Author Archives: jd359

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.

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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

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 Mighty Pie Chart and Generic Evolutions

Screen-Shot-2014-11-24-at-10.19.52We often discuss the variety of items, subjects, themes and genres that appear in the Lady’s Magazine. Each seemingly transparent topic can be found within an array of genres; for example, the topic of ‘fashion’ appears in items ranging from the moral essay and advice column to the opinion piece, historical essay and fashion report. Deciding which genre an item belongs to in the magazine is a task at times difficult to negotiate. This is in part because genres overlap and are by nature flexible; designating a particular item either a sentimental tale or a moral tale is thus not always simple or clear. Assigning works a genre requires that one privilege a particular genre over another, making decisions at once about authorial intent, editorial preference and reader perceptions.

Yet once the difficult decisions are made, how can we disseminate a database with tens of thousands of items, belonging to dozens of distinct genres, into readily comprehensible information? The pie chart is a simple yet effective research tool that allows the different genres in the Lady’s Magazine to be visualized. In 1770-71, for example, the magazine was largely made up of anecdotes, essays and translations, followed by enigmas and conduct items.
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In comparison, in this sample chart for 1771, it is easy to see that the majority of the magazine’s items are now essays or moral essays, followed by enigmas, translations and reviews. And of course, because enigmas are short in comparison to the lengthier essays, translations and reviews, it is these latter three genres that made up the bulk of the magazine’s content in its second year of publication. Anecdotes in 1771 make up only 5% of the magazine, in comparison to 17% the previous year. Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 15.37.14

One of the key aspects of my research on the project is not only to analyse the items in order to assign them genres, but also to examine how the magazine’s generic composition evolves over the five decades of shifting literary tastes and political, social and cultural revolutions of its first series. Although this is a difficult task to negotiate, by breaking down the magazine’s generic makeup for each year in a pie chart, one can readily see what types of items could be found in the magazine. From here, it is easier to extrapolate the larger shifts in genres over the magazine’s print run. The dramatic decrease in the number of anecdotes from the first to second year, for example, could be explained by the magazine’s increasing readership and correspondingly larger number of contributors of original essays and fiction that meant the editors could rely less on extracted and popular anecdotes as material.

The most striking aspect of the pie chart created for 1790 is, I believe, the greater number of distinct genres in the magazine. Twenty years into its publication, the periodical was clearly comfortable with its position in the literary marketplace and the editors and publishers felt secure enough to  print an even greater variety of genres and items. Also interesting is that, in the key historical moment, the number of translations (usually from the French) has dwindled to only 1% of the magazine.Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 16.03.11

This is only a snapshot of one aspect of our research on the magazine’s composition and genres, but it allows the scope and quantity of data on genres to be readily perceived and is useful in analyzing the evolutions and in disseminating the results to other researchers and the public.


Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

Acrostic Poems, Love and Life in the Lady’s Magazine

One of the fascinating, yet easily overlooked, genres of the Lady’s Magazine is that of the acrostic (or, as they are often termed, ‘acrostick’) poem. Readily dismissed as amateurish attempts at poetry, the acrostic holds a special place in my heart. The acrostic offers much potentially valuable information about contributors’ names, locations, and names of their beloved/friends/family. The form also depends more on writers’ — and readers’ — ingenuity than it usually receives credit for.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 20.44.55The acrostic poems in the magazine were exploited by the contributors in deliberately revealing ways. Their use is often not merely an attempt to highlight the contributor’s cleverness, but a means of interacting with members of a local geographical community – most often (and this is why I love them) with the object of the writer’s affection. Contributors could give voice to questions, desires, apologies and declarations to those closest to them in their personal lives through the pages of the magazine. The medium of the periodical provided a veil that allowed, in particular, women to voice their desire to men without the danger of being directly observed by a social circle and consequently condemned for forward or coquettish behavior.

Within the pages of the poetry section, women were able to enjoy a flexible anonymity through which they could literally spell out their desires yet remain obscure enough to avoid any positive proofs of their declarations. 1789 was a particularly fruitful year for acrostic poems and one frustratingly elusive couple in particular drew my attention. A contributor who signed herself ‘Anna’ wrote an acrostic poem in September 1789 entitled ‘An Acrostical Prayer, on the much-lamented Illness of Mr. — of Au—y Ch—l’ (LM XX [Sept 1789]: 495) The poem spells out ‘Griffiths’. Anna’s prayer that Mr. Griffiths recover his health is repeated in November of the same year when she contributes the poem ‘Absence’ (LM XX [Nov 1789]: 604), lamenting the ongoing lack of ‘G—s’ whose health is unrestored.

Immediately following Anna’s poem ‘Absence’ appear ‘To Anna’, a short poem that is signed by ‘W. G.’ and states ‘my health returns, again I live’ (LM XX [Nov 1789]: 604) – perhaps the mysterious Griffiths of Au—y Ch—l? In April of 1790 Anna returns to the magazine to offer ‘A Thanksgiving for the Recovery of Mr. G —s’ which offers thanks and praise to God, to whom the poem is addressed. Yet Anna’s hopes for Griffiths’ recovery seem ill-founded. Seven months later, in November of 1790, over a year after her first poem appeared, Anna writes in again. This time the poem seems less joyful and more mournful; less certain and more doubtful. Anna’s poem is less focused on prayers and thanks to God, and more on Griffiths and his impression.

This final poem, ‘An Address to a Seal’, sees Anna turn away from prayer and Christian fortitude and turn to metaphor and imagery. Anna writes ‘As thy soft wax the deep impression takes, Which G—in thy sable surface makes: So doth my heart his image still retain, where his idea ever will remain’ (LM XXI [Nov 1790]: 609). It is not, perhaps, the most original or well-written poem to grace the pages of the magazine. But I think it is honest, and the testament of a woman’s love to a man she knows she may never see again. She is no longer coyly writing his name out in the acrostic; this is a different Anna indeed, who no longer begs ‘O Lord, my prayer receive’ (LM XX [Sept 1789]: 495). Anna in November 1790 addresses Griffith’s seal, not God, writing ‘And I will ever keep thee for his sake. To thee I will impart each doubt and fear’ (LM XXI [Nov 1790]: 609) – almost as though she has turned away from the God to whom she had once offered thanksgiving for Griffiths’ recovery, only to see him fall ill again.

Anna never writes about ‘G’, ‘G—s’, or ‘Griffiths’ again. Her final lines in ‘An Address to a Seal’ that ‘O may my hopes no more delusive be, then every anxious doubt and fear will flee’ (LM XXI [Nov 1790]: 609) remain, for us, unanswered. In spite of having spent hours searching for traces of a W. Griffiths or Anna (possible Anna Griffiths) of Au—y Ch—l, I’ve yet to find anything definitive. Even though Anna is not one of the magazine’s most prolific or talented contributors, she is characteristic of the magazine’s many nameless, faceless writers: she voices her hopes, fears and love; she evolves through the pages of the magazine, she shares a little bit of her heartbreak and her world, and then she disappears.


Jenny DiPlacidi

Penny Gore, the ‘Good Enough’ Stitcher and the Lady’s Magazine Stitch-off

The spine – once leather-bound and gilded, now torn for a quarter of its length – has ‘1775’ inked onto it in an old-fashioned hand. Inside the front cover a much more recent pencilled addition reads ‘February onward only. Lacks some of the plates. £5’.

1775 patterns

Shoe and waistcoat patterns from the 1775 Lady’s Magazine. © Penny Gore

I can’t remember where I bought this sorry-looking copy of the Lady’s Magazine, but I would have grabbed hold of it instantly thanks to the discovery of several folded sheets of embroidery patterns nestling towards the back of the volume, survivors of the binder’s knife. That must be at least 20 years ago: the book has accompanied me through two house-moves and, while not exactly forgotten, has sat largely unnoticed on its shelf ever since. Sheer chance led me to Jennie, to the Lady’s Magazine project, and to the Stitch-Off, and finally (about time too, you may say), those patterns have not only seen the light of day, but are being brought vividly, beautifully back to life by stitchers from all over the world.

Happy though I was to share the patterns, I wasn’t going to be one of those stitchers, I reassured myself. Definitely not. Although I’ve always knitted, sewed and quilted, any embroidery I’ve ever done was in the deep, dark past, forever associated with tray-cloths bearing outlines of crinolined ladies and the transfers on tissue paper that my mother used to buy from the local haberdashery shop (where I later had a Saturday job). But a little voice niggled away at me – what about that muff pattern? Huge (it opens out from the book into a substantial sheet which is still only half-size), complicated-looking and with alarmingly small motifs. But… seductive.

Muff pattern

1775 muff pattern. © Penny Gore

The discovery that I owned not only an embroidery hoop but also embroidery needles and a fairly substantial collection of Anchor threads in a surprisingly large range of colours – yes, I’m a hopeless case who also hoards craft supplies and promptly forgets about them – made me bite the bullet. I would attempt a small section of the muff pattern. It would be an experiment and not intended in any way as a ‘finished’ piece. My abilities were likely – no, certain – to be limited.

In that spirit of nothing ventured, nothing gained, I photocopied a section of pattern and enlarged it slightly. An old, much-washed, cotton pillowcase was cut up to use as the fabric; I rather liked the thriftiness of re-purposing something that had already given good service. Merrily chucking all notions of historical accuracy out of the window, I put the fabric over the pattern against a lampshade, and traced off the designs with a Frixion pen (having first tested that the pen-marks would indeed disappear, as promised, at the first touch of a warm iron). Then the embroidery could begin.

Penny Gore finished hoop (muff pattern)

© Penny Gore

Some weeks and much sotto voce swearing later, I’ve almost finished the ‘experiment’ and am feeling better about it than expected. I’m sure the average 15-year-old reader of my 1775 volume would snigger at my efforts, but I was encouraged by a comment made by another of the contributors to the Stitch-Off, Rachel of

She astutely pointed out that not every piece of eighteenth-century ‘fancy-work’ would have been perfect. The concept of ‘good enough’ must have applied widely – though I’m sure we’re often misled into thinking otherwise by the gorgeousness of historical dramas on TV, with their improbably exquisite costumes. Surely Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra, or those fashion-mad ladies of Cranford, must have turned a blind eye to the odd botched French knot or wonky bit of stem-stitching? Looking with qualified pride at my own less-than-pristine work, I’m hoping so, anyway.

Author biography

Penny Gore studied Modern History at Liverpool University and spent time working as a cook and in the costume department of Liverpool Museum before joining the staff of what is now the British Library National Sound Archive in London. From there she moved to the equivalent department in the BBC, but soon embarked on a life behind the microphone as a BBC Radio 3 presenter. She is currently a regular presenter of Afternoon on 3 and the BBC Proms. We are very grateful to Penny for so generously making available her patterns for the Stitch Off.

For our report on (and lots of pictures of) the opening of the Stitch Off display and the ‘Emma at 200’ exhibition, please follow this link.

For information about visiting the ‘Emma at 200’ exhibition at Chawton House Library, please follow this link.

Searching for ‘R’: A Collaborative Identification

One of the questions we are often asked about the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832) is regarding the identities of the magazine’s thousands of anonymous and pseudonymous writers who were often longtime contributors. Koenraad, Jennie and I have all written about some of the methodologies we use, problems we encounter and attributions we have made in various blog posts regarding the identity of these elusive authors. While my role on the project is focused on the examination and analysis of content, I often become intrigued (some might say obsessed) with the question of the individual behind the mask. In such instances, our team’s collaborative efforts are at once essential and particularly fruitful.

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LM IX (March 1778): 148. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

‘R’, a prolific contributor of tales and translations, was a particularly intriguing puzzle in terms of identification for a number of reasons. First, the number of contributions by ‘R’ was enormous and varied and the simple letter ‘R’ could be used by any number of different contributors. Additionally, ‘R’ was signed variously ‘R’, ‘R.’ and ‘R—’, making it difficult to pin down which contributions were from the individual we sought and not another ‘R’. Finally, the initial ‘R’ and its voluminous contributions raised the potential question of a link to magazine’s publishers, the Robinson family, and one of its initial publishers, J. Roberts. The various ‘R’ signatures to the tales and translations are likely distinct from the ‘R’ signatures to a serial feature in the magazine also appearing in the early to mid-1770s, ‘The Friend to the Fair Sex.’ While the ‘R’ who contributed tales and translations sometimes self-identifies as a ‘lady’, readers tended to address the ‘R’ author of ‘The Friend to the Fair Sex’ as a male, in part because the serial often berated women. While this isn’t proof that the signature was in use by multiple contributors, it does indicate that there were at least two distinct writers using the initial in the first decades of the magazine.

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LM IX [March 1778]. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

The search began in earnest after Koenraad located a note by E. W. Pitcher to the Literary Research Newsletter Vol. 5, No. 3 (summer 1980). Pitcher contributed ‘The Miscellaneous Periodical Works and Translations of Miss R. Roberts’ that attributes the items signed “R-” to this obscure magazine writer of the late eighteenth century. In the article, Pitcher points out that some of serials signed ‘R’ also used pseudonyms such as ‘Georgiana’ in different installments and were thus perhaps ‘translations of young ladies under her tutorship’, pointing towards Miss Roberts’ potential role as a teacher whose translations for the magazine were at times composites of her work and  that of her students (Pitcher, 127). Miss R. Roberts, Pitcher further notes, was the sister of Dr. Roberts, who was the High Master of St. Paul’s School. Using this as our starting point, the hunt began.

There is, in fact, an ONDB entry for ‘Roberts, R.’, that lists the elusive contributor as a translator and sermon writer, detailing information about her family in Gloucester and mentions her brother, Dr. Roberts, naming him as Richard (another ‘R’) and listed a host of her works; primarily translations. Roberts’ publications include: Select Moral Tales (Gloucester: 1763), a translation of four tales from Jean François Marmontel’s Contes moraux; Sermons Written by a Lady, the Translatress of Four Select Tales from Marmontel (1770); Elements of the History of France (1771), an abridged translation of Claude-François-Xavier Millot’s Élemens de l’histoire de France; Peruvian Letters — a translation of Mme Françoise de Graffigny’s Lettres d’une péruvienne (2 vols., 1747), The triumph of truth; or memoirs of M. De La Villette (T. Cadell, 1775); Malcolm (1779) an unstaged blank-verse tragedy; and Albert, Edward, and Laura, and the Hermit of Priestland; Three Legendary Tales (1783).

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The Monthly Review; or, Literary Journal LXIX (July-Dec): 342.

Roberts’ most significant work was probably the translation of Graffigny’s letters, to which she added a third volume consisting of nine letters. The attribution of the translation to Miss Roberts derives from a letter by Frances Brooke, a contemporary (and rival) translator and periodicalist who was much better known than Roberts. Marijn S. Kaplan’s edition Translations and Continuations: Ricoboni and Brooke, Graffigny and Roberts provides details of Roberts’ translations and her connection to Frances Brooke, with whom Roberts shared a publisher and whose son Jack attend St. Paul’s School, where Roberts’ brother was High Master  (Kaplan, xi-xii).

Roberts death notice

GM, 58 (Jan 1788): 85

While the ONDB entry suggests that Roberts spent most of her life in Gloucester, noting the family link to Hannah More (via her nieces Mary and Margaret, daughters of her brother William) and her connection to Dr. Hawkesworth, Roberts’ first name and any details of her own life were absent. Using the information in the ONDB I began searching for her brother and family members. Eventually I uncovered the family’s genealogy records on and although I found Richard, William, and other siblings in the records of St. Philip and St. Jacob’s, Bristol, there was no female ‘R’ listed in the available parish records. Yet the ONDB had offered a very specific death date of 14 January 1788 so, using that date and the last name Roberts, I worked backwards in my search, restarting with death rather than birth.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 13.30.07Finally, success! I located the burial record for a ‘Radiganda Roberts’ in Surrey, Southwark borough, in the parish of St. Mary, Newington, buried on 21 January 1788. The enigmatic Miss Roberts was no Rachel or Rebecca, but something much more unusual altogether.

I cast my net further, moving onto various records including the National Archives website. Another success: the will of ‘Radagunda Roberts’ – and what a will it was. It established the identity of Miss Roberts as Radagunda, who died in Southwark listed in the parish records as ‘Radiganda’. Additionally, it established a very firm and odd link to Dr Hawkesworth that was hinted at in the description of her translation The triumph of truth; or memoirs of M. De La Villette (T. Cadell, 1775) as ‘undertaken at the request of the late Dr Hawkesworth, who revised and corrected the translation’ (Daily Advertiser, 7 August 1775).

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Image © The National Archives, not to be reproduced without permission.

The will states ‘if my friends will kindly indulge me in it I beg to be privately buried at Bromley in the same grave with Dr. Hawkesworth and as Mrs. Hawkesworth may chuse to lye on his right hand I humbly sue for a place on his left and hope that favor will not be denied me but should it be too inconvenient my next request is to be buried with my father and mother’. Roberts’ request to lie on Dr Hawkesworth’s left was not granted and she was buried with her family. The intriguing request, hardly conventional for an unmarried and religious woman of the eighteenth century, points to a close relationship with John Hawkesworth (1715-1773), the celebrated translator of Telemachus (trans. 1768) whose edition of Cook’s Voyages was so largely criticised it was said to have hastened his death. Roberts’ copy of Hawkesworth’s Telemachus is singled out in her will; Roberts requests that her nephew, Alfred William Roberts, single out the book and preserve it along with her inkstand.

The will’s usual bequests to family members demonstrate her closeness to her nieces and clarifies that she did not, as the ONDB suggests, spend her life in Gloucester but rather lived with her brother Dr Richard Roberts and his wife in London. It is likely that she moved to London after the publication of her 1763 translation of Marmontel, which was published in Gloucester, and before the publication of Sermons Written by a Lady, the Translatress of Four Select Tales from Marmontel, which was published in London in 1770.

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LM VII [Sept 1777]: 484. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Her contributions to the Lady’s Magazine include a number of tales, often moral, oriental and didactic, such as ‘Malvolio; or Domestic distress’ LM VII [July 1776]: 342, ‘Dorilacia, or the fair captive’ LM VII [Sept 1777]: 484, ‘Saccharissa; or the Pitcher Broken’ LM IX [April 1778]: 171, ‘Philidor and Irene, or rural love LM X [March 1779]: 116, ‘Omrah restored’ LM X [July 1779]: 340, among many others. The tales are often illustrated and such engravings would likely either have to be commissioned after the editors received a tale or be sent to the contributor beforehand in order to match the tale to the engravings. That many of Roberts’ tales are illustrated thus hints at the possibility that Roberts was personally known to the magazine’s editors as a paid or regular contributor.

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LM VII [Sept 1777]. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

This information is only a starting point in our ability to map out more clearly the extent of Roberts’ contributions to the magazine and to attempt to uncover a potential relationship with the magazine’s editors or publishers and perhaps discover more about her relationship with Hawkesworth. On these lines, Jennie Batchelor has recently located a letter from Hawkesworth to Roberts held in the library at Harvard that may offer further information regarding this prolific yet largely forgotten translator and writer. While our work here has just begun, it has been a fascinating process so far, and has been a truly collaborative effort of discovery.


Kaplan, Marijn S., Translations and Continuations: Ricoboni and Brooke, Graffigny and Roberts (London and New York: Routledge, rept. 2016 [2011]).

Mayo, Robert, The English Novel in the Magazine 1740-1815 (Evanston and London, 1962), catalog entries 225, 226, 287, 311, 314, 463, 859, 985, 1224 and 1260.

Pitcher, E. W., ‘The Miscellaneous Periodical Works and Translations of Miss R. Roberts’, Literary Research Newsletter Vol. 5, No. 3 (Summer 1980): 125-8.

Sherbo, Arthur, ‘Roberts, R. (c.1728–1788)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 25 Feb 2016]

Sources cited within Sherbo’s ONDB entry: J. Todd, ed., A dictionary of British and American women writers, 1660–1800 (1984) · P. Ripley, ed., A calendar of the registers of the freemen of the city of Gloucester, 1641–1838 (1991) · M. A. Hopkins, Hannah More and her circle (1947) · GM, 1st ser., 58 (1788), 85 · Foster, Alum. Oxon., 1715–1886 [Richard Roberts] · private information (2004) [Betty Rizzo]


Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent



Animals, Children and Lessons in the Lady’s Magazine

Representations of animals and children abound in the Lady’s Magazine; I have written Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 20.37.34previously about John Legg’s love of wildlife and sympathy for hunted hares and foxes. Poems focusing on pets are common and range from the melancholy – ‘Verses written on the Death of Deborah’s Cat’ (LM XII [Sept 1782]: 495), to the curious – ‘Verses by a Gentleman to his Bird on his Parting with it to a Lady’ (LM VII [Dec 1776]: 661), to the downright odd – ‘Inscriptions on two monkey’s collars’ (LM XXII [May 1791]: 272). Serial features such as John Legg’s ‘Ornithology; or, A New and Complete Natural History of English Birds’ (1782-85) and Ann Murray’s ‘The Moral Zoologist’ (1800-05) provide the magazine’s readers with anecdotal and scientific information on animals both close to home and exotic. Across the genres, including tales that demonstrate the loyalty of dogs or the anecdotes regarding the sagacity of insects, animals are a frequent topic for the magazine’s contributors.

LikewiseScreen Shot 2016-02-09 at 20.43.22, children are ever-present in the magazine. In fiction, they appear in sentimental or moral tales such as Memoirs of a Young Lady (1783-86) or The Happy Discovery (LM XIX [March 1788]: 142) as beautiful and sweet, orphaned innocents. They are the focus of (sometimes terrifying) medical advice, the subject of advice queries to the Matron, or the characters in serial novels dealing with the trials of their management (‘The Mother-in-Law, 1785-86). And sometimes they are the intended readers of the items themselves.

This is the case for the serial fiction ‘Domestic Lessons for the Use of the Younger Part of the Female Readers of the Lady’s Magazine’ (LM XVII [Supp 1786]: 705 – LM XXI [March 1790]: 137), a long-running feature that is comprised of a series of short, instructive tales with a moral or conduct lesson. The anonymous serial was introduced by the editors in the 1786 supplement as a work ‘never before published’ (LM XVII [Supp 1786]: 705) and in spite of my efforts, its authorship remains unknown. Many of the short tales within the serial feature animals as well as children, with unsettling results. One of the more disturbing tales is the ‘second lesson’, entitled ‘The Mad-Dog’.Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 07.04.03

The lesson revolves around a father and mother’s attempts to cure their daughter, Georgina, of her ‘teizing temper’ that displayed itself, from a very young age, in cruelty towards animals. Georgina Sagely, ‘from her earliest infancy [. . .] pretended to be very fond of animals: of birds, beasts, and even insects, only to get them into her power, that she might exercise a cruelty over them, which was at once inhuman and unwarrantable. She would coax her dog to come near her, and then beat him unmercifully; and would tempt cats with pieces of meat or fish, and then run pins into them till they screamed with pain’ (LM XVIII [April 1787]: 202). While the parents are described as ‘very indulgent’, the author implies both from her behaviour displaying itself from infancy, and from the presence of two brothers who are kind to animals, that the fault is inherent in Georgina rather than the result of her parents’ indulgency.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 19.37.33Georgina continues to mistreat and torment the animals around her when, at age 15, her father takes away the animals under her care. The incident that follows is distinctive in its perspective. Mr. Sagely looks for his daughter and finds her in the garden and, observing her before she seems him, he realizes she is ‘spinning a cock-chaffer, suspended by a thread, which had been fixed to a crooked pin piercing its tail’ (LM XVIII [April 1787]: 203). The point of view here moves from an omniscient narrator to a limited third-person narration in which the reader sees Georgina from her father’s point of view, and is closely aligned with his thoughts as he watches his daughter, unable to access her feelings.

‘He stood, for a moment, the image of surprise; looking at her, unseen, and examining her features with the utmost attention: willing to hope, that the gratification of a trifling curiosity, and not of a cruel disposition, was the source of the pleasure which he beheld in them. He examined the features of his child with an anxious attention, and, to his sorrow, found not the wished-for satisfaction’ (LM XVIII [April 1787]: 203).

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 19.37.54What is intriguing about this scene is not only the shift in narrative perspective, but also in the emotional complexity of the father. This is no simple, formulaic moral tale; Mr. Sagely’s anxiety is palpable: he wants to believe his daughter does not torture the insect for pleasure but for, perhaps, a scientific curiosity. But he can delude himself no longer. When she goes onto so torment the family dog that he knocks her over, she retaliates by putting a rope around his neck and dragging him around the yard until he bites her. Her parents seize upon this as an opportunity to terrify her, hoping it will cause her to change her behavior, and tell her the dog is mad and that she may catch the disease. She is put into a straight-coat, confined, and threatened with being thrown into the sea as a treatment.

At length, the Sagely’s duplicity is rewarded: Georgina is so traumatized by the ordeal that she is ‘restored to [her] reason’ but warned by her parents never to lose her ‘proper’ senses again lest she be ‘more severely punished, in a manner you have not yet experienced’ (LM XVIII [June 1787]: 314). The cure appears permanent, and Georgina becomes ‘not only a comfort, but a delight’ to her parents and displays henceforth exemplary conduct.

While the ‘lesson’ of the tale is dubious at best, and certainly modern-day readers would question the efficacy of such parental conduct to cure a cruel disposition, the author’s use of narrative shift and the depth of the father’s concern are distinctive. This is more than a standard conduct or moral lesson; it reveals the anxiety and fear experienced by parents who feel helpless to understand or change their child’s inherent propensity for cruelty and torture.

The serial remains an elusive installment in the periodical; it ends in 1790, unfinished, and no further mention of it or the anonymous author appears. And while the magazine’s frequent publications featuring animals and children are an enduring and fascinating aspect of its content, as readers, perhaps, we are happier when the two do not meet as they do in the ‘The Mad-Dog’ of ‘Domestic Lessons’.


Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

The No Longer Anonymous ‘Memoirs of a Young Lady’

The serial fiction in the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1848) is often novel-length, anonymous and absorbing. I began writing this blog about one of the serials that I found particularly engrossing, Memoirs of a Young Lady, intending to point out its originality and praise its writing style and plot. But (perhaps inevitably) as I began researching the serial for the blog in an attempt to uncover any information beyond its publication dates in the magazine, I made a very interesting discovery.Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 12.47.37

Published from April 1783 through November 1786, the serial entertained readers for over 3.5 years. The anonymous novel, never signed in any of its over 40 installments, has – like most of the fiction in the periodical – remained largely unknown and unstudied.

The novel follows the heroine, Lucretia Bertie, as she navigates her way through the constant persecutions of the primary villain, lord Belton, and his wife, her former friend Sophia. Sophia’s jealousy of Lucretia, inflamed by her husband’s infatuation with the heroine, drives her to devise increasingly vicious plots against her. One of these plots involves hiring her former footman, William, to attempt to force Lucretia into a marriage with him. The footman, posing as a wealthy gentleman, attempts (and fails) to woo Lucretia before threatening her with rape if she refuses to marry him. Sophia justifies her plan in a letter stating that she has paid for a public house for William to run as she does not want to ruin Lucretia’s ‘honour’, but wants to humble her by being a publican’s wife and hopes this will restore her husband’s affection. Lucretia is able to escape the lodgings where she is held captive and flees to safety before further machinations ensue.Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 19.16.45

The adventures sound, in a simple recitation of the plot points, far-fetched and formulaic. Yet the author ensures this is not the case; such scenes are carefully located within a much longer narrative that frequently focuses on the heroine’s everyday struggles to find gainful employment (at times in a milliner’s shop, at other times as a companion) and to resist her love for a married man, Beaumont (lord Sedley). The epistolary novel is narrated, on the whole, by Lucretia. And while our heroine is certainly virtuous and beautiful, she is also realistic and insightful, equipped with wit and understanding that expose some of the absurdities of the social circle in which she moves.

Searching for traces of an anonymous serial novel is an always time-consuming task but my instinct was that this novel was written by an author who would have kept writing and publishing. After weeks of periodically checking selections of text in various databases a result showed up through Googlebooks. And the result was surprising. The exact same section of the November 1785 installment, word for word, appeared in an 1815 novel by Jane West, Vicissitudes of Life; Exemplified in the Interesting Memoirs of a Young Lady, in a Series of Letters. The novel is mentioned on the Jane West entry on her Orlando page and is cited in The English Novel 1770-1829.[1] The 1815 novel, published anonymously and attributed to Jane West, was printed by J. McCreery in Fleet-Street.

It appears then, although further confirmation is required, that a young Jane West (1758-1852), wrote the novel and published it first as a serial in the Lady’s Magazine from 1783-1787 before publishing it in 1815 in volume form. Jane West, born in London as Jane Iliffe to parents John and Jane Iliffe,[2] moved to Norhamptonshire at age 11 and, according to The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, she was a prolific writer as a teenager.[3] Most of the information available on West is on the Orlando page, which notes that Jane married Thomas West and bore their first child in 1783, the year that the serial novel first began appearing in the Lady’s Magazine. If West was a prolific teenage writer, it is possible that Memoirs of a Young Lady was at least partially written before her marriage, although this is, of course, supposition only. Ten years later West published with the Minerva Press The Advantages of Education, or, The History of Maria Williams. A Tale for Misses and their Mammas (1793) using the pseudonym ‘Prudentia Homespun’ – a pseudonym that does not appear in the Lady’s Magazine. Why West published Memoirs in 1815, and precisely how much of its 1815 content varies from that of its earlier, serialised form, is a subject I am still researching.

Yet even in the early stages of research, such finds are fascinating in the insights they offer us regarding the afterlives of the periodical’s fiction and its correspondents who would later become established writers. It corroborates our understanding of the magazine as medium through which emerging writers could reach a wide audience and view and respond to the reception of their work by the magazine’s readership.



Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent


[1] Peter Garside, James Raven and Rainer Schöwerling (eds), The English Novel 1770-1829: A Bibliographical Survey of Prose Fiction Published in the British Isles, 2 vols (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), II: 422.


[3] Virginia Blain, Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy (eds), The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present (New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press; Batsford, 1990).

Stitching through Time Part I: Embroidering a Lady’s Magazine Pattern

The patterns in the Lady’s Magazine have been a subject of ongoing interest to those of us who work on the periodical. Often missing and eluding our searches they are one of the non-textual aspects of the magazine (such as the song sheets and engravings) that can bring to life the way the magazine was read and used by its eighteenth-century readership. When missing, the patterns point to their own popularity – cut out and removed for use, we can only guess at their content by their inclusion on the monthly title page. Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 18.52.13

My own copy of the Lady’s Magazine included an engraving of three different patterns for watch cases not present in the online edition. IMG_4916And the copies of the magazine recently purchased by the project’s principal investigator, Jennie Batchelor, also included many patterns that we had never seen before. Spurred on by these finds, and the interest they attracted from those who follow our twitter feed and blog, I decided it was time to take up needle and thread for a rather different kind of blog.

It had been quite a while since I had embroidered anything, but I still had all the supplies (embroidery hoop, fabric, needles, thread)IMG_4920 that my mom had given me years ago. Attempting to embroider the pattern in September in my copy of the 1775 magazine, I began by  using a picture of the pattern that was on my computer and simply tracing it onto a piece of paperIMG_4934. I then used this template to trace the pattern onto a piece of fabric and used that as my working pattern. Searching for inspiration I found a recent blog on the Textile Research Centre website  that feature a late eighteenth-century embroidered watch paper and that listed the types of stitches used in the pattern. Refreshing my memory on types of stitches on another useful blog post on Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials I began to embroider.

In fact, once I got into the swing of stitching, I found the project absorbing. Having changed my mind about the black running stitch border, I pulled out that first attempt in favor of a white chain stitch. I used a stem stitch for another internal border and the flowers stems, a satin stitch on the petals, and another chain stitch to divide the pattern into its quadrants. The small circles, I imagined, would have been a knot stitch, so I used a basic French knot in green for that final section.

The end result, which is my first attempt at embroidering in years, is far from as polished or precise as I would like. But it gives a sense of the material culture that was so much a part of the magazine for its eighteenth-century readers. This physical, material object, created from a pattern printed in 1775, helps me to see and feel the non-textual afterlife of the magazine in a tangible way. This kind of experience — stitching the patterns of the past — brings history into the present in a way that I find extremely exciting.



Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

Drama in the Lady’s Magazine

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LM XLIII (December 1812). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Drama appears in the Lady’s Magazine throughout its over sixty year print run in numerous forms. The most frequent genre is the review, but the theatrical world is also presented to the magazine’s readers through, for example, biographical essays on actors and actresses, excerpts from plays, songs from new productions, engravings of theatres and performers and translations of (primarily) German and French dramas.

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LM I (December 1770): 227. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

From its commencement in 1770 the magazine demonstrates its engagement with the contemporary theatrical milieu – in December 1770 a contributor who signs himself Theatricus offers an essay including anecdotes about morally jeopardized individuals who repent after seeing plays in which their weakness (such as gaming) are exposed. ‘The Remarkable Effects of Theatrical Representations’ functions as a conduct work, opinion piece, and tract on morality but also blatantly promotes English theatre and ‘the great utility of Theatrical amusements’ (LM I [December 1770]: 227). The piece mentions some of these useful plays – The Provoked Husband and George Barnwell – and concludes with the hope that ‘our nobility would raise the same subscription, and appropriate the same house that they now use for Italian operas, to a good set of English actors’ (LM I [December 1770]: 227). The first year of the magazine also includes a range of reviews of plays such as Clementina, a tragedy, and the Madman, a burletta. Reviews (or ‘accounts of’ different plays as they are described in the periodical) appear dispersed throughout the other items in each monthly installment, which usually includes 1-4 such reviews.

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LM XLIV (Supplement 1813). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

While the reviews remain a standard feature of the periodical, preliminary research indicates that there is a sharp decline in their appearance from 1811-1813. Indeed, during this three year span any mention of theatre is scarce. Exceptions to the paucity of theatrical material include biographical sketches of Sarah Siddons in 1812 and in the 1813 supplement an account of Miss Smith (Sarah Bartley). In 1814 the reviews are consolidated into a single section called ‘Dramatic Intelligence’ which is subdivided into sections by the individual theatre. After this the periodical undergoes another refashioning and from 1818 reviews are located under the section entitled simply ‘Drama’.

In the early years of the magazine the theatrical reviews were primarily synoptic, including details of the performers and either extracts from the play or summaries of the plots, and offering little criticism. For example, the January 1771 reviews of Almida and the West-Indian detail the location, actors and actresses and parts alongside lengthy descriptions of the plays and describe the audience reception. This is a fairly standard formula for the majority of the reviews throughout the lifetime of the magazine, but in the early 1780s some of the reviews do begin to include more critical examinations of the plays’ content. Such more critical reviews run alongside the conventional summary model for the duration of the periodical.

LM XII (June 1781): 321. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

The account of the Dead Alive, a farce, in June 1781, is one of the first that alters the traditional model of reviews. This ‘account’ does so by introducing the critical commentary in the form of a very lengthy footnote. This style is not a common one; although reviews do occasionally appear with commentary provided in the footnotes, more often the reviews embed the criticism within the body of the article. But in the account of the Dead Alive the unsigned writer opens with ‘The piece*’ and then includes her opinion in the subscript marked by the *. The body of the account continues with the traditional summary of the play’s plot. The writer states in the opinion subsection that the play, taken from a passage in the Arabian Nights Entertainment, has been ‘transferred’ by the playwright from ‘the East to London, and converted the sultan and sultana into a liquorish old maid and a formal old bachelor’ (LM XII [June 1781]: 321).

Arguing that the play is ‘avowedly the production of the author of the Son-in-Law’ the contributor notes that the play is ‘enlivened with that peculiar vein of humour, those droll equivoques, and odd turns, that distinguish the author of The Son-in-Law’ (LM XII [June 1781]: 321). The anonymous writer also comments on the originality of the characters, pointing out that the character of Motley, ‘though touched by a more masterly hand in The Apprentice, and more recently displayed in All the World’s a Stage, still derives some originality from the author’s management of it’ (LM XII [June 1781]: 321). Complimenting the performances of the company, the acting ability of particularly Mr. Edwin, who played Motley, is described as excellent. The body of the review, after summarizing the plot, provides some of the songs.

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LM XII (May 1781): 316. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

Another review that makes use of footnotes or subscript for the critical content is the serial feature on the ‘Spendthrift, compared with The Generous Imposter’ from the French of Des Touches. This review is particularly interesting because it is the first I found that offers a sustained and serial critique of the effectiveness of the translation, rather than the play itself. Although not all of the installments include lengthy discourse comparing the translation to the original, there are many that do, and such passages focus particularly on the ability of the author to convey to and/or modify for an English audience the sentiment and humour of the French original.

Other genres, such as the essay, provide biographies of celebrated actors and actresses, often extracted from memoirs or autobiographies. Especially in later years these essays are accompanied by engravings of the individual, such as Sarah Siddons, one of the more celebrated actresses of the eighteenth century. Mrs Siddons’ enduring popularity is demonstrated by her appearance in the magazine in various genres including theatrical reviews, engravings, and as the subject of poetic odes from (at least) the 1780s through the 1820s. Other actresses and playwrights appearing in engravings include Hannah Cowley and Dorothea Jordan.

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LM XVI (December 1785). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

The enduring prevalence and shifts in the material concerned with the theatre within the Lady’s Magazine offers fascinating insights and information on both the reception of plays and translations but also the changing sociopolitical contexts in which productions were staged and received. The range of genres that make use of dramatic pieces, language, and influences for a range of purposes reflects the engagement of readers and contributors with the contemporaneous theatrical world. Although this preliminary research raises more questions than it answers at this stage, it provides an important glimpse at the shifts in both the types of genres (essays, reviews, opinion pieces, etc.) that engage with a popular and constant topic within the periodical, and the shifts within a specific genre, such as the review.

Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent