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The Origin and Progress of Surname Literature.
HE illustrious Camden, “Nourice of Antiquitie," has been happily termed the common fire whereat all after-coming British antiquaries “have kindled their little torches.” The Britannia, one of the finest
literary projects ever carried into execution, is the basis of all British topography, and needs no commendation; but there is another of his works which, though trivial in bulk, and held in much less consideration than the “ Chorographical Description," is of greater positive value, as containing the germ of all modern antiquarianism. I allude to the “ Remaines concerning Britain.” This comparatively small volume consists of some fourteen essays on various branches of archæology, which are not only highly curious and original in themselves, but most suggestive of more elaborate enquiries and illustrations; in fact each essay is a brief upon which large pleadings may be based—the foundation whereon a spacious structure may be reared. For example, the essay on “ Money” is the first attempt that was made to illustrate the coinage of these realms, long before such a science as numismatics was dreamed of. Again, the dissertation on “ Apparell" is the groundwork of sub. sequent treatises on British costume. The chapter on “Languages” is a curious piece of philology; and the rest all serve more or less as themes upon which many volumes have since been written. One of the best of these prolusions is that on “ SURNAMES," extending in the sixth impression,' 1657, to more than fifty pages. It shows great and original research, and it has been extensively made use of by all subsequent writers on the subject. The great antiquary, after a sketch of the history of second or sur-names in different ages and countries, traces the first appearance of settled family names in England about the time of the Norman Conquest. He next treats of Local names in the two classes of which they consist; namely, first, those which are derived from the names of specific localities, towns, villages, manors, &c.; and, secondly, those which allude to the situation of the residences of the original bearers, such as Field, Cliffe, Wood, &c. Then follow remarks on surnames derived from Occupations and Professions ; from Offices and Functions, civil and ecclesiastical;
from “Qualities of the Minde;" from “ Habitudes of Body;" from Ages and Times; from the Weapons of War borne by the first of the name; from Parts of the Body; from Costume; from the Colours of complexion and clothing; from Flowers and Fruits; from Animals, whether Beasts, Birds, or Fishes; from Christian Names; from Nicknames or · Nursenames;' from By-names (sobriquets); and from Signs of Houses. All these are illustrated by examples and curious anecdotes ; and the dissertation is wound up with remarks on Changed and Corrupted surnames, Latinizations of surnames in ancient charters, and references to analogies in classical nomenclature. As a whole, there are few essays of the period more readable or instructive than this of Camden on Surnames.
The next illustrator of the subject is Verstegan, who, in his Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities concerning our Nation, published in 1605, devotes a Chapter to the enquiry " How by the Surnames of the families in England, it may be discerned from whence they take their Originals, to wit, whether from the ancient English Saxons, or from the Danes and Normans.” This Chapter is mostly based upon Camden, and has little value, either historical or philological. A few of his definitions will sufficiently demonstrate this :
“ Bolt, of the straightness of his body.
“ Dod, of that thing anciently so called which groweth in the sides of waters among flags, and is of boys called a fox-tail.
“ Gower, of a certain kind of cake.
After Verstegan, I am not aware of any British writer who undertook to illustrate this curious subject, except in the most desultory manner, until a comparatively recent date. N. Bailey, in his English Dictionary, gives definitions of many surnames, and there are detached articles in many of the Magazines of the last century. The best of these are the Essays which appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1772. These were written by the Rev. Dr. Pegge, F.S.A., under the pseudonym of T. Row. Some time in the last century was printed Buchanan On Ancient Scottish Surnames (re-printed 1820): but the title misleads, as the subject of the book is the history of some Scottish clans. In 1804 the Rev. Mark Noble, F.S.A., published A History of the College of Arms, in the preliminary dissertation of which, there are some good incidental remarks on family names.
In Archæologia, vol. XVIII. pp. 105, 111, James H. Markland, Esq., D.C.L., F.S.A., printed a valuable paper, entitled “ Remarks on the Antiquity and Introduction of Surnames into England." This appeared in 1813.
In 1822, Mr. J. H. Brady published a small duodecimo volume called A Dissertation on the Names of Persons, which, among much amusing, though irrelevant matter, contains several ingenious remarks on English surnames ; and the Rev. Edward Duke's Halle of John Halle, furnishes some illustrations of the subject.
Such were the materials at the command of the student of our family nomenclature when, about the year 1836, my attention was first directed to its investigation, though at that time my residence in a village, remote from libraries, rendered these materials all to me as if they had not existed; and, indeed, my own researches were conducted in total ignorance of there having been any labourer in this field before me.
Some years before that, in my early boyhood, I had accidentally met with Horne Tooke's Diversions of Purley. Attracted by the title, which seemed to promise
some stories of " fun and frolic,” I opened the book, read, and was arrested by the wonderful genius of the author, though there was much upon
that transcended my boyish range of thought. That book, then, directed my mindalways desirous causas rerum cognoscere-into a channel of investigation, which while it has entailed upon me no small amount of toil, has also been the consolation of a too anxious and too laborious existence.
The result of my desultory studies of Surnames first appeared in the columns of a provincial newspaper—the Sussex Express-at irregular intervals during the year 1838. In the following year these scraps were published in a pamphlet of 68 pages, bearing the title of “ The Book of English Surnames, being a short Essay on their Origin and Signification.” The impression, like the book itself, was very small, but some copies of it having fallen into the hands of gentlemen interested in the subject, I was encouraged to enlarge my plan. Accordingly in 1842, I published “ English Surnames, Essays on Family Nomenclature, Historical, Etymological, and Humorous," London, post 8vo. pp. 240. Of this a considerable edition was sold in about nine months; and in 1843 a second and enlarged edition (pp. 292) appeared. This was followed in 1849, by a third and still augmented edition in two volumes post octavo, (pp. xxiv. and 264, and pp. vi. and 244), my last publication on the subject.
Encouraged by such a measure of success, I began to make notes for the present work, feeling persuaded that I had not over-estimated the interest of the subject as a curious, but as yet an imperfectly developed branch of archæology and philology. In this design I was urged on by numerous communications from almost every part of the world where the English language is spoken, and where British Surnames are borne. Hundreds, nay, thousands, of letters, a few conveying-but the great majority seeking—information as to the names of the writers, reached me, and the process is still going on. So much, at present, for the procuring causes of the Patronymica Britannica.
I shall now give a brief account of the various contributions to this department of English literature since my earliest treatise on the subject, whether as independent works or as communications to periodical publications.
Mr. John, now Dr., O'Donovan, whose antiquarian learning requires no commendation from me, printed in the “Irish Penny Journal ” (Dublin, 1841), a series of six able articles on the Origin and Meaning of Irish Family Names. Of his labours I have freely availed myself.
In 1842, the Rev. C. W. Bradley, M.A., Rector of Christ Church, Connecticut, published a small brochure entitled “ Patronomatology, an Essay on the Philosophy of Surnames.” 8vo. Baltimore, U.S. To the author of this essay, which evinces considerable ability and research, I owe many thanks.
In 1846, the late eminent scholar, John M. Kemble, Esq., M.A., published a small pamphlet on the Names, Surnames and Nicknames of the Anglo-Saxons; but this, relating as it does to a period antecedent to the adoption of hereditary or family names, possesses little in common with my specific object.
The Edinburgh Review for April, 1855, contains a considerable article on English Surnames. The classification adopted is : “ 1st. Norman names dating from the Conquest. 2nd. Local English Names. 3rd. Names of Occupation. 4th. Derivatives from the Christian Names of father or mother. 5th. Names given on account of personal peculiarities. 6th. Names derived from the animal, mineral, and vegetable kingdoms. 7th. Names derived from the Celestial Hierarchy. 8th. Irish, Scotch,