The name "Vanessa" is without any doubt indeed an invention of
Jonathan Swift. More precisely, the combination of two elements that
form that name is Swift's creation.
I have searched the genealogy database WorldConnect for the name
Vanessa. From the 323 million records that go back as far as to the
Middle Ages, the first including "Vanessa" as a person's first name
dates from the early 19th century, from 1806. This indicates that the
name had become common not very long before that time, otherwise there
had surely been earlier examples. So with regards to the time it takes
for a name to become common, one can reason that "Vanessa" as a first
name originated in the 18th century, but not earlier.
Swift created the name "Vanessa" by using elements of the first name
and the family name of an actual person, namely Esther Vanhomrigh (b.
1690, d. 1723), the daughter of a Dublin merchant of Dutch descent.
Esther, whom Swift had met in 1708, and whom he had tutored. She fell
in love with him; he did not return such feelings but Vanessa, only 20
years old to Swift's 43, followed him to Ireland when her parents
died. She pursued Swift with great persistence, and she may have died
of a broken heart when he finally rejected her.
You can view a portrait of Esther Vanhomrigh by clicking this link:
(Source: Southwest Tennessee Community College)
As early as 1713, Swift wrote a long poem called "Cadenus and
Vanessa". It is an autobiographical poem about his relationship with
Esther Vanhomrigh, in which he uses the name "Cadenus" as a pseudonym
for himself. Swift created the name "Cadenus" from an acronym of the
Latin word "decanus" (dean), and Jonathan Swift was in fact the dean
of the Anglican St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin from 1713 to 1742.
And Vanessa, the character who represented Esther Vanhomrigh in the
poem, got her name by combining the "Van" from "Vanhomrigh" with
"Essa", a pet form of "Esther".
"Cadenus and Vanessa" remained unpublished for a full decade. Ten
years after Swift wrote the poem, and three years after Esther
Vanhomrigh died, it appeared in print for the first time in 1726,
printed and published by J. Roberts at the Oxford-Arms in
The next year, "Cadenus and Vanessa" was included in the two-volume
"Miscellanies" written by Pope, Swift, Arbuthnot and Gay in 1727.
While it proved impossible to find a source for the 1726 print, I have
successfully managed to find a source for an original 1727 edition of
the two-volume "Miscellanies" set. It is available from the bookstore
Peter Goodden in Bath, United Kingdom, for US-$171.08. Here is full
7 Clarendon VillasWidcombe Hill
Bath, Somerset, SOM
United Kingdom BA2 6AG
Please note that I have not confirmed availability of the books.
And in case you are interested in reading an online version of
"Cadenus and Vanessa", please follow this link:
(Source: Book Portal)
WorldConnect Genealogy Database
The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: V
Hertford College: Old Members - Jonathan Swift
Books and Writers: Jonathan Swift
Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen: The
Revolutionary Role of Venus Athena and Other Goddesses in "Cadenus and
Southwest Tennessee Community College: Jonathan Swift
Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache: Vornamen-Beratung
Bartleby: Swift - Bibliography
Bartleby: Pope - Bibliography
California State University San Marcos: Jonathan Swift - An Irish Satirist
Pickering & Chatto: Miscellanies in Prose and Verse by Pope, Swift and Gay
Search terms used:
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"Miscellanies" 1727 "cadenus and vanessa"
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Hope this is what you were looking for!