Author Archives: jd359

Representations of Fashion in 1785

The discourses on fashion in the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832) are, as we have seen, complex and multifaceted. While I have discussed some of the ways fashion appears in the magazine previously, in today’s post I would like to draw attention to the representation of fashion in three distinct genres: the serial novel, the opinion piece, and the advice column.Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 11.01.10 My decision to give a brief overview of how fashion appears within these three genres is precisely because of the difficulties a researcher or reader would find in attempting to reconcile its representations across the genres. This is, of course, also true within genres; different serial novels offer sharply divergent opinions on social issues central to the magazine’s readership; likewise readers would receive distinctly dissimilar guidance depending on the authorship of an advice column. Nonetheless, by examining fashion across the genres rather than within one, it is possible to gain a better understanding of 1) the competing forms that discourses appeared in within the periodical and 2) how the eighteenth-century reader would have experienced these divergent representations.

Fashion is merely one subject among hundreds that could be used to demonstrate this point, but it is a subject of perpetual fascination to me because of how discussions of it are consistently bound of with debates on morality, modernity, gender and sexuality.

The anonymously authored serial novel The Dangers of Dissipation (1783-85) features a first-person narrator, Maria Wilding, who is a pleasure-seeking young lady whose tendency towards Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 14.17.41dissipation (as the title indicates) puts her in dangerous situations, and who is most fond of admiration. This propensity carries on after she is married to the highly moral Mr. Wells, and causes her some mortification in the countryside when her fashionable dress renders her the object of ridicule rather than admiration to the local rustics, who she: ‘more than once, caught laughing at the length of my braided hair, and my train drawing a yard after me on the ground; and often heard them say, they would rather, a thousand times, chuse a girl with a round ear’d cap, and her hair cut short in her neck, in a close jacket and petticoat’ LM XVI [August 1784]: 412.

But in spite of Maria’s dangerous desire to be admired, when she almost loses her husband’s regard entirely after he finds her in a compromising (though not guilty) position, she realizes that it is his love and esteem that are most important. Her husband pretends to flirt with another woman to make her jealous, and it is around a cap that this plot point and the novel culminate. Maria is assisting Miss Gataker at her toilet one day before they go out when her husband enters with ‘a new-fashioned hat [. . .] trimmed with lace and ribbon, in a very elegant taste, and presented it to Miss Gataker, desiring her leave to put Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 14.28.28it on himself’ (LM XVI [January 1785]: 32). Maria is naturally very upset at her husband’s behaviour but especially when his friend, sir William, suggest that Mr. Wells give the cap to Maria and Mr. Wells replies ‘it will not become her’ (LM XVI [January 1785]: 32). Immediately after this Mr. Wells finally relents and confesses that both his flirtation with Miss Gataker and sir William’s repeated profession of love to Maria have been ruses to test her fortitude and fidelity.

In the same issue, the Matron’s advice column [link] features an anecdote revolving around her cousin, Miss Partlett. Miss Partlett consistently dresses too young for her age, and Mrs. Grey just as frequently attempts to advise her against her fashion selections. In this column, Miss Partlett is ‘sallying forth’ in in a very fashionable ensemble featuring ‘an enormous feather’ that Mrs. Grey’s daughter attempts to reason with her, stating that propriety, not feathers, ‘render a woman worthy of esteem’ and that ‘every attempt that she makes to look younger than she really is, will have quite an opposite effect: it would only serve to make her more conspiculously ancient [. . .] Feathers, in the manner many young women wear them, put one too much in mind of funeral ornaments, upon the head of an old woman. They can make us think of nothing else, indeed, but a hearse’ (LM XVI [January 1785]: 27). Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 14.37.30

This is not the first time, or the last, that the Matron weighs in against older women dressing too young for their age. Her concern is not with fashionable attire in general; in other installments she compliments the expensive and beautiful dresses that her grandson’s wife wears, and she admires the elegant simplicity with which her granddaughter Sophia dresses. But the showy and cheap satin deshabille that her other granddaughter wears, and the age-inappropriate attire of Miss Partlett attract her censure. That is to say, it is not fashionable or modern styles in themselves, but inelegant or inappropriate choices that do not suit the wearer against which the Matron advises; becoming and stylish fashions that are genteel and elegant rather than tawdy or modish are always advised.

A serial opinion piece, rather wonderfully titled ‘One of the Leading Causes of Prostitution: The Dress of Servant Girls above their Stations’ appears in 1785 as well, and, though the writer claims not to want to usurp the place of the MatScreen Shot 2015-10-09 at 14.56.11ron in giving advice to the magazine’s readers, she must offer her opinion on the profligacy and depravity of women who become prostitutes. Two/thirds of these women, the writer claims (though offers perhaps unsurprisingly no source for this statistic) were previously servants. The cause of prostitution for these former servants is, the writer argues, ‘pride, and a desire of appearing out of their proper sphere’ (LM XVI [February 1785]: 96). Indeed, one of the most vexatious consequences of dressing beyond one’s rank is not a life of prostution (and consequently degradation, disease, squalor, unwanted pregnancy and early death): no, this writer finds the real disastrous effect is that it is no longer  Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 14.56.11‘possible to judge people’s rank by their exterior; but now all propriety is banished, and one is momentarily in danger of mistaking a modern mop-squeezer for a capital tradesman’s wife’ (LM XVI [February 1785]: 27).

The serial continues with anecdotes and purportedly true stories for another two installments and is ultimately signed by ‘Annabella Evergreen’. It continues to blame servant girls for almost every ill known to humanity, including their own seductions by honest and innocent sons of the families for which they work. The rhetoric is fascinating and I highly recommend it. But what’s so interesting about its location in the magazine and its pointed nod to the Matron is that this opinion piece that masquerades as a moral essay would likely not have pleased the Matron, who offers a much more moderate view and is very empathetic to the plight of the less fortunate.

The genre of the miscellany necessitates that there is always a vexed relationship between how the various genres represent discourses, almost regardless of topic. Yet by probing these distinct treatments, it is possible to see that the magazine, while in one instance seemingly
reactionary and in the next radical, tends to offer an overall liberal treatment of the social issues that were of such interest to its readership. What makes it so fruitful to look at one topic across a range of genres within a given year, or within a given genre across a range of years, is that the variety and shifts in opinions and view represented within the periodical are given their voice again. The magazine’s multiple dialogues —  between the genres as well as between the contributors to the different genres and columns — requires reading these conversations and their engagement with the contemporary social and cultural concerns in order to understand the otherwise seemingly disjointed and competing discourses.Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 11.50.09

Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

Research Rabbit Holes; or, Hunting for Bob Short Junior

Countless are the times I have looked up from reading the Lady’s Magazine to moan in frustration: ‘I can’t stand this man!’

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LM VII (Mar 1776): 126. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British l Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

I’m speaking of Bob Short, Junior, author of the magazine’s serial ‘The Female Reformer’ which appeared periodically from March 1776 through the mid-1780s. From the outset, Bob Short declares he will ‘animadvert occasionally on the foibles of the female world, with a view to reform them’ (LM VII [March 1776]: 126).  This first number sees him criticizing initially the ‘preposterous and feathery head dress of the ladies’ whilst noting that there are ‘many other parts of the female dress [. . .] equally open to ridicule and censure’ before moving onto the fan as the target of his ‘reforming’ remarks.

Yes, you read that right: the fan. No, it didn’t mean something else back then. Apparently Short’s problem with ladies’ fans was with the mounts – ‘the loose, and I had almost said indecent, mounts ladies have to their fans in the present day’ – mounts that make him believe ‘a coarse, indelicate, and immodest picture is not so offensive to the view of the fair, as prudence, virtue, and chastity could wish’. Indeed, these indelicate fan mounts appear even in places of worship where he saw a young woman who ‘appeared suitably attentive and devout’ until he saw ‘naked cupids, and women almost so, represented as sleeping under trees, while dancing shepherds and piping fawns completed the shameful groupe.’ Such pictures, Short declared, ‘on being looked at, tend only to inflame the passions, and promote the loosest ideas’ (LM VII [March 1776]: 126).

Image © Manchester Art Galleries. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Image © Manchester Art Galleries. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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LM VIII (August 1777): 422. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British l Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

‘The Female Reformer’ column generally contained similar opinions. For example, after spending several numbers criticizing female dress, he turns to female conversation. Obviously, this didn’t fare much better, and is described as being described as ‘trifling, unimportant, and insignificant!’ (LM VIII [August 1777]: 422). Occasionally he would reveal intimate details, such as in his December 1777 column, in which he described the recent loss of a child called Eliza, who had just begun to speak. And although my instincts told me that such remarks were fact rather than inventions for didactic purposes, they weren’t particularly useful in terms of finding out more about the man behind the serial.

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LM XVIII (December 1784): 651. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British l Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

And so I carried on reading and occasionally rolling my eyes at Short’s remarks without looking into it further until recently. An uncharacteristically personal column by Short was followed by a silence – no further contributions to the magazine appeared – and this perplexing silence piqued my curiosity. Short complains in December 1784 about an incident that occurred at a bookseller’s shop in Paternoster-row (the location of the Robinson’s business and, of course, many other printing and publishing firms in the eighteenth century). Short is clearly incensed by the incident in which a lady picks up a book he published some years ago and ‘said to the master of the shop (not knowing who I was,) “what a pity is it the author of this book, who is also the author of the Female Reformer, signed Bob Short, in the Lady’s Magazine, does not live up to what he writes; don’t you think so, Sir? Indeed, I often think of telling him so in the Magazine: I have read his works with pleasure in times past, but cannot now, since I know his character, and live in his neighbourhood.” Should the above mentioned lady read this, let her blush at having (as she apprehended) said that behind a person’s back, which I am happy in having to say, she cannot prove before his face’ (LM XV [December 1784]: 651). After this, Short offers no further contributions.

There is mention of him in February 1785 when the correspondent E—L—notes Bob Short’s ‘seeming pleasure [. . .] in exposing the failings of our sex’ and states that lately his comments ‘have had more the appearance of ill-natured remarks, than admonitions to reformation’ LM XVI (Feb 1785): 94. E—L—, at least, appears to have had no sympathy for Short’s complaints the previous December regarding the slanderous remarks he overheard at the booksellers. But although he doesn’t publish in the magazine again, he seems to have contacted the editors, who in April 1785 claim that ‘Our friend Bob Short does us honour to find that his anger is subsiding, and we should be glad for any jeu d’esprit from a person of so fertile an imagination, which would either contribute to entertain or ameliorate the Sex in general’ (LM XVI [April 1785]: 170). In spite of what we can only assume was a reconciliatory letter from Short to the editors, their hopes he would again contribute to the periodical were in vain.

Beginning with the work of E. W. Pitcher, that prolific attributor of anonymous and pseudonymous contributors to eighteenth-century periodicals, I saw that he had identified Bob Short Junior as George Wright. This was based on Wright’s authorship of The Rural Christian and other texts that appeared under both ‘Bob Short’ and ‘George Wright’.[1] But beyond the date of his marriage, 3 November 1772, listed in the Town and Country Magazine of that year and an obituary for his wife fourteen years later in the same publication, there were still more questions than answers. Given that the ‘Bob Short’ pseudonym had been in use for decades by various writers (such as Robert Withy, Robert Willey, Eliza Haywood) some of whom, like Willey, were friendly with the Robinson family (the magazine’s publishers), it seemed worth corroborating Pitcher’s claim and finding out more about this serial (and serially misogynistic) contributor.

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The Country Squire. Image © ECCO. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Without belabouring the details, I concluded that Pitcher was correct in the identification of Short as Wright. In addition to the texts Pitcher identifies by Wright, I have identified a few more, such as The Country Squire (1781) and several ‘fugitive pieces’ contributed to other magazines. Pitcher’s suggestion that Wright used other pseudonyms is confirmed by the author himself in the opening pages of The Country Squire wherein he states that he has appeared ‘under various signatures, such as A Young Philanthropist, Theron, Jun. Florio, &c.’ (iii) – all of which are signatures that appear in the LM. I have also located his marriage certificate, which identifies ‘Miss Wright of Hackney’ (Town and Country IV: 216) george wright marraigemore clearly as an Elizabeth Wright of the parish of Saint Andrew, Holborn.

That George and Elizabeth shared a last name raises further questions (were they perhaps cousins, close or distant? Or was this mere coincidence?) that remain unanswered. Short himself notes their identical last names in a rather sweet poem of this that I located, appearing as a fugitive piece in the European Magazine and London Review (II [1782]: 16) but that was likely printed previously elsewhere. In this short poem Wright encourages Miss Wright to ‘change but your state and continue your name, Be not Wright only single, but married, the same’ (European Magazine and London Review II [1782]: 16).

Wright’s wife Elizabeth, as Pitcher notes, is listed in the deaths section of the Town and Country (IX [March 1786]: 211). I have also found her death listed in the New London Magazine (8: [1786]: 166), and much more interestingly, in the New Lady’s Magazine (I: [1786]: 112).

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The New Lady’s Magazine (1786-1795) was a rival publication to the Lady’s Magazine that was edited by the Rev. Mr. Charles Stanhope. The New Lady’s looked almost identical to the Lady’s Magazine, was published a few doors down from the Robinsons’ magazine, and included a considerable volume of material from the original periodical. The obituary that appears in this magazine provides much more information than was typical. It states: ‘On Sunday, March 5, 1786, died at Peckham, upon a visit to her sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Wright, wife of G. Wright, Esq. of John Street, Tottenham-Court road, a sincere but retired Christian; a dutiful wife, a tender mother, and a real friend, particularly to the poor; her exemplary life and conduct [. . .]’ (I: 112). This, to me, indicates the possibility that George Wright was in some way acquainted with the editors of the new magazine, or had at least exchanged his loyalty from the Lady’s Magazine to its new rival.

The names of Bob Short and George Wright appeared in other periodicals and magazines over the next few years and Wright continued to publish his own books and miscellanies. There is, indeed, much more work to be done in identifying all of his publications and his contributions not only to the Lady’s Magazine but to other periodicals as well. Ultimately I disagree with Pitcher, who believes Wright was, like many others, a ‘semiprofessional compiler [. . .] George Wright belonged to this miscellany of hacks, opportunists, and amateurs, and probably fared as well as most in entertaining and instructing the contemporary reading public’ (Pitcher: 383). His lengthy career and myriad publications require us to consider him as more than a compiler, hack, amateur, or opportunist. In spite of finding nearly everything he wrote infuriating, it seems clear to me that Wright was an author, and that his literary career provoked his fellow periodical contributors into debates and dialogues that remain fascinating and provocative to this day.


Jenny DiPlacidi

School of English

University of Kent

[1] Edward W. Pitcher, ‘The Periodical and Miscellaneous Publications of George Wright (“Bob Short, Junior”)’, Bibliographical Notes 74:4 (1980): 379-408.

C. D. H. or Catharine Day Haynes: A Gothic Author for the Lady’s Magazine and the Minerva Press

Over thirty years into the lifespan of the Lady’s Magazine most of the magazine’s popular fiction remained the work of the anonymous, pseudonymous or often unsigned contributions of the periodicals’ reader/writers. Much of the content serialized in the magazine after 1800 closely resembles those popular Gothic novels published –and, importantly – paid for by the Minerva Press. And as we continue with our research, we uncover more authors who contributed to the Lady’s Magazine as unpaid correspondents and were paid for their works elsewhere.

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LM XLVII (Oct 1816): 437. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

One of the correspondents who would become a paid writer published first in the Lady’s Magazine under the initials ‘C. D. H.’ According to The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, 1800-1900 [1] ‘C. D. H.’ is Miss C. D. Haynes, later Mrs C. D. Golland. Haynes published her first Gothic novel, The Castle of Le Blanc, A Tale, in serial form in the Lady’s Magazine from October 1816 through 1819.

This novel is really quite wonderful. It opens with a young bride, Clara, travelling to the castle of her new husband. On the journey he seems unaccountably agitated and cold but when she asks him about his odd behavior he forbids her to question him. When they reach his ancestral home: ‘the ponderous gate of the castle opened to receive them—a cold shivering ran through the frame of Clara; she viewed it as the grave of the departed happiness’ (LM XLVII [Oct 1816]: 439). The novel takes on a Radcliffean tone, interweaving Gothic conventions found in The Italian and The Mysteries of Udolpho. Clara, pregnant and alone in the castle with her husband the Marquis le Blanc is desperately unhappy as he ‘made too free with the bottle after dinner’ and ‘generally joined her quite inebriated’  (LM XLVIII [Aug 1817]: 357). The novel’s inset tale features with gambling, ruin, a beautiful siren, and a virtuous heroine who cross-dresses as a gamester to successfully win her lover’s fortune from him rather than see him lose it to his enemies.


LM XLVIII (Feb 1817): 88. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

What I find so interesting about C. D. Haynes, who I believe is in fact Catharine Day Haynes, later Catharine Day Golland, is her relationship with the Lady’s Magazine. Because not only did Catharine Haynes publish her first Gothic novel in the magazine, she also contributed other items, such as a rebus in February 1817 that was solved in June. The solution to the rebus was posed by a correspondent with the signature ‘Henry’ who answered the riddle with: ‘Golland’s the swain belov’d by thee’ (LM XLVIII [June 1817]: 233). Part of Catharine’s courtship then, or at least her publication of it, was conducted within the very pages of the periodical.


LM XLVIII (June 1817): 233. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

Catharine went on to publish a number of novels with the Minerva Press, and the first two of these were actually printed in 1818 and 1819 – while she was still writing The Castle of Le Blanc for the Lady’s Magazine. Clearly her paid work did not stop her from writing unpaid for the magazine. Her Minerva Press novels include The Foundling of Devonshire, or who is she? (1818) Augustus and Adeline, or, the monk of St. Barnardine: a romance (1819), Eleanor, or the Spectre of St. Michaels: a romantic tale (1821, tr. Fr. 1824).

But even after such successes with the Minerva Press, Catharine Haynes’ relationship with the Lady’s Magazine endured. The magazine’s births, marriages, and deaths section published her nuptials to ‘the swain Golland’ in January 1821: ‘At St. Bride’s, Mr. John Golland, of the New Kent Road, to Miss C. D. Haynes, author of the Castle Le Blanc, Foundling of Devonshire, and several other works’ (LM II [Jan 1821]: 56).

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LM III (April 1822): 224. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

Interestingly, the Magazine notes not only the Gothic tale she wrote for them, but also her publication with Minerva. Little more than a year later, Catharine Haynes – now Golland – is mentioned again in the same section, but this time it is a birth that is announced: ‘a daughter born to the wife of Mr. John Golland, in the New-Kent-road,–formerly Miss Haynes, authoress of the Castle of le Blanc, a novel given in our Magazine’ (LM III [April 1822]: 224).

But the Robinsons’ loyalty to Mrs Golland ends here. In 1822, after she has published two novels with the Minerva Press, Catharine sends another novel, likely unsolicited and provided free of charge, to the editors of the magazine. The novel was clearly not well received. In the Noember 1822 column ‘To our correspondents’ the editors state that:


LM III (November 1822): 640. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

What this indicates, I believe, is that contributors to the magazine were not amateur or unprofessional as they have often been described by literary historians such as Robert Mayo.[2] They were skilled and professional writers who published work elsewhere that was paid for and in some cases returned to the magazine to continue to provide – or attempt to provide – further original fiction with no payment expected. Catharine Haynes Golland is just one example of those correspondents whose literary career fails to conform to the model of authorship as a linear progression from the amateur to professional.

[1] Joanne Shattock, The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, 1800-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 929-30.

[2] Robert D. Mayo, The English Novel in the Magazines, 1740-1815 (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), p. 2; p. 81; p. 317.

Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

The Lady’s Magazine team goes to Cardiff

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

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

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

Panel convened by Jennie Batchelor (University of Kent)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

Vipers and Treacherous Men: Moral Tales in the Lady’s Magazine

The moral tales in the Lady’s Magazine form a distinct genre that consists of short, often illustrated, didactic stories intended to convey a lesson or moral to the reader. One might imagine that such a genre communicates a consistent or coherent ideology, but the fictional content of the moral tale varies widely in both instructive message and writing style – even in works by the same author.

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LM XXII (March 1781): 117. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

The prolific correspondent ‘R—.’ contributed moral tales for well over a decade, penning stories such as ‘Surgi, or the Stoic’ (LM IV [April 1773]: 193), ‘The Unexpected Meeting’ (LM IV [May 1773]: 233) – which takes place in Margate –, ‘Alphonso; or the Cruel Husband’ (LM V [April 1774]: 183), ‘Celadon and Florella; or the Perils of a Tete-a-tete’ (LM V [February 1773]: 65), ‘Penelope, or Matrimonial Constancy’ (LM V [September 1774]: 457) and ‘The Unwary Sleeper’ (LM V [May 1774]: 233). All of these tales have accompanying engravings and ‘R—.’ also contributed essays, opinion pieces, and serial fiction.

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LM V (May 1774): 233. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

Because I would like to spend further time on this topic in future blog posts, I will only discuss two of the tales here. ‘The Unwary Sleeper’ and ‘The Fatal Wreath’ (LM XII [March 1781]: 117). In ‘The Unwary Sleeper’ the female character, Dulcetta, describes herself thusly: ‘My figure gave pleasure, but the readiness with which I imbibed the instructions of my teachers, recommended me more strongly than my personal accomplishments’ (233). In contrast, her friend Amelia’s : ‘mode of education was different from mine; she could sing, and play well on her guitar and spinet, but could neither stitch a wristband, or read an English author with propriety. An adept at quadrille, but totally ignorant of the first rudiments of religion’ (233), Amelia allows ‘liberties’ from men that shock her friend. After she elopes with Mr. D— it is revealed he is already married with ‘a family of half a score children’ (234).

unwary sleeper engraving

LM V (May 1774): 233. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

Dulcetta’s religious and moral education has saved her from her friend’s fate, but the tale doesn’t conclude here, as it easily could. Instead, it transports Dulcetta one month forward to her father’s house three miles away. After this apparently insignificant alteration in time and location, Dulcetta feels removed from normality, a distance likewise experienced by the reader due to a shift from the earlier, matter-of-fact narration to a tone similar to a fairytale. The estate, ‘in the midst of a wood, and [. . . ] entirely by itself’ affords her no companion and so she wanders alone, picking wildflowers and reading. Laying down under a large tree, she is ‘immediately transported into the land of dreams. I thought that I was in a solitary place, and that a person was attempting to be rude with me. I shrieked—the shriek waked me—and who should stand before me but the treacherous Mr. D—,’ (234). Dulcetta is saved by one of her father’s servants and the incident causes her to conclude that ‘the fall of the sex is generally owing to their vigilance’s being asleep when it should be awake’ (234).

The pointed observation feels ill-suited to the preceding passage given that the moral female protagonist was sleeping when attacked and only fortuitously saved by an improbably located servant. If even a virtuous and properly educated female risks a ‘fall’ by falling asleep, R—. seems to suggest luck, more than vigilance, is needed to save one’s virtue.

the fatal wreath engraving

LM XXII (March 1781): 117. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

R—.’s March 1781 tale ‘The Fatal Wreath’ features another slumbering character, but this time the sleeper is the (would-be) seducer of the luckless Almira. Celadon, ‘fond of dissipation’, persuades Almira into frequent meetings in a grove decorated with a statue of Diana, goddess of chastity, where Almira makes ‘concessions [. . .] which she wished that she had not made’ (118). When she finds him asleep in the grove one summer’s evening, she places chaplet of flowers on his head. Suddenly fearing the statue of Diana is animated, ‘that she even pointed her shaft against her’, Almira flees, but ‘a viper bit her heel – she sunk – she died – she might have met with a worse, had Celadon awoke, when she placed the flowery wreath on his temples.—Let the sex beware of innocent advances and liberties; advances and liberties are dangerous’ (118).

fatal wreath viper bite and signature

LM XXII (March 1781): 117. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

Again, the moral is intriguingly elusive. R—. states that ‘advances and liberties are dangerous’ but it is unclear just how far the liberties between Celadon and Almira have gone. By suggesting that had Celadon awoken Almira would have met with a fate worse than death, R—. implies that she has not already had sexual intercourse with Celadon in spite of allowing some ‘concessions’. The viper bite saves Almira from what might have been, rather than punishing her for what has already occurred. The ‘what might have been’ fate could also have befallen the virtuous Dulcetta in the ‘The Unwary Sleeper’ yet she was saved by luck. Regardless of the potential danger of liberties, advances, and slumber, what R—. depicts as the actual, physical dangers to unwary or unguarded women are vipers and, of course, treacherous men.

Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

The Lady’s Magazine Team Goes to Chawton

One of the many interesting and pleasurable aspects of working on the Lady’s Magazine project is having the opportunity to present our work to the public, which we were able to do at Chawton House Library in Hampshire.

chawton house

Image © Chawton House Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Image © Chawton House Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Chawton is an estate that was inherited by Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, after being adopted by the heirless Knight family and taking their surname. The estate is now open to visitors who can learn about the Austen family and the history of women’s writing in Britain. It is also home to a unique visiting fellows program that I had the privilege of participating in during the summer of 2012. The program allows scholars from around the world to use the library’s impressive collection of women’s writings that range from unpublished manuscripts to popular fiction, rare books, periodicals and first editions, among others. In addition, the library hosts a variety of events including evening talks that draw in a diverse audience and the Lady’s Magazine team was very excited to be asked by Dr Gillian Dow, Chawton’s director of research, to present our ongoing research at one of these talks last week.

Chawton talk team

Dr Jennie Batchelor, Dr Jenny DiPlacidi, Dr Koenraad Claes at Chawton House Library with the library’s 1811 edition of the Lady’s Magazine. Image © Chawton House Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Koenraad Chawton

Dr Koenraad Claes at Chawton House Library, Hampshire

Our talk was in three parts, opening with Dr Jennie Batchelor providing the historical context of eighteenth-century periodicals and the Lady’s Magazine, describing its unique features and diverse content. Dr Batchelor explored the lasting influence of the magazine as a medium in which women writers were encouraged to publish, citing the letters of Charlotte Bronte who ‘wished with all her heart’ she ‘had been born in time to contribute to’ the magazine and outlining the changes in print culture and periodicals throughout the long eighteenth century. Dr Koenraad Claes discussed his role on the project, which is to explore the anonymous and pseudonymous contributors to the magazine. Explaining the many difficulties involved in tracking down the thousands of signatures over the years, Dr. Claes provided examples of research techniques and successes in linking the elusive initials to individuals. My part of the talk discussed my role in reading the wide range of items in the magazine and assigning genres to the content in order to examine shifts and consistencies in the magazine’s composition over time.

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LM XXXI (April 1800). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

I also discussed the probability that Jane Austen was familiar with the Lady’s Magazine and its fiction; although it is impossible to say definitively that Austen read the Lady’s Magazine and its tales and stories, it is more likely than not. As Edward Copeland points out, the immense popularity of the magazine meant that ‘everybody’ read the periodical. Making a case for Austen’s familiarity with the magazine, Copeland notes connections between her life and some of the items within the periodical, the most notorious of which being the April 1800 trial report of Austen’s aunt, Mrs. Leigh-Perrot, who was accused of stealing lace from a shop in Bath.[1] Even if Austen never read the Lady’s Magazine, we know that she read the local newspaper, the Hampshire Chronicle, which frequently reprinted fiction from the Lady’s Magazine within it.

After our talk we answered questions from a lovely audience who were interested in many different aspects of the magazine, including details of its physical size, its readership, the process of printing the many engravings as well as publication costs and profits. It was a wonderful experience and we thoroughly enjoyed our time at Chawton House Library talking about our work on the magazine.

Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent


[1] Edward Copeland, Women Writing about Money: Women’s Fiction in England, 1790-1820 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 119-21.



The Material Magazine

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

My research on the Lady’s Magazine began in the autumn of 2013 when I started to examine the fiction within eighteenth-century periodicals as part of my new book project. It was a completely digital effort: making use of the University of Kent’s subscription to the Portal to Newspapers and Periodicals c1685-1835 that has a mass of titles digitized by Adam Matthew – including the complete 62-year run of the Lady’s Magazine – provided me with more than enough material for the chapter at the click of a mouse. Downloading and reading the yearly volumes of the magazines felt very much like reading ‘the real thing’. The scanned pages retain any creases or stains or marks of age, and where the print is faded or blurred in the original, it is too in the digital copies.

I had seen and handled the magazine before I began my work on it, but only monthly issues rather than the bound, annual volume. After many months of reading the periodical in pdf format, I decided to purchase a volume of my very own.

volumeFinding a year that was both particularly interesting in terms of content and in poor enough condition to be affordable took a bit of time, but I finally found a very readable (though almost disbound and missing the front board) volume of the Lady’s Magazine for 1775.

Reading the material artifact after having spent so much time with the digital editions was slightly disorienting. Used to the large screen of the computer and zooming in until the font size was comfortable, the material text seemed at once smaller (the font) and bigger (there’s no overlooking in the physical copy the weighty heft of each year).1775 frontispiece There is, of course, that connection to the past that seems so much stronger when handling the same worn and yellowed pages once thumbed through by the eighteenth-century reader.
And then there was the surprise of finding a page that was not present in the digital volume of 1775.

Taking out the book one night to show a friend what it is that I actually do (‘yes, I need to read 48 of these by next September’), she looked through the engravings and asked about the case patterns Certain that there was no pattern in the digital copy, the pdf was immediately consulted and it confirmed that the pattern in that edition of September 1775, according to the directions to the binder, been removed. As Jennie Batchelor pointed out in her blog last week, binders at times ignored or overlooked these directions, and by luck, the ‘three new patterns for watch cases’ had ben retained in my edition.

That the pattern was set opposite a serial feature on Cleopatra seemed jarring, but it brought to mind a letter that had been written to one of the magazine’s regular columnists, Bob Short Jr., by a man who signed himself G. Rffy.case2 In January 1779, G. Rffy’s writes that Bob Short’s column was printed opposite the sewing pattern which ‘rendered it rather more conspicuous than otherwise’ (LM X [Jan 1779]: 93). This is just as true today; periodicalists handling the material artifact now experience the same sense of surprise when turning the page in the middle of a discourse on religion to find a pattern for ruffles. Readers’ experiences of and engagement with the magazine’s various items could be altered by the location of text opposite an engraving or pattern. While the pattern for watch cases may seem relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of the Lady’s Magazine, it highlights the differences between working with digitized and material magazines, and also raises questions about the editorial practices regarding the positioning of text and engravings to, perhaps, render certain items ‘rather more conspicuous’.


Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent



Authorship, Content and Goldsmith

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

School of English, University of Kent

Purses, Productivity and a Pastorella ‘past her prime’

Examining the index of any year of the Lady’s Magazine for titles that mention fashion or dress inevitably produces a number of items, yet some of the most provocative discussions on the topic have seemingly unrelated titles. In 1778, for example, contributions on women’s dress are found in long-running serials such as ‘The Matron’ and ‘The Female Reformer’ as well as appearing in letters to the editors. Many of the articles that feature fashion are informed by the major philosophical concerns of the period and function as social commentary rather than solely as fashion reports. Such items, often bearing obscure titles or none at all when buried within the body of lengthier serials, can be easy for researchers to overlook.

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

Part of our research project’s database includes assigning specific keywords to each item that usefully signal the subject matter in ways the genre or title may not indicate. For instance, a letter to the editor published in January 1778 listed in the index merely as ‘Shapes, fine’ strongly condemns the fashion of stays or corsets. Using terms characteristic of eighteenth-century discourse generally and particularly prevalent in discussions of manners and fashion the letter writer references ‘nature’ and ‘artifice’. The letter, signed H—, then goes on to locate the practice of ‘women’s lacing themselves up’ as one that will ‘entail diseases and deformity upon their successors’ – language more commonly encountered in medical tracts on venereal disease.

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LM, VII (1776). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

‘[. . .] women’s lacing themselves up, in order to make what has been heretofore called fine shapes, I cannot help asking why, in the name of nature and reason, they cannot appear with the shape which their Creator has been pleased to give them? Why, for the sake of a capricious whim, must they entail diseases and deformity upon their successors? It is a known fact, that the health and strength of many thousands have been utterly destroyed, even before they were born’ (LM, IX [Jan 1778]: 17). The letter writer’s concern is not only with the defiance of ‘nature and reason’ occasioned by wearing stays, but also with their destructive effects on women’s bodies and the health and strength of the children they bear. Anxieties about female bodies and their productivity are returned to in relation to dress in a variety of contexts.


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

A reader who signs his letter to the magazine’s long-running agony aunt column ‘A Single Man’ laments women’s unproductive activities. Stating that ‘the more domestic women can be made, the better companions they will be for us’ (LM, IX [Jan 1778]: 35) he locates this desired domesticity in necessary and useful work that does not waste time: ‘I generally find the girls about some trifling piece of work, such a knotting, netting, or twisting purses [. . .] the time taken up in the making of it is misspent; it might certainly be disposed of in a more advantageous manner, in the performance of some works of indisputable usefulness’ (LM, IX [Jan 1778]: 35). Such productive, rather than trifling work, stops women from being ‘drawn to the card table’ and allows them to keep the hearts of their husbands by demonstrating ‘a constant attention to every species of domestic oeconomy, which ought never to be neglected for the pursuit of trifles’ (LM, IX [Jan 1778]: 36). Domestic economy, then, correlates directly to women working in useful, necessary, and productive ways.

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LM, VII (1776). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

The maintenance of ‘decency’ is the purported impetus behind the letter from a ‘Friend to Decency, Delicacy, and Decorum’ who requests that the Matron side with him regarding the female fashion of jackets. The letter writer, however, is clearly more concerned with appearance than morality. ‘A Friend’ argues about the trend: ‘If these jackets can be at all allowable, they must be so only in the young: an old shepherdess, a Pastorella beyond her prime is past endurance’ (LM, IX [Aug 1778]: 412). The dig at women’s age elicits a response from ‘Patient Grizzle’ who states ‘But what provokes me more than all is his postscript: Can there be anything more ridiculous than for a man to pretend to say at what age a woman shall leave off a jacket [. . .] but then I would not be prescribed by any one of the male sex – no, so far from it, that I would put on a jacket at three-score if I liked it’ (LM, IX [Oct 1778]: 527). This reader’s reply demonstrates that although ‘A Friend’ may have dressed his argument in the language of decency, she understands it as an attack on women’s freedom of choice.

The correspondents’ engagement with the magazine and each other reveals the range of discourses embedded within unexpected items, underscoring the complexity and breadth of the archive.


Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent


Word Clouds and Visualizing the Archive

The digitization of the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832) has opened up exciting new research methodologies that we use on our project to help extrapolate trends and changes that occur in the periodical over the course of its 62 year print run. One of these research tools is the word cloud, a means of representing data visually by inserting a large quantity of text into a program that analyzes word frequency. The resulting word cloud depicts the range of word or phrase frequency through size difference so one can readily see how different terms are weighted relative to one another. This is useful when working with a database the size of the Lady’s Magazine because it enables us to see changes in, for example, the terminology used in titles over the magazine’s entire print run. 1770 prose top 75For example, in 1770 the most frequent 75 words that appear in the prose titles are terms descriptive of genres or types of writing: history, anecdote, treatise, account, biography, tale, letters, French, translation, etc. Also appearing frequently are the words ‘lady’, ‘lady’s’, and ‘female’.

In comparison, using the most frequent terms in prose titles from 1815 reveals a shift in the magazine’s composition. With the exception of the ubiquitous anecdote, fewer genres appear while increasingly individual names and titles (with an understandable emphasis on the French) are featured.1815 top 75 Prominently featured are the terms death, Bonaparte, France, Paris, Duke, Nelson, king, general, Lord, Hamilton, Chesterfield, Cromwell, Sir, Wellington and theatre.

The content shifts that lie beneath the articles’ titles require, of course, careful analysis of the underlying contexts that such visualizations merely nod towards. So while between 1770 and 1818 the term ‘men’ appears with around the same frequency, in 1778 the titles with men include ‘Verses on the Folly of Men’ while in 1817 readers were presented with ‘Maxims of Eminent Englishmen’. The same approximate frequency – but very different content indeed!Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 11.48.31 Because our index includes a series of keywords for each item in the magazine, we can compare word clouds of the keywords in one year to word clouds of the titles and discover substantial differences. For example, the keywords for 1770 look quite different from the article titles.

When working with material as sizeable in scope, quantity, and chronology as the Lady’s Magazine archive, similarly diverse research methodologies are likewise required. The word cloud is one of the methods that digitization has made possible and that raises new and important questions about the magazine’s content and how such content was presented to the readers.

Dr Jenny DiPlacidi, University of Kent