Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Various Portlands

With somewhat belated thanks to the lovely Simone, I recently learned that many of the characters in the popular animated television series, "The Simpsons", are in fact named after streets of Portland, Oregon, where said Simone currently resides. Apparently this is very well known, but I've never been to that Portland and in fact have only visited the UK's Portland Bill the once, on a school field trip. Somehow, I had never heard of the FilmFair cartoon series, The Adventures of Portland Bill until today, though it does sound a) cracking, and b) exactly the kind of thing I lapped up when I was a kid. Back to the Simpsons' Portland though, and what people seem to have forgotten is where it got its names from in the first place. One of the cities founders, a Francis W. Pettygrove, chose in 1845 to name Portland after his hometown (also called Portland, in case you were wondering). He bought the claim to the land from a Mr Overton who had bought a land claim for half the area. The other half was owned by lawyer Asa Lovejoy, who later became mayor and chief justice, and is lovingly recorded for posterity via the character of the Reverend Lovejoy in the aforementioned Simpsons. Anyway, Lovejoy was a big fan of Charlotte Mary Yonge and in particular, her novel "Heartsease, Or, the Brother's Wife". When the street layout of Portland (Oregon) was being designed, Lovejoy went through his bookshelf and noted down suitable names from this and a handful of other books. So yes, Ned Flanders is named after Northeast Flanders St., but Northeast Flanders St. is only called Northeast Flanders St. because Yonge set part of "Heartsease" in a fictional Lancastrian village of Wrangerton, whose local vicar was called... Flanders. Indeed, in Heartsease there is a passing reference to a "Bishop Fox", "a north-country bishop" who was obsessed with the future, and particularly the Twentieth Century. No mention of Television though, clearly.

Just for the record, the opening lines from Heartsease are:
The sun shone slanting over a spacious park, the undulating ground here turning a broad lawn towards the beams that silvered every blade of grass; there, curving away in banks of velvet green; shadowed by the trees; gnarled old thorns in the holiday suit whence they take their name, giant's nosegays of horse-chestnuts, mighty elms and stalwart oaks, singly or in groups, the aristocracy of the place; while in the background rose wooded coverts, where every tint of early green blended in rich masses of varied foliage.
They don't write 'em like they used to...

No comments: