While putting together Monday’s post on Louvima, I found a few other interesting names in Notes & Queries, so I thought I’d do a follow-up post.
Mr. Cuthbert Bede, the person who started the N&Q conversation on Louvima, actually had more to say about unusual names. Here’s the rest of his letter:
It may be remembered that Sydney Smith invented a new name, Saba, for his daughter (‘Memoirs,’ vol. i p. 22). I once invented a name, Mareli, which was intended as an amalgam of the names Mary Elizabeth. I did this for the purposes of a little story, in which the father of the baby girl has asked two wealthy maiden aunts to be the two godmothers; and he proposes to call the baby Mary Elizabeth; after the respective Christian names of the two aunts. Miss Mary Ricketts consents to this, and promises to give her godchild a handsome present. Miss Elizabeth Meagrim will do the same, provided that the baby is named Elizabeth Mary instead of Mary Elizabeth. Miss Ricketts will no yield; and at the last the father finds a way out of the difficulty by inventing the amalgam Mareli, with which combination the two aunts are satisfied. This little tale was published in a six-shilling volume, ‘The Curate of Cranston, with other Prose and Verse,’ by Cuthbert Bede (Saunders, Otley & Co., 1862). In the obituary of the Times, April 2, 1870, appeared the following;–
“On the 30th ult. at Eastbourne Priory, near Midhurst, Mary Elizabeth (Mareli), third daughter of Francis and Martha Tallant, in her ninth year.”
I conclude that the parents had read my story, and called their child Mareli as a pet name.
The next month, two responses were printed. One was from J. M. Cowper:
Cuthbert Bede’s note on this name reminds me of similar Christian names I have met with while preparing the registers of St. Alphage, Canterbury, for the press. In 1706 Louina Backer was baptized, where probably u=v. If so the name is Lovina. In 1730 Lovevina Cooper was christened, and in 1769 I find a Levina Cramp. Possibly the whole of these may be variants of Lavinia. If not, the first and second go far to prove that Sir Francis Knollys has narrowly escaped “appropriating” an invention of the last century.
The other was from E. Venables:
“Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt.” If Cuthbert Bede coined the name Mareli for one of his fictitious heroines, a very similar name was coined for a real person long before his facile and amusing pen began to be exercised. A lady well known to visitors of Ventnor thirty or forty years ago, the wife of Rev. J. Noble Coleman, incumbent of St. Catherine’s Church, bore the name “Marella,” which was evidently formed in the same way by the combination of portions of two Christian names. I can mention another example. When dining, five-and-thirty years back, wich that excellent archaeologist and accurate editor the late H. T. Riley, I met a young lady who, to my surprise, answered to the name “Marmary.” Asking my host whether I had heard the name aright, he told me that the young lady had been so called after two godmothers, one of whom was named Martha, and the other Mary, her own name combining the two.
Here’s a little more information on Saba: She was born in 1802 and her father, Sydney Smith, was a well-known clergyman and writer. According to a biography of Sydney Smith, Saba was a place-name picked out of the Bible (Psalm 72:10). The name “was bestowed on her in obedience to her father’s conviction that, where parents were constrained to give their child so indistinctive a surname as Smith, they ought to counterbalance it with a Christian name more original and vivacious.”
- Bede, Cuthbert. “Louvima, a New Christian Name.” Notes & Queries 7 Jul. 1888: 6.
- Cowper, J. M. “Louvima, a New Christian Name.” Notes & Queries 4 Aug. 1888: 97.
- Russell, George W. E. Sydney Smith. London: Macmillan, 1905.
- Venables, E. “Louvima, a New Christian Name.” 4 Aug. 1888: 97-98.