleston’s side, but when Craddock makes Mrs. Warren a pawn in his crazy game of control, Eggleston offers the woman his protection. However, the earl has never faced a man who holds no strength of title, but who wields great power; and he finds himself always a step behind the enigmatic baron. When someone frames Epperly for Lady Charlotte’s sudden disappearance, Nathaniel must quickly learn the baron’s secrets or face a death sentence.
After years away from England, members of the REALM return home to claim the titles and the lives they once abandoned. Each man holds on to the fleeting dream of finally knowing love. For now, all any of them can hope is the resolutions of their previous difficulties before Shaheed Mir, their old enemy, finds them and exacts his revenge. Mir seeks a mysterious emerald, and he believes one of the Realm has it.
No one finds his soul mate when she is twelve and he seventeen, but BRANTLEY FOWLER, the Duke of Thornhill, always thought he had found his. The memory of Velvet Aldridge’s face was the only thing that kept him alive all those years he remained estranged from his family. Now, he has returned to Kent to claim his title and the woman he loves, but first he must obliterate the memory of his infamous father, while staving off numerous attacks from Mir’s associates.
VELVET ALDRIDGE always believed in “happily ever after.” Yet, when Brantley Fowler returns home, he has a daughter and his wife’s memory to accompany him. He promised Velvet eight years prior that he would return to make her his wife, but Thornhill only offers her a Season and a dowry. How can she make him love her? Make him her “knight in shining armor”? Regency England has never been hotter or more dangerous.
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