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Influence Of A Name
by [?]

In such a crowd the Poet were to blame
To choose King Chilperic for his hero’s name.

This epic poet perceiving the town joined in the severe raillery of the poet, published a long defence of his hero’s name; but the town was inexorable, and the epic poet afterwards changed Childebrand’s name to Charles Martel, which probably was discovered to have something more humane. Corneille’s Pertharite was an unsuccessful tragedy, and Voltaire deduces its ill fortune partly from its barbarous names, such as Garibald and Edvidge. Voltaire, in giving the names of the founders of Helvetic freedom, says, the difficulty of pronouncing these respectable names is injurious to their celebrity; they are Melchthal, Stawffarcher, and Valtherfurst.

We almost hesitate to credit what we know to be true, that the length or the shortness of a name can seriously influence the mind. But history records many facts of this nature. Some nations have long cherished a feeling that there is a certain elevation or abasement in proper names. Montaigne on this subject says, “A gentleman, one of my neighbours, in over-valuing the excellences of old times, never omitted noticing the pride and magnificence of the names of the nobility of those days! Don Grumedan, Quadragan, Argesilan, when fully sounded, were evidently men of another stamp than Peter, Giles, and Michel.” What could be hoped for from the names of Ebenezer, Malachi, and Methusalem? The Spaniards have long been known for cherishing a passion for dignified names, and are marvellously affected by long and voluminous ones; to enlarge them they often add the places of their residence. We ourselves seem affected by triple names; and the authors of certain periodical publications always assume for their nom de guerre a triple name, which doubtless raises them much higher in their reader’s esteem than a mere Christian and surname. Many Spaniards have given themselves names from some remarkable incident in their lives. One took the name of the Royal Transport, for having conducted the Infanta in Italy. Orendayes added de la Paz, for having signed the peace in 1725. Navarro, after a naval battle off Toulon, added la Vittoria, though he had remained in safety at Cadiz while the French admiral Le Court had fought the battle, which was entirely in favour of the English. A favourite of the King of Spain, a great genius, and the friend of Farinelli, who had sprung from a very obscure origin, to express his contempt of these empty and haughty names assumed, when called to the administration, that of the Marquis of La Ensenada (nothing in himself).

But the influence of long names is of very ancient standing. Lucian notices one Simon, who coming to a great fortune aggrandised his name to Simonides. Dioclesian had once been plain Diocles before he was emperor. When Bruna became queen of France, it was thought proper to convey some of the regal pomp in her name by calling her Brunehault.

The Spaniards then must feel a most singular contempt for a very short name, and on this subject Fuller has recorded a pleasant fact. An opulent citizen of the name of John Cuts (what name can be more unluckily short?) was ordered by Elizabeth to receive the Spanish ambassador; but the latter complained grievously, and thought he was disparaged by the shortness of his name. He imagined that a man bearing a monosyllabic name could never, in the great alphabet of civil life, have performed anything great or honourable; but when he found that honest John Cuts displayed a hospitality which had nothing monosyllabic in it, he groaned only at the utterance of the name of his host.

There are names, indeed, which in the social circle will in spite of all due gravity awaken a harmless smile, and Shenstone solemnly thanked God that his name was not liable to a pun. There are some names which excite horror, such as Mr. Stabback; others contempt, as Mr. Twopenny; and others of vulgar or absurd signification, subject too often to the insolence of domestic witlings, which occasions irritation even in the minds of worthy, but suffering, men.