The Name "Colin Grove"

It is not clear how the name "Colin Grove" came to be selected as the name for Robert Collins' estate. What is certain is the spelling of "Colin," with one "l" and no "s." That is how it is spelled on the 1808 Royal Engineers Map of the area between Halifax Harbour and Cole Harbour by Collyer; that's how it is spelled in newspaper notices in the early 1800s and later (see, for example, the Halifax Weekly Chronicle for 27 Sept. 1816 announcing Louisa's marriage); and, for what it's worth (as Louisa was a noticeably poor speller) that's how Louisa spells it in her diary in 1815. Most important of all, that's how Robert Collins himself spells it at the beginning of his own journal for 1796. Equally certain is the fact that Robert Collins always signed his name "Collins."

Whatever Robert's thinking in selecting such an estate name, one conclusion seems inevitable—that part of what he had in mind was the obvious play of the word "Colin" on his own family name. What else he had in mind is less clear; but fortunately—or unfortunately—plausible explanations for the selection are not lacking:

1) That "Colin" is an anglicization of the French "colline" or of the Spanish "colina"—which mean "hill," Colin Grove having been situated along the slope of one of the highest hills in the whole Halifax-Dartmouth area, a hill known from the time of the earliest settlers as "Breakheart Hill."

2) That it was named for the small American game bird known as the bobwhite—which also went by the name "Colin." The trouble with this explanation is that Nova Scotia is outside the bobwhite's range, which is the central and eastern United States southward from South Dakota, southern Minnesota, southern Ontario, and southwest Maine. So, if Colin Grove was named for this bird, it would have to have been in a kind of borrowed sense, i.e., after some estate or place in the U.S. which was named after the bird .

3) That it comes from the Welsh Collen, which signifies "hazel" or "hazel-grove."

4) That it comes from a commonly used name for the rustic hero in English pastoral poetry, "Colin Clout" or simply "Colin."

The tradition goes back to the Englishman John Skelton (1460?-1529) and to the Frenchman Clemont Marot (1496-1544). Skelton wrote "Colyn Clout," a satire against ecclesiastial abuses. Marot, in one of his eclogues, uses the name of his hero "Colin" as a thin disguise for himself.

Edmund Spenser (1552-1598) was influenced by both poets . It was he who put the name "Colin" into the mainstream of pastoral poetry. He introduces Colin Clout in The Shepherd's Calendar (pub. 1579). Colin Clout is a lovesick shepherd who stands for Spenser himself. In the later poem "Colin Clout's Come Home Again" (printed 1595) the identification between Clout and Spenser is even more pronounced. (Colin Clout comes up also in Spenser's masterpiece The Faerie Queene.)

And so a tradition was started in which "Colin Clout" or simply "Colin" became the name of the hero in many English pastoral poems and often, at the same time, a widely recognized proxy for Edmund Spenser himself. Some poems that are in the tradition—or which allude to it—are: "To Colin Clout" (ca. 1619) by Anthony Munday; "The Fourth Eglogue" (1619) by Michael Drayton; Pastorals (1708) by Ambrose Philips; "The Second Pastoral: Summer" (1709) by Alexander Pope (in which Pope's alter ego the shepherd Alexis claims to be the successor to Spenser's alter ego); "Colin's Complaint" (1712) by Nicholas Rowe (this was written as a song and was very popular in the 18th century—even in its closing years when Robert Collins would have been settling in at Colin Grove); The Shepherd's Week (1714) by John Gay; "A Pastoral" ("Colin and Phebe") (1714) by John Byrom; "Colin and Lucy" (1725) by Thomas Tickell; Hobbinol (Canto II) (1740) by William Somerville; "A Morning Piece" (1750) by Christopher Smart; Le Devin du Village (1752) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau; "Day: A Pastoral" (1761) by John Cunningham; "He Repeats the Song of Colin" (1764) by William Shenstone.

The naming of an estate for a character from fiction or poetry is not unheard of. To find a contemporary example, one has but to look at the name that Governor and Lady Wentworth gave to their country refuge on the shore of Bedford Basin—"Friar Laurence's Cell." It may be argued, however, that if Robert Collins had named his estate after the pastoral hero wouldn't he have called his refuge "Colin's Grove"? The argument against this would be that he dropped the "s" to avoid confusion between "Colin's" and "Collins' "—which aurally are indistinguishable.

Ultimately, Robert Collins could have named Colin Grove for any one of the above or for a combination of them, or he could have named it for an estate (in his own family or otherwise, in America or Europe) that had been named for one or other of these, or for some other reason. The full explanation will have to await further information.