Popular Baby Names in Classic Literature

According to the most recent data from the Social Security Administration, new parents are choosing names once prominent from the 18th through the early 20th centuries. Here are some well-known female characters and writers from literature and their name rankings from the current decade (2010-2019 so far):

Emma (ranked #2) -This name is popular in the fictional world, as well as the real one. Think Emma Swan (Once Upon a Time) and Emma Frost (X-Men).  Now over 200 years old, matchmaker Emma Woodhouse shows us that it’s attractive to be confident. In a time when it was unusual to do so, Jane Austen’s famous protagonist insists she will never marry, and, though she does in fact accept a proposal, she stays true to herself by holding out for true love.

 

Emma-ch34_(II,16) (1)
Emma, 1896 edition, ill. Hugh Thomson

Isabella (ranked #3) – Jane Austen assigned this name more than once (including to Emma’s older married sister). Yet, it is Isabella Thorpe from Northanger Abbey who leaves the stronger impression. Flirtatious and beautiful, Isabella is the friend no other girl wants too close to her man. If alive today, she might go by Isabel or Bella.

Northanger_Abbey_CE_Brock_Vol_I_chap_V
Northanger Abbey, 1907 edition, ill. C. E. Brock

 

Emily (ranked #5) – Fiercely independent Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, gave us one of the most haunting, but strangest, love affairs in history. Baffling to researchers and readers alike, this talented writer never married and in all probability never even had a love affair. She could have fooled us!

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47dd-cf0a-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w
Emily Bronte
https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-cf0a-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Lily (ranked #22) – Trapped between a high social standing and financial destitution, Edith Wharton’s Lily Bart (The House of Mirth) seems to always be one step behind the security she seeks. Still, she lives up to the class and dignity of her name by choosing honor over reputation. Edith Wharton well understood the world of high-society New York as shown here around 1880:

Edith_Wharton_c._1880
Edith Wharton

 

Grace (ranked #20) – Even a secondary character, especially when she is mentally-disturbed Grace Poole from Jane Eyre, intrigues me enough to place her on this list. However, author Grace Livingston Hill deserves first place for creating an entirely new genre of writing known as the Christian romance and for writing well over 100 novels in the early- to mid-1900’s. She understood well the meaning of grace.

Barbour Publishing, 2000

Elizabeth (ranked #10) – “Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy, and Bess…” This children’s rhyme displays the versatility of this classic name. Memorable Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice lives on as a model of the strong, sassy female protagonist. In contrast, Elizabeth (Beth) March (Little Women) lives on as the girl whose sweet nature influences all those around her. [Note the illustration drawn by the real Amy (May Alcott).]

Houghton_AC85.Aℓ194L.1869_pt.2aa_-_Little_Women,_illustration_320
Little Women, 1896 edition, ill. May Alcott

I like to think that at least some of the many names that remain popular decades and even centuries later can be attributed to the writers and characters of our favorite books. Perhaps Anne Shirley said it best:  “I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage” (L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables).

 

 

Welcome! The Best Book I Have Read This Year…

IMG_20150625_1108064_rewindThe vintageinkstand is a personal blog merging two of my biggest passions–reading and all things historical and vintage. From biographies to handwritten recipes to household hints of the early 1900s, from diaries to journals to my great-grandmother’s letters, I hope to share my latest findings, oldest dear friends (and my books are friends), interesting blurbs, and reviews of books, including many that are on the free domain.

I am also a high school and middle school English teacher, currently working for a boys ranch (residential facility for at-risk youth). Each year, part of my job joy is introducing “new” students to classic literature. Between “This sounds so boring!” and “Can we read more of that book today?” lies the journey of a school year. Along the way, I hope they see that people who lived in the Dark Ages and the Victorian era and the chaos of the 1960s all loved and worried and flirted and lost friends and searched to know God, just as we do today.

Now for the best book I have read this year. It is very hard to pin down, actually, but I would have to choose:   The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery: Vol. 1. Lucy Maud Montgomery is probably my favorite writer (if I were being tortured and had to pick), and last year I could not put down Mary Rubio’s Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings. I wanted to read her journals for myself, even though Rubio and others who knew Montgomery feel she was very selective in her thoughts, especially as her life went on, knowing the public would read her personal journals.

The more I read biographical material about writers, the more I see their lives in their works. It is so intriguing and almost always without fail (at least in the types of books I read) that their experiences are found in their books.

More about that later…