Monday, May 23, 2011

What's in a name? Generally vowells and consonants, in some order.

One of the interesting questions that has come up in recent research is something so mundane it seems to go entirely unnoticed. While leafing through original manuscripts, we see that every handwritten usage of James Lawrence's name seems to be spelled Laurence. And very clearly too. But every printed spelling is made Lawrence. So what's the deal?

Lawrence is listed as the "anglicized spelling of Laurence", which according to most baby name sites (yeah, I'm on those) means "crowned with laurels". Appropriate for ol' Jimmy since he was certainly a front runner in the 1812-era Naval officer corps when it came to fame and popularity. R. Lee Ermey - get bent (about 4:00).

Back on topic.

Newspapers from the time show Lawrence, as does the epitaph on his tombstone, so the error must not have been too egregious or unpalatable to JL or his family. But still, the written name and the man's own signature still belie he spelled it differently.

In the end, its not that big a deal, but taking things down to the letter I'm finding a degree of flexibility in spelling that seems rather unique. Words in common usage I would have expected some variation (and there is) but names, that's a new one to me.


Over the weekend I received a copy of The Weekly Register, April 3 1813 - a small-sized Baltimore newspaper. On that date it ran a several page spread describing HORNET's battle with PEACOCK. Good reading, but fragile pages. It's already starting to break up, I'll have to be quite careful.

One great excerpt:

"A wag proposes to petition the secretary of the navy to direct the commanding officers of our public vessels to use only one-half of their accustomed quantity of powder, that they may take the British ships "alive". The Guerriere, Java and Peacock would have made a pretty addition to the U. States navy, if Hull, Bainbridge and Lawrence had not mauled them so unmercifully."


More research to follow - and I've got hundreds - literally hundreds - of pages of notes that bear discussion.


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