Sunday, February 7, 2016

Advice for Writers of Romantic Fiction, 1790 - and 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Publishers, editors, and critics have always been ready with suggestions for writers - handy rules that, if followed, are sure to guarantee a story that readers will devour. The advice in the clipping, below right, comes from an 18thc newspaper, The World, appearing in the September 17, 1790 edition. Although nearly 250 years old, modern writers and readers of romantic fiction may find these rules surprisingly (or perhaps depressingly) current.

I've transcribed them below:

"It is absolutely necessary for female NAMES to be culled with delicacy, that they may be more interesting – HARRIET, ISABELLA, LEONORA, AUGUSTA, INDAMORA, FLORINDA, WILHEMINA, ALMERIA, SOPHONISBA, &C. And as for surnames, take the NEVILLES, the GRENVILLES, the BELVILLES, the SAVILLES, the HOWARDS, the GODOLPHINS, the MOWBRAYS, and the MONTGOMERIES; be particularly careful, that they are all Honourable, or Right Honourable, or Dutchesses, or Countesses, or Baronesses, or Baronetesses, by which means the dignity of the story is preserved; for who could with any decency be supposed to love HANNAH GRIMES,  or MARTHA DICKENS, or MARGARET SIMS! As for the MEN, they must all be Lords, Knights, Captains, Colonels, or Counts, and should generally keep phaetons and four, or elegant little gigs; they must have fought duels without end, and be fond of deep play; and if, from excess of sensibility, they have occasioned a FEW DIVORCES, it makes the work infinitely more interesting.

The more things change....

Many thanks to another of our friends of the blog, writer/historian Emily Brand, who spotted this item for us.

Above: Young Girl Writing a Love Letter, by Pietro Antonio Rotari, c1755, Norton Simon Art Foundation.





13 comments:

Deb Salisbury said...

I love those names! I haven't come across Almeria before.

Ann Sharp said...

One of Georgette Heyer's characters was an "Almeria," but I can't recall which book she appeared in.

Ann Sharp said...

Found two: Pen's Aunt Almeria in THE CORINTHIAN, and Charles' betrothed in "Bath Miss" in PISTOLS FOR TWO.

Sarah said...

I hadn't come across Indamora before, and I flatter myself that I'd culled most of the more outrageous literary names. I think that's on a par with Lindamara, Margiana and Seraphina, though still capped by Mrs Helena Williams' choices of Euphelia, Eltrada, Aciloe, Alzira, Cora and Zilia.

Sarah said...

It's now driving me nuts that I can't remember where I first found Sophonisba...

Anonymous said...

I think this was a bit of sarcasm. I also think that Jane Austen deliberately wrote her novels against this sort of thing. Fanny Burney has a girl named Indianna which I found more surprising than several of names listed above.
I had to keep a copy of this . That list of names and surnames is quite a bonus.

Chris Woodyard said...

I'm almost afraid to ask: what is "deep play" on the part of the ideal literary hero?

Kathleen said...

@Chris Woodyard: It sounds kind of dirty, I know, but I think "deep play" means he's fond of gambling. You know, a gamester.

Sarah said...

whatever else would deep play be? when you're gambling deep into your pockets, as it were.

Place to stand said...

Couldn't enjoy this more - thank you - Godolphin is now the name of a very significant and successful racing yard in Newmarket !

Was looking for inspiration when my daughter was born...I looked as ever to the Classics..

Sarah said...

Sophonisba, a princess of Carthage. Glad to have tracked this down. Now about to link to this on my blog with a few other names, these ones culled from Jacobean plays and Shakespeare apocrypha

Sarah said...

If it's permitted, here's more potential, and sometimes silly, names

Jolene Rae Harrington said...

I'm always looking for literary-inspired names for my pet chickens (my current pair are Charlotte and Emily, with Anne now departed). These names will do nicely, too! For writing, I did use Pentheselia once which I thought was original, but you ladies quite undo me! (FYI Sarah, "Deep play"=heavy gambling.)

 
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