Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Lady’s Magazine Project at “James Hogg and His World”

As Jennie Batchelor has discussed earlier, now that we are six months into our project we are excited about going on the road with our research findings, to exchange thoughts about the Lady’s Magazine with you in person. Individually and sometimes with the three of us together, we have presented and will be presenting papers at conferences and seminars in the UK, US, Canada and Belgium, and we also have a few invited talks to look forward to. The breadth of our combined research interests allows us to do justice to the great diversity of the contents of the Lady’s Magazine, and perhaps to surprise you with the wide array of subjects and authors associated with this periodical.

I will for instance attend the upcoming conference James Hogg and His World, which will take place at the University of Toronto from 9 to 12 April. As part of a highly promising panel on ‘Hogg’s Literary Networks and the Periodical Press’, I will discuss the reception of this Scottish Romantic author in the Lady’s Magazine. Nowadays Hogg (1770-1835) is mainly known as the author of the novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), but during his lifetime he was famous for his shorter tales, poems and song collections with a strong focus on his native region of the Scottish Borders, and he was often considered a lesser, coarser and markedly more Tory successor to Robert Burns. Those of you who are familiar with the self-styled “Ettrick Shepherd” may find it odd that his sometimes controversial work was deemed conducive to ‘the Use and Amusement of the Fair Sex’ that the Lady’s Magazine extolled on its title page, but nevertheless it did republish some of his writings. These republications reflect the looseness of copy right law in early-nineteenth-century Britain, and occur in two forms that are both commonly found in periodicals at the time. The Lady’s Magazine featured two poems taken from recently published collections without remuneration for the poet, and, a trick copied from contemporaneous review periodicals such as the Edinburgh and the Quarterly Review, several copious excerpts from Hogg’s tales that flesh out reviews of the books that these came from.

LM, XXXIX (1808). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

I will demonstrate that these reviews are representative for Hogg’s ambiguous reception, and that they betray attitudes towards Scottish literature in general that are typical of English periodicals of that period. On the one hand Scottish history and literature were somewhat fashionable due to the huge success of the poetry and later on the novels of Walter Scott, but on the other hand a focus on ‘North-British’ culture ran the risk of being dismissed as of too local interest, merely ‘a reflection of the things around’ the author, as one review has it of Hogg’s Shepherd’s Calendar (LM, X new series [March 1829], p. 152). As I will discuss, it is not a coincidence that one of the two poems by Hogg that the magazine republished, in August 1808, explicitly pledges Scottish fealty to the United Kingdom in the ongoing Napoleonic Wars. Amateur reader-contributors in the magazine add to the interpretative context of the magazine by providing in their own submissions satirical and critical comments on exactly the kind of work that Hogg and his Scottish peers were known for.

The Lady’s Magazine was one of the most commercially successful publications of its time, and attracted a readership of both sexes, all ages, and of a large geographical and social diversity. It therefore inevitably played a role in shaping the ‘World’ that Hogg’s work functioned in, and by zooming in on the interpretative context formed by the magazine and on the aspects of his work that were singled out for praise and republication, I hope to shed light on an as yet unresearched aspect of his contemporaneous reception.

The Kent Lady’s Magazine Project is not a rock band, but it does have a tour schedule. Here is an overview of where you can find us in the next six months. We hope to meet you at one of these wonderful events!

Jennie Batchelor: conf. ASECS 2015; Los Angeles (19-22 March 2015)

Koenraad Claes: conf. James Hogg and His World; University of Toronto (9-12 April 2015)

Jennie Batchelor, Jenny DiPlacidi, Koenraad Claes: talk A window on the world: the phenomenon of the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1818); Chawton House (26 May 2015)

Jennie Batchelor, Jenny DiPlacidi, Koenraad Claes: conf. BARS 2015, Romantic Imprints; Cardiff University (16-19 July)

Jennie Batchelor, Jenny DiPlacidi, Koenraad Claes: workshop ‘Researching Nineteenth-Century Periodicals: Text and Context’, Ghent University (October 2015 – by invitation only)

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

Authorship, Content and Goldsmith

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LM, IX (November 1778): 583. © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

While writing my last blog post on the diverse genres of items mentioning or concerned with female fashions I initially included a November 1778 letter to the editor entitled ‘Proposal for Raising Female Regiments.’ The letter was, at first glance, a satirical epistle with multiple targets including French soldiers and domineering wives. However, something about the material didn’t feel quite right; it didn’t read like the average letter to the editor. I began searching for some of the unique terms in the text and it was the phrase advocating women ‘be cloathed in vests of pink sattin, and open drawers of the same’ (LM, IX [Nov 1778]: 584) that led me to the discovery that the letter was not, in fact, an anonymous epistle, but an essay attributed to Oliver Goldsmith.

While the attribution isn’t made until an edited collection of Goldsmith is published in the 1790s, the letter/essay had been appearing in periodicals and gazettes since January 1762. The satirical epistle is signed T.S. in the Lady’s Magazine as, I believe, a nod to Tobias Smollet, the editor of the British Magazine where it first appeared. The essay’s edited form in the Lady’s Magazine removes any details that would reveal the original date of publication, yet leaves the mention of attacking the French troops intact — at the time of its initial publication the reference was propaganda regarding the Seven Years’ War. There are also other explicit references in the original essay that clearly locates it as having been written within 1762 and which have all been removed to make its insertion in the 1778 volume of the Lady’s Magazine topical. Likely, the letter to the editor would have been read as satirizing the French soldiers participating in the American War of Independence.

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LM, IX (November 1778): 584. © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

The contributor has repurposed and repackaged the Goldsmith essay so that it becomes newly relevant, appearing as a just-penned letter to the editor. Yet signing the letter ‘T.S.’ indicates that the contributor doesn’t intend to use the text without giving credit to the earliest place of publication (at the time, this was the only information available regarding its source). As my previous blog post reveals, the nuances of the letter’s authorship left me unable to tackle the material within the brevity of the blog. The Goldsmith essay has a whole life outside of the Lady’s Magazine where it is eventually repurposed, but so too does its appearance within the periodical engage with the other items concerned with dress, gender, citizenship, and education.

What this example points to, I believe, is not only the way that the roles of authorship and content research on this project overlap, but also the challenges in writing about the items in the Lady’s Magazine. The complexity involved in uncovering authorship and contextualizing the content highlights the collaboration that is so necessary for the project and that speaks to the dialogic nature of the magazine itself. Part of what is so exciting and interesting about working on the Lady’s Magazine is how much we are constantly learning about eighteenth-century print culture, readers, and authorship.


Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

School of English, University of Kent

Projecting outwards

We are now, somewhat unbelievably, heading towards the six-month mark of our two-year project. The index is progressing very well, the methodological quandaries its composition has posed are being worked through, and we are getting ever closer to a sense of what this magazine was really all about and why it was so popular and enduring.

But up until this point, we have have mainly been talking about the magazine amongst ourselves. Enjoyable though this has been, we felt the time was right to start taking the project to people to gain feedback and to see what questions about the magazine people  most wanted answered. In the past couple of weeks we have been doing just that and it has been truly illuminating and a good deal of fun.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 10.47.40Our first big public presentation of the research project took place on the 4 March at the University of Kent as part of the School of English’s ongoing research seminar series. Trying to whittle down our respective roles in the project to just 12 minutes each was quite a challenge, but it certainly focused the mind. I began by talking about my 15-year fascination with the magazine and my sense of why it had not yet received the scholarly attention or been accorded the critical literary-historical importance I felt it deserved. I then handed over to Jenny who talked about and demonstrated a part of the index in action and elucidated her herculean efforts to catalogue each and every one of the many thousands of items in the magazine over its first 50 years by genre, subgenre and keyword. Finally, Koenraad delivered fascinating insights into the methods he is using to profile individual contributors (the vast majority of whom go by pseudonyms) and to make attributions where they might be possible. We were delighted with the feedback we got and the genuine interest the magazine and project seemed to generate from colleagues working in all periods and across different genres. Its a talk that we will be giving in a slightly different form at Chawton House Library in May if you would like to come and hear it then.

Then just two days later we got an opportunity to revisit the project from a different point of view by participating in a wonderful Material Witness workshop series for CHASE (Consortium of the Humanities and the Arts in South-East England) doctoral training initiative at Kent. Our topic was ‘Text as Object’ and our focus was working on and between digital copies of eighteenth and nineteenth century periodicals and the originals. The event was co-run by our colleague Professor Cathy Waters and we were very fortunate to have been joined by Professor John Drew from the University of Buckingham and founder of the groundbreaking Dickens Journals Online. A dedicated post on the day as a whole will follow soon on the Material Witness blog, but I couldn’t resist sharing some of our experiences from the day here.

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Kent has very few copies of the Lady’s Magazine in its Special Collections, but it does have one fine bound volume and, incredibly, one unbound monthly copy. In fact, it is the only unbound monthly copy, with its original covers, I have seen in 15 years of working with this material. The workshop participants – all doctoral students from across the CHASE consortium – could handle this material, alongside copies of La Belle Assemblee (with which handsome title the Lady’s Magazine would eventually merge) and all had complete access to the Adam Matthews digitisation of the magazine’s complete run.

We had one dedicated slot in the day to get students working with the magazine in its digital form (after an earlier session handling the originals). The question was what to do with it. We have lots to say about the magazine, of course, and could easily have filled 30 minutes telling everyone how important we think the magazine is. Instead, we opted for a different approach. Much to the bemusement of many of the participants we set them up with a laptop each and gave them a simple instruction. They had 10 minutes to read the Lady’s Magazine and tell us what they thought about it.

Of course we were interested in their thoughts and observations (most of which were about the magazine’s readers and writers) but the exercise was a sleight of hand on our part designed to find out how individuals (chose to) read the magazine in digital form. Where do you start? Which year? And once you have a year, do you read from front to back or do you go to the index at the back of the bound volumes or the contents pages at the start of each month? Or do you search for particular keywords? Is this anything like we imagine the reading experience would have been for eighteenth-century readers or even our own if we had the original material copies in our hands? Do the differences matter and why? It was a fascinating conversation and we could have continued for much longer than we had time for.

IMG_5942We’ll take up some of these questions and lines of conversation in a future post. But the thing that I will most happily take from the day is something I hadn’t really thought about in advance of it. As we sat there at the front of the room watching nearly 20 people sat reading the Lady’s Magazine, some furiously making notes, some smiling, some talking to colleagues about particularly interesting content, it struck me: we had a group of nearly 20 people reading and engaging with the content of the Lady’s Magazine! I whipped out my iPhone and started taking lots of photos to commemorate the occasion.

Because ultimately this is what this project is about. Yes we have articles we want and need to write and I have a book I want and need to write, but our main goal is to get people reading the magazine again and to help them navigate it. It was a great moment and one I hope we will get to replicate again in the near future.

Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent