Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught this morning by a review by Colin Burrow in the London Review of Books of Literary Names:  Personal Names In English Literature by Alastair Fowler.  A snippet:

More than most literary phenomena, names in fiction seem very straightforward until you start to think about them. The simple question, ‘why does a name sound right?’ leads to a whole range of questions. Are there rules about how names are given to characters? Do naming practices differ in different periods? Are they specific to particular genres? Do different authors use names in entirely different ways? There are also anxieties to address: is discussion of names in fiction snagged in a feedback loop, in which we think James Bond is such a good name for a spy because that’s what we know it to be? The answer to all these questions is probably yes, which means that however fascinating literary names are as a subject it’s extremely hard to write a book about them. If there are general principles to literary naming, and yet everybody does it differently, then it may turn out to be a practice as mysterious as language use and as idiosyncratic as aesthetic appreciation: there may well be underlying principles, but variations may be so extensive that instance and rule are always pulling against each other. One of the many things Alastair Fowler shows in the course of this fantastically learned and occasionally perverse book is that to think about literary names you have to think about more or less the whole literary system; and when you do so, individual instances of literary names rarely turn out to exemplify general tendencies.

The rest of the article touches on some examples – comedy, tragedy, Classical, modern, everything from Sophocles to Shakespeare to Wodehouse.   It looks like exactly the sort of thing to tickle the Robbo fancy.  To the devil’s website!

And speaking of literary names, let us not forget one of the greatest opening sentences, indeed opening paragraphs in all of English literature:

There was once a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.  He didn’t call his Father and Mother “Father” and “Mother”, but Harold and Alberta.  They [his family] were very up-to-date and advanced people.  They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers, and wore a special kind of underclothes.  In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open.

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