Richard (Morland, in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey)

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Siberia

Senior Member
UK-Wales - English
Hello,
in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey page Chapter 1, the first lines, we are told that Catherine Morland's "father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard" -
question: Why would "Richard" be an "unrespectable" name? Is it because in Austen's time "Richard" was considered unfashionable or is their a particular reason?
I would be grateful for any help or opinion.
Siberia
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello,
    in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey page Chapter 1, the first lines, we are told that Catherine Morland's "father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard" -
    question: Why would "Richard" be an "unrespectable" name? Is it because in Austen's time "Richard" was considered unfashionable or is their a particular reason?
    I would be grateful for any help or opinion.
    Siberia
    I think it has always been supposed that this was some sort of private or family joke. I don't think it has to do with the idea, expressed by one of the family, that 'the rich are always respectable', but Jane seems to have jokingly associated the name with respectability, for some reason. For instance in her joking History of England she describes Richard III as follows: The character of this prince has in general been very severely treated by historians, but as he was York I am rather inclined to suppose him a very respectable man. I think it possible that this reflects ribaldry in the family about the association of the name and respectability, and Jane couldn't resist putting the joke into Northanger Abbey.

    This is just a guess, and I don't hold much brief for it.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I think it possible that this reflects ribalry in the family about the association of the name and respectability, and Jane couldn't resist putting the joke into Northanger Abbey.
    Either a simple typo or a brilliantly punnish neologism: ribald rivalry. Nice one Thomas. ;)

    I'll withhold any suggestion of a reference to Poor Richard's Almanac...
     

    Suehil

    Medemod
    British English
    The suffix '-ard' can mean 'of the character of' as in 'dullard' - someone who is dull. So 'Richard' should mean someone who is rich, but he's not. He's a poor clergyman.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    The suffix '-ard' can mean 'of the character of' as in 'dullard' - someone who is dull. So 'Richard' should mean someone who is rich, but he's not. He's a poor clergyman.
    But why would being rich be at odds with being respectable--at least to Jane Austen?

    (I prefer ribald revelry... in moderation.)
     

    Suehil

    Medemod
    British English
    Perhaps Richard was a name that was normally used by the gentry at the time and therefore considered unsuitable for a respectable clergyman?
    I'm with you on the ribald revelry, but why the moderation?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    But why would being rich be at odds with being respectable--at least to Jane Austen?

    (I prefer ribald revelry... in moderation.)
    Don't forget it's a joke, and that she was obviously absorbed by what made young men eligible. Maybe her mother didn't like the suggestion made by someone that people who had made money may well have made it in a disreputable way.

    This is just a suggestion.
     

    twinklestar

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    MODERATOR NOTE: Two threads asking exactly the same question now merged.

    No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy wouldhave supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition,were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard -- and he had never been handsome.
    Source: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

    Does 'Richard' mean handsome? Why did the authoress say so? Thanks!
     
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    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    ... a very respectable man, though his name was Richard—

    How very peculiar.
    As I hear this sentence, it suggests that it is unusual for someone whose name is Richard to be a very respectable man.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    This annotated version of the text suggests several possible interpretations for the joke:
    • that it was a family joke;
    • that it was an ironic reference to a publisher;
    • that Richard is an unlikely name in the Gothic fiction Jane Austen was satirising.
    Whatever the real interpretation, it clearly is a joke: there is nothing in the name 'Richard' which would prevent a man being respectable.
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Yes, it does lightly tickle my funny-bone: listening to the narrator air her (very mild) objection to gentlemen named Richard, without stooping to explain why she objects to them.
     

    xopher.tm

    Member
    English, US
    Jane Austen said:
    No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy wouldhave supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition,were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard -- and he had never been handsome.
    Source: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

    Does 'Richard' mean handsome? Why did the authoress say so? Thanks!
    To rewrite in a clearer, more modern manner might help us make sense of what she is saying.

    Try:
    There was never any reason to believe that Catherine Morland would grow up to be the heroine of a novel. Her life was average. She was pleasant enough and her parents were typical, decent people. Her father was an average-looking and respectable clergyman, even though his name was Richard.
    "Even though his name was Richard" remains a dangling non sequitur. Jane is making a joke. We are not able to establish whether this would have been an obvious joke in her day or if it was simply her being quirky. It strikes me as a very British, dry, almost Douglas Adams-y bit of humour to throw in there.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    The novel is meant to be a parody of the Gothic novels popular among girls and young women of the time. I wonder if Richard was a popular name for heros (or villains) in those stories.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I wonder if Richard was a popular name for heros (or villains) in those stories.
    The Novel opens No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine. ... the character of her father and mother ... were ... against her.

    There follows a list of the characteristics of Catherine's background that were atypical of the gothic heroine.
    - Her father was not a neglected or poor clergyman.
    - He was a respectable man - she didn't come from a shady background.
    - He had never been handsome (all men in a gothic novel are handsome, often in a demonic sort of way).
    - His name was Richard. As Loob says, Richard is a very unlikely name for the hero or villain of a gothic novel. According to Wikipedia, the characters in the original gothic novel, the Castle of Otranto http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Castle_of_Otranto all have exotic names like Manfred, Hippolita, Isabella and Conrad: Richard is far too ordinary to qualify as as suitable name.
    - He didn't lock her up.
    - Her mother was not mad, nor sickly.
    etc.
     
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    mvartan

    New Member
    English - New York
    I think this is the answer:

    According to Dynasty 2: The Dark Rose, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, p. 1:

    Richard Morland was also the name of a York partisan in the 15th c who, although a gentle and respectable man, took "blood-thirsty revenge" against a traitor to the York cause following the Battle of Bosworth Field.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Thanks, mvartan! That sounds like a possibility if we suppose that this was well known around 1800.

    And welcome to the Forum! :D
     

    LMorland

    Senior Member
    American English
    It's an amusing idea -- however, in regard to Dynasty 2: The Dark Rose, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: "This book is based on a fictional family with the last name of Morland and the time from is during the reign of Henry VIII."

    [Quote from a reader on Goodreads.]

    I am doubly amused, because Richard Morland is my father's name! :D
     

    mvartan

    New Member
    English - New York
    It's an amusing idea -- however, in regard to Dynasty 2: The Dark Rose, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: "This book is based on a fictional family with the last name of Morland and the time from is during the reign of Henry VIII."

    [Quote from a reader on Goodreads.]

    I am doubly amused, because Richard Morland is my father's name! :D
    It's an amusing idea -- however, in regard to Dynasty 2: The Dark Rose, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: "This book is based on a fictional family with the last name of Morland and the time from is during the reign of Henry VIII."

    [Quote from a reader on Goodreads.]

    I am doubly amused, because Richard Morland is my father's name! :D

    A nice idea while it lasted!
     
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