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.