Reader, he burned them: Charlotte Bronte, Shipwreck and the Lady’s Magazine

Sadly, good news stories are rare these days. So when they come along, I tend to cling to them like precious cargo that can keep me afloat amidst the torrents of awfulness threatening to pull us all under in this unsettling and violent world.

BronteOne of the best news stories of the past ten days or so is surely the restoration of a book belonging to, and filled with annotations and sketches by, the Bronte family to their Haworth home. The purchase and repatriation of the salt-water stained copy of Robert Southey’s The Remains of Henry Kirke White was made possible by a £170,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, in addition to a further £30,000 raised by a V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Friends of the National Libraries. As the BBC news website noted, this particular copy of Southey’s work was especially remarkable because of the story surrounding it. A treasured artefact of a life prematurely cut short, the book was ‘one of a few possessions saved from a shipwreck shortly before Maria married Patrick Bronte in 1812’, and bore an inscription from Patrick that read: ‘the book of my dearest wife and it was saved from the waves. So then it will always be preserved’. Preserved though it was, the book was nonetheless sold after Patrick’s death in the early 1860s and spent nearly a century in the US before its recent and happy return to Haworth. [1] 

After initially reading this story on the BBC news website, I spent a good 40 minutes trawling through as many different versions of the same story as I could find. Each told more or less the same version of the same series of events in more or less the same language, as news outlets tend to do today just as they did in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. What I was fruitlessly looking for, I soon realised in my obsessive re-reading, was an answer to an unposed question: What else survived the shipwreck? [2]

Based on the news coverage, you would be forgiven for thinking that only Southey’s Remains of Henry Kirke White was saved from the briny deep in 1812. But this was not the case. Especially prized by Charlotte Bronte was a set of volumes that kept the young woman away from her lessons and hungering after a literary career of her own: a collection of the Lady’s Magazine, the full run of which periodical extended well beyond the date of the shipwreck (from 1770 to 1832).

We don’t know exactly how many copies of the magazine Charlotte and her siblings inherited in the years after their preservation from the shipwreck, although we have some sense of which volumes survived because of the detail with which she later recalled them. Our evidence comes in the form of a letter dated 10 December 1840 to Hartley Coleridge in which Charlotte expressed regret that

I did not exist forty of fifty years ago when the Lady’s magazine was flourishing like a green bay tree—In that case I make no doubt my aspirations after literary fame would have met with due encouragement— […] and I would have contested the palm with the Authors of Derwent Priory—of the Abbey and Ethelinda. You see Sir I have read the Lady’s Magazine and know something of its contents—though I am not quite certain of the correctness of the titles I have quoted … 

DP Jan 1797

LM XXVII (Jan 1797): 12-13. © Jennie Batchelor. Not to be reproduced without permission.

In fact, Bronte’s recall is accurate. Like her, I have spent many happy hours reading the anonymous gothic novel Derwent Priory (serialised 1796-97 and later attributed to Mrs A Kendall), George Moore’s Grasville Abbey (1793-97) and the unsigned ‘Athewold and Ethelinda’ (1797). The fact that Bronte remembered this fiction was remarkable because she did not have the copies before her. Although she vividly remembered the brine ‘discoloured’ pages of the magazine over which she pored ‘on holiday afternoons or by stealth when I should have been minding my lessons’, the volumes had long since left her possession by the time she wrote to Coleridge in 1840:

One black day my father burnt them because they contained foolish love-stories. With all my heart I wish I had been born in time to contribute to the Lady’s magazine. [3]

The sense of horror and betrayal of her father’s act was evidently very much alive to Bronte years after it had been committed and clearly ran as deep as her affection for a magazine and an associated writing culture – ‘when the Lady’s magazine was flourishing like a green bay tree’ – that she sorely lamented the loss of as an aspiring professional writer.

I refer to Bronte’s letter frequently when I talk to people about the Lady’s Magazine and I use it for lots of different reasons. For one thing, as an example of a near contemporary reader’s response to the magazine it is rare. The fact that this is an example of so well known a writer as Bronte only makes it more valuable, not least because it means that I don’t have to rely solely upon my own powers of persuasion to get people to take the magazine seriously. Don’t take my word for it that the Lady’s Magazine is interesting and was influential, here’s what Charlotte Bronte thought about it …

But of course what is most interesting about this story is the tale of survival and destruction around which it turns and the complex psychodrama it plays out. For every fact the letter seems to give us – that Bronte read the Lady’s Magazine, that she associated it with the successful promotion of women’s writing, for instance – at least one question is begged – did she really think that unpaid journalism was preferable to a life of professional authorship and did she share any of her father’s views of its foolishness, for example. Most insistently, however, the question that nags at the reader of the letter is this: How could Patrick Bronte destroy volumes that evidently meant so much to his daughter and which had been saved, along with the Southey, from the waves?

In many ways, I feel that the broader piece of research to which our current Leverhulme project is related – a book I am writing about the Lady’s Magazine‘s place in Romantic literature and culture – is an attempt to answer this question. The rage, which is at once unique to the Bronte family and yet also eerily emblematic of the fate of the Lady’s Magazine, one of the most successful women’s magazines of all times and yet all but silenced in literary history, would certainly take many more words to explain than I have in this blog post.

For now though, I am struck by something I had lost sight of until the news stories of the past week or so. The Bronte Parsonage Museum’s acquisition of Maria Bronte’s copy of what has been repeatedly described as the treasured and invaluable Remains of Henry Kirke White reminds me that what is most important and too often forgotten is that the Lady’s Magazine was valued enough to be saved. Not only that but it was valued enough by at least one of Maria Bronte’s daughters enough to be read, re-read and remembered. The story of the destruction of copies of The Lady’s Magazine by a man who likely never read it (it was far more cynical about love than foolish) should not mute the more triumphant and arguably more telling one about its survival against the odds. These volumes will never be returned to Haworth, but given the personal and, I would argue, textual legacies that the magazine undoubtedly bestowed Charlotte Bronte, they never really left there.



[1] <accessed 28 July 2016>

[2] Prior to her marriage to Patrick Bronte, Maria sent for her possessions to be shipped from Penzance, but the vessel ran aground of the Devonshire coast en route.

[3] The Letters of Charlotte Bronte: Vol. 1, 1829-1847, ed Margaret Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), p. 240.


Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent

Pedagogy and cosmopolitanism: Reader translations in the Lady’s Magazine

espirit-logo220x150This conference season has been busy for Team Lady’s Magazine. In the past two weeks alone, we attended two events that we were looking forward to very much, because we were to soft-launch our index there in anticipation of its official publication in September: the annual conference of the European Society for Periodical Research (ESPRit) at Liverpool John Moores University, and ‘Victorian Periodicals Through Glass’, held at the Athenaeum Club in London. Writing papers and presenting them, and giving the hard work of your colleagues the attention it deserves, can be exhausting work, although I would be less tired if I had the discipline to go straight to bed after conference dinners. Furthermore, when the conferences in question are as good as these two were, they are also very inspiring. We went home with ideas for last-minute tweaks to the index, with a better understanding of how the index will likely be used, and with a renewed sense of how the diverse contents of the Lady’s Magazine remain topical. One subject discussed at both events was the importance of transnational contacts to cultural production, throughout history, even for phenomena that may at first sight seem of a strictly national interest. I am thinking in particular of the panel of our friends of Agents of Change (Ghent University) at the ESPRit conference on their comparatist study of female-fronted socio-cultural transformation across the European periodical press between 1710 and 1920, and the keynote paper by Prof. Regenia Gagnier in London (doubling as this year’s Sally Ledger Memorial Lecture) on the afterlife of Wilde’s Soul Of Man Under Socialism (1891) in publications of Asian political movements. These made me reconsider a fascinating aspect of the Lady’s Magazine that has as yet received little attention: the many translations furnished by its vibrant community of reader-contributors.

staircase Athenaeum

Dickens and Thackeray famously set their differences aside on this staircase (© Athenaeum Club)

In standard accounts of long-eighteenth-century print culture, most notably in the otherwise admirable history by Prof. Kathryn Shevelow, there is a strong emphasis on the domestic ideology allegedly advocated by the Lady’s Magazine.[1] Scholars sweepingly reducing the complex ideological debates within the magazine to this particular message may not have read far beyond the subtitle of the magazine, in which it styles itself ‘Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated Solely to their Use and Amusement’. This does suggest a form of self-censorship calculated to reinforce strict gender norms so as to instil in its ‘fair’ readers their prescribed role in the household, and, of course, a secondary sense of ‘domestic’ is ‘of or pertaining to one’s own country or nation; not foreign, internal, inland, “home”’.[2] Nevertheless, as Jennie Batchelor has shown, the content of the magazine was much broader than this suggests, and for instance catered to the interest in other cultures and nations of a wide array of readers, most of whom will never have left the British Isles. There are hundreds of ‘anecdotes’ and ‘accounts’ of foreign cities and cultures, and many translations, often submitted by reader-contributors. In every volume of the magazine at least a number of items of foreign origins even appear in their original language.

Jenny DiPlacidi, who has categorized all contributions for our index, has made it very easy for us to find out how many items in French appeared in the magazine. Between 1770 and 1790 there were no less than 91 items in another language than English. Three of those are Italian, and all others are in French. While these relative proportions may be surprising, the choices of these two particular languages is soon explained. Italian was seen as a language of culture, amongst other reasons because it was the language of opera seria, and was additionally popularized through the parmesan-dusted verse of the Della Cruscans (also featured—need it still be said?— in the Lady’s Magazine), and shelves have been written on the enduring love/hate relationship between Britain and France. These items come in a variety of genres, but tales and conduct pieces predominate; two genres that are of course very common in the magazine in general. The items in foreign languages seem to have been nearly exclusively appropriations.

The foreign-language items did not only function as reading material on par with the English content, but evidently had a particular pedagogical use. Nearly all are translated by readers who submit their efforts for publication in subsequent issues. An editorial footnote stating that ‘a translation is requested’ often appears to encourage this practice. Over a period of a staggering ten years, between 1774 to 1784, loyal reader-contributor ‘Henrietta R-’ submitted instalments from Abbé Séran de la Tour’s Histoire d’Épaminondas (1739), and these were diligently translated by a cohort of other readers who kept up quite well with the pace of publication of the serialized original. It finished several years before the first one-volume translation of this work (a different text) is published, in 1787.

The fact that often more than one submitted translation of the same foreign-language original is published indicates that the quality of the translation was at least as important as the content of the original piece. It is clear that these pieces were perceived as a challenge by the readers, much in the same way as the many puzzles, and like these served to consolidate the magazine’s readership and gave readers an opportunity to exercise and demonstrate their ingenuity. In April 1782, a regular reader-contributor signed ‘Maria’ submitted an unattributed poem in French, which I have identified as an extract from Beaumarchais’s Le Barbier de Séville (1775). The prefatory headnote included by this reader reveals a lot about the purpose of this submission:

LM XIII April 1782 p. 216

LM XIII (1782): 216. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

LM VI (1775): 179. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Let’s dwell on the ‘shewing’ for a moment here, and not just for its cool archaic spelling. In the earliest volumes the magazine had followed the custom of magazines to organize a monthly poetry competition on a set theme, and it seems that getting your translation into print was perceived as a similar, though less official form of distinction. In fact, this sense of achievement must have been the primary motivation for many unremunerated amateurs to contribute in the first place. For the significant number of schoolchildren who contributed, there may have been a secondary incentive, as I have suggested before. The magazine’s translation assignments will have been similar to their homework for language classes at school, and it is certainly plausible that tutors made use of the material in the magazine in their teaching, and proudly urged star pupils to submit their work as an advertisement for their schools. We usually get the most information about juvenile contributors when they furnish translations, such as in this signature appearing in April 1775 with a translation of a French item that had appeared the month before, tacitly appropriated from Pierre Bayle’s ground-breaking Dictionare Historique et Critique (1697-1702).

Although, as said above, the foreign-language originals were extracted from a variety of sources, pedagogical works (themselves usually largely consisting of extracts) come up especially often. At the time, language pedagogy consisted mainly of translation exercises, and most textbooks were mainly compilations of short French or Italian texts for translation, written in a desirable style and register that students could emulate in their own compositions. They were explicitly marketed as aids for tuition in schools, such as Peter (occasionally ‘Pierre’) Hudson’s The French scholar’s guide: or, an easy help for translating French into English, that according to Worldcat goes through 13 editions between 1755 and 1805, and holds a long list of tutors, masters and teachers of French based in Britain who endorsed the work. Extracts from it, typical light reading such as anecdotes comparing the ways of different European nations, were republished in the Lady’s Magazine. In 1785, to give another example, two fables by Aesop in Italian were published, that before had appeared in several pedagogical books dedicated to that language. Fables were a popular genre for such works, probably because they are as a rule short and are inherently didactic.

This is a good year for studying the links between translation and pedagogy in the magazine, as in 1785 one ‘J. A. Ourry’ also has a short spell of busy activity, contributing eleven items in French. Ourry was to write a book of language instruction himself, The French scholar put to trial, or, Question on the French language (1795), and, as his signature in the magazine informs us, he too was a French teacher, based at ‘Mr. Birkett’s Academy’ in Greenwich. Most of Ourry’s contributions appear to be extracts from recent numbers of the popular Parisian monthly Mercure de France, but he also undertakes an odd and seemingly original correspondence in French with a reader-contributor signed ‘Juvenis’ on a minor religious controversy, while another reader-contributor signed ‘Philomathes’ provides English translations for each letter. Assuming an affable but gently condescending tone, the teacher Ourry used the magazine to publicize his didactic skills, learning and mastery of the French language. This was a good plan, given the magazine’s inferable extensive readership among middle-class mothers.

All of this demonstrates that language instruction was considered compatible with the mission of the magazine to provide content that was suitable for a wide readership of both sexes and all ages. Of course, the fact that only modern languages were included in this scheme is telling. Latin and Greek were avoided in the magazine, even to the point of removing quotes from the Classics from extracts or translating them without copying in the original, as Classical languages were usually not included in curricula for female education. When the opinionated ‘J. Hodson’ contributed a series entitled ‘The Critic’ with musings on Greek and Latin philology, an editorial note complained: ‘How often must we tell this young writer, that his critiques are not suitable to most female readers[…]?’ [LM XIV (December 1783), p. 658]. None of the French and Italian material will have given offence to even the most morally and politically orthodox readers, but they are unmistakably a means of intellectual stimulation that encouraged male and female readers to broaden their horizons. The mind of the magazine’s implied ‘lady’ reader may have been domesticized, yet she could still be a citizen of the world. In May 1789, ‘M. L. B.’ from Hillington in Norfolk replied to a letter signed ‘J. H.’ (likely the same ‘J. Hodson’) of the month before, which had denigrated a recent French translation of Milton:

LM XX May 1789

LM XX (1789): 263. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

This vehemence is all the more striking as there was, generally speaking, no love lost between Britain and France in this period. I wonder what the tenor of conversation was, over tea in Hillington by King’s Lynn, only two short months later.

Dr Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] Shevelow, Kathryn. Women and Print Culture: The Construction of Femininity in the Early Periodical. London: Routledge, 1990.

[2] ‘domestic, adj. and n.’. OED Online. June 2016. Oxford University Press. (accessed July 17, 2016).

1815: Modish Dresses, Modest Women and Bonaparte’s Brother

The frantic barking of the dog at the sound of the doorbell today didn’t result in the usual volley of curses but saw me leaping out of bed shouting “It’s the mailman! It’s the mailman!”IMG_0251

“Postman!” corrected my partner, grumbling irritably and pulling the duvet over his head.


Fashions for October, LM XLVI (October 1815), p. 427

My unusual excitement at being woken by man and beast was because of the anticipated delivery: a volume of the 1815 Lady’s Magazine. Ever since I bought a 1775 edition of the magazine I’ve been looking for another good deal (which for me means damaged but with as many engravings/plates/patterns as possible) and when 1815 appeared for sale with four fashion plates the opportunity was too good to miss.

For today’s post I leave off my ‘researcher’ hat and simply share my excitement at my new (old) edition of 1815 and some pictures of the engravings and plates that I’ve edited a bit to show off the really extraordinary skill of the artists. Although the engravings are one of the aspects of the magazine that we know little about (for most of the first series of the periodical they have no artist signatures or printer’s details) they have clearly been carefully chosen by the editors to accompany the tales and, at times, they are commissioned specifically for the stories.

One of the reasons the physical copies of the magazine are of such interest to researchers (and especially those who most frequently read the magazine in its digitized form) is of course the possibility of coming across something that is missing from the digitized edition. For example, the digitized edition of 1818 lacks several pages, so if you have only been able to access that edition the presence of those missing pages is welcome. Another reason to love the physical magazine is the possibility (that faint hope of treasure that keeps people like myself metal-detecting for hours in the rain) of finding something missing not only from the digitized edition, but likewise missing from most other volumes – such as a pattern unseen for over a hundred years, or an advertisement removed by the binders. And searching for such a possibility, I discovered something rather odd.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 05.08.58

LM XVLI. Image © Adam Matthew Digital. Not to be reproduced without permission.


LM XVLI, Fashions for July









My volume of 1815 does indeed appear to have a fashion plate missing from the digital edition — it is opposite page 285 in my edition and is an engraving of a walking dress described in ‘Fashions for July’. The digitised edition also has an engraving for July depicting a walking dress, but it’s a different engraving. My engraving is numbered 6 in the upper left corner, while the digitised copy’s engraving is numbered 7. Curious indeed! Apparently my binder inserted the June engraving into July while the digitised edition is missing June’s entirely.


‘The Charm of Modesty’, LM XVLI

But even when these exciting possibilities fail to materialise, the material of the magazine is fascinating enough in its own right. I’ve written before about the differences between working with physical and digital editions: I love the ease of the digitized magazine for work, for speed, for accessibility, for being able to drink a cup of coffee without fear of destroying something priceless, and so on. Yet the beauty of the fashion plates and engravings is undeniably enhanced by seeing them close up in person when the detail of the engravings, the strokes of the etchings, the brightness of the colours appear as if they were printed yesterday, not 200 years ago.


Amelia Opie, 1769-1853, author.

1815 was an especially rich year for engravings; it includes several portraits of famous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century personages, including Byron, Lucien Bonaparte, Lord Castlereagh, Amelia Opie and others. The illustrations to the fictional content are likewise particularly intriguing; ‘Parental Horror’ depicts a father witness a snake coil around his infant’s neck while ‘The Charm of Modesty’ shows the youth Lycophron discern his lover Aglaia from a group of women enchanted to appear identical to her only by virtue of her downcast, modest eye.


Melia’s Dog, LM XLVI (March 1815), p. 103

The engravings present an opportunity to learn more about the printing process and editorial decisions behind the scenes of the finished product, yet at the moment they remain frustratingly silent. Where did they appear first, who selected them for use in the magazine, who printed them and who wrote the stories for which they were commissioned? Hopefully as we proceed with our work on the project and uncover more about the mysterious editors and publishers behind the magazine we will learn more about the illustrations and plates that were a constant feature and important selling point throughout the over 62 year print run of the Lady’s Magazine.

But for now, enjoy the pictures.


Lucien Bonaparte


Opera Dress, Fashions for February, LM XVLI

Parental horror

Engraving to serial tale ‘Mher-ul-Nissa’, LM XVLI (Supplement 1815), p. 581

Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

Becoming Jane: The Case of a Lady’s Magazine Emigrant

Working on The Lady’s Magazine project this May and June has led me down all manner of bizarre eighteenth-century rabbit holes, and no two days are ever the same. I have, over the month, chased one of Mary Robinson’s stray Sylphids across numerous newspapers. I found myself reading about sheep rot in an agricultural magazine just yesterday. I encountered a very serious vicar (J. H. Prince) who, as well as reflections on suicide, also wrote odes on dead cats (there are a surprising number of these, from a surprising number of contributors, in the magazine). I caught a brief glimpse of Emma Hamilton, or someone posing as her, in the pages of 1800, waxing lyrical about reading Dimond’s petrarchal sonnets. I smiled as the same hopeless swain, writing hopeless lines of poetry, tried with his lays first to ensnare one Susan Yates, and then just two months later, a Sophia. I laughed at Dr Hawes’ recommended methods for restoring to life the apparently dead (‘what thou doest – do quickly’), and laughed even more as ‘Tommy Softchin’ bemoaned his lack of whiskers. Sometimes I got very carried away on Ancestry; I tracked down the son of one of the magazine’s long-term contributors, John Webb. Webb often wrote poetry about his sons, and this particular one, Conrade, had a ‘providential escape’ from death by cart in 1800.[1] This escape proved fortunate for him, obviously, but unfortunate for 18 year-old William Riddle, who, 33 years later, was sentenced to two month’s confinement for drunkenly stealing a ham from his master, a cheesemonger: Conrade Manger Webb. Reading the Old Bailey Records, I thought about the ‘playful Conrade’ that a charmed father wrote about, the suing cheesemonger of 1833, and the 77-year-old man who lived and died on Edgware Road, weaving together these three seemingly disparate images, these three traces of a real, lived life.

The paucity of biographical records from this period often sees lives squashed into stubborn, unyielding signifiers. The thrill of finding the right person is quickly overwritten by frustration as that person is reduced to a date of birth, marriage, death, or a street number. Sometimes the records give a bit more: a court appearance, a list of household residents, a photo of a document. But I found over the last few months, that the magazine contributions themselves could sometimes provide rich insights into the lives of the contributors. In other words, they can make the records speak to us.

My work on the project was on attribution and authorship. I donned my best detective hat and ploughed my way through the years, cross-referencing each entry to find out whether it was original; if not, where it came from; and in any case, who might have written it. Tracking down an unacknowledged appropriation has its own pleasures, particularly when the search is a long, piecemeal one, but the most rewarding (and the most potentially frustrating) work lies, I think, in attribution. The magazine is a wonderful, dense, and unruly site in which to perform recovery project archaeology. Although there are so many contributors who will probably never be traced (the Eleanor H**** who translated 6 plays from French and German between 1799 and 1805 proved just one source of frustration for me this month), some are just waiting to be discovered. Likewise, although many contributors had short-lived careers in the Lady’s Magazine, some went on to publish novels or poetry collections after. Others can tell us something about their particular historical moment, about their situated and personal experiences. As Jennie noted in a recent blogpost, recovering the lives of contributors ‘might not seem all that important beyond fleshing out a footnote in literary history. But for [each writer] we find, we are able to bring into slightly sharper focus what it might have meant to be an author in the period covered by the Lady’s Magazine.’[2] Indeed, the aim is to uncover a messy eighteenth-century that is sometimes overlooked in favour of clean, linear narratives. The magazine is the perfect forum for this sort of work: inclusive, democratic, dialogic. And it affords fascinating glimpses into lost lives, which speak to modern concerns as much as they did to the concerns of their many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century readers.

In the spirit of recovery, then, and as a way of making the figures and names ‘speak’, I want to share the story of one of the Lady’s Magazine’s contributors, which takes us all the way from Lincolnshire to Washington. This story resides in the poetry sections of the magazine for 1805, which play host, as they often did, to a transient poetic community. When I first opened up the index, I optimistically scanned the names, looking for partial ones that I might be able to flesh out. One jumped out right away: Jane C—k—g. I searched Ancestry a few times that day with variations, but with no definitive results, and quickly gave up and moved on with the more fruitful business of searching out appropriations. But Jane kept asking for attention. By the time I arrived in 1805, I’d given up on finding her, when one afternoon, I arrived at this acrostic:



LM 31 (Aug 1800): 439. mage © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.


And there she was. Jane Cocking, Holbeach Marsh. Right after an acrostic to her sister Anne Cocking. I had a lead, and Ancestry was forthcoming.

Jane was born in Lincolnshire on 14th June 1789 to William (1760-1820) and Ann (nee Worseley, 1750-1834) Cocking. Her sister, Ann(e) (spelling varies in the records), was four years older than her (b. 7th March 1785). They lived at Holbeach Marsh, a fenland area in the South Holland district of Lincolnshire, which is where Jane signed most of her poetry from.

Jane started her 7-month writing career in the Lady’s Magazine, just shy of 16 years old, with six contributions to April’s poetry section.[3] Two of these were acrostics; one for an unknown woman called Jane Herbbass(?), and the other for her sister’s fiancé, William Blanchard (‘May you e’er live in peace and ease, / Belov’d by her you wish to please’). She also contributed an elegy on the death of her friend, Mary Cooling, who had died in December 1804, aged 15 (‘how transient were her charms’), and she wrote a poem to a Miss. Harrison, (probably Nancy Harrison, b. 31 May, 1783). These four contributions are full of assertions of her subjects’ virtues, and hopes for their future happiness, mostly in terms of marriage, and the successful avoidance of ‘false-hearted swains’ and ‘fickle shepherds’. In one of the other poems, ‘Some verses on leaving H—–N’, Jane laments having to leave friends after a long stay spent reading and writing poetry. She writes, wistfully, ‘ah when I think how our time we were spending – / In composing of poetry, or reading a book – / We were ever obliging, and never offending, / And the smile of good nature appear’d in each look’. The final poem, ‘Verses on a pleasant walk near Lincoln’, bids farewell to the landscape she knows, although at this point, readers are unsure what this means or where she is going:


Farewell, lovely scene! I must go,

And leave thee, ah! leave thee behind!

But I this, as some solace, shall know

Thou wilt e’er have a place in my mind.

Ah! how peaceful I oft have sat down,

Enjoying thy beauties serene!

Undisturb’d by the noise of the town,

I’ve hail’d thee the charmingest scene.

But now I must bid thee adieu,

Tho’ ‘t will certainly give me much pain;

Much more, as I certainly know

I shall ne’er see thy beauties again.

These are clumsy and perhaps derivative poems, but they also tell us the story of a contributor that is wholly relatable to anyone who was once a teenage girl, who tried to imitate what she read, who had heartfelt hopes for her loved ones, or who had to move home as a child.

In ‘on leaving H—–N’, she writes, despite obviously being preoccupied with the upcoming move in her other poems:


My heart is a gay one, a stranger to sorrow: –

That word in my ear has a very harsh sound; –

Present time I employ, and ne’er think of tomorrow –

‘Tis a period, we’re told, ‘that’s no-where to be found.

In July, Jane heeds her own advice, and leaves off thinking about leaving, in order to respond to a poem written by James Murray Lacey. His ‘Lover’s List’[4] establishes him as the Lady’s Magazine’s very own, eighteenth-century version of Lou Bega (see the questionable 1990 hit single Mambo No. 5), cataloguing his adoration of Evelina, then Mary, then Selina, then Betsy, then Nancy, and so on: 32 named women and ‘fifty more’ that he cannot name. Jane’s witty response in July reworks the original poem from a female respective, listing a slightly more modest 10 lovers, and ending with a flirtatious address to the original author: ‘I never will desert this swain [Francis is the one she’s settled on], / I do him love so well; /No, no, I’ll never change again – / Except for J. M. L.[5]

The following month, James Murray Lacey raises young Jane a tongue-in-cheek declaration:

You wrote, – and now she charms no more;

Jane fills each love-devoted thought:

I only fancy’d love before,

But now I’m certain I am caught.


From Portsmouth lately when I came,

‘Where have you been?’ ask’d all I knew;

My answer ever was the same, –

‘To Holbeach Marsh,’ – a jaunt quite new!’[6]

His request that she ‘turn Francis off’ and write back to him sadly went answered.

Meanwhile, we find out where Jane is actually going from another contributor, Belinda, who, in June 1805 writes two poems: ‘Lines to Miss Jane C—k—g’ and ‘Lines to the Misses C—k—g, on their going to America.’[7] From Belinda’s other poetry, alongside poems written to her, I was able to establish that her real name was Mary, and she had a sister who was probably called Ann. The final stanza of ‘on their going to America’ is intriguing. Belinda writes: ‘‘Tis a prayer that proceeds from the heart, / Although by a stranger ‘tis penned: / With regret she will hear you depart; / Then what pangs ‘twill inflict on each friend!’ Whilst these lines suggest that was wasn’t known to Jane personally, Jane’s response suggests that they were actually close friends. This is perhaps then demonstrative of the ways in which, like modern internet forums, the Lady’s Magazine provided a space in which to make ‘virtual’ friends. More likely, I think, given that Belinda writes from Fleet, near where Jane lived, it demonstrates the writer’s dogged adherence to the pseudonymity of the poem. Whilst Mary knows Jane, Belinda does not.

Jane’s poetry dominated the section in April, and then in October, although the poems included in October’s issue were written between May and August. From Holbeach Marsh, she writes praising Belinda (Mary). She also writes a short poem on contentment; one on modesty, addressed to a Mr. W—ley; one entitled ‘The Forsaken Swain’; and an acrostic to Clement Coote, who had written acrostics to Jane and Anne in the magazine two months before.[8]

Coote, if he is the Clement Tubbs Coote that I tracked down, was christened in November 1784 in Cambridge, and so would have been close in age to Anne Cocking. In 1799, aged around 15, he was apprenticed to Charles Burnett, a grocer, in Fleet, Lincoln.



Clement T. Coote is apprenticed to Charles Burnett, grocer. Aug 1799.

He signs his 1805 poems from Fleet, as Belinda does, suggesting that this is how he knew Anne and Jane (Fleet is about 8 miles from Holbeach). In 1807, Coote returned to Cambridge, apparently giving up poetry, to take up another apprenticeship.



Clement Coote is apprenticed to William Cockett, draper. Dec 1807.


In 1809, he married Mary Cole, who I spent an inordinately long amount of time trying to prove was Belinda in the hopes of a nice tidy circle, but alas, no such luck. He went on to run a business as a draper, grocer and tallow-chaundler, but unfortunately went bankrupt in 1817.



Clement Tubbs Coote goes bankrupt. Literary Panorama and National Register 6 (Aug 1817)

At some point shortly after this, the Coote family moved to America too, arriving in Philadelphia. Clement Coote died in Baltimore in 1849.[9]

But back to Jane. By August 22nd 1805, Jane was in London, where she penned a farewell poem to Clement Coote, wishing her ‘dear Mr C—’ health, wealth and contentment.[10] Did she see him when he arrived on American shores 12 years later? Jane also wrote a final goodbye poem to Belinda (Mary), and to ‘Albion’s happy isle’ before she ‘brave[d] th’Atlantic deep’.[11] In this latter poem, she writes touchingly of storing memories of the English countryside – singing blackbirds and linnets – anticipating that in her new home, ‘Remembrance then will force the tear to flow, / When in my fancy I behold each spot, / Each fav’rite spot, I formerly admir’d.’ But she goes on:

‘But what are these? mean trifles, when compar’d

With leaving friends, friends much esteem’d, behind:

Whene’er I think on that, it casts a damp –

A cheerless damp throughout my frame I feel.

‘Cheerless damp’ is the same phrase that Belinda uses in her 1806 poem ‘To a friend leaving the country.’[12] On September 12th 1805, Jane’s sister Anne married William Blanchard at St George in the East, in London. Then sometime over the next few weeks, Jane’s parents, Jane, and the newly married Anne and William all emigrated to America, where they settled in Washington, in the District of Columbia.

The Cockings emigrated at a time which saw a lull in the numbers of arrivals to America, mostly due to the Napoleonic wars.[13] Maldwyn Allen Jones suggests that the total number of immigrants from Europe to America 1783-1815 was about 250,000, but with only about 3,000 a year during the Napoleonic wars.[14] So what made them leave, enduring at best, an uncomfortable, and at worst, a deadly journey across the Atlantic? Belinda’s fears for her friend undergoing a dangerous journey are apparent in the lines:

Atlantic, be proud of thy charge!

Neptune, curb ev’ry boist’rous storm!

With honour thy duties discharge;

Let nought thy smooth bosom deform![15]

And indeed, shipwrecks were a real threat. A list of all the shipwrecks in 1806, which is in the hundreds, can be found here. Unless I can track down Jane writing in America, it is unlikely that we will ever know what her journey was like or why her family travelled 3,000 miles to start again in Washington. However, they arrived safely. Life went on.

On August 19th 1813, aged 24, Jane married an American called Charles Carroll Glover. They remained in Washington, appearing on the 1820 federal census with three children and – something that shocked me, and that might tell us a bit more about the Cockings’ economic status – two young female slaves. Suddenly the weaving of strands that I already thought I knew became harder; the coherent, imagined, and celebratory picture I’d created was fragmented. Jane’s sister Anne (now Blanchard) also remained in Washington, had a large family of six(?) children, and owned at least one slave in 1830. Around this time, the number of slaves in Washington had reached its peak, representing twelve percent of the city’s population.[16] Anne shows up in 1862 claiming compensation for two recently freed slaves, Rachel Jackson and William Henry Taylor.[17] You can view her petition here.

Jane was widowed in 1827, and outlived all of her children too: her daughter Adeline died at 9 months; and sons William at 21, and Richard at 29. Jane herself lived to the grand age of 87, dying on September 14th, 1876.


Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.19.11

Gravestones at Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, District of Columbia. From left to right: Charles and Jane Glover; Charles and Jane Glover’s children; Anne Cocking (Blanchard).


Back in 1805, Clement Coote wrote a poem for Jane, ‘on her Arrival in London, just before her Departure for America’, but this wasn’t published until April 1806.[18] In it, he hopes: ‘May you upon Columbia’s plain / Find some who love the tuneful train’, and wishes that she will continue to be inspired by other poets to write. Whether she did or not remains to be seen, and checking some American periodicals for Jane Cockings or Jane Glovers is on the to do list.

Tracing Jane C—k—g did several things for me. It demonstrated the way in which the Lady’s Magazine functioned as a forum for communication between momentary, geographically-located, networks of friends. It gave me an insight into the materials available for a teenage girl to express her joys and her anxieties, her love of the countryside she grew up in, and her fears about leaving it for America. It suggested, in linking a village in Lincolnshire to the changing legal status of slaves in mid nineteenth-century America, that the magazine’s webs and networks can be extended to cover a huge variety of geographical spaces and historical issues, of which migration and globalisation formed an integral part. This month has been a profoundly odd one, but also a profoundly human one, in which the connections between the past and the present have at once been fractured – sheep rot seems inescapably alien to me, writing in 21st century London – but also maintained. We continue, as people, to be fragmented across our daily lives, our writing, the records we leave, even the thoughts we have. Reading Jane – at once anxious, sorrowful, optimistic, virtuous, flirtatious; a child writing juvenilia and a slave owner; an intrepid teenage voyager and a widowed mother – was a palpable reminder of this.

Dr Kim Simpson

School of English

University of Kent



[1] LM 31 (Dec 1800): 672

[2] Jennie Batchelor, ‘Our ‘ingenious correspondent’: Finding Joanna Squire’,

[3] LM 36 (Apr 1805): 214-16

[4] LM 36 (Feb 1805): 103

[5] LM 36 (Jul 1805): 381

[6] LM 36 (Aug 1805): 437

[7] LM 36 (Jun 1805): 327

[8] LM 36 (Oct 1805): 549-51

[9] There is more information about Clement Coote, including a photograph of his portrait, here:;GRid=113760171&amp;ref=acom

[10] LM 36 (Oct 1805): 551

[11] LM 36 (Oct 1805): 550

[12] LM 37 (May 1806): 275

[13] John Powell, Encyclopedia of North American Immigration (New York: Facts on File Inc., 2005), 37

[14] Maldwyn Allen Jones, American Immigration, 2nd edn. (London: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 54

[15] ‘Lines to the Misses C––k––g, on their going to America’. LM 36 (Jun 1805): 327


[17] ‘In December 1861, Senator Wilson submitted a bill proposing the immediate and compulsory emancipation of the District of Columbia’s 3,300 slaves through a program of federal compensation. The District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act, which President Lincoln signed on April 16, 1862, allotted an average of $300 per slave to all slaveowners who were loyal to the Union, for a total payment of $900,000. Under the Compensated Emancipation Act, all slaves in the District of Columbia were free immediately. Slaveowners had ninety days to submit a petition, which consisted of a preprinted form, requesting compensation for their slaves. The petitions, which were written by the slaveowners, identified each slave, provided a personal description, including the slave’s “age, size, complexion, health and qualifications,” and presented an estimated value of the slave for purposes of compensation. […] During the three-month process, 966 slaveowners filed petitions and testified before the commission.’

[18] LM 37 (Apr 1806): 217

The Lady’s Magazine social media round-up

We’ve been very busy in the last few weeks. And as the Lady’s Magazine project races towards completion in September 2016, I have been feeling more than a pang of guilt about not being as present on our social media as I would like to be. In part, that’s because we have all been quite busy outside the world of the Twittersphere, with conferences, workshops and, also, other forms of writing beyond the blog.

We’ve been finding it hard to keep up with all the different things that we’ve been doing, and it occurred to me earlier this week that it likely means you have, too. So, just in case you have missed anything that may be of interest to you, we thought we would list some of this activity in one place to make it easier to find. So here’s just some of the things we’ve been up to.

New Statesman Hidden Histories podcast series


A couple of months ago, I was invited by Dr Sophie Coulombeau (Cardiff University) and Dr Liz Edwards (University of Wales) to take part in 3 of a series of 6 podcasts on eighteenth-century women writers and and how both got written out of literary history for the New Statesman. The Lady’s Magazine features prominently in two of the six podcasts: episode 4, ‘Sociable Spaces’ is about the magazine and the debating societies it tracked and mirrored for some of its history; and my ‘Fight Club’ pitch in episode 5 for the best woman writer of the eighteenth century was heavily influenced by her work on the magazine. The series as a whole is simply excellent and I had a ball being involved. The podcasts are free to listen to and download here.

A Fate Worse than Death: Marital Cynicism in the Lady’s Magazine

When Catherine Curzon, aka the fabulous Madame Gilflurt asked me if I would like to write something about the magazine for her wonderful blog, I jumped at the chance. I offered Catherine a few possible topics but was delighted when she picked the one I was hoping she would because it is a bit of a favourite of mine: the rotten state of marriage as it is portrayed in the magazine. You can read the blog post, which is much more fun than it sounds, I promise, here.

The Quilter

Stitch Off tableThe Stitch Off continues apace, with new items arriving each week and comments from visitors pouring in to tell us how much they admire and are inspired by the wonderful exhibition of our followers’ work on display at Chawton House Library, as part of their ‘Emma at 200′ exhibition. I have said it before, but honestly, the Stitch Off is one of the most enjoyable projects I have ever been, and likely ever will be, involved in in my working life. So you can imagine how I felt when I was asked by the Editor of The Quilter if I would write something about how it all came about for their summer 2016 issue (number 147). I received my hard copy of the magazine last week, and it now takes pride of place on my coffee table at work. If you would like to read the article, you can find it here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the article, blog post or podcast!


Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent


Our ‘ingenious correspondent’: Finding Joanna Squire

As we enter the last few months (gulp!) of our project, new discoveries are throwing themselves at us at a pretty alarming rate. A number of these insights relate to the identities and biographies of some of our authors. The emphasis here, as always, is on the some. We have noted this many times on this blog before, but it bears repeating: the vast majority of reader-contributors who provided original content for the magazine are, and will likely always remain, unknown to us, hidden as they are behind obscure pseudonyms or legal names so common that a week lost in Ancestry trying to find them will never be gotten back.

The figures we have been able to piece biographical details about generally present themselves to us with a little bit of extra detail extra to help us on our attribution way. Often, as in the case of John and Elizabeth Legg or John Webb, this detail takes the form of  a place of residence that, along with other clues, has taken us to the relevant archives. Some, like Elizabeth Yeames or C. D. Haynes, are betrayed by brief biographical nuggets offered up in the magazine itself or by easily overlooked asides in that most fabulous resource for the doggedly persistent academic, Notes and Queries.

Others are located by pure serendipity. One such happy accident occurred a few months ago when I was too tired to do ‘proper work’ but unable to sleep. I was messing about on Ancestry and thinking about those magazine contributors I most wanted to know about but didn’t.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 00.12.35

LM, 60 (Dec 1809): 549. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

The name of Joanna Squire, or Miss Joanna Squire, as the magazine demurely referred to her, kept resurfacing in my mind. Joanna Squire enjoyed (although as you’ll see, that might not be quite the right word) quite a stint in the Lady’s Magazine. Although her nearly 6 years of publishing with the magazine (between late 1809 and 1815) is not remarkable by the periodical’s standards, the column inches she occupied were significant. In addition to a sole piece of prose – a fragment on hope that appeared in the December 1809 issue – Squire produced a considerable number of poetic works in the first half of the 1810s. Indeed, many single monthly issues of the magazine from these years usually contains 4 or more of her poems.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 00.22.34

LM 61 (Oct 1810): 470-71.

It was not Squire’s productivity that most impressed me, however; it was her range and spirit. Squire’s poems include completions of ’bouts-rimés’ (poems prompted by rhyming end lines offered up by the magazine to inspire readers), charades and meditations on the fickleness of fortune (a favourite topic). She often wrote poems to and received poetic epistles from other magazine contributors (including Charlotte Caroline Richardson and James Murray Lacey). She was also a patriotic and political poet who wrote a series of works condemning Bonaparte’s public and private life.  Her ‘Address to Fortune’, an extempore poem on ‘reading that Bonaparte had deprived his repudiated Josephine of the title of Empress’ from the October 1810 issue, merits a blog post of its own.

Yet this is just one of many poems Squire submitted to the Lady’s Magazine for publication and she remained their ‘respected’ and ‘ingenious’ correspondent, as they were apt to call her, for a significant period of time. At least, that is, until she spectacularly fell out with the magazine’s editors.

In February 1815, the ‘Correspondents’ column of the magazine acknowledged receipt of ‘the very angry epistle of Miss Joanna Squire’ but refused to extend to her the expression of gratitude normally extended to contributors. The circumstances of Squire’s spat with the magazine are unclear, but the magazine’s perturbation is not:

It would be
 quite easy to refute all her remarks; but after the petulant language, which
 she has used, she deserves no explanation, and none shall she have.—We
 recommend to her perusal the speech of Mrs. Caveat, at page 73 of our
 present Number. (no page)

For the curious, Mrs Caveat –  a figure in a regular serial in the magazine in the 1810s – admonishes a companion for want of ‘good breeding’ and ‘petulant’ comments on page 73. I bet you could have guessed that.

From then on, Squire disappears from the Lady’s Magazine and although I had found other works by her in contemporary periodicals, I was drawing a blank in finding her or anything by her after 1815. What happened to her and her talent, I wondered? Had she died not long after the spat with the magazine?

I had looked for her in birth, marriages and deaths records before, but had never found a convincing lead. But that evening my tired and inaccurately typing fingers happened upon a one I hadn’t found before: a Joanna Squires christened on 10 November 1776 in Staines Middlesex. As with my previous efforts to locate Catherine Cuthbertson, I hoped that Squire(s) had lived long enough to see the 1841 census so I could find out more about her and I also hoped that she was considerate and sensible enough not to have married. My initial and disappointed searches drew a blank.


Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 00.02.54


Then, just as I was about to give up, I thought I would try a marriage search again using the information in my new lead: a Joanna born around 1776 in Middlesex. When I found a marriage record for September 1816 to a John Carey in the parish of St George the Martyr, Southwark, I instantly woke up. I knew the name Carey. I knew that a John Carey (could it be this one?), was a literary figure and I knew I had read excepts from his work and odd original pieces in the Lady’s Magazine. Before logging off from Ancestry I did a search for Joanna Carey in the 1841 and 1851 census returns hoping I might be on to something. I was. I found her: as Johanna Carey, a woman of independent means living in the same parish in which she married in 1841; and as Joanna Carey, now living with her servant Elizabeth Jones in Newington High Street, in 1851.

From then it was a few internet searches to assemble a lot of biographical information very quickly. Dr John Carey was easy to pin down. A Dublin born classical scholar, teacher and editor, Carey has his own ODNB page [1], although no mention is made in it of either of his two wives (Joanna was the second). What the ODNB lacked, the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1830 more than made up for. Reporting Carey’s death on 8 December 1829 (the ODNB has Carey’s death date as 1826) in a substantial obituary, the Gentleman’s Magazine gives a generous account of Carey’s career, in part because he was a ‘frequent contributor’ to it himself.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 00.16.55

Gentleman’s Magazine, new series, 29 (April 1830): 371.








In the penultimate paragraph of the death notice, the obituarist notes that ‘Dr Carey was twice married; and, by his second wife (who, was the author of the novel, entitled “Lasting Impressions,” and of numerous pieces of fugitive poetry, many of which have been published in this Miscellany, is not unknown to the public), he has left a very promising boy, now in his eleventh year.’ John Squire Carey was born on the 29 August 1819 when his mother was in her early forties. He died in 1836 and his mother would outlive him for a further 15 years. When she died in November 1851, she left a will, witnessed by Elizabeth Jones, leaving her estate to her husband’s son from his previous marriage.

Uncovering the details of Joanna Squire’s life might not seem all that important beyond fleshing out a footnote in literary history. But for every Joanna Squire, C. D. Haynes, Radagunda Roberts or John Legg we find, we are able to bring into slightly sharper focus what it might have meant to be an author in the period covered by the Lady’s Magazine. And the answer is a messy one. Authors for the Lady’s Magazine didn’t, usually, write in single genres or modes and their careers often spanned decades, marriages, childbirths and deaths. Known Lady’s Magazine authors often did not just write for this title. They fall into and out of love with the magazine as often as twenty-first-century scholars working on it. But thank goodness for serendipity for keeping even the most tired and cynical of researchers energised and keen to find out more.


[1] W. Sutton, ‘Carey, John (1756–1826)’, rev. Philip Carter, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 9 Feb 2016]

John Carey (1756–1826): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/465

Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent


Dentifrice and lotteries: advertising in the Lady’s Magazine (part 2)

Cardiff Castle; LM VII (1776): 428. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Cardiff Castle; LM VII (1776): 428. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

As Jenny told you in her post of last week, the three of us recently went to Cardiff to lead a workshop at the first annual conference of the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar (CRECS). I second Jenny’s enthusiasm about this initiative and want to join her in thanking our kind hosts for their hospitality. It was not only great to test out new ways to discuss our work with an audience that mostly had little prior knowledge of the Lady’s Magazine; while we were there, we also had the opportunity to check the holdings of the magazine in the Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) section of the Cardiff University library. Despite their similar names, Caerdydd and Caergaint (Canterbury) are quite far away from each other, and I had been eager to spend some time in this excellent research library since Jennie on an earlier visit discovered in the SCOLAR collections some copies of the magazine with the advertisements still in them. In a previous post on advertising I have already explained that these are very rare. Old periodicals tend to be handed down to us in annual bound volumes, and usually these have been purged of all items that the binders or librarians deemed too ephemeral for preservation. SCOLAR has no less than twenty-six annual volumes of the Lady’s Magazine proper in its collection, plus one volume each of the nefarious but terribly interesting piracies of the magazine issued by John Wheble and Alexander Hogg, which makes it one of the most extensive holdings of material relevant to our project anywhere. I was very pleased to find that two of the real-deal volumes in SCOLAR did come with a rich selection of adverts.

This may not seem much to be excited about, but it really is: the copies in the British Library, for instance, do not have a single advert in them. My previous post on advertising focused on the few adverts in the one monthly issue of the Lady’s Magazine – itself a rarity – that we have in our own (also splendid) Kent Special Collections, but at SCOLAR, there is a lot more. Their aforementioned annual volumes contain adverts originally published with the individual monthly issues, amounting to 20 different items for both. We cannot be sure that no adverts were taken out over the past two centuries, but we may have here the harvest for two whole years. What makes it even better, is that the adverts we have found at Kent are from 1771, and the Cardiff ones from 1804 and 1805. Although, admittedly, two volumes are not a great deal to go by, we can use this material as a basis for hypotheses about changing advertising policies in the Lady’s Magazine, and because of the central position of this publication in the market, in late-eighteenth / early-nineteenth-century British magazines in general. These adverts, as they always do, also reflect British social history. What is advertised in a magazine is what its readers are expected to want to buy, and which commodities agents in a capitalist society seek to acquire says a lot about what sociologists after Pierre Bourdieu call their ‘habitus’; a set of beliefs determined by what they (consciously or unconsciously) consider to be their place in society. There is not much circumstantial evidence to verify what the magazine itself indicates about its readership, so we are glad to be able to study adverts to find out what readers of the Lady’s Magazine were induced to buy, or rather: buy into. From this we can deduct information about who read the magazine.

This newly-found material from the early nineteenth century corroborates our previous assumption, based on the magazine’s contents, that the magazine consistently spoke to a broad audience and took the middle class, and anybody who would aspired to be part of it, for its implied readership. The SCOLAR adverts all target consumers who have some money and leisure to spare for self-cultivation and for little indulgences, but do not attempt to sell luxurious goods or services that would be out of reach for the middling sort. Most of the advertisements, for instance, appeal to those who would improve their minds and their physical appearance.

The publisher B. Crossby advertised with a seven-page publication list, which includes books in all genres, refreshingly with no apparent proviso for the purported feminine perspective of the Lady’s Magazine as you sometimes find in female-gendered discourses at the time. Another publisher, Sharpe, advertised the ‘British Poets Series’ of affordable anthologies of canonical poets, and Cooke their series of ‘Cheap and Elegant Pocket Editions’; both again spanning a wide range of genres from belles lettres to popular science. Similarly, while Alexander MacDonald’s A Complete Dictionary of Practical Gardening (advertised by its publisher George Kearsley) may sound like a title on household management, it is in fact a popular-scientific work offering detailed information on botany, in the same way as the also advertised Topographical Description of Great Britain (Cooke again) provides knowledge with an application beyond the immediate domestic sphere. To accommodate the readership of the magazine amongst schoolchildren, or in this case perhaps rather their teachers and parents, publisher J. Harris offered the Original Juvenile Library with ‘New Publications for the Instruction of Young Minds in the Christmas Holidays’ (the poor dears). The Literary Miscellany flogged its reprints of literary and conduct literature though the magazine, and the General Review of British and Foreign Literature advertised too. Both were periodicals like the Lady’s Magazine, but operated in different genres and were therefore not direct competitors. Among the advertisements for literary publications, Elizabeth Inchbald’s twenty-five-volume edition of plays The British Theatre (1806-1809) publicized a work that will be familiar to readers of Jane Austen:

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff Universiy

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

Readers were encouraged to improve their outward sophistication and physical wellbeing as well. The early nineteenth century may have been a particularly bad period for dental hygiene, as two cosmetics companies chose to advertise their dentifrices in the Lady’s Magazine. Readers had a choice between Larner and Company, who sold ‘[p]repared Charcoal, a most efficacious and and agreeable antiseptic for cleansing, whitening, and preserving the teeth’, and Messrs. Pressey and Barclay’s ‘India Betel-Nut Charcoal for preserving and beautifying the enamel of the teeth’. Larner also provided ‘Cheltenham Salts’, a mineral powder made out of evaporated spring water for those who could not go to Cheltenham Spa to take the waters there. Pressey and Barclay’s notice comes with a long endorsement signed ‘James Lynd, Late Head Hospital Surgeon On the Bengal Establishment’ that looks like an article in the magazine, making this a Regency-era precursor to what is known today as ‘native advertising’. Periscopic spectacles formed according to the natural curving of the eye were explained with illustrations and presented as the latest thing in optics by purveyors P. & J. Dollond, whose offices, so we read, were near St. Paul’s.

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

Nevertheless, the most conspicuous advertisements in these two volumes of the Lady’s Magazine are for lottery offices. State lotteries are fascinating phenomena that played a huge role in public in the long eighteenth century, and they too exploited the aspirations towards upward social mobility then prevalent throughout British society. Lotteries were organized in periods of great expenses such as wars or when public projects needed to be funded, from the late seventeenth century to their abolishment in 1826 after continuous debate about their moral repercussions, which are discussed at length in a recent book chapter by Prof. James Raven.[1] Then, lotteries were much more complicated than in the system of the National Lottery, in effect since their reintroduction in 1994. In the long eighteenth century, they were effectively a form of financial speculation. Tickets were tradable instruments at the stock exchange, and most of the government-licensed contractors that sold tickets were concerns of financial institutions and stock brokers. Tickets could go for dozens of pounds each and were therefore only affordable for wealthy individual consumers, and this is where the advertisement in the Lady’s Magazine come in. Lottery contractors employed ‘lottery offices’, such as that of Thomas Bish of the advert reproduced here, who next to whole tickets also sold ‘shares’; a cheaper subdivision of tickets that allowed the holder to a part of the winnings if the ticket in question turned out lucky. Not surprisingly, advertising lottery offices would mention earlier success rates to attract punters who were superstitious enough to believe that one office could be ‘luckier’ than another. This Mr. Richardson certainly chose his associates well:

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

Lottery offices were in direct competition with each other, and because they were not allowed to offer discounts or any other financial incentive, they needed to outdo their competitors with such clever advertising. Eye-catching illustrations abound, such as in this advert for the rivalling office of Branscomb and Co, also in the Lady’s Magazine. The design with the ticket wreath that we recognize from the Bish advert is here complemented with an enigmatic picture of a boy holding a piece of paper. Some research has revealed that this must be a so-called ‘bluecoat boy’. These pupils from Christ’s Hospital charity schools had a prominent role in the complex lottery drawing procedure, where their innocent hands drew the winning lots. They are regularly depicted in lottery adverts, often (though not here) in contorted poses demonstrating how the regulations required that they perform their part in this ritual: ‘he shall keep his left hand in his girdle behind him and his right hand open with his fingers extended’.[2] Branscomb’s perky urchin is in flagrant breach of the rules.

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

The fourth and final lottery advert in the Lady’s Magazine is my personal favourite. Not to be outdone by his former associate Branscombe’s cutesy bluecoat advert, and nearly a century before the music hall hit “The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo”, the inventive Bish inserted a song sheet into his next advertisement. This is one of many ‘lottery songs’ that appear in broadsheets and adverts at the period. I shall leave you with the first stanza, which you will please to sing to the tune of ‘Mrs. Casey’ (however that may go):

Of all the schemes ingenious man

could ever boast the invention,

there’s none will reach to Bish’s plan,

they’re all too trite to mention.

So haste and buy, your fortune try,

And wealth secure for ever;

The lucky moment may slip by,

It’s surely Now or Never!

 Dr Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] Raven, James. “Debating the Lottery in Britain c. 1750–1830”. Random Riches: Gambling Past & Present. Ed. Manfred Zollinger. London: Routledge, 2016

[2] Qtd from unspecified source in: Grant, Geoffrey L. English State Lotteries 1694-1826: A history and collectors guide to the tickets and shares. London: privately printed, 2001. p. 21

The Lady’s Magazine Team Goes to Cardiff: CRECS

cardiff workshopThis week the Lady’s Magazine team travelled to the first annual CRECS conference at Cardiff University, where we were invited by Anthony Mandal, Sophie Coulombeau and James Castell to deliver a workshop on researching the periodical. Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) was particularly suited to our delivery of a hands-on workshop as the library has an impressive run of the Lady’s Magazine. Attendees, including undergraduates, postgraduates and academics focusing on eighteenth-century studies were able to examine copies of the magazine to explore questions we posed regarding the periodical’s audience, content and form.

Koenraad, Jennie and I asked the audience to look at the volumes in groups of six to ten – each table was able to have two copies of the magazine so everyone was able to look at, touch and search through two different years in the magazine’s history. They then reported back to us with their assumptions about who the magazine was marketed to and designed for, using evidence from the physical copies to support their responses.cardiffmag2

As researchers on the Lady’s Magazine, hearing the audience responses about the publication’s intended audience was particularly interesting in that it allows us to consider how we might modify the ways in which we present our work on the magazine. Overcoming assumptions about exactly what the periodical was, and who read and wrote for it, must be an essential part of our discussion of the periodical. It is too easy to take for granted the evidence the magazine itself offers in its full title Lady’s Magazine; or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated Solely to Their Use and Amusement and to thus overlook the diversity of not only its readership and authors, but also the scope of its content.

Our audience was then given different topics; we asked them to consider how the magazine presents fashion, celebrity, masculinity and the news. One of the best parts of the workshop was going between the different tables and seeing how excited the attendees were when engaging with the material artifact. LMM9They noted the size of the volumes and print, the quality of the engravings, and often went directly to the magazine’s index at the end of each yearly bound volume to try and get an idea of the contents. But as attendees soon discovered for themselves, the magazine’s own index is of limited usefulness in determining exactly the content, genre or even subject of a particular item. They questioned whether or not the presentation of a topic in a specific item could be used to make assumptions about the magazine’s politics, discussed the appearance of a topic in different genres, debated the changes in the division of the news section and did a brilliant job grasping quickly the subtleties and scope of the periodical.

The day after the conference we returned to SCOLAR to take advantage of the library’s holdings – Jennie and Koenraad were interested in the copies of the Lady’s Magazine that included advertisements – LMM3very rare indeed – and patterns and engravings that have been removed from most other available volumes. (Koenraad’s blog post next week will be focusing on his work on these advertisements and the insights they offer into the magazine). I was keen to look at the volumes of one of the Lady’s Magazine’s imitators and competitors, the Lady’s Monthly Museum; Or, Polite Repository of Amusement and Instruction (1798 – 1832). The copies I examined were incredibly useful to my research on the fictional content of the Lady’s Magazine, but what I also appreciated about the volumes of the Lady’s Monthly Museum were its many beautiful fashion plates.

This was our second visit to Cardiff as a project team after presenting a panel last summer at BARS, and again we had a wonderful time at the University, discussing our work to a receptive and engaged audience and learning much from their responses to the magazine and our project.

The free press: payment, professionalism and the Lady’s Magazine

Back in February of this year, Steve Hewlett’s interview of Stephen Hull, Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post UK, for the BBC’s Media Show created quite an online storm. It was hard to avoid the social media fallout, but in case you did, it revolved primarily around Mr Hull’s comments about the non-payment of the many bloggers who provide content for Huffington Post UK. Defending the media outlet’s position, Mr Hull controversially linked the refusal to pay non-staff writers in these terms: ‘If I was paying someone to write something because I want it to get advertising, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. When somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real, we know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of’.

Mr Hull’s equation of unpaid, voluntary contributions with an authenticity that he implies would be tainted by payment and its associated obligations to a media outlet’s advertisers caused quite a stir. Why on earth should objectivity be the province of the unpaid, we wondered? What will the long-term consequences of this reliance on unpaid writers for media content be for the future of journalism? Is the new media strangling the old? Is there really, as Mr Hull implies, any writing that is truly disinterested (whether you get paid for it or not)? And what do we do with the inconvenient truth that bloggers and journalists alike need to eat and pay rent?

At best, Mr Hull’s comments have been seen by his critics as naive. At worst, they have been cast as utterly parasitic: a devaluing of authorial labour under the guise of praise. But then again, is it any wonder that media outlets will rely on free copy in an ever expanding and cut-throat marketplace? Why should journalism be any more immune to austerity than any other profession, industry or service? And it’s surely the case, isn’t it, that a number of the bloggers who write for Huffington Post UK and other outlets aren’t doing so because they are being ‘forced’? Many, surely, choose such unpaid work in the hopes of future, paid career opportunities. But other writers might not care (much) about this. The reach and influence of the Huffington Post UK is such that it presents a formidable platform from which to articulate views and realities that the world needs to hear about. Sometimes getting such messages out matters more to the people who want to convey those messages than getting paid. Although I wonder how many would turn down offer of payment for their research and time if it were offered….?

As we move from an age of authors to the age of bloggers and social media enthusiasts, the questions about the value of authorial labour posed by Mr Hull’s comments are only ever going to become more pressing. And I, for one, am not optimistic about where the story is going to end. But in saying as much, I realise that I am adopting a position that is laden with irony.

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LM XX (1789). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

I am sat here writing this blog for free, just as I have written a magazine article and at least two other guest blog posts this month for no payment. Am I bitter about this? Not in the least. I do these things because I value the fact that these media opportunities open up our research to wider audiences than an academic book with its hefty price tag could garner. I do it because I love what I do and because I want to share that enthusiasm, to get feedback on work in progress, and (hopefully) to get better at it as a consequence. I do it, as Mr Hull suggests the Huffington Post UK‘s bloggers do, because I want to. But I firmly believe that I am no more objective in my blog posts than I have been in the odd bits of paid writing I have done over the years. And of course, I can do this voluntary writing because I have a full-time job that pays the bills and enables me to write for free. I thought the days of authorship being the preserve of only those who had leisure and means to do it had ended in the eighteenth century…

And herein lies the second irony. What makes me uneasy about Mr Hull’s comments is something that I have frequently and openly celebrated about the Lady’s Magazine: its creation of a community of volunteer reader-contributors who provided the magazine’s original content apparently free of charge. As I have argued at length elsewhere, one of the key reasons why the Lady’s Magazine has been so long neglected by historians and literary scholars is that its reliance on enthusiastic amateurs like John Webb, Elizabeth Yeames, and the hundreds of A.Z.’s, Anons and Nobodies whose copy fills its pages, means that it has been seen as insufficiently professional to be taken seriously [1].


LM, XXXIV (May 1803): 253. © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

LM, XXXIV (May 1803): 253. © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Why should this be the case? Why should we assume that just because the likes of Elizabeth Yeames might not have been paid for her work for the magazine that she didn’t take that work seriously? After all, as I pointed out in this blog post, the fact that she published in the Lady’s Magazine meant that she had a reach and influence that stretched over decades and continents. In the 1810s, she would likely have been read in greater numbers and been much more readily identifiable to readers than the anonymous author of Sense and Sensibility (1811). What does it matter if she was not paid for that work? Authorial success and literary value can’t be reduced to pounds, shillings and pence, can they? What if being read mattered more to her than being paid?

It’s a complex web of a problem if ever there was one, and it is one that the Lady’s Magazine itself was increasingly aware of as it moved into the nineteenth century. For the first decades of the magazine’s history, there is little sense that the non-payment of authors was anything other than a selling point for the publication. Write for us and you too can be read by thousands, is the implicit promise the editors made to their readers. Indeed, the magazine went to great lengths to ensure that potential contributors felt that publication in it was a prize, even if that prize involved no remuneration whatsoever or the kind of career beyond its pages secured by the likes of Mary Russell Mitford.

The magazine’s monthly columns acknowledging items submitted for publication are full of lavish praise for the best and most highly valued contributions, such as those of Henrietta R-, whom the editors acknowledged with the ‘greatest esteem, as well as gratitude’ in the August 1774 issue (no page). Equally, the magazine was rarely backwards in coming forwards with criticisms of what it conceived to be poorly conceived, written or inappropriately focused content. The magazine named and shamed many whose work it would not deign to publish, such as poor Anna Maria, whose poetic effusion on the death of a beloved pet was greeted in the September 1817 correspondents column with one of the editors’ most scathing  rejections in its history: ‘We sincerely regret Anna Maria’s loss; but advise her when she raises the funeral pile to her Canary bird, to light it with her elegy‘ (no page). In the face of such public rejection, it is little wonder that ‘gaining a footing’ in the ‘inclosure’ of the magazine, in the form of being accepted for publication, felt like something worth attaining for many of the magazine’s authors, even if generated no income (LM 33 [May 1782]: 258).

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LM XLVIII (Sept 1817). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

But a good number of the magazine’s contributors could ill afford to be cavalier about whether they got paid or not for their writing. Many, we know, most certainly did not write from a position of financial disinterest.

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Mary Pilkington

Mary Pilkington, for instance, who undertook paid editorial work for Vernor and Hood’s Lady’s Magazine rival, The Lady’s Monthly Museum (1798-1828), also wrote various original articles and serials for the Robinson publication from 1809 onwards. As her polite but at times aggrieved correspondence with Vernor and Hood reveals, she absolutely relied on income from her journalism and other writing [2]. Between 1810 and 1825 an embarrassed Pilkington repeatedly called on the charity of the Royal Literary Fund for financially distressed authors with modest success, but insufficient to guarantee her long-term security [3]. Knowing what we do about Pilkington’s circumstances, it is quite clear that altruism can have played little part in this determinedly professional and financially straitened writer’s publication choices.

Such evidence about Lady’s Magazine contributors’ financial circumstances is hard to piece together. It relies first on us having an identifiable author to begin with and second on external evidence (journals, letters and, in the case of Pilkington, institutional archives) which is often very hard to track down or, in many cases, non-existent. In the absence of such documentation, authors’ dealings with and attitudes towards editors are hard to discern. Odd letters about contributors’ experience of publishing in the Lady’s Magazine exist but, at the moment, I can count the ones I have found and read so far on a couple of hands. Those parts of the relatively small archive around the magazine’s publishers, the various members of the Robinson family, that we have been able to consult so far offer little by way of illumination either. As Koenraad blogged here, the ledger of George Robinson’s copyright purchases has no information on material intended for publication in the magazine, a fact that seems to corroborate the longstanding  assumption that no authors were paid for contributions to the Lady’s Magazine.

For the most part, then, we are left to glean the financial circumstances and motives of authors from their heavily mediated presence within the magazine’s columns. This is a hazardous enterprise, but nonetheless, offers glimmers of insight into how authors conceived of their work. Exhibit A in the author’s defence is the editors’ repeated refusal to pay postage for author contributions.  For decades the editors implored readers that it could not ‘be deemed either humanity or generosity to involve us in such enormous expence’ as attended payment for unpaid postage (LM 33 [Oct 1782]: no page). And yet month after month contributors continued to send in articles in this manner, presumably hoping that the strength of their work would persuade the magazine to pay the postage costs even if no further remuneration was expected. But ultimately, without payment, without contracts, the magazine’s contributors had little bargaining power. In fact the only power they had over the magazine was to threaten to leave it if they felt its editors’ dealings with them were unfair. The frequent tailspins the magazine plunged into when successive instalments of popular fictions or essay series failed to arrive (post paid) are hardly surprising when authors were only under a moral, rather than financial, obligation to continue and complete them.

At the moment, however, I am amassing a body of evidence that strongly suggests that the magazine’s working relationship with its contributors was not static across its six decade long run. Indeed, from the 1810s, precisely at the point at which Pikington started writing from the periodical, there is evidence within the Lady’s Magazine that the tide of opinion was turning; that writers were expecting more from the magazine; and that the magazine itself recognised that its future was entirely dependent upon authors whom it could little afford to take from granted. Take, for instance, a notice published in the correspondents column of August 1811, in which the editor notes: ‘On the subject of “Payment,” in answer to A.B.’s inquiry, we have to observe, that, although the contributions to Magazines are usually gratuitous, we shall feel no objection to allow him a moderate remuneration for his productions, provided that we approve them’ (no page). That word ‘usually’ was surely a beacon a hope for many a writer looking not only to be published but hoping to be paid for their periodical essays.

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LM XXXIV (Oct 1783): p. 320. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Other hints surface in this decade that some of the Lady’s Magazine‘s contributors, at least, could expect payment for their efforts. The strange, but compelling serial, ‘The Author’s Portfolio’, which began publication in June 1814, is a wonderfully metafictional piece of writing about the hazards of life as a periodical author at the beginning of the new century. It is, in fact, one of several serial variations on this theme that appear in a very short space of time. The conceit of the ‘Author’s Portfolio’ is that its contents are the unpublished efforts of an unknown writer whose death is reported in its first instalment. The titular author takes lodgings in the house of a Mrs Stubbs, who takes the gentleman’s repeated assertions of the significant sums of money he carries around in his portfolio as a sign that he is a man of means, only to find out upon his death that he was insolvent and these papers were not banknotes, but manuscripts from which he hoped to secure future income. Succeeding where the author failed, on his death Mrs Stubbs takes the advice of a curate to send these unpublished papers to ‘”Messsrs Robinson, for publication in the “Lady’s Magazine”–not doubting that they would consent to pay a reasonable sum for the copyright’. The Robinsons acquiesce and the author’s funeral expenses are covered as consequence (LM 35 [June 1814]: 251).

The circumstances of the publication of ‘The Author’s Portfolio’ are likely an elaborate fiction. Nonetheless, it would seem odd to signal the magazine’s generosity in paying the copyright for works if this was something the magazine was not, at least on occasion, willing and able to do. This mention in the ‘Author’s Portfolio’, even with other evidence that I am piecing together from the magazine, is, sad to say, insufficient to suggest a sea change in attitudes to the payment of authors as the Lady’s Magazine moved into the nineteenth century. But coupled with what we know of the dire financial circumstances of some of its authors, it seems clear that at least some of the magazine’s non-staff writers were being paid in the 1810s, if not before.

More interesting still, perhaps, is the magazine’s increasing awareness in this decade that it had a moral and financial obligation to the men and women who provided its original content. In July 1814, for example, the magazine devoted its correspondents column to the plight of Elizabeth Yeames ‘to whose pen the Lady’s Magazine has, in time past, been indebted for various contributions’. At this time, Yeames who wrote for the magazine from the early 1800s through the 1810s (latterly under her married name of Mrs Robert Clabon) found herself ‘reduced to the painful necessity of soliciting a public subscription for her own relief, and that of her widowed mother and numerous family’, which included her widowed mother, her sister Catherine (another of the magazine’s contributors), a disabled brother and three other siblings. The magazine explained that Yeames’s father, Peter, master of ‘his Majesty’s packet, Earl of Leicester’ had, in 1803, the year she had first started writing for the magazine, fallen victim to ‘the tyrannous injustice of Bonaparte’ and been taken prisoner of war and died while being transported (no page.). The Robinson’s publishing house in Paternoster Row was one of three locations where subscriptions for Yeames were received.

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LM XLV (July 1814): p. 320. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

Now of course, had writing proved a more viable means of support, perhaps Yeames, like Pilkington (and numerous other writers of this period) might not have had recourse to charity. And I have no concrete evidence that the magazine paid Yeames for any of her contributions to it, although I suspect they at least latterly did. But what I find interesting in this transitional decade in the magazine’s history (the 1810s) is the editors increasing readiness to acknowledge the injustice and untenability of not financially supporting its writers.

Recognising such obligations undoubtedly presented problems for The Lady’s Magazine. It saw itself as mass media; it sought to keep its purchase price low to reach as many readers as possible; and given that it had a seemingly endless supply of people willing to write for nothing why should it pay anyone at all? But the magazine had to move with the times. And as part of its constant efforts to position itself strongly within an increasingly professionalised periodical marketplace, it had to reassess the way that it valued the authorial labours of its contributors.

That nearly two hundred years after the Lady’s Magazine started to talk more openly with its readers about payment for copy and to reflect publicly on its pecuniary and moral obligations to its writers similar debates about the value of authorial labour have resurfaced so loudly should give us pause for thought. New media might have a lot to learn from the new media of old.


[1] Jennie Batchelor, ‘”Connections which are of service . . . in a more advanced age”: The Lady’s Magazine, Community, and Women’s Literary Histories’, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature  30 (2011): 245-267.

[2]  Some of Mary Pilkington’s letters to Vernor and Hood have been preserved in volume 3 of ‘Original Letters, Collected by William Upcott of the London Institution. Distinguished Women’, 4 vols. British Library. Add, Ms 78688.

[3] Archives of the Royal Literary Fund: 1790-1918, 145 reels (London: World Microfilms Publications, 1981-4), reel 7, case 256.

Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent.








When it doesn’t work out: a failed attempt at identifying a contributor to the Lady’s Magazine

In the past few weeks, the social media pages of academics have been buzzing with commentary on the ‘CV of Failures’ that was published online by Princeton professor Johannes Haushofer. Prof. Haushofer decided to be open about his failed applications for jobs and scholarships and his rejected journal submissions to show the world that even tenured staff at Ivy League institutions have to deal with disappointments, and to encourage junior colleagues who might wrongly think that they are somehow deficient as academics because of their own. Some commentators have dismissed this as a ‘humblebrag’, but I am too appreciative of Prof. Haushofer’s candour, and too impatient with internet neologisms, to be of their opinion. In fact, I have decided to follow suit, and to write a blog post about a recent failure of my own: the wrong tree I have been barking up in the mistaken assumption that it held the identity of Lady’s Magazine contributor ‘J. Hodson’.

    Jennie, Jenny and I have in past posts told you enthusiastically about our discoveries on the largely anonymous and pseudonymous contents of the magazine. In the last two months alone, for instance, we have blogged about Catherine Cuthbertson and Radagunda Roberts (about the latter even twice). Most of you probably had not heard of these brilliant women before, and that is precisely why we were so interested in them. It is very satisfying to find out more about these long-forgotten authors whose periodical contributions had more contemporaneous readers than any canonized novel. Finding out the smallest detail often takes a lot of work. Despite of the rarity of resources on eighteenth-century authors in general, and the especially scanty paper trails left by periodical writers, it can take a while to rule out all possible leads that you need to verify in order to close in on the true, or at least the most probable story. Often we do not manage to do so at all. Only last week I lost a few days because I thought that I was on the brink of an exciting discovery concerning a reader-contributor who has been puzzling us for some time.

    We can gather a few basic facts about ‘J. Hodson’ from the magazine. This contributor is identified as male in an editorial footnote and genders himself male as well, he is active (at least under this signature) in the magazine from September 1781 to February 1784, and the by-lines to a few of his items tell us that he would have been ‘14 years old’ in September 1781. As I have discussed before, juvenile authors regularly contributed to the Lady’s Magazine, and their age is then often specifically stated to draw attention to the precocity of their writing. Hodson’s contributions are certainly impressive for a teenager. He starts off quite blandly with two appropriated items, being a poem allegedly ‘translated from Ossian’ (September 1781) which in fact appears to be only a slight paraphrase of the ‘original’ by Macpherson, and a series of ‘Sayings and sentiments of wise men’ of Greek and Roman Antiquity (September to January 1782) which did not come straight from these fonts of wisdom themselves but were all gleaned from The Spectator (continuously in print in collected editions) without acknowledgement. Young master Hodson however finds his own voice the year after, submitting a generic but prosodically competent pastoral poem in March 1782, and in May 1782 a gallant poetic defence of the fair sex against a misogynistic letter writer.

LM XIV (Dec 1783): p. 658. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

LM XIV (Dec 1783): p. 658. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

    From June 1783 to February 1784 he delivers his most impressive feat, an essay series entitled ‘The Critic’ which consists of quibbling but erudite discussions of contentious passages in translations of classical literature. This is one of several cases wherein reader-contributors in the late eighteenth century continue the older tradition of essay periodicals (such as the aforementioned Spectator) as serial features in magazines like the Lady’s. Hodson’s ‘Critic’ may have been inspired by earlier reviews of the translations in question, or may have otherwise followed on views first suggested by others, but they do appear to be largely original. An exasperated note with the December 1783 instalment shows that the editors, for one, either found them too ambitious for the Lady’s Magazine, or wished to say in a polite way that they considered Hodson’s essays too much like the homework of a schoolboy conning his Latin vocab.

LM XIII (June 1782): p. 320. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

LM XIII (June 1782): p. 320. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

    Nevertheless, in the June 1782 number Hodson is honoured with ‘A Card’ from overbearing regular contributor ‘J. L-g’ (John Legg), a strange polymath who often gave himself airs about his importance in the magazine. Legg predicts a bright future for Hodson, and indeed it is not hard to understand why he would have thought so. Other young hopefuls like Thomas Chatterton and George Crabbe had contributed before, and probably many other authors of later renown who we have since again forgotten about. So who knew what bright career Hodson went on to have after his promising start in the welcoming, democratic forum that was the Lady’s Magazine?

    Unfortunately, the trail went cold instantly. ‘J. Hodson’ stops contributing to the Lady’s Magazine, or at least under that signature, in 1874, and at no point before or after seems to have contributed to other periodicals with recognizable signatures (which includes the variants “Hodgson” and ‘Hudson’ that appear in the Lady’s Magazine as well). Our usual searches through records of births and deaths did not yield much because there were so many young men named Hodson/Hudson/Hodgson around with the initial “J”, and it is always best not to rule out the possibility that the signature referred to a so-called “hypocorism” (calling name or pet name) or a middle name that the author could have preferred to go by. His stipulated age allowed us to narrow it down somewhat, so that we could query all men named Hodson/Hudson/Hodgson born in 1781 minus 14, or 1767 (allowing a year of variability on the date).

   This was when it happened: information on a certain Rev. Septimus Hodson in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography implied that this person was born around the same time as our Hodson, in 1768. With some rounding off, both would have been 14 in September 1781, and “J.” could well have been an initial standing for the Rev.’s middle name. Could they be one and the same person? Further research made me eager that they would be. The Rev. Hodson turned out to have been a minor public figure in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. He was an author as well, publishing amongst others a few books of sermons and some favourably noticed socio-economic pamphlets. In the early nineteenth century he married the Romantic poet Margaret Holden, who was friendly with Joanna Baillie and Robert Southey, and there is no reason why the Rev. as a boy would not himself have tested his pen by writing for the Lady’s Magazine on matters literary. Interestingly, he was also a controversial figure, as is demonstrated by William West’s memoir of early-nineteenth-century literary London ‘Annals of authors, artists, books and booksellers’[1], which states that his reputation had suffered from an accusation of plagiarism levelled at his first books of sermons.

From Septimus Hodson (Ed.), Psalms & Hymns selected for Congregational Use (1801), p. viii

from: Septimus Hodson (Ed.), Psalms & Hymns selected for Congregational Use (1801), p. viii

   If only that were all. The fantastic blog All Things Georgian by the historians Joanne Major and Sarah Murden recently featured a post on him, that revealed that the Rev. Hodson during the had been involved in a scandal after allegations that he had “seduced” a thirteen-year-old ward of the Lambeth orphanage, where he then officiated as chaplain. This is a big discovery as the ODNB does not mention these events, merely stating that

[t]he claim […] that he was forced to give up his preferments and flee to America ‘in consequence of a discovery particularly disgraceful’, seems to be unsubstantiated, although in 1789 he did publish A Refutation of the Charges of Plagiarism Brought Against the Rev. Septimus Hodson.[2]

   Although I was able to track down a few documents relevant to Septimus, none revealed any helpful middle names starting with ‘J’. Confusingly, the year of birth that the ODNB has for him, 1768, is probably wrong to begin with, as I only discovered a couple of days into my research. Major and Murden hold instead that he was born in 1763, which I believe is right, as this year is indicated in a record of his birth that is difficult to track down because its entry in online databases transcribes Septimus’s name wrongly as ‘Sephinus’ (which – wonderfully – is also a name). I suspect that the ODNB biographer based her findings on the Cambridge alumni register where Caius College alumnus Rev. Hodson is entered as being born in 1768; likely too a wrong transcription, based on the understandable error of mistaking a foxed ‘3’ for an ‘8’. It is a scary thought, but you cannot always rely on historical documents, and errors tend to perpetuate themselves.

    So, neither the names, nor the ages of these men were in agreement. How I wish that they had been, as identifying ‘J. Hodson’ with the Rev. Septimus would have allowed me to tell a sensational story. But hey-ho: though disappointing, this is not the end. There are other J. Hodsons publishing in the late eighteenth century. One possible candidate is Dr James Hodson M.D., author of theological tracts and the men’s medical guide Nature’s Assistant to the Restoration of Health (1789) which contains valuable hints on ‘a destructive habit of a private nature’. This is an amusing possibility, and this Dr Hodson would surely be a less grim connection for the magazine than the Rev. Still, I have found no substantial evidence to confirm or refute the possibility that this author and the Lady’s Magazine’s ‘Critic’ would be one and the same person either.

    As Prof. Haushofer wanted to demonstrate with his inverted CV: the important thing is not to lose heart. If you have any suggestions on where I might look next, I would be very grateful for them, and productive leads will of course be cited in our annotated index!

Dr Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] William West, ‘Annals of authors, artists, books and booksellers. Letter XIV: Thomas Cadell, the Rev. Septimus Hodson, &c.’, The Aldine Magazine of Biography, Bibliography, Criticism, and the Arts Vol. 1, 1839.

[2] Kathryn Sutherland, ‘Holford , Margaret (bap. 1778, d. 1852)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. [, accessed 4 May 2016]