As devotees of Pride & Prejudice, we are all familiar with the names of the characters. From the five Bennet daughters, Mr. Darcy, the Bingleys, and certain other characters, such as the detestable Mr. Wickham and the stately Lady Catherine, we are as familiar with their names as we are of their own. I am, of course, speaking of their Christian names.
In many instances, however, Jane Austen did not see fit to name some of her lesser characters, contenting herself with such appellations as Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet, or Colonel Fitzwilliam. But since people began to start writing variations of Jane Austen’s work, they have had the impulse to fill in the blanks, to name some of those previously unnamed characters.
Recently, with my novel The Companion, I received a review which praised the novel, but blasted my choice of name of one of the characters. I have made a conscious choice not to follow fanon, in part just to be different as I think we all try to differentiate ourselves, and in part because I see the characters differently, which affects the names I prefer to give them. As a result, I thought it would be fun to go through and look at some of the characters, research them to see if they actually do have names, and if not, what they are usually called in the world of Pride & Prejudice variations.
This is the one that got me in trouble with my last novel. Anyone who reads variations knows that most authors give Colonel Fitzwilliam the name Richard. But what does Jane Austen say? If you do a search of P&P, you will find that the name appears in the text once, long before Colonel Fitzwilliam enters the story. Thus, I would dispute what my reviewer said, for Jane Austen certainly never named him. My name for Colonel Fitzwilliam is Anthony.
If you’ve read any P&P variations, you’ll definitely have seen Mr. Bennet referred to as Thomas—it’s a trend which has most authors following suit. In the novel he is not named. In my novels, he is called Henry. My sister, who I have finally convinced to write a variation, considers him to be an Oliver. Sorry, but I don’t see it! Lol.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner
Mr. Gardiner is the one of which I am uncertain. In the index of characters on Pemberley.com, his first name is listed as Edward. However, if you do a search of the text of P&P, the only time Edward appears is in relation to Mrs. Younge’s residence on Edward Street. I have used several names for Mr. Gardiner in the past, but when I found the reference on Pemberley.com, I’ve used Edward ever since. But now I’m not so certain, and I couldn’t find any reference which would explain why the site lists his first name as Edward. If anyone knows, I would appreciate it if you could explain it!
When Mrs. Gardiner responds to Elizabeth’s letter, asking for the details of Darcy’s involvement in Lydia’s marriage to Wickham, she signs her name as M. Gardiner, and to the best of my knowledge, it’s never mentioned anywhere else. This one has tripped me up in the past, as I know at least in one novel, I gave her the name Sarah. Since I realized this reference, I’ve always used the name Madeline. I know there are several others who do the same, but I’ve also seen other names used too.
Old Mr. Darcy
The preponderance of writers call Mr. Darcy’s father George, and I suspect that comes from the thought that his godson, George Wickham, was named after him. To me, Mr. Darcy the elder is Robert.
Unnamed. To be honest, I can’t remember a single story in which she was actually named, and I have never named her myself!
Bonus entry: Lord —-
I include this character as one that is only mentioned in passing. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s father is never named, and in fact he is only ever referred to as Lord —-. The reference to him being the Earl of Matlock is, near as I can tell, an invention of the A&E version of P&P, where Mr. Collins informs the ladies that the son of the Earl of Matlock is about to visit the parsonage.
I’d be interested to hear if anyone thinks I have missed anyone important. Please comment if you do!