Cousin Henry

Around the time we settled on Henry’s name, I Googled it just to make sure there weren’t any notorious connotations he’d be saddled with for his entire life.

The only significant association that came up is Cousin Henry, a Victorian novel by Anthony Trollope first published in 1879. I’d never read it or even heard of it before, but I thought a literary precedent would be fine, sophisticated even.

I briefly considered buying a first-edition as a sort of heirloom gift for Henry. But beforehand I read a few short summaries of the plot which centers on the moral dilemma of the title character, a potential heir to an inheritance.

It’s not really specified why, but Cousin Henry (the character) is described as pathetic and contemptible. He never actually rises (or sinks) to the level of a proper villain — just a pitiful, conflicted character placed in a no-win situation. Not exactly an inspirational role model for my son to admire, so I decided to pass on buying him a copy.

I may one day read it and since its copyright has expired, it can be read for free here. What interests me about this Oxford World’s Classics paperback edition is the portrait chosen for the cover. Just like the designer’s attempt to put a face to the character of Cousin Henry, I spend a lot of time trying to picture the adult face of Henry Cousin.

What’s in a (middle) name?

Jacqui and I questioned whether a middle name was even necessary and considered not giving Henry one. But we still tossed a few suggestions back and forth anyway, not really liking anything, until one night I suggested Clyde.

We think it sounds good as a whole: Henry Clyde Cousin. And looks good written, Clyde sharing letters with the first and last names.

Neither of us personally knows anyone with the name and it’s not after any particular Clyde. I think it may have been in my head because of a song in heavy rotation on my iPod during the pregnancy.

“Bonnie and Clyde” is a duet by noted French perv, Serge Gainsbourg and French bombshell, Brigitte Bardot.

The video clearly drew inspiration from the Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway movie released the year before and both are, of course, about the outlaws, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. But Henry Clyde isn’t named after Clyde Barrow, who by all accounts, ruined his own life and Bonnie’s (among others).

It’s more like how flamboyant, former NY Knicks point guard, Walt “Clyde” Frazier adopted the nickname because he liked Beatty’s fashion sense in the film. To me it’s a name that suggests style, creativity and freedom.

Namesake

We took Henry back to the pediatrician’s office today for an unscheduled visit because his eyes have been irritated, crusty and puffy. Again we were reassured that this isn’t uncommon in newborns. (First-time parents need extra reassurance.)

Henry also went to his first restaurant, Benvenuto Cafe (though he didn’t eat, of course) and later received a visit from our friend Jessica, a first-time parent herself, though her three-month-old daughter didn’t accompany her.

But on to the main subject of today’s post: Henry is named after his paternal great-grandfather, Henry Taillac, who was born in New Orleans, LA on August 19, 1914.

After a career with the municipal utility and transit provider, he spent his retirement years traveling, gardening and tinkering in his workshop. As a kid, I spent a lot of time during my summer vacations with him and his second wife, Virgie. We remained close until his death nine years ago today on September 14, 2003.

He was a patient, kind man with a clever mind and sharp sense of humor who was universally beloved by his family.

It’s my hope that our son, Henry will develop these same traits as he grows.

Henry Taillac, 1927

Henry Taillac, 1999