That's in a name
It is odd to think that the windy passions of Wuthering Heightsm were originally published, not with the haunting name of Bronte, but with the far less evocative name of ''Bell.'' Why do writers - surprisingly often - use pseudonyms? Artists don't; in fact, they are for the most part zealously proud of their real names. Imagine ''Vincent'' signing himself ''Gerrit'' or ''Joachim.'' It might even have made him paint differently.
But a writer sometimes seems to need a new name. Perhaps it gives him or her an imaginative freedom from an old familiar self. Perhaps he can associate more readily with fresh ideas. Perhaps his thoughts can range with greater ease, especially in the realm of fiction, if his own persona is not altogether known to him - let alone to others - and he can, to a degree, be like an actor, vanishing into the part.
Actually, I thought this kind of thing had pretty much died out nowadays, but then two things happened.
One was that I happened on a Dictionary of Pen Name
The other was that I was asked urgently if I could find the phone number of a fellow essayist who happens to live only a few miles from us on the edge of Glasgow. I shall call her Poppy Campbell.
The Dictionary was something of a revelation. It is largish and bursting with noms de plumem, the recent edition even bigger than the previous. It seems that many more people than one would have ever guessed are not what they appear. It set me wondering about some of the names of the famous. Was Siegfried Sassoon really called Harry Brown? Was Odgen Nash just flatly a Mr. Earl Smith? And Gerard Manley Hopkins . . . he, I suppose, in dull reality must have been known to his flock as Father Ellis. It's a disappointing world.
And as for Poppy Campbell, author of delightful essays with happy conclusions and displaying a lighthearted affection for birds and beasts and humans of village and field: surely she, so palpably herself, and so proudly a plain-spoken Scot to boot - she, surely, uses the name on her passport?
Well - no.
There was, I soon found out, an explanation for the difficulty that Reader's Digestm (which wanted to publish some of her choicest words) had encountered in its attempt to discover her telephone number. She is not called Poppy Campbell at allm.
Here's how I cracked her code.
For a start I did know her address. She lives in quite a small village with the delightful name of - ah, well, I'd better keep that a secret, too. Anyway: I phoned the Village Inn. Did anyone there know a Poppy Campbell? The lady on the line half covered the mouthpiece for consultation with locals. ''D'ye know of a Poppy Campbell?'' I heard her echo, semi-muffled. ''I'm sorry,'' she returned loudly to me, ''but no one here - ''
Now the peculiar thing was that at precisely this moment I observed a very small and rather dusty bird, a blue tit, sitting a yard from me on the hall floor, motionless. A split second later I noticed that the cat was a yard the other side of me. This unexpected and inexplicable event did somewhat distract me from the Poppy Campbell Search. I rang off with a prompt apology and thanks for efforts made, and spent the next quarter of an hour gently persuading this tame character with miraculously neat markings that he would be happier out of doors in the hawthorn tree than he would be perched on the hanging basket in the hall. The front door was widely open, and the cold Glasgow air was expansively surging through it. It was his vociferous mate outside who finally convinced him to leave me to the task of private detection.
I rang the Village School. No joy. I rang the Village Library: the librarian was itinerant and locally ignorant. I rang the Village Policeman. A girl answered. ''No,'' then, in case I was wondering, ''I'm not the police, actually, you see; I just live upstairs. This station is only manned now and then. Have you tried the Post Office?''
''I can't find it in the book.''
''It's just round the corner. Mr. Hubbard runs it. I'll give you the number.''
Mr. Hubbard at the Post Office answered his phone. I asked my question once more. To my surprise, rather than echoing the words ''Poppy Campbell'' in a blank voice, he said, right out: ''COWSLIP CLUGGIE!''
I begged his pardon!
''Cowslip Cluggie! Cowslip Cluggie!'' he repeated. ''You mean Cowslip Cluggie. That's her real name. She lives along Street, near the , right at the end by the . I know her well. She's quite a character!''
''I bet she is,'' I said, ''with a name like that. I wonder why she changed it? You'd think it was the perfect name for a writer: once heard, never forgotten.''
''I know,'' the Postmaster agreed. ''Perhaps it's her husband who doesn't want to be in print. Cluggie's her married name. You'll find that - under J. for Jimmie - in the phone book.''
And that is the story of how I discovered that all the felicitous notions, all the tours de literary force, all the childhood reminiscences and village anecdotes that I have unwittingly been associating with the name of Poppy Campbell must from now on, in sober reality, be associated with Cowslip Cluggie.
(And that is also the story of how, by inadvertent happenstance, I shall always associate Cowslip Cluggie with unexpected house guests in the form of trustful and dusty blue tits.)