One of the funnier lines in Emma is when Mr. Knightley asks Emma to call him “George” after he has proposed to her. We of course know he is named George because the narrator tells us so, but while we are introduced to him in Chapter 1, we do not learn his full name until Chapter 12, in this very off-hand remark:
…when John Knightley made his appearance, and “How d’ye do, George?” and “John, how are you?” succeeded in the true English style… [Emma, vol. 1, ch 12.]
We are given an earlier hint in Chapter 6 when one of John Knightley’s children is called “George”, but if you haven’t been paying attention to these very easy to miss throwaway lines, you will be happy to learn his name in vol. 3, ch. 17.
‘Mr. Knightley.’ You always called me, ‘Mr. Knightley;’ and, from habit, it has not so very formal a sound. And yet it is formal. I want you to call me something else, but I do not know what.”
“I remember once calling you ‘George,’ in one of my amiable fits, about ten years ago. I did it because I thought it would offend you; but, as you made no objection, I never did it again.”
“And cannot you call me ‘George’ now?”
“Impossible! I never can call you any thing but ‘Mr. Knightley.’ I will not promise even to equal the elegant terseness of Mrs. Elton, by calling you Mr. K. But I will promise,” she added presently, laughing and blushing, “I will promise to call you once by your Christian name. I do not say when, but perhaps you may guess where; — in the building in which N. takes M. for better, for worse.” [Emma vol. 3, ch. 17]
“My dearest most beloved Emma, tell me at once…” – C. E. Brock, Emma at Molland’s
But what of the other Austen heroes and their given names?: we have George, and Edward, Edmund, Fitzwilliam, Henry, Charles, Frederick, and even Willoughby is named “John” – but it seems that Colonel Brandon is alone among her men to be first-nameless … though as you will see, no one seems to actually know this!
When I attended several of the Sense and Sensibility weekends at the Governor’s House in Hyde Park , one of the questions on the innkeeper’s very-hard-to-score-well-quiz during the brunch on Sunday, is What is Col. Brandon’s first name? Every weekend ended with the majority of people saying “Christopher” – but it is of course a trick question: Austen does not give her Col. Brandon a first name: you can re-read / search the book, but the surest proof is Chapman’s index of characters, where it notes thus:
Colonel BRANDON, of Delaford in Dorsetshire; thirty-five (34, 37); thirty-six (369); 2,000£ a year (196); m. Marianne Dashwood.
Now we trust Chapman because he names some of the most obscure of Austen’s characters that many of us would be at a loss to even say which book they are from … he must be right, so why then is “Christopher” so commonly thought of as his first name…?
Enter Popular Culture:
I was surprised a few weeks ago, and the reason I started to write this post, to notice this on Wikipedia:
Colonel Christopher Brandon — a close friend of Sir John Middleton. In his youth, Brandon had fallen in love with his father’s ward, but was prevented by his family from marrying her because his father was determined to marry her to his older brother. He was sent into the military abroad to be away from her, and while gone, the girl suffered numerous misfortunes partly as a consequence of her unhappy marriage, finally dying penniless and disgraced, and with a natural (i.e., illegitimate) daughter, who becomes the ward of the Colonel. He is 35 years old at the beginning of the book. He falls in love with Marianne at first sight as she reminds him of his father’s ward. He is a very honorable friend to the Dashwoods, particularly Elinor, and offers Edward Ferrars a living after Edward is disowned by his mother.
[From Wikipedia on S&S the Book]
Now one knows to read everything on the internet and especially Wikipedia with a wary eye, but this is a glaring error…
If you go to The Republic of Pemberley, and its Genealogy of Characters in S&S, a very trusted source, it is very clear that his name is only Col. Brandon, as Austen wrote him.
And what of the Sequels and Fan-Fiction? I show here only a few, but now we are in a bit of a naming muddle…
Amanda Grange calls him “James” in her Col. Brandon’s Diary
And in the new book The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, by Jack Caldwell,
we are given a very romantic Brandon complete with a “Christopher.”
And see this Fan Fiction.net site we find Col and Mrs. Brandon by Drusilla Dax – where he is also named “Christopher.”
And Jane Odiwe in her Willoughby’s Return? She names her Col. Brandon “William.”
I asked her why?:
I named him William in Willoughby’s Return – just because I like the name, and it’s one that Jane used (William Price). I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that she used the same names for completely different characters.
I like this answer from Ms. Odiwe – she has been thoughtful in choosing a name for her Brandon. But I also want to share with you a very nasty review from an irate reader of Odiwe’s sequel – you can read the whole piece on Amazon.co.uk but here is the relevant rant [which makes the whole review seem quite ridiculous]:
…. and not even well researched. Marianne is married to William Brandon – whoever he may be – Colonel Brandon’s Christian name was Christopher…..
I had to comment on this – I am not a big fan of really nasty reviews – I would rather say nothing at all, so I blanche at such negativity, but here I wonder if the woman has ever actually read Sense & Sensibility The Book by Jane Austen at all – she has perhaps only seen the movie? wherein we find our illusive “Christopher”….
… courtesy of Emma Thompson, her Col. Brandon the “Christopher” most of us seem to want!
IMDB: Emma Thompson’s S&S
and her Brandon, a.k.a. Alan Rickman, even has a Facebook presence as Colonel Christopher Brandon !
So on to Andrew Davies 2008 Sense & Sensibility with David Morrissey in the role – though Davies succeeds in “sexing” up his Brandon, he does get this right – his Brandon has no first name…
At the Masterpiece Theatre S&S site, click on Col. Brandon and “Christopher” is nowhere in sight…
We can ask what were the most used names in late 18th century England?
Common 18th Century Male Names [from the Official Fanfiction Universityof the Caribbean website ( ! )]
Alexander, Andrew, Benjamin, Bernard, Charles, David, Edmund, Edward, Emmett, Francis, Frederick, George, Harold, Henry, Hugh, James (Jim, Jimmy, Jem), John (Johnny, Jack), Jonathan, Joseph, Julian, Louis, Matthew, Nicholas, Oliver, Paul, Peter, Phillip, Richard, Robert, Rupert, Samuel, Sebastian, Seymour, Simon, Stephen, Stuart, Thaddeus (Tad), Theodore, Thomas, Timothy, Tobias, Walter, Wesley, William
Notice how many of the names are those used by Austen! but alas! no “Christopher” – though I am perhaps not being fair – the name has been a common one in England since the 15th century.
So, these are just some thoughts – I am without my research tools as I write this, so wonder if in Emma Thompson’s screenplay and diaries to her Sense & Sensibility, does she mention baptizing her Brandon with the Christian name of Christopher? – does it appear in any earlier sequels, other movies? – and the most interesting question of all? – why did Jane Austen not give him a name? – and why are we all so compelled to do so?
Please comment if you can add anything to this dilemma – and do tell us if you wanted to give Brandon a first name, what might you name him?? – just please do not let it be “Richard”!*
“Colonel Brandon was invited to visit her” – a C. E. Brock illus from S&S at Molland’s
*Note: Austen’s commentary on the name Richard is from Northanger Abbey: Catherine’s father is “a very respectable man, though his name was Richard.” [NA vol. 1, ch. 1]
Copyright @2012 Jane Austen in Vermont
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