Jane Austen’s Sardonic Wit

The following article muses about the wit and subtleties of Jane Austen’s writing, as shown in Austen’s own writings.

LR BurkardThere are times when I think Jane Austen and her character Lizzie Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) are more similar than one might at first think.

In letters to her sister Cassandra, Jane reveals instances of caustic observations and remarks (aimed at provoking a few gleeful snickers) which are reminiscent of Miss Bennet, and almost downright nasty.

Jane was not only a family wit, however, but subscribed to THE ” family wit”–the justification behind the tongue-in-cheek observations that we all so love in JA. This justification, I believe, found its expression in Mr. Bennet and Lizzie–but I get ahead of myself.

It is not surprising that Jane disliked some of her acquaintance– don’t we all? But the degree to which she is unsympathetic makes us wonder if it was just to garner a laugh, or if her antipathies ran even deeper-a surprising conjecture for one who showed such great depth of understanding of human frailty in her novels. Let me share a few of the little pokes she took at others, which, mean in nature or not, do make one laugh. Jane, ever the wit, is fabulously expressive.

“Lizzie Bond is just apprenticed to Miss Small, so we may hope to see her able to spoil gowns in a few years.”
JA 1 Dec, 1798 to Cassandra”Mrs. Hall, of Sherborne, was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, some weeks before she expected, owing to a fright. I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband.”

“I believe I never told you that Mrs. Coulthard and Anne, late of Manydown, are both dead, and both died in childbed. We have not regaled Mary with this news.” [Mary was Jane’s sister-in-law, who was expecting at the time. Not to tell her was a kindness, but the way she words it here is definitely a “poke.”]

Note that she doesn’t say, “sad news”, or “poor Mrs. Coulthard and Anne.” This is the real Jane, speaking unguardedly to her sister and making no effort to “sound nice” for anyone else. She would probably have told the news quite differently to other ears.

But this is the point: that within Jane’s family, one was quite expected to be a bit, well, cynical. Would the word, ‘jaded’ be going too far?


Jane wanted to amuse her sister in her letters, and no doubt Cassandra is shaking her head with us, a knowing smile on her lips as she reads, but there is a very real streak of unrepentant glee in JA’s treatment of some people.

Here’s another snippet:

“Charles Powlett gave a dance on Thursday, to the great disturbance of all his neighbours, of course, who, you know, take a most lively interest in the state of his finances, and live in hopes of his being soon ruined.”

In this case it is Mr. Powlett’s neighbors that Jane takes a stab at, but it must be noted that she does so with such sarcasm as to underscore her exaggeration.

She is having fun while she writes, and one can only imagine all the little such gems and observations the two sisters shared when together in society, that are not written down.

Many of Jane’s letters were destroyed after her death by well-meaning relatives, leaving us bereft of perhaps hundreds of juicy quotes that should have both appalled and delighted us. This is an unmitigated shame.

But here are more:

“I expect a very stupid Ball, there will be nobody worth dancing with, & nobody worth talking to but Catherine; for I believe Mrs. Lefroy will not be there; Lucy is to go…”

” I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”

On another occasion Jane is writing some very welcome news regarding the future promotions of her and Cassandra’s two brothers who are serving in the Navy: She starts with: “I have got some pleasant news for you which I am eager to communicate,….” and then shares the news.

Her next sentence is just so, well–Jane. She says, ” There! I may now finish my letter and go and hang myself, for I am sure I can neither write nor do anything which will not appear insipid to you after this.”

It was important to her to be amusing, informative or entertaining, besides merely keeping in touch with her much-loved sibling.

The Austens were intelligent people, and goodness of character, though expected, was not emphasized to the point where it would discourage such delectably sassy thoughts. To some degree, this was a reflection of the times, as letter writing was considered an art, and wit a virtue.

But Jane is not trying to form the perfect letter; she is writing to her sister with whom she was intimate and honest.

Intimations of Eternal Wit
Intimations of the Austen’s familial influence of attitudes are seen in the Bennet family when Lizzie is in her father’s study, and Mr. Bennet is vastly amused by a letter which purports that Mr. Darcy is planning to offer for Elizabeth.

“Are you not amused?” he asks, expecting his daughter to join in his appreciation of what he believes to be ignorant misinformation.

Listen carefully to his next words: “Is that not what we live for?” he asks, completely in earnest. “To laugh at others and in our turn, be laughed at as well?”

Lizzie nods weakly in agreement–she has always agreed with this in the past–but she is not at all in the state of mind to either laugh or be laughed at, anymore.

This penchant for garnering a laugh at other’s expense is so ingrained that when Mr. Darcy visits Lizzie (after the scandal involving Lydia and Wickham is famous), she guesses that he has come “to triumph over her.” No other motivation seems possible to her, when in fact, Mr. Darcy is there to do anything but.

Back to our author. At the end of a letter to her sister which she has written on Christmas Day, 1798, Jane says, “You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve…. God bless you!”

And yet, Jane, we love you anyway.

Regency romance divider


Linore Rose Burkard is the author of what she describes as “Spirited Romance for the Jane Austen Soul,” as well as articles on Regency Life, Homeschooling, and Self-Improvement. She publishes a monthly eZine “Upon My Word!” which you can receive for FREE by signing up at her website [http://www.LinoreRoseBurkard.com] quickly and easily. Ms. Burkard graduated from the City University of New York with a Magna Cum Laude degree in English Literature, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Linore_Rose_Burkard/25908

Women’s Fashions of the 19th Century – Regency and Victorian Clothing Styles

Guest blogger Inez Calender

Women’s fashions of the 19th century can be divided into two basic categories – Regency and Victorian. The Regency era ushered in the century and is named after George Prince Regent of Britain who took over his father’s duties after George III fell into mental illness. The Victorian era refers to the time during the reign of Queen Victoria, crowned in 1837. The Victorian period of style lasted for the rest of the 19th century.

Women’s fashion of the Regency era is typified by the Empire style dress; a high waisted dress made of lightweight fabrics based on classical Greek design. By 1825, waistlines lowered toward the natural waist and bodices became stiff, losing the softness of the early part of the century. Women began to wear corsets, a tight fitting undergarment that lasted throughout the 1800’s. Toward the end of the Regency era of fashion, skirts took on an A-line or bell shape with ruffles, puffs, and padding at the hem in a look that is known as Romantic style, or Regency Romantic.

The advent of the tight fitting bodice and the accentuation of a tiny waist ushered in a new shift in skirts. Skirts took on a dome shape created by cartridge pleats so that the skirt stood out from the body. In the mid 1800’s, skirts widened, and were supported by petti-coats. Women took to wearing several layers of petticoats to attain greater volume. Crinoline were a form of petti-coat made of a stiff, heavy fabric. The crinoline cage created even more volume and characterized mid century Victorian fashion with the huge skirts pictured in films like “Gone With the Wind.”

Later in the century, skirts began to slim down. An over-skirt was added and drawn back create a puffed effect and draped down the back. This accentuation of the posterior was highlighted by a bustle. A bustle is a pad at the rear, supported by a waistband The exaggerated fashion trend increased in proportion until skirts took on a large, shelf-like appearance in 1880.

Toward the end of the 19th century, skirts slimmed down. Sleeves increased in size, ballooning at the top and tapering toward the wrists in what is called a leg-of-mutton sleeve. The corset fell out of favor, criticized as being unhealthy and unnatural to be replaced by the S bend corset, or health corset which created a new silhouette and new look for the Edwardian Age.

For more information on Regency fashions, read this article that includes lovely pictures – http://hubpages.com/hub/Fashion-History-Early-19th-Century-Regency-and-Romantic-Styles

For more information on Victorian fashion including pictures and fashion details read – http://hubpages.com/hub/Fashion-History-Victorian-Costume-and-Design-Trends-1837-1900-With-Pictures

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Inez_Calender/424138

Sense and Sensibility (In Regency Underclothes)

LR BurkardSome authors (not to mention book covers) would have you believe that to dress in Regency style was to be overly immodest or even exposed.

I beg to differ.

The favorite fabric for a Regency gown was undeniably light-weight, being muslin-a very thin, soft cotton. Yet the Regency lady was no more exposed than she wanted to be. An amusing scene from the 1996 BBC “Pride and Prejudice” (Starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) is when Lydia has rushed into the hallway wearing only a chemise. The strait-laced Mr. Collins is forced to pass her on his way to the staircase, I believe, and is clearly scandalized. The scene is quite funny, and Lydia herself cannot stop laughing. But what did he find so shocking?

Was it the amount of cleavage in plain sight? Hardly, for a perfectly respectable evening dress could reveal as much. It was more likely the idea of having seen a young lady in her “underclothing” which unsettled poor Mr. Collins.

Half a century earlier, such a sight would likely not have brought the slightest blush to even the most prudish, for during the 18th century, women were required to wear layers and layers of clothing consisting largely of underclothes.

Chemises, stockings, stays (corsets), hoops, panniers, and often many layers of petticoats. By the time of the Regency, costume had undergone a downright shocking reversal, ( beginning in France, which in turn was taking its ideas from classical Greek and Roman styles of antiquity), causing the heavy layers of underclothing to be discarded.

In France, women’s underclothing was in danger of becoming downright extinct–among the upper class, in particular. When this “Empire Style” crossed the channel into England, however, it became less risque, thanks to the more modest English, but the ideal of a long, straight dress, revealing the human figure beneath had still to be maintained. All those petticoats from the previous century, in short, had to go. Same for the long corsets, the hoops, the panniers.

What remained was a simple chemise, often accompanied by a short corset which served to raise and support the bust (precursor to the modern bra), which in turn might be accompanied by a petticoat. This is where personal taste came into play. The long, straight line of the figure was the fashionable ideal and no bulky under-garments could be allowed to get in the way, but ladies could, and did, wear underclothing and the petticoat never disappeared completely from the female wardrobe. The Regency is famous in caricature for the lack of female undergarments, but this propensity of exhibitionism was far less common than the cartoonists’ of the day would have you think.

Most women, like Jane Austen herself– wore sufficient undergarments, and, indeed, dressed quite modestly. The Empire day-dress used sundry manner of textile trickery to conceal the bust (such as, frills, lace, ruches and ruffs, and even light spencers) so that day garments were in particular extremely modest. The few who made do without the short corset and petticoat were probably given the most attention by newspapermen simply because they were, well, newspaperMEN!

Evening dress was more revealing, requiring a square, low bodice, but women were free to use shawls, scarves, feathers, veils and what-not (all of which came in an amazing array of sizes and styles, especially as the Regency wore on), so that they could easily appear more modestly if they so desired. Even to modern eyes, however, bodices from the day are revealing; but again this was mostly the case for evening wear, and more formal occasions. The scantily clad lady sitting in the library reading just wasn’t the way it went, no matter how romance novel designers choose to portray it!

Conclusion: There have always been people of poor taste, then no less than now. It was they who used the fashion “to an extreme”, who did not wear adequate underclothing, and who, unfortunately, represent the era to some minds. Even drawers were worn by women as early as 1804, (though admittedly not yet popular. They were taken from men’s clothing and considered coarse and crude). Princess Charlotte was discovered

to use them, however, which (despite shocking the older set), did much to popularize them with the masses, who adored her.

Given a choice between a diaphanous Regency gown complete with a chemise and corset, and today’s style of clothing for junior’s, I would wager (if I wagered, though I do not!) that the Regency style would be the more modest.

So there.

Regency divider


Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational Regency Romance as well as articles on Regency Life, Homeschooling, and Self-Improvement.

She publishes a monthly eZine “Upon My Word!” which you can receive for FREE by signing up at her website [http://www.Linoreroseburkard.com/Regency_eZine.html] quickly and easily. For her latest short story check Here

Ms. Burkard graduated from the City University of New York with a Magna Cum Laude degree in English Literature, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Linore_Rose_Burkard/25908

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English Names of the 1500s

The following article is about choosing RenFaire names, often meaning names from the 16th century and earlier.

However, many regency romances feature family names that are ancient (to England), or at least hereditary for many generations (suggesting respect for tradition, if not actual wealth).

So, the following article may be helpful.



There are not many easy sources for people wishing to choose a character name specifically for Elizabethan England. Here is an attempt to provide one. This article contains a list of solidly documented names from 16th century England, along with some insights into how names were chosen and used.


If you were born in Elizabethan England, you would be named by your parents when you were baptized. Usually this was just a few days after your birth. It was *not*, however, your parents who actually presented you at the church; it was your *godparents*: ideally, two women and a man if you were a girl, two men and a woman if you were a boy. It was very common for parents to try to get godparents who were higher in social status than themselves, such as local nobles or prominent people in town. Many parents also asked the baby’s grandparents, aunts or uncles to serve as godparents.

One reason the choice of godparents was important is that you would most likely be named after one of them. According to Scott Smith-Bannister’s recent study (see Sources section for references) about 75% to 85% of children were given the name of a godparent, in the cases where we know both the children’s and the godparents’ names.

His data also show that if you were not named for a godparent, you would probably be named after a parent or another close relative. You were especially likely to get the name of a particular godparent or relative if they had a lot of money or status. You and the person you were named after were referred to as “namesakes.” Thus, parents clearly did choose a child’s name with care, but usually only a few names were possible, or considered, for any one child.


Your first name, the one given to you at baptism, was your “Christian name” or “given name.” It remained the same all your life, though you might, of course, go by a nickname (Molly for Mary, Tom for Thomas).

An Elizabethan character would NOT use what we now call a “middle name,” which is essentially an extra given name (as in Katherine Anne Cox or John Francis Ferrer). Double given names were slowly spreading on the Continent, but the custom had not yet reached England, and in fact did not become really common in English-speaking countries until much later, as late as the 19th century in places. We know of literally only a couple of dozen cases in all of Elizabethan England (before 1600), and most of them are among the nobles or people who were born abroad, such as Jane Sybilla Grey, who was born in France during Queen Mary’s reign.


As for last names, the most common type was the kind we use now, a surname or family name inherited from your father; if he was Edward Langley, you would be Mary Langley.

Interestingly, your last name was not quite as fixed as your first name. For instance, occasionally a family name might change. (As with many naming customs, money or status was often involved.) The family of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was originally named Sutton; when they acquired the Dudley lands and title, most family members began using Dudley as their surname. The change was not quite complete in Robert’s generation, and he was sometimes referred to as “Robert Duddeley alias Sutton”.

You might also be better known, especially in your local village, by a “byname” than by an inherited surname. A baker named Jeremy Staple might be known as Jeremy Baker or Master Baker rather than Master Staple. In some cases this might be passed on to his children and become the new family surname. Or if there were several Jeremys in the area and one was especially tall, short, red-haired, disabled, etc., or came originally from elsewhere, he might be called Jeremy Little, Lame Jeremy, or Jeremy Bristol.


In the twentieth century we draw given names from an unusually large “name pool.” A name pool is a list or concept of what members of the culture feel are appropriate things to name people. For instance, we would probably accept that Alisha or Devin or Jothan or LaShalla are “names.” But while “moon” and “unit” are perfectly okay English words, Moon Unit Zappa doesn’t seem like a person’s name to us; these words are not in our name pool.

The Elizabethan pool of given names was MUCH smaller than ours. There were only about 30 to 40 common names in circulation for each gender, with perhaps another 100 or so that you would run across from time to time. According to Janell Lovelace’s statistics, eventy percent of all women were named Elizabeth, Joan, Margaret, Anne, Alice, Agnes, Mary, Jane or Katherine. More than one out of every four men was named John, and 70% of all men were named John, Thomas, William, Richard, or Robert.

The name pool for surnames was much larger. This booklet lists over 1,000 surnames and is by no means comprehensive. One reason is that while given names traditionally came mainly from a limited number of popular European saints, surnames come from a much greater variety of sources: place names (Nottingham, Boston), occupations (Chandler, Osteller), a father’s or ancestor’s given name (Philips, Johnson), or other bynames (Cristemas, Prowd, White).


People sometimes get the impression that Biblical and “virtue” names were common in England at this time, especially among Puritans. This is only partly true. Smith-Bannister’s study shows that a few names from the Bible, like Mary, John, Elizabeth and Thomas, were indeed common, and had been so for generations. And Charity and Grace do make it into his top 50 women’s names. But the more exotic names, like Bathsheba or Ezra, and most of the “virtue” names like Prudence or Reformation, were not much thought of until the 1630s and 1640s — two generations after Queen Elizabeth. And Smith-Bannister’s studies of individual counties show that even in the most heavily Puritan districts, only about one out of six children was given either of these types of names.


The list of the most common men’s given names in England stayed pretty nearly constant from the 1530s through 1700, especially the top four or five names, though the exact order changed a bit. It’s notable how dominant the top few names are; the top five names account for 70% of all men studied. The figures from Janell Lovelace are:

  • John 29%
  • Thomas 14%
  • William 14%
  • Richard 7%
  • Robert 6%
  • Henry 3%
  • Nicholas 3%
  • Edward 2%
  • Walter 2%

The top 50 men’s names listed by Scott Smith-Bannister for the 1560s and 1570s (a larger sample, with a more specific date ocus) follow this trend fairly well. Reading down from the first column, in order from most common to least, they are:

John Nicholas Leonard Samuel Arthur
Thomas Ralph Martin Allen David
William Christopher Simon Charles Fulke
Robert Anthony Peter Alexander Luke
Richard Matthew Philip Gregory Mathias
Henry Edmund Stephen Nathaniel Tobias
George Walter Lawrence Abraham Isaac
Edward Hugh Roger Barnaby Jerome
James Andrew Daniel Geoffrey Joseph
Francis Humphrey Michael Reynold Rowland

Some additional, slightly less popular names are:

Adam Bartholomew Gerard Lancelot Oswyn
Adrian Benedict Gilbert Mark Piers
Ambrose Bernard Giles Miles Solomon
Avery Cuthbert Julian Oliver Valentine


The top five to ten women’s given names are somewhat more variable from decade to decade, and not quite so dominant. It takes nine names rather than five to account for 70% of all women studied, and Elizabeth, the most common women’s name, is only about half as common as John is for men. The figures from Janell Lovelace are:

  • Elizabeth 15%
  • Joan 12%
  • Margaret 11%
  • Anne 9%
  • Alice 8%
  • Agnes 6%
  • Isabel 4%
  • Katherine 3%
  • Mary 3%
  • Jane 3%
  • Margery 2%

The top 50 women’s names listed by Scott Smith-Bannister for the 1560s and 1570s follow this trend fairly well. In approximate order from most common to least, they are:

Elizabeth Isabel Christian Barbara Julian
Joan Dorothy Edith Rachel Philippa
Margaret Margery Emma Charity Audrey
Agnes Susanna Lucy Mabel Helen
Alice Ellen Martha Millicent Janet
Anne Sarah Marion Rose Sybil
Mary Clemence Cecily Thomasin Ursula
Jane Frances Frideswide Fortune Avis
Catherine Joyce Grace Gillian Beatrice
Elinor Bridget Amy Judith Blanche

Some additional, slightly less common names are:

Ruth Constance Florence Maria Parnell
Wilmot Denise Josian Maud Rebecca
Christina Ellen Lettice Mildred Winifred


I have edited Janell Lovelace’s list of surnames with an eye towards Faire. Some of the spellings have been modernized so the names are recognizable, and so that it’s clear how to pronounce them, since names at Faire are more often spoken than written. I’ve removed duplicates, and a few names have been dropped because they have very strong associations with one or more famous people from Elizabeth’s reign — a theatrical decision, not a historical one. There are still over 1,000 to choose from:    (or you can skip this long table.)

Abell Charlis Fitton Lond Saynsbery
Abery Chase Gage London Scarclyf
Acworth Chatwyn Galey Long Scollfyld
Adams Chauncey Garard Longton Scot
Alard Chaundeler Gardyner Lovell Scrogs
Albyn Cheberell Gare Loveney Scrope
Aldebourne Chechester Garneys Loveryk Sedley
Alfraye Cheddar Garret Lowe Sedlow
Alikok Chelde Gascoigne Lowthe Seger
Alington Chelseye Gasper Lucy Selwyn
Alleine Chernocke Gavell Ludsthorp Sencler
Amcottes Chester Gaynesford Luke Sentjohn
Amondesham Chetwoode Geddyng Lumbarde Serche
Andrews Cheyne Geffray Lupton Sever
Annesley Child George Lyfelde Seymour
Ansty Chowne Gerard Lymsey Seyntaubyn
Archer Chudderle Gerville Lynde Seys
Ardalle Churmound Geste Lyon Sharman
Arderne Chylton Gibbs Lyrypine Shawe
Argentein Chyrche Gifford Lysle Sheffeld
Arnold Claimond Gilbert Lytcott Sheraton
Arthur Clarell Ginter Lyttleburye Sherbourne
Asger Clark Glenham Lytton Sherman
Ashenhurst Clavell Glennon Lyveryche Shevington
Ashtor Claybrook Glover Makepiece Shingleton
Askew Cleffort Goberd Malemayns Shipwash
Asplyn Clement Goddam Malster Shiveley
Assheby Clerk Godfrey Maltoun Shorditch
Assheton Clifton Golde Malyns Shosmyth
Astley Clitherow Golding Manfield Shotbolt
Atherton Clopton Goldwell Manston Shylton
Atkinson Clyfford Gomersall Mapilton Sibill
Atlee Cobbe Gomfrey Marcheford Silvester
Addicock Cobham Gonson Mareys Skipwith
Attilburgh Coblegh Good Markeley Sleford
Aubrey Cockayne Goodenouth Marsham Slyfield
Audeley Cod Goodere Marten Smith
Auldyngton Codington Goodluck Mason Snayth
Aumberden Coffyn Goodnestone Massyngberde Snell
Ayde Coggeshall Goodryke Maudit Snelling
Ayleward Colard Goodryngton Mauntell Sotton
Aylmer Colby Goodwyn Maycot Sparrow
Aynesworth Cole Goring Maydestone Spebynton
Ayshecombe Colkins Gorney Mayne Speir
Babham Colmer Gorste Maynwaring Spelman
Babyngton Colt Gosebourne Mede Spencer
Bacon Complyn Grafton Medeley Spetyll
Badby Compton Greenway Merden Spicer
Bailey Conquest Grene Mereworth Sprottle
Baker Cooke Grenefeld Merstun Sprunt
Balam Coorthopp Greville Merton Stace
Baldwin Copinger Grey Metcalf Stanbury
Ballard Corbett Grobbam Michelgrove Standon
Ballett Corby Grofhurst Millys Stanley
Bamard Cosworth Groston Milsent Stanwix
Barantyn Cossale Grove Moland Staple
Barber Cosyngton Grymbalde Molyngton Staunton
Bardolf Cotton Guildeforde Molyns Staverton
Baret Coulthurst Gyll Monde Stepney
Barfoot Courtenay Gysborne Montacute Stevyn
Barker Covert Gyttyns Montagu Stodeley
Barnes Cowill Hache Moore Stoke
Barre Cox Hackeman More Stokerton
Barrentyne Crane Haddock Morecote Stokes
Barstaple Cranford Haddon Morley Stokey
Bartelot Crawley Hadresham Mortymer Stokton
Barton Crekett Hakebourne Moryet Stocks
Basset Cressy Hale Morys Stone
Batherst Crispe Hall Motesfont Stoner
Battersby Cristemas Halley Mowfurth Stoughton
Battyl Crocker Halshan Mugge Strachleigh
Baynton Crugge Hambard Mullens Strader
Beauchamp Cryppys Hammer Muston Strangewayes
Beaumont Cuddon Hamond Myddilton Strelley
Beaurepaire Culpeper Hampden Myllet Strete
Bedell Cunnyngham Hancock Mylner Stubbe
Bedgbery Curson Hansart Narbrige Styles
Bedingfeld Curteys Harbird Nash Stylle
Beel Daelyngridge Harbotle Neceham Styward
Beer Dagworth Harcourt Nele Sulyard
Bekyngham Dale Hardy Nevinson Sumner
Bell Dalison Harewell Newdegate Swan
Bende Damsell Hargreve Newman Swetecok
Bennet Danet Harlakinden Noke Swetenham
Benthey Danvers Harleston Norbury Switte
Berdwell Darcy Harley Norden Symeon
Berecraft Darley Harpeden Norrys Symons
Beresford Daubernoun Harper North Tabard
Berkhead Daunce Harris Northwoode Tame
Bernard Daundelyon Harryses Norton Taylor
Bernewelt Dauntesay Harte Norwich Tedcastle
Berney Davers Harwood Norwood Theobauld
Berry Davy Hasard Notfelde Thomas
Berwyk Dawne Hatteclyff Notyngham Thornburgh
Best Day Haukesworth Nysell Thorne
Beton Deacons Hawkins Obson Thornton
Bettesthorne Delabere Hawtrey Oke Thorp
Bewforest Delamere Haye Oken Throkmorton
Bewley Dely Hayes Oliver Thursby
Bexley Demoke Hayton Olyngworthe Tibborde
Bigley Dencourt Helme Osborne Tilghman
Bilingford Dene Henshawe Osteler Tiploft
Bischoptree Denton Herleston Osyllbury Topsfield
Bishop Denys Heron Outlawe Torryngton
Bladwell Dericote Hertcombe Oxenbrigg Tothyll
Blakeley Dering Herwy Page Town
Blakewell Deryngton Hewes Pagge Tregonwell
Blaknall Desford Heydon Palmer Treningham
Blakwall Digby Heywood Panshawe Trenowyth
Blakwell Dixton Heyworth Papley Trevet
Blenerhayset Doddle Hicchecok Parker Trumpington
Blexham Dogmersfield Higate Parret Tubney
Blodwell Donnet Higden Parris Turner
Blome Doreward Hille Parsons Twarby
Blondell Dormer Hoare Paston Tweedye
Blount Dove Hobart Pattesley Tyndall
Blundell Dow Hobert Payne Tyrell
Boddinham Downer Hodgeson Peacok Ufford
Bohan Draper Holbrook Pecke Underhill
Boote Draw Holcot Peckham Unton
Boothe Drayton Holes Peele Upton
Borell Driland Holland Pekham Urswic
Borrow Dryden Holsey Peletoot Vass
Bosby Dunch Holt Peltie Vaughan
Bost Duncombe Holton Pemberton Vawdrey
Bostock Dunham Hopton Pen Veldon
Boston Duredent Horman Penhallick Verney
Boteler Dusteby Hornebolt Pennebrygg Vernon
Bothy Dye Hornley Perchehay Vinter
Bouldre Dygenys Horsey Perot Wade
Bourne Dyneley Horthall Perryvalle Wadham
Boville Dynham Horton Petham Wake
Bowcer Echyngham Hosteler Petley Waldegrave
Bowett Edgar Hotham Pettit Waldeley
Bownell Edgcomb Howard Pettwoode Walden
Bowthe Edgerley Huchenson Peyton Walford
Bowyar Edwards Huddleston Phelip Walkden
Bradbridge Egerton Hugeford Philips Walker
Bradshawe Eggerley Hunden Playters Wallace
Bradstane Eglisfelde Hungate Plessi Walley
Bradston Eldysley Hunston Plymmyswoode Walrond
Bramfield Elmebrigge Hurst Poffe Walsch
Brampton Elyot Hussey Pole Waltham
Branche Elys Hyde Polsted Walton
Branwhait Emerson Hyenson Polton Wanteley
Brassie Engeham Hylderley Porter Wappelode
Braunstone Engleford Hyll Portyngton Warbulton
Bray Englysche Inwood Potter Warde
Brayles Epworth Isley Poulet Wardeby
Brecknock Erewaker Jackmann Pownder Wardrieu
Bredham Ermyn Jackson Pratt Wardyworth
Brent Ertham James Pray Warner
Bret Esmund Janner Prelatte Warren
Brewse Estbury Jarman Prophete Wayte
Brewster Estney Jay Prowd Webb
Brewys Estone Jendring Purlles Weekes
Bridgeman Etton Jenney Pursglove Welbek
Briggs Everard Johnson Purvoche Welby
Brinckhurst Everdon Jordan Pygott Wellins
Brodeway Evrenden Joslyne Pylet Wenman
Brodnax Evyngar Joulon Pynnoke Wensley
Brokhill Eyer Jowchet Pynty West
Brocksby Eyston Kekilpenny Quintin Westbrook
Brome Fabyan Kellett Radley Westlake
Brook Faldo Kelly Rampston Weston
Brougham Fane Kemp Ramsey Wetherden
Broughton Faryndon Kent Ratcliff Wexcombe
Brouncker Faylare Keriell Rawlyn Whalley
Brownflet Fayneman Kesteven Rawson White
Brownyng Felbrigg Key Raynsford Whitewood
Browet Feld Kidwelly Rede Whowood
Brown Fenton Killigrew Redman Whytton
Brudenell Ferrer Kinge Reeve Whytyng
Bryan Feversham Knevynton Reynes Wightman
Bryn Ffrewyll Knighton Reynesford Wilkins
Brystowe Fienley Knody Richeman Willardsey
Bulkeley Finch Knoyll Rikhill Williams
Bulstrode Fitzgeffrey Knyvet Risley Willmer
Burgess Fitzherbert Kottow Roberts Willys
Burgh Fitzlewis Kydwelly Robertson Wilson
Burghehyll Fitzralph Kyllyngworth Robins Windham
Burgoyn Fitzwarym Kyrkeby Robynson Wingfield
Burlton Fitzwilliyam Kytson Rochester Wiseman
Burnell Fleet la Barre Rochforth Woodbrygge
Burton Fleming la Hale Roland Woode
Buryngton Fletewoode la Penne Rolleston Woodeward
Bushe Flexney Lacy Rondel Wolrond
Buslingthorpe Flower Laken Ront Wolstonton
Bushbury Fodde Lamber Roper Worsley
Butler Fogg Lambton Rotheley Wotton
Byfield Foliot Langeton Rous Wreke
Byllyng Foljambe Langham Rowdon Wrenne
Byngham Follywolle Langstone Rowe Wright
Byrde Folon Lappage Rowlatt Wulvedon
Byschoppeson Folsham Latham Rowley Wyard
Caley Forde Latton Rudhall Wyatt
Callthorp Fortescue Launceleyn Rufford Wyddowsoun
Campeden Fortey Lave Ruggenale Wyghtham
Canon Fowler Lawnder Ruggeweyn Wylcotes
Canteys Fox le Bone Rusche Wylde
Cantilupe Francey Leeche Russell Wylmot
Carbonall Frankeleyn Leeds Ryall Wymer
Cardiff Fraunces Lehenard Rykeworth Wyncall
Carew Freer Leigh Rynger Wynston
Carlyll Freville Leighlin Ryppringham Wynstryngham
Carter Frilende Leman Sacheverell Wynter
Cary Frilleck Lenton Sackville Wythinghall
Caseberde Frogenhall Lestrange Sadler Wyvil
Cassy Fromond Letterford Salford Yate
Castell Froste Leventhorpe Salle Yaxley
Castletown Frowseloure Leverer Salter Yden
Catesby Frye Leveson Saltonstall Yelverton
Cavell Fryth Lewys Sampson Yerde
Caxaton Fulburne Leynham Samuell York
Cely Fulmer Leynthall Sanburne Yornold
Chamburleyn Funteyn Lichefield Sandes Young
Champneys Furnace Livesey Saunders
Chanceler Fynderne Lloyd Saunterton
Chancey Fyneux Lockton Savill
Chapman Fysher Lodyngton Sayer


Note that if you are from Wales, Scotland, or Ireland, the name pools you draw from may be quite different, along with the common methods of forming names. A few notes may help.

Wales had its own distinctive naming practices and a largely separate name pool. The usual form of surname was a patronymic (derived from your father’s given name). For a man, this is: [given name] ap [your father’s given name] (such as Owein ap Griffith). For women, [given name] verch [your father’s given name] (Myfanwy verch Eynon). There were also some areas of Wales that had been under English law for 100 years or more, where English names and name patterns were more common (such as Owen Tudor, King Henry VIII’s grandfather — an English-pattern name using Welsh components).

Scotland is actually divided into two rather different cultural areas. In the lowland and urban parts of Scotland, your naming practices and name pool would be very similar to the English (though with some regional differences). The common language spoken in these parts of Scotland was Scots, a version of English (or a language close to English) and not Gaelic. In fact, the Scots-speaking culture has in some ways more affinities (dress, customs, etc.) with English culture of the time than with the Gaelic culture in the Highlands.

In the Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlands, the type of “clans” we usually think of, with fixed, inherited surnames, didn’t appear until long after our period, in fact not till about the 18th century. During the reign of Elizabeth in England, by far the commonest form of surname in Gaelic-speaking areas is a patronymic. For a man, this produces a name like: [given name] mac [possessive form of your father’s given name], such as Eoin mac Donnchaidh. For a woman, [given name] inghean [possessive form of your father’s given name] (Dearbhorgaill inghean Dhomhnaill). Patronymics account for the overwhelming majority of the period Gaelic surnames we know or can guess at (though unfortunately, very few Gaelic names are recorded in Gaelic in Scotland).

In Ireland, also a Gaelic-speaking country, these same patronymics were used as well, and were formed in basically the same way.

However in Ireland there was also another common alternative: the clan byname. The pattern for clan bynames for men is [given name] ó [clan ancestor’s given name] (Conmhaol ó Conchobhair). For women, [given name] inghean uí [clan ancestor’s given name] (Siobhán inghean uí Mháille). The clan ancestor referred to would be the man, usually several generations back, after whom the clan was named.

NOTE that both Irish and Scottish Gaelic have a complex grammar that has major effects on how names are pronounced and spelled. Dictionaries and name books are generally not very helpful with this. It’s a very good idea to consult someone knowledgeable about the languages (and about historic naming practices in these languages), in order to get a Welsh, Scottish or Irish name right.


Consider the pattern of names you would expect to find in your Elizabethan village. You would probably meet many Margarets, a few Dorothys, perhaps one Maud, and probably no one named Tamara or Chastity. As twentieth-century humans, we have a natural tendency to pick a name that is “different” in order to emphasize our individuality. But Elizabethans seem instead to have chosen names that were common in their families and communities, apparently as a way of expressing their family and community ties.

This is a very different mind-set and it is worth trying to understand it. It can also be a source of some good theatrical “bits” — Who were your godparents? Who are you named after? How many Catherines are in your guild, and how do you tell them apart? (Here’s where bynames come in handy.)

Also, before you get too attached to one particular name, try your chosen first and last names on several of your friends to see how you like them, whether they’re easy to say, and whether there are any obvious bad jokes on your name that you won’t want to live with. (For instance, William Bates might not like being addressed as Master Bates!)


The names and information in this article come from several very good statistical studies of Elizabethan names.

A good (though rather dry) recent study of given names is Names and Naming Patterns in England 1538-1700, by Scott Smith-Bannister (Oxford Historical Monographs, Clarendon Press, 1997, ISBN 0-19-820663-1).

Name lists that are not from Smith-Bannister are originally from the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology’s index to its brass rubbings collection at Oxford University. The compilation I’ve used is by Janell K. Lovelace and is available on the World Wide Web at <http://www.panix.com/~mittle/names/arval/brasses/>.

A similar study by Brian M. Scott, titled “Late Sixteenth Century English Given Names,” is available at <http://www.panix.com/~mittle/names/talan/eng16/>.

The Academy of S. Gabriel at <http://www.s-gabriel.org/> is an excellent name resource, although Elizabethan England falls at the end of their time period. Their focus is on the best possible historical accuracy. The Academy also offers a consulting service if you have in-depth questions about a historically accurate name (they will help you with Welsh or Gaelic names, for instance), although due to their small and completely volunteer staff, a response may take several weeks.

For Scottish and Irish names, before you do anything else please read “Scottish Names 101” and “Quick and Easy Gaelic Bynames”, both by Sharon Krossa, and available at <http://www.stanford.edu/~skrossa/medievalscotland/> or through links from the S. Gabriel Website.

For Welsh names, Heather Rose Jones has written “A Simple guide to Constructing 16th Century Welsh Names in English Contexts,” also available through the S. Gabriel Website.

All these authors can be contacted through S. Gabriel if you have questions about names in their specific languages and cultures. I am also greatly indebted to them for helping me with this project, although any mistakes are, of course, my own.

I’m also available to field questions about Faire names in general. My focus, like St. Gabriel’s, is on historical accuracy. I can be contacted at <[email protected]>.


It doesn’t have much to say about naming as such, but for a detailed and fascinating discussion of Elizabethan birth, baptism, and godparents, I recommend David Cressy’s Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England. (Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-19-820168-0)

If you are interested in a possible name that is not in this article, probably the best and most easily accessible standard name references that cover this period are the following. Most large libraries are likely to have them.

Withycombe, E.G., The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press.

Reaney & Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames, Oxford University Press, 1995. Or the earlier edition: Reaney, P.H., A Dictionary of British Surnames, 2nd ed., Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976. This will also tell you correct 16th-century spellings for names in this article’s surname list, some of which are given in their 14th- or 15th-century forms.

Ekwall, Eilert. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names. Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1989. A good source for anyone who wants an English surname taken from a place-name.


Copyright 1999 by Chris Laning. Unlimited reproduction of this article in print or electronic media for nonprofit educational purposes is permitted, provided it is reproduced in full including this copyright notice, and no money is charged beyond the cost of copying. All other rights reserved.


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