Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Fpaniard from Futton

Forgive me another foray into family lore, but I think I've just found the answer to a puzzle that has bemused me for a while. This one involves my other grandfather, the Yankee, the one who was born on a rock farm in or around Sutton NH.  Thing is, his given name was "Fernando."

"Fernando?"  What's a bandit like "Fernando" doing up there among the molasses vats and the hard-cider distilleries of one of the nation's most unproductive farming venues?  Never made sense to me, but just today, for an entirely unrelated reason, I wikied "Fernando Wood," one time mayor New York, and I learn:

His Spanish-sounding forename was chosen by his mother, who found it in an English gothic novel written by George Walker, The Three Spaniards (London, 1800).
Oh, got it, a Gothic novel--should have thought of that, probably explains a lot more about American history than we want to guess.  Best I can figure, The Three Spaniards is out of print, and from what I can tell, deservedly so.  There's a reprint up at Google books, and a brief survey makes it clear that we're looking at somebody who will make Bulwer-Lytton measure up against Proust.  In particular, its cluttered with those faux-s's--the ones that looks like f's--that gave us all the giggles in high school (as in, e.g., "feduce me on the fofa!").  Although whether it has merits beyond that, I have to admit I am not really equipped to say.

Whatever the literary shortcomings, if any, I can't really blame the boy's mother.  Up in that unforgiving corner of the universe, you need all the help you can to keep your spirits up, and a little touch of the Spanish bandit was probably just the thing.  Here's a sample, lifted from Google ebooks:

Fn.:  Actually, my grandfather had two given names: Fernando Perley.  His eldest son was the apple of his eye and he wanted him to carry on the family tradition but he knew his limits. So they named the kid "Perley Fernando."


Taxmom said...

German does the same thing and I got through my masters exams convinced that everyone in Goethe's day talked with a lifp, as it were.

Anonymous said...

i've got a son in law who has the ability to find and the patience to read the oddest, saddest, longest novels ever created. he will have to know about this one.

Taxmom said...

@Anon, sounds like an obscure superhero power!