The Lady’s Magazine team goes to Cardiff

This week the Lady’s Magazine team travels to the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS) conference held at the University of Cardiff to present three individual papers on a panel convened by the project’s principal investigator, Jennie Batchelor. The blog today is a preview of our panel at the BARS conference, giving the details of the panel and the abstracts of our individual papers. We are very excited to have the opportunity to present our ongoing work on the magazine at such a prestigious event and are particularly looking forward to engaging with the audience. For those of our blog readers who may be attending the conference, we hope to see you at our panel and welcome your thoughts and questions on our papers and project!

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Image © British Association for Romantic Studies. Not to be reproduced without permission

Situating ‘the Lady’s Magazine’ (1770–1818) in Romantic Print Culture

Panel convened by Jennie Batchelor (University of Kent)

The following panel for BARS 2015 will be the first conference at which we would disseminate the initial research findings of a two-year Leverhulme-funded Research Project Grant entitled: The Lady’s Magazine: Understanding the Emergence of a Genre. The project, which commenced in September 2014, offers a detailed bibliographical, statistical and literary–critical analysis of one of the first recognizably modern magazines for women from its inception in 1770. In its three-pronged book history/literary critical/digital humanities approach, this project will answer three research questions: 1) What made The Lady’s Magazine one of the most popular and enduring titles of its day? 2) What effects might an understanding of the magazine’s content, production and circulation have upon own conceptions of Romantic-era print culture (a field still struggling fully to emerge from the shadows of canonical figures and genres)? 3) What role did The Lady’s Magazine play in the long-term development of the women’s magazine? The three papers proposed by the project’s PI and two postdoctoral researchers speak directly to these questions and seek to shed light on the role and influence of this highly important but now unjustly overlooked title.


Jennie Batchelor (University of Kent, UK)
‘[H]aving gained a footing in your inclosure’: The Culture of Community in The Lady’s Magazine

[Part of the themed panel ‘Periodicals III: Situating The Lady’s Magazine (1770–1818) in Romantic Print Culture’]

This paper examines the position of The Lady’s Magazine: Or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex (1770–1832) in Romantic-era print culture and the scholarship that surrounds it. Aside from its extraordinary popularity and longevity, a number of ambitious claims have been made for the magazine’s historical and literary importance. Chief amongst these is Edward Copeland’s 1995 claim that the Lady’s defined women’s engagement with the world in the Romantic period. The argument is as seductive as it is unsubstantiated. Eighteenth-century periodicalists commonly overlook the title, which emerges after the often lamented if somewhat exaggerated demise of the essay-periodical epitomized by The Tatler and The Spectator. Romanticists, meanwhile, have tended to privilege the self-professedly ‘literary’ magazines of the turn of the century, in which writers such as Coleridge, Hazlitt, Hunt, Lamb and Southey, well known for their work in other more canonical genres, were involved (see e.g. Klancher; Wheatley). This paper, like the Leverhulme-funded research on which it is based seeks to address this oversight by explicating how the magazine self-consciously and strategically positioned itself in relationship to the wider and highly competitive literary marketplace in which it thrived somewhat against the odds. In particular, I want to focus on one important aspect of the magazine’s identity: the sense of print community the magazine established through its heavy reliance on amateur or unpaid reader contributors and which situated itself as both arbiter on and alternative to the professional literary marketplace beyond its pages.

Koenraad Claes (University of Kent, UK)
‘So particularly involved’: A Prosopographical Sketch of a Controversy in The Lady’s Magazine

[Part of the themed panel ‘Periodicals III: Situating The Lady’s Magazine (1770–1818) in Romantic Print Culture’]

As mentioned above, one of the ways in which The Lady’s Magazine stands out among other periodicals of its kind is the extent to which it relied on unsolicited copy submitted by its readers. Throughout its long run, the magazine featured a great number of loyal unpaid contributors who delivered material in various textual genres, ranging from both belles lettres contributions to opinion pieces on topical issues, as well as several kinds of challenging riddles to which other readers’ solutions would later be printed. These contributions are usually pseudonymous, and the non-professional background of their authors makes them particularly hard to attribute with any degree of certainty. However, because of the hints to the authors’ habitus that they do contain, and the patterns of interaction which are established between individual authors, a meticulous contextual reading may still reveal a lot of useful information on the magazine’s wide readership. An excellent case study for such a so-called ‘prosopographical’ approach is a 1789 controversy between a number of reader–contributors on the assessment of a contentious couplet by Pope, being the well-known ‘Men, some to Bus’ness, some to Pleasure take / but ev’ry Woman is at heart a Rake’, which incidentally would soon also be discussed by Mary Wollstonecraft in her Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Suggested as a topic of discussion by a self-declared ‘young correspondent’ in the belief that is would prove beneficial ‘to allow the readers attaining a proper way of uttering [their] sentiments […] a frequent opportunity of publicly disclosing them’, the ensuing heated exchange of opinions reveals a lot about the diversity of the magazine’s readership, and offers insights on the different views on gender as well as on Augustan poetry that were current in late eighteenth-century Britain. This paper will elaborate social and ideological profiles for the different participants in this small-scale controversy, along the way suggesting research methodologies that may be of interest to scholars working on other periodicals of this period.

Jenny DiPlacidi (University of Kent, UK)
From ‘The Cruel Husband’ to ‘The Force of Jealousy’: Gothic Fiction in The Lady’s Magazine

[Part of the themed panel ‘Periodicals III: Situating The Lady’s Magazine (1770–1818) in Romantic Print Culture’]

This paper examines the changing content of gothic fiction in The Lady’s Magazine: Or, Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex (1770–1832), particularly focusing on representations of violence, imprisonment and desire in stories published during the Romantic era.

This paper explores the gothic stories and conventions that appear in various forms, genres and subgenres throughout the magazine’s print run; for example, the short gothic tale ‘Alphonso; or, the Cruel Husband’ (1774) reframes Boccaccio’s story of Ghismonda and Guiscardo, popularized by Hogarth’s 1759 painting, and, I argue, participates in a cultural practice in which classical works were marketed and consumed via translations later reformulated within the magazine as popular and, at times, instructive stories. Later gothic tales that were published in the Romantic-era, such as Idda of Tokenburg; or, the Force of Jealousy (1801) and Sophia Hendry’s The Deserted Princess (1818) were significantly longer, serialized tales and less overtly didactic. Such stories closely resembled the popular gothic novels of the Minerva Press, and while the publication of the magazine’s gothic fiction, such as the anonymous fifty-three-part instalment The Monks and the Robbers in 1808 by G. Robinson, indicates an overlap between the magazine’s owners and its content, the correlation remains ambiguous. In spite of the scholarly emphasis on the increasing prominence of the author and professionalization in the Romantic-era, many of the magazine’s popular gothic tales at this time remain the anonymous, pseudonymous or often unsigned contributions of the periodicals’ reader/writers. My particular focus here is the ways in which standard gothic tropes are reworked and reframed by these reader/writers and their place within the wider Romantic-era print culture.

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Image © British Association for Romantic Studies. Not to be reproduced without permission

Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

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