Literary Names (and the seductive qualities of research) Writing article number 7 from the archives
This post is really about the dangers of being seduced by research. It all started with a tiny snippet of irrelevant information on twitter telling me that a popular girl’s name was invented by Shakespeare. Hmm, I thought I wonder how many other names have been created by writers…and several hours later this is the result.
I’m not pretending it is definitive list. Or a useful one. Or that it will add to your general well being but hey, I had to do something with it and who would have thought that boring old Elizabethan Edmund Spenser would top the poll.
Amorette Invented by Edmund Spenser for his poem The Faerie Queen
Arwen The elf princess in Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings
Careen Invented by Margaret Mitchell. Carreen was the younger sister of Scarlet in Gone with the Wind.
Caspian A prince in two of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, probably named after the Caspian Sea in Russia.
Charmaine Invented by playwright Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings for a 1924 play What Price Glory set at the end of WWI. A few years later the play was made into a silent film and was remade in 1952 with James Cagney in the lead and a young Richard Wagner in a minor role. In the 1960s the Irish group The Bachelor’s had a hit song called Charmaine.
Claribel Another Edmund Spenser name and again it first appears in his poem The Faerie Queene. She was also a Shakespearian character (The Tempest) and Tennyson wrote a poem called Claribel in 1830.
Clea Used by Lawrence Durrell in The Alexandria Quartet published in the late 1950s.
Cleone French playwright Racine used the name in his 1667 play Andromache.
Clorinda Created by 16th century Italian poet Torquato Tasso in the poem ‘Jerusalem Delivered’
Cora A name invented by James Fenimore Cooper for the heroine of the American classic The Last of the Mohicans written in 1826.
Coraline Not quite a literary invention, more an accidental discovery of a name that had been out of fashion for about 200 years. Coraline is the name of the main character and title of Neil Gaiman’s horror/fantasy novella of 2002, it started life as a typo. He intended to write Caroline.
Dora Short form of Dorothy or Theodora, but first used as an independent name by Charles Dickens in David Copperfield.
Evangeline Created by Longfellow for his poem of the same name.
Fiona Hard to believe, but this quintessentially ancient Celtic name was invented by a Victorian novelist – a Scottish one called William Sharp who used it as a pen-name to add an air of authenticity to a series of books on Celtic myths and legends.
Glinda The name of the good witch in Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.
Heidi Short form of Adelaide or Adelheid but used independently in Johanna Spyri’s children’s novel Heidi set in the Swiss Alps.
Lestat The name of Anne Rice’s undead hero. The Vampire Lestat published in 1985 was the second in her Vampire chronicles.
Lorna Invented by R.D. Blackmore for his novel Lorna Doone
Malvina Invented by James Macpherson in the 18th century for a character in his Ossianic poems.
Medora Created by Lord Byron in his poem The Corsair.
Miranda Some sources suggest it was invented by Shakespeare for the character in The Tempest
Norma Is not the female version of Norman which means man from the north. The name was probably invented by Felice Romani, an Italian poet working at the beginning of the 19th century and writing mainly for opera. In Bellini’s 1832 tragic opera Norma, the main character is a druid priestess at the time of the Roman invasion of England
Olivia The name that started this post because I was intrigued when I discovered that it was first used by Shakespeare. He invented it for his heroine of Twelfth Night
Pamela Created by Sir Phillip Sidney for his poem Arcadia in 1590.
Stella Nickname of a friend of Jonathan Swift
Thelma Created by Marie Corelli, the most popular novelist at the end of the end of the 19th century – said to be Queen Victoria’s favourite writer – and the inspiration for Lucia in F.E Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books (and I envy you if you haven’t read them because you have that treat ahead of you.) One of Corelli’s best-selling novels was called Thelma: A Norwegian Princess.
Una Yet another name invented by Edmund Spenser for his poem The Faerie Queen
Vanessa Jonathan Swift invented the name for his 1713 poem Cadenus and Vanessa as a compliment to a woman friend Esther Vanhomrigh, taking parts of her first and last names to create it.
Wendy Perhaps the most famous invented name of all – no girl was called Wendy before J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan
Have you come across an interesting ‘invented’ name? Or have you also wasted valuable writing time doing non-essential research?