I’m reading Persuasion from start to finish for the first time and a discussion on Facebook about the several characters named Charles prompted me to research Georgian era names.
Fans of Darcy (more so than other Austen heroes) know him by many different names. I’m sure we can agree with Shakespeare’s sentiment, however, that any name for Mr. Darcy makes him just as lovable.
I have to admit, I spend a lot of time coming up with names for characters! I also admit to going back and forth on what to call Darcy and Elizabeth within the story. Don’t even get me started on what to name their children!
But naming practices were very different in history than they are now. So when reaching for a name for that new character it is helpful to choose something historically accurate. One could easily guess Kaylee might not fit but does Augusta? It’s old fashioned to be sure, and Jane Austen even uses it frequently (according to the Regency Encyclopedia it is her tenth most frequently used female name) but by in large it was infrequently used during the Georgian period.
That is not to say Augusta would be inappropriate; some certainly had less popular names. It is important to remember, however, that in general there were fewer names in frequent use and the difference between the number of women named Mary (highest rank) versus Susanna (tenth) would be great. According to data collected in the All England Census of 1841, there were 786,562 women named Mary born between 1760 and 1821 and only 63,441 named Susanna. Augusta ranked at 71 with 834 uses.
According to JASNA News, these were the 10 most frequently used names:
Also according to JASNA, Georgian parents continued the old traditions of naming the eldest children after themselves, honoring a prominent family member, and/or using the family name if they were linked to the aristocracy. These are also important facts to know as a writer. The names found in Fitzwilliam Darcy’s family tree would likely differ greatly from Elizabeth Bennet’s.
Some interesting finds in the All England census of 1841:
- Job was used 4,604 times.
- Matthew 590- I find this interesting given the number of JAFF’s I’ve read with a Matthew featuring.
- Marmaduke 337
- Josephine 203 (surprises me because of the Napoleon connection)
- Marina 107 (just feels so modern!)
- Pamela 101 (the same)
- Cassandra 93 (Jane Austen’s sister’s name and a favorite of the JAFF community)
- Georgiana 63 (this surprises me given the popularity of the Duchess of Devonshire)
And here is the list of my favorite “hidden gems,” ranked below 50, for Georgian characters. I am likely to give these names to a semi-prominent character versus the maid in the corner.
What’s your favorite name for Darcy?