Social Success: Advice on Naming Your Victorian Baby

Ladies and gentlemen may, at one time or another, be faced with a small bundle of joy which can only be called ‘Baby’ or ‘Junior’ for so long. Thus, in the interest of helping and of our ambitious readers who might find themselves in such a predicament, we shall consider advice which might aid them in naming the delightful little stranger with whom they are confronted.

The first matter to which we shall attend is the question of who has a say in the matter. While it generally falls to the parents to name their child, grandparents may also be consulted.[1] Godparents might also have some influence.  According to Beeton’s Young Englishwoman, although godparents are not normally involved in the naming of a child, it is a profound compliment to them if their name is given to the child.[2] Regarding compliments and flattery, if a godparent does put forward a name for the child, shrewd parents may well see fit to take it up.[3] They might feel themselves particularly inclined to do so if the godparent in question happens to be rather wealthy.[4]

On the subject of good and prudent practices which can be employed in the naming of a child, one recommendation stands out as being of particular note. It is a rather nice custom and – for those to whom such things matter – conveys a sense of the ‘aristocratic’ to use the mother’s maiden name as a first name for the eldest son.[5]

However, on what we shall call an unrelated note, Etiquette: What to Do and How to Do It contends that some parents give their children ‘hideous’ names in the often mistaken belief that it will bring the them wealth and success in the future.  Etiquette: What to Do and How to Do It also explains that the over-naming of children is a further example of bad form on the part of the parents. [6] Two or three names are really quite sufficient.[7]

A further error – usually exhibited by the father – is to name the child with the intention of demonstrating a particular connection, belief or admiration.[8] Imagine, for instance, that a gentleman holds a particular admiration for the poets of Antiquity or the ancient Saxon kings. There is nothing wrong on his part with this admiration at all. Such interests could be seen as highly praise-worthy. But, it could be seen as taking that interest a few steps too far, if said gentleman were, for example, to insist on his sons and daughters bearing obscure names long since lost to time.

In short, when naming a darling little one, there are many considerations that a lady or gentleman should, or could, or might, take into account. While forthright eccentricity and originality may work out perfectly well in some instances, in others it might also be wise for parents to err on the side of caution. Nevertheless, the decision is, most rightly and naturally, theirs and theirs alone.

Bibliography

Anon., Beeton’s Young Englishwoman: A Volume of Pure Literature, New Fashions and Pretty Needlework Designs, (London: Ward, Lock and Tyler, 1875).

Howard, Lady Constance, Etiquette: What to Do and How to Do It, (London: F. V. White & Co., 1885), [ULAN Press].

The Saturday Review, ‘Babies Names’, in Littell’s Living Age, Vol. 83, (Boston: Littell, Son & Co., 1864), pp. 177-178.

Footnotes

[1] Howard, Lady Constance, Etiquette: What to Do and How to Do It, (London: F. V. White & Co., 1885), [ULAN Press], p. 315.

[2] Anon., Beeton’s Young Englishwoman: A Volume of Pure Literature, New Fashions and Pretty Needlework Designs, (London: Ward, Lock and Tyler, 1875), p. 372.

[3] Howard, Etiquette: What to Do and How to Do It, p. 315.

[4] Ibid.

[5] The Saturday Review, ‘Babies Names’, in Littell’s Living Age, Vol. 83, (Boston: Littell, Son & Co., 1864), pp. 177-178, (p. 178).

[6] Howard, Etiquette: What to Do and How to Do It, p. 315.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Saturday Review, ‘Babies Names’, (p. 177).

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s