What’s in a name?

In three weeks time my second daughter will get married and I think of Elizabeth Bennet’s mother’s words in Pride and Prejudice, when her third daughter, Lizzie, gets an offer of marriage from Mr Darcy.

“Three daughters married! Ten thousand a year! Oh, Lord! What will become of me. I shall go distracted.”

I find I am no longer as fussed about the idea of marriage as I once might have been. Still marriage matters.

It matters too that my daughter has elected to keep her name after she marries. I tried that myself for a time, to keep my maiden name. It worked until the babies came along.

I’m glad now to have my husband’s name in so far as it also offers a level of anonymity away from my family of origin. I can write about my childhood without the burden of association to the names of my siblings.

Losing my name I have lost that connection.

Still there are days when I long to go back to my maiden name.

For all its patriarchal overtones, my maiden name is an amalgam of my mother’s and my father’s name after all – my mother’s first name and my father’s second. It is also the name I was born into, the name I held closest to me when as a small child and I played with around with notions of of place and identity.

How I loved as a seven year old to track the essential aspects of where I lived:

Miss Elisabeth Schooneveldt

2 Wentworth Avenue

Canterbury, East 7

Melbourne Victoria Australia

The Pacific Ocean

The world

The universe.

My world was ever expanding like the mirrors on my mother’s dressing room table that folded in on one another and when you tucked yourself in between you could see yourself from behind and from the front, forever diminishing, shot after shot into infinity.


And somehow my name pinned me to the spot.

And this new name I have now, not so new when I consider I took it on fully when my first daughter was born over thirty four years ago and I have adopted it and recognise it as my name.

But it is not me, nor ever shall be.

I was once in a writing class with the late Doris Leadbetter and when it came time to introduce myself, she stopped at my name and said half jokingly, now Elisabeth Hanscombe, that’s a good name for a novelist.

I took heart from this though no novel of mine has yet transpired nor is likely to. Memoir maybe and essays and book chapters and even short stories but novels, not under that name.

Maybe one day if I ever live long enough to revert to form to go back to being that small girl in the red brick house near the corner of Canterbury Road and Wentworth Avenue I might find myself able to slip more fully into the world of imagination and find the place from which all novels begin.

But for now I have to settle with my own half fictionalised, half factual story, all in the name of my husband’s father and his father’s father before him.

It’s not a bad name though. It’s just not mine.