Page images

Bishop, Priest, Monk, and others, must have been originally assumed and transmitted by persons who did not, in fact, hold the station indicated by the name. Nearly 900 Kings are born annually in England and Wales. The family is almost as numerous as the Cooks, and more so than the Parkers. Camden's observation is, that the ancestors of persons of such names must have served such, acted such parts, or were Kings of the Beane, 'Christmas Lords, &c.' Most probably such names were given by mothers or nurses, or play fellows, and adhering to individuals, when surnames began to be hereditary, were handed down to posterity. Mr. Kemble has pointed out a Saxon Bishop, who was so in name only. It is a little curious to find, as early as the reign of King John, a Jew bearing the surname of Bishop, Deulecres le Eveske.' The use of Archbishop as a surname is equally ancient. The origin of this latter surname, in Hugh de Lusignan's case, in France, was singular. This archbishop when, by the death of his brothers, the Lordship of Parthenay Soubise &c. descended to him, was dispensed by the Pope to 'marrie, on condition that his posteritie should beare the sur'name of Archevesque and a mitre over their arms for ever.' (Camden.) The dame of Arcedeckne is also ancient.

The frequency of King as a surname is a little remarkable. It was borne by the old republican Regulus, and was also known as Rex, at Rome: it is very common now-a-days in France, Le Roi, Roi, and in Germany, Koenig. The name of King became distinguished in England about a century and a half ago, in the person of Sir Peter King, who was first Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and afterwards Lord Chancellor, as Lord King, certainly a strongly distinguishing title. When the title, so acquired, was borne by the late Lord King, it could challenge comparison with the noblest names in the country. The present head of that family has thought fit to merge the ennobled name in the comparatively unknown title of Earl of Lovelace, so that it is only the name of a younger brother (Mr. Locke King) that now serves to call to mind either the philosopher Locke, the former Lord Chancellor, or the late Lord King.

A similar wish to get rid of a vulgar name probably created some of the Greek and Latin forms of surnames, now not uncommon in Germany: Osiander is from Hosemann, which differs little from our English Hosier: Neander is a translation of Neumann. The great Reformer Philip Melanchthon was in German Schwarzerdt, and when he appeared as Ippofilo da Terra negra, on the title-page of an Italian translation of one of his theological publications, he was not recognised, and for



some time escaped the censorship.* Curtius is more closely connected with Kurz (Short), than with the Roman Curtii. The German Musaeus is common enough, and a Marius has written in English on Bills of Exchange. Coccejus comes from Koch (Cook), and not from the gens Cocceja. In Germany latinised names became hereditary as surnames. Adolphus (Adolf), Ludolfus (Leutholf), are instances. Sometimes the Latin genitive was used as in Ernesti, Jacobi, Dietrici, Ulrici, forms which correspond with our Harris and Edwards, and with the French Dantoine, Danton, Dandré, &c., and with Damiani. The Dutch Commentator Torrentius, was known to his fellow countrymen as Van der Beken, and the latinised form Hugo Grotius, prevents our knowing the real name De Groot, which has again become illustrious in the great historian of Greece Mr. Grote.

England furnishes a few instances in which surnames were similarly latinised in the sixteenth century. Dr. Cains was no descendant of the great Roman jurist, but an English physician, whose vernacular name of Key was latinised by Caius, and who, when a Fellow of Gonvile Hall, Cambridge, in 1557, obtained a charter perpetuating his latinised name in the College of Gonvile and Caius.' Everyone still writes Caius College;' but Key's College is, at Cambridge, the invariable pronunciation. In the same century, Thomas Caius (also a Key, in English,) was Master of University College, Oxford. The present English and German surname Carus, probably dates from the same period. Magnus is another latinised surname which became hereditary in England. In one case it was assumed by a poor foundling, afterwards an eminent divine, and is said to have been substituted for Tom among us, by which he was first known. Magnus' was the cognomen bestowed on the great Cn. Pompeius, and borne by his descendants until they were deprived of it by the jealousy of the Emperor Caligula.

With us the good old English Smith is corrupted into Smythe, and at last even into Smijthe; just as Simon, the cobbler in Lucian,' when he grew rich, called himself Si

* Another form, that of Hippophilus Melangaus, seems also to have been used by Melanchthon, or others for him, as the name of the author of his compendium of Theology, and Commentary on St. Matthew, and found its way into the Index librorum prohibitorum, published at Rome in 1681, and was retained in the more recent Index, published at Madrid in 1747. He had been included, under the same name, in the Catalogue des livres censurès par la Facultè de Théologie de Paris, in 1549.

monides, or as the German Schulz or Butterwecke changes his name into Scholzen or Bouterwek. When such a Smith, Smythe, or Smijthe takes his name from his Furnace, it has sometimes been changed successively by his wealthier descendants into Furniss, Furnice, and Furnese; giving rise to Swift's sneer, 'I know a citizen who adds or changes a letter in his name with every plum he acquires; he now wants only the 6 change of a vowel to be allied to a sovereign prince (Farnese) 'in Italy.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Such traits of human nature have been frequently observed from the time of Simon, the Greek cobbler, to that of John, the English Smith. Lucian, in his Timon,' describes the way in which a mere slave, Pyrrhias or Dromo, on succeeding to a rich inheritance, was wont to change his name to Megacles or Megabyzus. The orator Eschines is said to have changed his father's name, Tromes, into Atrometus; his mother's, Empusa*, into Glaucothea!

The slave at Rome, on obtaining his freedom, usually received the prænomen (as well as the nomen gentilitium) of his former master, in addition to which he retained his own original slave's name. Many of our readers will remember the sneer of Persius, when Dama, a Syrian slave, is emancipated:

'Hic Dama est non tressis agaso:
Verterit hunc dominus, momento turbinis exit
Marcus Dama! Papae! Marco spondente recusas,
Credere tu nummos? Marco sub judice palles?'

Provincials who obtained the Roman citizenship similarly took the prænomen and nomen of the Roman citizen through whose intervention they had acquired their new character. Hence Cicero writing to the Proconsul of Sicily a letter in favour of a Sicilian Demetrius Megas, and mentioning that he had recently obtained the Roman citizenship at the instance of (P. Cornelius) Dolabella, subjoins, Itaque nunc P. Cornelius vocatur.'†

[ocr errors]

Lord Byron, if we rightly remember, wished to be called, not by his English name, but by that of the French family of Biron; while, on the contrary, the Emperor Napoleon, at a very early period of his great career, thought it worth while to Frenchify his Italian name of Buonaparte by writing it Bonaparte. Similarly, the great Bohemian family of Czernahora have long since assumed at Vienna the name of Schwarzenberg,

* We once, in a country where surnames are not yet generally hereditary, met with a woman's name Katakhano-pula, Vampire's daughter!

+ Cic. Ep. ad Divers., XIII. 36.

a German word, and in fact a mere translation of their Bohemian appellation. This is as if a French Lefevre were to change his name to Smith, on taking his place among his fellow-subjects in England. During the Hungarian revolution of 1848, the German and Jewish traders in Pesth Magyarized their descent, and many a high-sounding Magyar surname might be traced to a humbler patronymic. The Magyars place the Christian naine after the surname instead of before it.


The commonest legitimate change of surname in modern times, is that occasioned by the succession to lands, devised on condition that the successor assume the testator's name. Thus a country gentleman, gladly succeeding to an estate, is constrained to take along with it, by Royal license, the surname of Smith or Thompson; and does so with much more dislike, perhaps, for his new appellation, than Mr. Henry Bertram felt for his thrice unhappy name' of Van Beest Brown. estate is, however, gained; the offensive name is for a while endured; and, in some cases, by like Royal license subsequent, the nominal condition of the devise is abolished, the old testator's vulgar name is consigned to its original obscurity, and the former name of the now enriched devisee is resumed.* Italian gentleman once changed the ancient name of de' Rainaldi, which he had inherited, to assume and transmit to his descendants that of Dante. This was done as a mark of admiration for the author of the Divine Comedy.


Such admiration of great characters of former days has sometimes shown itself in the imposition of a baptismal name. Marcus Antonius Muretus, and Julius Cæsar Scaliger, may be mentioned as instances. Under James I. Sir Julius Cæsar was Master of the Rolls in England. Almost in our own age, an English advocate (afterwards a judge), in the fervour and exuberance of his patriotism, caused one of his three sons to be baptized Hampden, a second Russell, and a third Sidney. And with political feelings equally strong, but running in an opposite direction, an old Scottish Jacobite called each of his sons Charles Edward.

About the time of the passing of the Reform Act, a good many English children received as their baptismal name John Russell. This usage of bestowing, as part of a child's baptismal name, the surname of another person, has long prevailed in

Mr. Lawley took the surname of Thompson only by Royal license,' on 27th September, 1820, and having been created Baron Wenlock in May, 1839, resumed by Royal license, on the 1st of June of the same year, his paternal surname of Lawley, and his issue 'were to continue the surname of Lawley only.' (Debrett's Peerage.)

England. At times a father contents himself now-a-days with giving his own surname as the Christian name of his child: Cresswell Cresswell, Sitwell Sitwell.

At times an eminent and ancient name has been abandoned for one somewhat less notorious at the moment of the change. The Irish O'Brien has thus been replaced, in our own day, by the English Stafford. No one wondered much at such a preference, when Mr. Smith O'Brien was enacting high treason in Irish cabbage gardens.

[ocr errors]

Nearly four hundred years ago, an Act of the Irish Parliament ordained, that every Irishman dwelling betwixt or amongst Englishmen in the counties of Dublin, Myeth, Vriel, and Kildare,' should go 'like to one Englishman in apparel, ' and shaving of his beard above the mouth,' should swear allegiance, and should take to him an English surname, of a town, as Sutton, Chester, Trym, Skyrne, Corke, Kinsale; or colour, as white, blacke; or arte or science, as smith, or carpenter; or ' office, as cooke or butler;' and that he and his issue should use the same, under a specified penalty. Thus O'Gowans became Smiths, and Mac-Intyres Carpenters; but, probably, few of the O'Briens then changed their name.

A change of a family name sometimes took place at a very early period of English history. The Mowbrays, whose line first bore the ducal title of Norfolk, derived their surname from Henry the First's bow-bearer, by whom it was assumed, with the possession of the estates of Robert Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, on his attainder. Still more noticeable instances of the change of name are found, in comparatively modern times, in France, where the son of Jean Poquelin and Marie Cressé assumed the name of Molière, and François Marie Arouet, a younger son of parents whose surnames were Arouet and Daumait, made himself known to the world as de Voltaire. This instance, however, is only an imitation of what commonly occurred in French noble families, and also in England, in ancient times. When a younger son had the rare good fortune of obtaining an estate of his own, he assumed a new surname from his estate. Thus, in England, Hugh de Montfort's second son, being lord of Hatton, in Warwickshire, took the surname of Hatton.

A less frequent change is, when the surname of a maternal ancestor is substituted for that of the paternal line. Geoffrey 6 Fitz-Maldred married an heiress of the house of the Nevill's, and thereupon took the name of Nevill, and left it to his

* 5 Ed. 4. c. 3. (A. D. 1465.)

« PreviousContinue »