‘A Brandon by Any Other Name…’
So said Shakespeare—well sort of—the bard was talking of roses, of course, and he really said, ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’
In other words, roses are just really nice-smelling flowers, whatever they are called, and that is important, because this month’s blog is about Colonel Brandon, of Sense and Sensibility fame, and the fact that, GASP! HORROR! SHOCK!—Austen never gave arguably the nicest guy she ever invented, a Christian name!
Hands up everyone who already knew poor Brandon was only ever called ‘Colonel’ by his mum? Well, according to Austen, anyway. Because truly, she never gave this amazing character, maybe the most swoon-worthy guy next to Captain Wentworth, a first name we could all rush off and name our dogs/cats/children after in honour of our favourite Austen hero.
‘No!’ I hear you all exclaim, ‘it cannot be true!’ But yes, interestingly, it is quite true. In Austen’s novel we are never told Brandon’s first name. Now that has been an interesting problem for film makers who have made miniseries etc, and even more so for JAFF writers, who have gone to great lengths to come up with some fitting names, since Austen herself was so remiss.
Amanda Grange names him ‘James’ in her book Colonel Brandon’s Diary, he’s been called Christopher in many more than one fan fiction, and Jane Odiwe calls him ‘William’ in her book about Willoughby. So although many Austenians now think of him as a ‘Christopher’ since this name has been used so much ( even Wikipedia mistakenly says his name is Christopher!), he is, actually, nameless.
So, this truly leaves fan fic writers with a dilemma; what do we name our Brandon? More to the point, what do I, just beginning my new work, A Return to Norland, name Marianne’s husband, Colonel Brandon?
You would think this wouldn’t be such a big issue—just look up Bryn Donovan’s regency boy names list and pick one, for goodness’ sake. But it wasn’t as easy as that. I mean, naming one of Austen’s very own characters, a very major character, and a smashing stand-up kind of guy too, is quite a responsibility.
To tell the truth, I am in awe of the writers who came up with such wonderful names as Christopher, William and James. But after thinking about it for literally three months into the writing, I decided I could not use one that had been already used; my Colonel Brandon must be his own unique person.
Then I had to pour over long lists of regency boy names, trying each one for fit, for personality and comfortableness, and I rejected about ten or twelve as just not right. Then I came across two more—Philip, and Stephen. These I liked. They were both strong, authentic to the period, and kindness emanated from them—a major personality trait of the Colonel. So of these, I did chose one, and if you want to find out which one, you will have to…dare I tease you….read the novel—when it comes out early next year. Sorry—cliff hanger, much?