Cosima

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I’m writing a story about a woman who is the daughter of a serial murderer and I needed to think of a name for her. She’s very well-educated and her father, in addition to being a killer, or perhaps because of it, was a great pianist. I considered Aria, which I think is a pretty name, but I was concerned people would confuse her with Arya Stark, and also it seemed somewhat playful and I did not picture her father as being playful in any context.  Then I thought of Cosima Wagner, a woman I’ve always found fascinating. She was born on Christmas Eve 1837, the illegitimate daughter of the great pianist Franz Liszt. Her name derives from St. Cosmas, the patron saint of physicians and apothecaries. She was not a great beauty. She’s always reminded me a bit of Wallis Simpson, another interesting woman. When Cosima was a young woman she married pianist Hans von Bulow, who was Liszt’s most devoted student, but perhaps not the most exciting and romantic individual. During their honeymoon, they went to visit the German composer Richard Wagner, a very exciting and romantic individual, with certain major personality flaws. The next year they visited him again, and at the end of her visit she threw herself at Wagner’s feet and kissed his hands. As Wagner wrote afterwards, “I pondered the mystery, without being able to solve it.” A few years later, Cosima began an affair with Wagner, and had  two children with him, and when she finally asked von Bulow for a divorce he said, “You have preferred to consecrate the treasures of your heart and mind to a higher being; far from censuring you for this step, I approve of it.” On the first Christmas of their marriage, Cosima woke up and heard music. Wagner had set up an orchestra on the stairs and played for her. She went on to become a really terrible person, an anti-semite and her family became friendly with Hitler,  but in the romanticism and cruelty of her history, I felt I’d found  a good name for my character. So that’s how I came up with Cosima. Now for the last name!

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