Friday, November 13, 2009

Dem Barebones

Puritan names are a subject of great fascination, and much could (and, Lord willing, will) be said here at this blog about the thinking behind the names Puritan parents chose for their children, along with examples, but one family -- which is described here as 'Puritan' only very loosely -- surpasses all others, I think, for uniqueness and creativity: the Barebones family.

The surname is described as 'Barbon' or 'Barebone.' The patriarch may have had a common name: John. Little is known about him, and in fact, much of the family information that we have is sketchy. It is thought that he came from the town of Barbon, England.

He had one son known as Praise-God Barebone (c. 1596-1679). He was a leather-seller, and a lay preacher. He has variously been described as a "Baptist," "Anabaptist," "Brownist" and "Fifth Monarchist." Actually, he wrote a tract on behalf of paedo-baptism in 1642, though -- oddly -- in the 1630s, two men were chosen to jointly pastor a baptist congregation -- Henry Jessey and Praise-God Barebone. In 1653, he was elected to the Nominated Assembly, also known as the "Little Parliament" and "Parliament of Saints," but more commonly named for Praise-God himself, as the "Barebones Parliament," which lasted just five months. He was zealous in the cause of the Commonwealth and actively opposed the Restoration of Charles II.

It is said that he had two brothers with even more striking names: Christ-came-into-the-world-to-save Barebone and If-Christ-had-not-died-thou-hadst-been-damned Barebone, the latter of which was abridged to 'Damned Barebone.' There is no documented proof of these brothers' existence, yet there are also various reports which speak of them as sons of Praise-God, rather than brothers; the details are so fuzzy, it seems to me, that there is not enough solid information to say much at all about them, but the names are famous nevertheless.

It is believed by many that Praise-God Barebone had at least one son, Nicholas Barebone (c. 1640-1698). Much more is known about him. A member of the College of Physicians, he had a major role in the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666, and is credited as being the founder of modern fire insurance, also writing much as an economic theorist.

The Barebones are a memorable curiosity, even if their factual history is fuzzy. The names have inspired ridicule, poetry and a great deal of research, with little to show for it. But their fifteen minutes of fame has been extended through the centuries to reach this little blog because today is 'Funny Friday' and dem Barebones fit the bill.

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