Thursday, August 03, 2006

Desires and Fulfilments

My wife and I have been running a bricks and mortar bookshop in beautiful Stratford, Ontario, Canada, for three years now. We named it Chumley & Pepys Second-hand Books after two cats. The cats were imaginary. They still are.
At the time we had a large handsome muscular orange tabby whose name was Cinnabar, an affectionate feline with a touch of human nature, and we didn't want to usurp his position with two upstart crows. (He never did know the shop was named after fictional replacements. He would have been indignant -- for a while anyway.) Cinnabar did, however, embody the characteristics of the imaginary cats, for there was a healthy portion of "Chumley" in him, and a touch of "Pepys" as well. Although Cinnabar has passed on, and his ashes reside in an urn nestled amongst books and plants with a window view, his replacements remain very much in the imaginary world. And so life goes on.

Both trained in librarianship and steeped in language, literature and books, we chose the names not only for their visual and sonorous qualities, but also for their literary references.
Chumley would seem less obvious, more obscure in its literary antecedents. Originally, and perhaps formally, it is spelled Cholmondeley. It is a name of a great English family who have been hereditary King's Chamberlain for over 200 years. The family seat in Cheshire,
Cholmondeley House, is well known for its gardens.
The authors who we had in mind are
Mary Cholmondeley and Alice Cholmondeley. Mary was a 19th Century writer who is best known today for her novel Red Pottage. Alice Cholmondeley was the pseudonym used by Elizabeth von Arnim for one novel, Christine. She wrote many novels under her own name and is best remembered for her book Elizabeth and her German Garden, and her novel Enchanted April, which was turned into an enchanting film.
The pronunciation of Cholmondeley as Chumley seems at first mystifying, but upon looking at word origins, one can see how pronunciations were changed over time, anglicized from their French or Anglo-Saxon origins. Interestingly enough, Elizabeth von Arnim's maiden name was Mary Anne Beauchamp, pronounced Beecham. It appears some families adapted the spelling to the pronunciation for simplification, and so one finds both Cholmondeleys and Chumleys, or Beauchamps and Beechams. The name Featherstonehaugh, pronounced Fanshawe, is but another example. A "haugh" is derived from Middle English, and refers to a flat piece of alluvial land near a river. How "featherstone" became "fans" would require more investigation. I leave that to your curiosity.
As for Pepys, pronounced Peeps, we of course refer to
Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), diarist, bookcollector, bon vivant, Secretary of the Admiralty, and President of the Royal Society. Not bad for a tailor's son. Pepys benefited from the patronage of his father's first cousin Edward Montagu (later to become the first Earl of Sandwich), and worked his way up from a lowly clerk with diligence and strength of character. This is revealed in his famous diary which he kept from January 1, 1660 to May 31, 1669. It is remarkable both for the insight into his own character and for the record of contemporary events and his involvement in them.
He was also a bibliophile. His personal library of 3,000 volumes was arranged by size, from No. 1 the smallest, to No. 3,000 the largest. It includes medieval manuscripts, incunabula, books relating to the navy, and his own diary in six volumes written in Shelton's shorthand. After the death of his nephew, John Jackson, the library, complete with bookpresses and library desk, was given to Pepys's alma mater,
Magdalene College, Cambridge where it now resides in a special room.
So, from that early desire many years ago, to have two cats named Chumley & Pepys one day, we did achieve their imaginary representation in the bookshop name and logo. We plan to shift our bookselling business on-line. Perhaps once we leave our bricks and mortar shop behind, we can bring the imaginary cats into present reality. A transposition and a fulfilment of desire. And so life goes on.

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