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       William Sharp

william sharp

       Fiona Macleod

There are few male writers who have adopted a female name and where they have, mostly little know or of small consequence. One exception was that of the Scottish author Fiona Macleod, whose real name was William Sharp (1855–1905). This was primarily a ‘distinction’ name, used consistently for his mystical and quasi-Celtic romances and plays from 1893 until his death. He had earlier written some poetry and biography under his real name – but perhaps there was also a genuine femininity in the writing or the personality of the man himself that motivated this particular choice of name. (Sharp's sexual orientation is a question still to be resolved, but some evidence in Sharp's letters may corroborate the suggestions that the creation of Fiona Macleod in some sense reflected a crisis in Sharp's sexual identity).
       His penname was so successful that the true identity of Fiona Macleod was not know until after Sharp’s death. It was moreover a pseudonym that he declined to acknowledge in his lifetime and under which he even appeared in ‘Who’s Who!’
       Fiona, incidentally, was a ‘Celtic’ name invented by Sharp for his pseudonym, and its subsequent popularity as a girl’s name, especially in Scotland, is due entirely to him.
       Sharp also used, on similar lines, the name Deidre for one of his romantic tales. This, too, has become something of a vogue name for girls. It was not invented by Sharp, however.

Room, A. (1981), ‘Names for a Living’, Naming Names, p.24
‘William Sharp (writer)’, Wikipedia, retrieved 13 October 2013

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