Emily Brand is a writer and historian who specializes in the 18th century.
More specifically, Brand specializes in women, Romanticism, the Byrons & Shelleys, love and sex circa 1660–1837.
Recently, Brand was going through a ship's manifest from her specialty era and she stumbled across some particularly pleasing entries. The document in question was the muster list for the HMS Victory dated sometime in the 1730s.
The HMS Victory is known as one of the Royal Navy's greatest disasters. As the British fleet's flagship, it carried the fleet's commander. In October of 1744, the ship sank, but the cause behind the ship's demise was a mystery until recent years.
In 2015, British marine archaeologist Sean Kingsley led a study that revealed that the ship's design made her particularly vulnerable to violent storms. Furthermore, they discovered that she was most likely built out of defective timbers.
They discovered the Royal Navy was running out of quality timber and were using immature trees to build many of the ships in their early to mid 18th century fleet. Furthermore, the management of timber in the naval dockyards was sub-par, causing ships to be built with unseasoned wood even when mature timber was, in fact, available.
By building ships with improper materials, they were more prone to rot and lacked the ability to withstand the same physical stress as properly built vessels. But ship's wood is not what caught Emily Brand's attention.
For the historian, it was the names on the manifest that drew her eye. It is unclear if the names discovered were amongst the Victory's final occupants.
But whether or not these people were aboard when the ship sank, it seems oddly charming they would have such fun with their names before the ship and its crew met such a tragic end.
Brand kindly pointed out some of the more entertaining entries.
Like Hercules Anguish...
Well if I was an 18th-century sailor hell-bent on revenge & had to give a pseudonym I'm pretty sure this is the kin… https://t.co/3KdKxZA6FB— Emily Brand (@Emily Brand)1536844445.0
...and Jeremiah Cockrodger...
Actually let's face it, when tasked with creating an alias who amongst us would immediately go for something like J… https://t.co/d41g3pRj1T— Emily Brand (@Emily Brand)1536846058.0
...or Blower Eggs...
But seriously now if this isn't the most seductive name I've ever seen I don't know what is "Hello laydeez, the na… https://t.co/3hiOcNovXA— Emily Brand (@Emily Brand)1536846676.0
...and finally Friend Pain.
And, finally, please spare a thought for Able Seaman Friend Pain, who sounds like one of the 18th century's more em… https://t.co/uDPEDuqhge— Emily Brand (@Emily Brand)1536849281.0
But after searching a few more documents, Brand discovered there eventually was a Mrs. Blower Eggs.
A Mrs. Sarah Eddison-Eggs actually.
Update on the seductive powers of Blower Eggs, because I know you all care deeply: DEVON LASS SARAH EDDISON TOTALLY… https://t.co/lVPLNjEr80— Emily Brand (@Emily Brand)1536877296.0
After her posts took off, Brand shared a few honorable mentions: George Wanklins, Rich Buttland & ship's surgeon, Dick Dicks.
I'm so delighted that seamen #JeremiahCockrodger & #HerculesAnguish have become my first Twitter 'Moment', here are… https://t.co/W2o8AgCJ9l— Emily Brand (@Emily Brand)1536920005.0
@EJBrand Somehow the fancy script makes all these even better.— melusina (@melusina)1536878748.0
Brand maintained the names were created by sailors looking to leave their old life behind.
But some wondered if the names were not pseudonyms at all, but simply evidence of how much times have changed. Some surnames—like Smith and Cooper—developed based on the profession of the person. Orphans and foundlings also often received more interesting names.
Perhaps these men acquired proper names in the same manner?
@EJBrand Have you been to the Foundling Museum in London? The names they gave to the children are painted on the walls, and they're amazing.— Rashford (90'+4 pen) (@Rashford (90'+4 pen))1536878791.0
@EJBrand @joeflatman I have an Elizabethan/Jacobean gunmaker in the Ordnance records called Vulcan Skinner- often w… https://t.co/q7y0whOgav— Ruth Brown (@Ruth Brown)1536846106.0
@EJBrand I have an ancestor called Increase Clapp! Still wondering if that was his actual name! 🤷🏼♀️— Allyson Kropp (@Allyson Kropp)1536906307.0
can't wait to bring back such an iconic family name https://t.co/HrUhVWlzl6— caroldrunk (@caroldrunk)1504393505.0
@EJBrand I have an ancestor whose real name was Achilles Hyacinth... Some could be legit. My uncle worked with a gu… https://t.co/7QZ2xhBnTV— Adam 🗽🌊🇺🇸 (@Adam 🗽🌊🇺🇸)1536934053.0
Others like the idea that the sailors dreamt up these aliases.
@EJBrand What the record does not show is the 4-minute conversation the scribe and the sailor had on the theme of "… https://t.co/OTjCkMATl8— Martin Schneider (@Martin Schneider)1536852560.0
@EJBrand Your 18th-century sailor name is your favorite mythological character plus the feeling you experience when… https://t.co/otMaDF61IE— Matthew Shadle (@Matthew Shadle)1536853369.0
@EJBrand https://t.co/Bd65f57Qa4— Chris Casey (@Chris Casey)1536972899.0
But mostly, the peek into the past captivated people.
This ship's manifest is starting to sound like a character list for a Harlequin Romance.😊 https://t.co/gQC7QoMB0a— Literature_Lady, PhD (@Literature_Lady, PhD)1536846387.0
Today in America, we are all Hercules Anguish. https://t.co/3uP0PPV4KC— Joel Brown (@Joel Brown)1536846532.0
I'm definitely going to call my crime-fighting alter ego Hercules Anguish https://t.co/MzozjXQepQ— Angus Donald (@Angus Donald)1536852004.0
If—as one commenter suggested—your "18th-century sailor name is your favorite mythological character plus the feeling you experience when you wake up each morning..."
...my 18th-century sailor name would be Aphrodite Lusterless.
How about you?