Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's in a Name? The Case of George Robbins Gliddon

Have you noticed that on the Internet the name George Robbins Gliddon (the Egyptologist) is frequently misspelt as George "Robins" Gliddon? I cannot explain why, but I can provide amble evidence as to the correct spelling, and this will be the subject of this posting.

The first names “George Robbins” (here spelt correctly), were names exclusively belonging to the progeny of William Gliddon (b.1754) and, his wife, Joanna (née Jones). George Robbins Gliddon, the Egyptologist (1809-1857) was a grandson of William and Joanna.

To elaborate further, William and Joanna had 4 sons:
1) Their eldest, William, born in 1781, died in 1800, unmarried.
2) The next son, John Gliddon, was born in 1785; he named his eldest son George Robbins Gliddon. And it is this George that was the well known Egyptologist.
3) Thomas Gliddon, was the next son. He was born in 1787. He, like John, his brother, named his eldest son, George Robbins Gliddon ( born in 1825). This George, who went to Australia, fathered another George Robbins Gliddon.
4) William and Joanna’s youngest son, born in 1793, was, in fact the first of the Gliddon family to be named George Robbins Gliddon. And true to the tradition established by his older brothers, he too called his first son, born in 1830, George Robbins Gliddon. This youngster earned the nicknamed “Long George” . There was reputedly a “Short George” too, but it is not known which of the Georges was referred to in this manner.

None of William and Joanna’s daughters had children of this name.

How did the name become associated with William and Joanna Gliddon’s family?

On 12 May , 1787 William Gliddon’s oldest sister, Mary,( b. 1742), married a Mr. George Robbins, at St. Thomas, Exeter. Robbins was a well-to-do builder and carpenter who owned property. The couple had no children. Mary was 45 years old when they married.

The Robbinses lived opposite William and Joanna Gliddon in the parish of St. Thomas Exeter. This close association could explain why the name “George Robbins” achieved a life after George Robbins death. But naming sons and grandsons after old Mr. George Robbins was unlikely to have been intended to honour the gentleman himself – as he was not well respected in the family. Anne Gliddon writes in her Family Record that Robbins was reputed to have been a “coarse old Hunk”, and adds “I do not think he could have been a peasant husband.” She also records that he ill-treated his wife’s niece - also named Mary Gliddon. This Mary was born in 1772 and had gone to live with the Robbinses after the death of her father, John Gliddon (b.1751), and the remarriage of her mother Eleanor to a Mr. Hellyer . As a result of her ill treatment in her foster home she was taken to live with another Uncle and Aunt – Arthur Gliddon, (b. 1749) and his wife Anne (née Beavan) , in London.

Several decades after these events had occurred, a letter written by Anne Gliddon, dated 5 February 1864, provides a better explanation as to why so many Gliddon males were given the first names “George Robbins” in the early part of the 19th century. She wrote the letter in reply to her cousin, Clara Joanna Gliddon’s enquiry about the chances of her brother George Robbins Gliddon, (b. 1825), being able to claim the Robbins inheritance.

As this letter is a long one and only part of it deals with the question of nomenclature, I am only quoting the relevant section here. Anne starts her letter with some general news and pleasantries, and then writes as follows:

“And now for your brother’s enquiries [1]. In one word then, his “great expectations” are quite a fallacy, I will tell you why. In the first place George has no claim whatever to the property, which I fancy from all I hear is far less valuable in itself than G. fancies. The last business letter dear Uncle [2] ever wrote, was in answer to a letter from your brother on that very subject. If he received that, he could hardly continue to have any hopes. I do not positively know, nor Jane[3] either , of what the property consists, but believe it to be small cottages for which, in our childhood, dear grandmother [4] used to talk of gathering the rents for her son , Uncle George [5]. They were left to him by old Mr. Robbins and to his son [6] (he being named George Robbins). If Uncle George had had no son, then the son of his brothers in succession (being also named G. Robbins) would have had a claim – in that way there was a remote chance for my husband [7]. But Uncle George having a son G. Robbins (6) to succeed him in the property, it rests with him, & he has it out & out – there being no further provision as to any beyond Uncle George’s son George Robbins. Not any other George Robbins has a shadow of a claim. The worth of the property must be grossly exaggerated – Uncle G.[5] would hardly else have been glad to accept a very inferior appointment to help out his income, and his wife let lodgings during his life time! If it had been as valuable as G.[1]supposes, would G.R.G.[6] (Uncle G’s son) have gone to sea as a Captain’s clerk? I am sorry to say that this said G.R.G. [6] has turned out far from reputably. He was dismissed from service on account of some misbehavior, of what kind is not known. Kindly received by Kate [8] and her family when he returned home under, to say the least of it, doubtful circumstances, he went off in the most scandalous manner from his lodgings in debt, taking with him valuable books lent him by Thornton[9] & has not since been heard of – yes, once – when his brother Frederic [10] mentioned that Long John (so dear Aunt [11] named him in distinction from his namesakes) had entered the Madras Artillery. Walter [12] heard this from Frederic in a casual meeting. In consequence, it is supposed, of his brother’s disgraceful conduct, Frederic has ceased to hold intercourse with our family, though before he had been on very intimate terms & was liked by all. Their Mother lives upon a small property of her own. The probability is that Long George [6] has already mortgaged or sold the property, as he could do as he wished with it. All this explanation is gleaned from my recollections of what I have heard, & Jane’s – dear Uncle(2) being the chief authority. I am sorry to have to give such details of a Gliddon – but Alas! they are true and not overcharged statements. I regret also the extinguishment of your brother’s [1]hopes. But better lose them than waste time upon false ones.

[1] “your brother” is Clara’s brother, George Robbins Gliddon, born 1825, son of Thomas Gliddon
[2 “Dear Uncle” is Arthur Gliddon (b.1788) – profiled in the first posting of this blog
[3]”Jane” is Jane Gliddon (1810-1867), Anne’s sister,
[4]”dear grandmother” is Joanna (née Jones) Gliddon
[5]”her son, Uncle George” is George Robbins Gliddon, born 1792, son of William and Joanna (née) Gliddon
[6]” his son” is George Robbins Gliddon, born 1830. Nicknamed “Long George”
[7]”my husband” is George Robbins Gliddon, Egyptologist, (1809-1857), Anne’s husband.
[8]”Kate” is Katherine (née Gliddon) Leigh Hunt, Anne’s sister
[9]”Thornton” is Thornton Leigh Hunt, husband of “Kate”
[10] “Frederick” is Frederick Edward Gliddon, christened at Moreton Hampstead in 1833[11]“dear Aunt” is Alistatia Gliddon (1790), wife of Arthur Gliddon – profiled in the first posting of this Blog.
[12]”Walter” is Walter Leigh Hunt, oldest son of Kate and Thornton Leigh Hunt, and Anne’s nephew.

[Special thanks to RHE Russell CVO for providing this transcript and annotations]

Returning to the matter of nomenclature, on 21 August 2009, I checked the “Wikipedia” site, the “ Online Encyclopedia”, the site “Famous Americans” and the “1911 Encyclopedia” on the Internet. All spell the Egyptologist’s name - George "Robins" Gliddon. However, given the reason for his name, I hardly think his father would have been so careless as to misspell “Robbins”, which would have negated any chance that he could ever claim the Robbins inheritance. I have no doubt too, that Anne Gliddon, who spelt her husband’s name – George Robbins Gliddon - knew how to spell her husband’s name correctly .