« PreviousContinue »
Every one must have observed the utility of a proper selection of names to a play or a novel. The bare sounds of Monimia or Imoinda set a tender-hearted young lady a-crying ; and a letter from Edward to Maria, contains a sentiment in the very title.
Were I to illustrate this by an opposite example, as schoolmasters give exercises of bad Latin, the truth of my assertion would appear in a still stronger light.
Suppose, Sir, one had a mind to write a very pathetic story of the disastrous loves of a young lady and a young gentleman, the first of whom was called Gubbins, and the latter Gubblestones, two very respectable names in some parts of our neighbour-country. The Gubbinses, from an ancient family-feud, had a mortal antipathy at the Gubblestones ; this, however, did not prevent the attachment of the heir of the last, to the heiress of the former ; an attachment begun by ac
cident, increased by acquaintance, and nourished by mutual excellence. But the hatred of the fathers was unconquerable; and old Gubbins having intercepted a letter from young Gubblestones, breathed the most horrid denunciations of vengeance against his daughter, if ever he should discover the smailest intercourse between her, and the son of his enemy; and further, effectually to preclude any chance of an union with so hated a name, he instantly proposed a marriage between her and a young gentleman lately returned from his travels, a Mr Clutterbuck, who had seen her at a ball, and was deeply smitten with her beauty. On being made acquainted with this intended match, Gubblestones grew almost frantic with grief and despair. Wandering round the house where his loved Gubbins was confined, he chanced to meet Mr Clutterbuck hastening to an interview with his destined bride. Stung with jealousy
and rage, reckless of life, and regardless of the remonstrances of his rival, he drew, and attacked him with desperate fury. Both swords were sheathed at once in the breasts of the combatants. Clutterbuck died on the spot : his antagonist lived but to be carried to the house of his implacable enemy, and breathed his last at the feet of his mistress. The dying words of Gubblestones, the succeeding phrenzy and death of Gubbins, the relenting sorrow of their parents, with a description of the tomb in which Gubbins, Gubblestones, and Clutterbuck, were laid, finish the piece, and would leave on the mind of the reader the highest degree of melancholy and distress, were it not for the unfortunate sounds which compose the names of the actors in this eventful story; yet these names, Mr Mirror, are really and truly right English surnames, and have as good a title to be unfortunate as
those of Mordaunt, Montague, or Howard.
Nor is it only in the sublime or the pathetic, that a happy choice of names is essential to good writing. Comedy is so much beholden to this article, that I have known some with scarcely any wit or character but what was contained in the dramatis persone. Every other species of writing, in which humour or character is to be personified, is in the same predicament, and depends for great part of its applause on the knack of hitting off a lucky allusion from the name to the per
Your brother essayists have been particularly indebted to this invention, for supplying them with a very necessary material in the construction of their papers. In the Spectator, I find, from an examination of my notes on this subject, there are 532 names of characters and correspondents, 394 of which are descriptive and characteristic,
Having thus shewn the importance of the art of name-making, I proceed to inform you
of my plan for assisting authors in this particular, and saving them that expence of time and study which the invention of names proper for different
purposes must occasion.
I have, from a long course of useful and extensive reading, joined to an uncommon strength of memory, been enabled to form a kind of dictionary of names for all sorts of subjects, pathetic, sentitimental, serious, satirical, or merry. For novelists, I have made a collection of the best sounding English, or English-like, French, or French-like names ; I
say, the best sounding, sound being the only thing necessary in that department. For comic writers, and essayists of your tribe, Sir, I have made up from the works of former authors, as well as from my own invention, a list of names, with the characters or subjects to which they allude