Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Samuel Sewall on Hortatory Names

In 1701, Samuel Sewall was one of the judges who heard the case of Esther Rogers, accused of murdering an infant daughter born out of wedlock. Rogers was found guilty and Sewall chastised her for not living up to her name:
I told her . . . Esther was a great saviour; she, a great destroyer. Said did not do this to insult over her, but to make her sensible.
So it seems that at least some people were thinking about first names as exhortations to good behavior. It makes the Jezebels and Vajezathas all the more perplexing.

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