I love a good name list — especially an antique one. It's fascinating to see the names which made (or didn't make) the list, and also meanings are attributed.
The following article featured in Westmorland Gazette on 24th June 1820.
It's aim (as is says in the introduction) is to provide a list of names "and to suggest the advantage of paying attention to this apparently trifling matter."
It starts by discussing how names are bestowed in the early 19th century and then gives a (curiously put together) list of names with their meanings and notable namesakes.
The object of the following list is to call to mind the significations of the Christian most in use with us; to recommend the revival others; to show who has given any of them a grace or a lustre; and to suggest the advantage of paying attention to this apparently trifling matter.
We think it greater objection than appears first sight, to our names general, that they are unmeaning sounds by which individuals are merely known, A man of the name George or Thomas might as well, to all understood purposes, be called Spoon or Hatband.
The next principle, upon which, children are named, is that of the sound or beauty the name; and this we think too much undervalued. People in humble life, is true, are sometimes justly laughed for giving their children fine names: but it only when they do so through an obvious and unmeaning vanity. It as well, certainly, not to call parcel of idle and ragged young rogues by the titles of Augustus, Orlando, and Theodore: nor does it sound very fitting and heroical to hear a father cry out pompously to his little boy, as we did once, " You, Sir, there, —Maximilian, —come out of the gutter."
To give a child the name of a favourite hero or heroine is also a good thing. A boy, christened after Alfred the Great, by a father who really feels the merits of that wonderful man, is likely, if he inherits anything of his father's sense, to turn the name into a perpetual memorandum of worthiness.
Aaron, Hebrew. A Mountain. Haroun al Raschid.
Abel, Heb. Camden says just; some say vanity which is curious. We know nothing about Hebrew and must leave the point to others.
Abraham, Heb. The Father of Many. This is the same word as Patriarch in Greek. It was the Christian name of Cowley.
Adam, Heb. Red Earth. These scripture names of men are more prevalent among the Scotch than the English, and have given rise to some curious inapplicabilities, as Adam Smith, and David Hume, two infidel philosophers. On the continent almost all Christian names came from the Virgin or Saints, and at last produced similar; as Denys Diderot, Peter Bayle, Francis Mary Arouet de Voltaire, —after St. Francis and the Virgin; for nothing was more common among the Catholics than to give her name to men well as women. The celebrated constable Montmorency was called Anne after the scriptural saint.
Agnes, Gr. Chaste. It was an unlucky for the beautiful patriotic mistress of Charles the Seventh, Agnes Sorel; who was nevertheless a noble creature
Alexander, Gr. A Helper of Men. Alexander the Great. Scanderbergh, or Lord Alexander, the name given to the celebrated Prince of Epirus, John Castriot. Alexander Pope.
Jemima, Heb. Meaning unknown to us.
Jeremy, Heb. High the Lord. Jeremy Taylor.
Jessica, Jessy, Heb. We know not the signification; but the little music-loving Jewess in the “Merchant of Venice," has rendered its pleasant simplicity still pleasanter.
John, Heb. Gracious. Giovanni in Italian. Jean in French. The commonest Christian name in use, given originally from the most amiable of the Apostles. Its being so great a favourite seems at last to have turned the tables upon it, and brought its familiarity into disrepute; as was the case with Humphrey and Anthony. This is another reason for bringing the word Jack from it, as every body does; otherwise we should have thought it came from Jacques or James. Jack has been tagged to'every possible name of homliness, ridicule, and contempt:—as Jack-a-napes, Jack-ass, Jack-daw, Jack-pudding, Jack-a-dandy, Jack (to roast with), Black Jack (to hold beer). Jack Boots. Every Jack has his Gill. Jack-a-lantern. Jack in the Green. Jack in the Box. Jack the Corner. Jack Sprat. Jack Priest. Jack Ketch. A Jack in Office. But now hear the name resume its dignity in John Milton, John Hampden, John Fletcher, John Webster, John Evelyn, John Ford, John Howard, &c- &c. Then in the French there is Jean Racine, Jean Baptiste Moliere, Jean de la Fontaine, Jean le Rond d'Alembert, Jean Jacques Rousseau : and Italian, Giovanni Boccacio, Giovanni Lodovico Ariosto, Giovanni Pasillo, &c.
Jonathan, Heb. God's Gift. The same as the Greek Theodore and Theodosius, and the Latin Deodatus. Jonathan Swift.
Joseph, Heb. Addition. Joseph Addison. Joseph Hadyn.
Laetitia, Lettice, Lat. Joy.
Lancelot, Launcelot, Lancilloto, a Little Lance. Spanish or old French. It is supposed to have been invented for the famous hero of romance. Launcelot of the Lake; from whom it became a common name.
....And that's it.... Six A names, jumping straight to J and then on to L, after which the article abruptly ends to be followed by advertisements.
Perhaps the author became bored or baffled by the task of researching names. Perhaps the Ms (Mary, Margaret, Mark, Michael, Matthew) were just too daunting a prospect. Or maybe many more names were originally written of, but the editor had a fit when he saw how long it was and liberally chopped chunks out. We'll never know, but it is a fascinating read non-the-less.