Last names, first names, etc.
Posted by Laura W on June 28, 1998 at 02:11:06:
In response to Last names, first names, etc., written by Woodhouse on June 19, 1998 at 12:19:23
As to names, spouses addressed one another by first names only in private, if at all. One can never be sure, but the "if at all" was probably rare. If the man held a title, the wife would most likely address him by his title only, without the prefix of "Lord". Informally, even in company, it was permissable to call one another "my dear" or "my love" and this was, I believe, often done. Perhaps when the husband addressed the wife, he was more apt to use her first name, but I don't think so. Remember, this was the time period in which even aunts and uncles were often referred to by last names, e.g., "Uncle Smith" or "Aunt Jones". Perhaps Laura Wallace (where are you?) can sail in and clarify some of this for us.
Here I am!
Actually I think you have said it very well. I don't have much to add beyond the fact that this misuse of first names in historical romance novels (and in adaptations like the 1996 _Persuasion_, where Captain Wentworth calls Charles Musgrove "Charles" even though it says "Musgrove" in the book) is one of my biggest pet peeves!
I would say though that I don't think there was any "inequality of address" going on, i.e., a woman calling her husband "Mr." or "Lord" and he calling her by her first name in return. Mrs. Bennet calls her husband Mr. Bennet, and he calls her Mrs. Bennet.
Perhaps an important distinction is that there is a different mode of address between speaking to someone and speaking or writing of them. In fact, I have just hypothesized a rule: when speaking to someone in company, you would use the same mode as if you were speaking or writing about them: Lady Catherine, Mrs. Bennet, Captain Wentworth. In private it's likely that other modes of address were used.
I have another, previously formulated hypothesis about the use of first names. I think that they were only used among people who had known each other since childhood. For example, Lizzie, Jane, and Lydia-- I think that the sisters would continue to call her Lydia after her marriage, just as they continue to call Wickham Mr. Wickham. Also adults continue to call them by their first names into adulthood-- Aunt Gardiner calls her Lizzie even though she is grown, and I think she will continue to call her Lizzie rather than Mrs. Darcy. Charlotte also keeps the privilege of first names with Lizzie.
The key here I think is intimacy. Only one's most intimate friends and relations may call address each other by their first names. Anne Elliot and her cousin, though closely related, call each other Mr. and Miss because they are not closely acquainted (yet). (How I wish we could return to this level of formality! We did so in the classroom at my law school and it was soooo civilised!) But note that even Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley don't address each other by their first names-- they instead use the military/male code of addressing each other by their last names-- a sign of intimacy, yes, but not of the type of closeness than might have existed if they had known each other since they were in shortcoats.
So I think that, in a love match, "--dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!--" (sigh!) first names in private may well have been the norm. But not in public, or in company (although maybe, possibly, perhaps when the company is only an intimate family party). And love matches were the New way of doing things-- the majority of the previous generations had arranged matches, where I think a higher level of formality would be maintained even in private. It would be considered respectful, when the use of first names was such a mark of intimacy. Even a husband might not want to presume upon the affectionate intimacy of his wife, if he were not secure in her affection. The formality provided respect and dignity for what might not otherwise have been very respectful or dignified (buying and selling).
Well, I said that I didn't have anything to add and then I wrote a page! Sorry-- sometimes I think out loud! I hope this has made some sense.
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