Monthly Archives: May 2016

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]