I’m reading an 1846 story by Elena Kube called “Oksana”; it’s your standard-issue tale of a young aristocrat who falls for and abandons a peasant girl, but it has a lovingly detailed description of hunting in the steppe that is a surprise coming from the pen of a woman (like most women authors of the day, she published under a name that did not reveal her gender, in this case “E. Kube”; in 1850 she married Alexander Veltman, and though her writing enjoyed some success in its day, notably her 1867 novel Priklyucheniya korolevicha Gustava Irikovicha, zhenikha tsarevny Ksenii Godunovoi [The adventures of the king’s son Gustav Eriksson, bridegroom of the tsarevna Xenia Godunova], she became even more thoroughly forgotten than her husband). At any rate, when I hit the phrase “влюбленному Трильби” (‘Trilby in love’) I did a classic double-take. For an instant I thought “Ah yes, Trilby,” with that faint burst of pleasure we get from recognizing an allusion; then I thought “Wait a minute, this is half a century too early for du Maurier’s Trilby — what’s going on?” Furthermore, влюбленному is a masculine adjective, and du Maurier’s Trilby is famously a young woman (with whom all the men are in love).
So I did some research and discovered that there was a much earlier Trilby; I will quote the jovial descripton by the Listener, a columnist for the Boston Evening Transcript (Dec. 1, 1894, quoted in Trilbyana, the Rise and Progress of a Popular Novel, p. 38):
The Listener was asked the other day where du Maurier got the name of Trilby — a sweet and pleasant word, neither English nor French, which seemed to suit so perfectly the adorable young person of his creation. He was able to answer, more by accident certainly than as the result of erudition, that the name was not invented by du Maurier but belongs to the French classics — possibly to Scottish folklore. In the year 1822 there was first published in Paris a nouvelle by Charles Nodier, afterward a member of the French Academy, entitled, “Trilby, or the Fay of Argyle”; it was a sort of fairy story, in which a fay is in love with a mortal woman, and the woman is very far from being indifferent to his sentiment. This ‘Trilby’ attained a considerable degree of popularity; it became, indeed, a French classic; Sainte-Beuve has particularly praised the charm of its style. * * * In his preface to the story, Nodier says: ‘The subject of this story is derived from a preface or a note to one of the romances of Sir Walter Scott, I do not know which one.’ This is a very indefinite acknowledgment. While Nodier may have got his subject from Scott, the Listener doubts if he got the name ‘Trilby’ from him. It is just the sort of name that a French writer would give to a Scotch fay. Nevertheless, Trilby may be a real Scotch elfin. The Listener would hardly claim personal acquaintance with them all.
I should add that Nodier’s novella (Trilby, ou le lutin d’Argail, to give it its original title) provided the inspiration for the ballet La Sylphide (in which Nodier’s male lutin becomes a female sylphide), and of course I would be remiss as a hat man if I did not add the following information about du Maurier’s Trilby from Wikipedia:
The novel has been adapted to the stage several times; one of these featured the lead actress wearing a distinctive short-brimmed hat with a sharp snap to the back of the brim. The hat became known as the trilby and went on to become a popular men’s clothing item in the United Kingdom throughout various parts of the 20th century.
(We discussed the American equivalent, the fedora, here.)