The usage of dashes to obscure personal/place names and dates in Victorian literature has been widely noted, but I don't feel that the reasons that are usually given help me understand this case. I'm curious what people make of a specific redaction in Chapter 36 of Villette, particularly because there's an initial substitution as well.
A fly-leaf bore in small, but clear and well-known pencil characters: 'From P. C. D. E. to L—y.'
Is it that
- Paul Emanuel wrote L—y rather than 'Lucy' (as abbreviation or more deliberate redaction)? Did people abbreviate names like this at the time (I know of the Biblical name abbreviations)?
- Lucy's name (and maybe M. Emanuel's) is being anonymised as a stylistic choice (Villette is narrated by an old Lucy Snowe reflecting on her youth, and it might be that she, out of modesty or tact, elides her own name when quoting the message?)
- It's just being done because it's quoting a written context, and it adds verisimilitude, etc.
I don't know if case 1 is a conceivable thing someone might do, even with poetic license - my impression it was more commonly a literary device (e.g. Austen omitting real names and places; dates being obscured). Is it possible that M. Emanuel would have avoided writing Lucy's given name? I've never encountered this usage before, but it seems possible to me he might use this substitution alongside his own initials. Maybe it's an abbreviation or represents missing letters in his own hand? I'd run with this explanation, but I don't actually know if it's a reasonable expectation wrt. historical context.
As for case 2, it strikes me as really strange, even for Lucy, because she gives full names of people when it's relevant, and it's not some withheld fact that Lucy Snowe is Lucy Snowe (even if Lucy Snowe were meant to be a pen name on the part of the narrator, why redact it here and only here?). But this is a sensitive context (the document trying to persuade her to convert to Catholicism), so maybe it's different?
As for case 3, a letter from Ginevra Fanshawe is reproduced later on in the book, replete with uncensored names.
Why it matters - well, I don't know if M. Emanuel or Lucy did it, and it seems to me the reasons would be different either way.