Author Archives: ladys-magazine

Jane Austen, the Lady’s Magazine and what if Mr Knightley didn’t marry Emma?

Regular readers of this blog will know that the Lady’s Magazine project is currently running ‘The Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off’. We have made available 8 of the magazine’s embroidery patterns, which are being recreated, as I type, by dozens of people around the world. Many of the results will soon be on display in a major new exhibition, ‘Emma at 200: From English Village to Global Appeal’, which opens at Chawton House Library next month, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of arguably Austen’s best-crafted novel.

The fact that the Lady’s Magazine has found its way into the exhibition – in a room that will be devoted to the arts of music, needlework and painting – is absolutely fitting. The magazine fed, while also being critical of, the appetite to cultivate female accomplishments in the period. It printed song sheets for much of its run as well as monthly embroidery patterns. The magazine also encouraged word play, and the kind of games that generate so much misunderstanding in Emma owe more than a small debt to the enigmas published in the Lady’s Magazine and other rival publications.

The magazine also featured and was widely read by well-known predecessors and contemporaries of Austen. The work of Stéphanie-Félicité de Genlis, a first edition of whose The Duchess of La Valliere (1804) will be exhibited at ‘Emma at 200’, was widely translated and her works serialized at length in the Lady’s Magazine. Successors of Austen read the magazine avidly, including Charlotte Brontë, whose letter on reading Emma is being loaned from Huntington library in California and will take pride of place at the exhibition.

But did Jane Austen read the Lady’s Magazine?

I wish I could say yes – my gut tells me yes – but the honest answer is we cannot be sure for now. What we do know is that the magazine was available from libraries from which the Austen family borrowed; that its fiction was circulated in the Hampshire Chronicle; and that Austen’s own novels owe some striking debts to characters and plotlines developed in the magazine’s short stories.

As Edward Copeland pointed out in his 1989 essay ‘Money Talks: Jane Austen and the Lady’s Magazine’, more than one Austen character may owe their names (and some of their traits) to short fiction in the Lady’s Magazine. Is it a coincidence that a Brandon and Willoughby both appear in Lady’s Magazine short story, ‘The Ship-Wreck’, from the Supplement for 1794? [1] Perhaps.

But as Oscar Wilde would likely not say, to find one or two literary parents in a magazine may be regarded as coincidence; to find three or four looks like proof positive.

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This second piece of evidence we have is an anonymous moral tale that appeared in the November 1802 Lady’s Magazine entitled ‘Guilt Pursued by Conscience’. The story follows an alarming encounter between a young woman and ‘a man in dirty and tattered clothes, … a long beard, and naked legs and feet.’ Granted these aren’t children – the only child in this scene is the young woman’s own infant – but the parallels between this episode and that in which Harriet Smith is surprised by the gypsies in Emma are noticeable. They strike all the more forcibly because the story tells us that the young woman at the centre of ‘Guilt Pursued by Conscience’ is a ‘deserted orphan’ raised at a ‘boarding school’ (LM 33 [Nov. 1802]: 563).

Her name is Clara, a woman of dubious origins and few prospects, who ‘despise[s] ambition’ and seeks ‘only the genuine enjoyments of domestic happiness’. These she finds in abundance with one Mr Knightley, a ‘country gentleman’ who rarely visit ‘the capital’ and who disregards the ‘sneers’ of friends by ignoring the lack of advantage in the connection and marries the young boarding school girl (563).

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LM XXXIII (Nov 1802): 563. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

The remainder of the story rapidly documents Clara’s history. The apparent beggar is, in fact, a wealthy former business partner of Clara’s father, who had been entrusted to make financial and pastoral provision for his friend’s charge after his death. Giving way instead to his greed and the prospects of increasing his fortune, however, he subsequently abandoned the child and when finally too troubled by his conscience to continue his life of dissipation, found himself unable to locate her, upon which unsettling discovery, he renounced his fortune to self-punish his misguided deeds. In the kind of improbably serendipitous resolution that was very familiar to Lady’s Magazine readers, this chance encounter with Clara leads to the restoration of family ties and the heroine’s fortune.

As Copeland points out, in so many ways, ‘Guilt Pursued by Conscience’ is a world apart from that of Emma’s Highbury. Indeed, Austen seems to reject outright the romance resolution that structures the ending of so many Lady’s Magazine moral tales: Harriet Smith will, after all, not marry the country gentleman. One of the lessons that Emma, especially, has to learn is that such quixotic readings of the world have no place within it and belief in them leads only to heartache.

But what are we to make of the connection between Austen’s novel and this obscure tale? Is Austen’s apparent re-writing of ‘Guilt Pursued by Conscience’ an attempt to obliterate – or overwrite, to use the term William L. Warner uses in relation to Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) – the popular fiction that preceded it? [2] Perhaps.

I can’t help but feel, though, that Austen (like Richardson when writing back to the likes of Eliza Haywood) is more than a little indebted to what she might seem to criticise. Remember chapter 5 of Northanger Abbey? Austen was one of the most eloquent defenders of popular fiction of her day.

And let’s remember also that Austen wasn’t averse to deploying the improbably serendipitous ending herself. All those characters falling out of love with the wrong people and in love with right ones at exactly the right moment. All very convenient. All very ironically done. And all very Lady’s Magazine-like.

Clara Knightley and Harriet Smith have, I think, lots in common. Granted, Clara is fortuitously restored to her birthright, where Harriet doesn’t have one to be restored to, but as the moral tale and Austen’s novel make clear, neither woman needs nor wants one. Clara is perfectly happy with her Mr Knightley (who wouldn’t be?) as he is with his wife before the intervention of her putative guardian, just as Harriet is mutually happy with Robert Martin before Emma gets involved.

Both ‘Guilt Pursued by Conscience’ and Emma, I would suggest, are works of fiction that are about the improbable demands of readers for fictions of female happiness that can fall very wide of the mark. The short fiction in the Lady’s Magazine may not wear its irony as proudly or as deftly as Austen’s novels do, but it is there nonetheless, ready for Austen to learn from it.

Emma at 200: From English Village to Global Appeal’ runs at Chawton House from 21 March to 25 September 2016. The treasured items that will be on display for the duration of the exhibition are being loaned to the Library (a charity) free of charge, but Chawton House Library needs to raise at least £8,000 to cover transport, security and insurance costs. If you are able to make a donation online, no matter how small, please visit Chawton House Library’s website, here.


[1] Edward Copeland, ‘Money Talks: Jane Austen and the Lady’s Magazine’, in Jane Austen’s Beginnings: The Juvenilia and Lady Susan (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1989), 153-71.

[2] William B. Warner, Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain, 1684-1750 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998). See chapter 5.


Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent



The Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off FAQS

If you have been following our Stitch Off posts, you may not need to read this, although you may well like to take a look at just some of the examples of work so far that our followers have sent us. Frankly, they are stunning.

The reason we have written this is that many of our followers old and new (and there are LOTS of new followers – thank you!) have been in touch with us recently to write a post that summarises what this thing called the Stitch Off is and how they can take part.

So, here is everything you want to know about the Stitch Off (we hope) all in one handy blog post.

What is the Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off?

The premise is simple.


We want to recreate and bring back to life a handful of some of the hundreds of embroidery patterns the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832) published every month over the course of its 62-year run.

We want to learn from your experiences about the challenges and pleasures of ‘work’, as it would have been known at the time, that would have occupied many of the magazine’s readers.

How can I take part?


Alison Larkin 1

© Alison Larkin (2016).

We have made available 8, rare surviving embroidery patterns from the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832) – one of the first, longest and most influential women’s magazines – to followers of our project and blog. There are patterns for a gown, cravat, handkerchief and apron (all from 1796) and for muff, waistcoat and shoes (from 1775, the year of Jane Austen’s birth). The first five patterns are owned by Jennie Batchelor, the Principal Investigator of the Leverhulme Research Project this blog is all about, who very luckily acquired them from a reader of this blog. The last three have been generously shared by Penny Gore, whom readers of this blog may well know as a BBC Radio3 presenter.

High resolution images of all the patterns can all be found and downloaded for use here with their original dimensions.



Waistcoatpattern 1775 (PG)


Why should I take part? Or, how big a Jane Austen fan are you?


© Sue Jones (2016)

Well, mostly because you want to. But also, perhaps, because it could be lots of fun. Because lots of people already are taking part and are already having lots of fun. Maybe because we are sharing all of your works in progress and gloriously finished works on our blog, Twitter feed and Facebook page.


And maybe because if you do, your work could be on display at a major exhibition running from 21 March to 25 September at Chawton House Library, former residence of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Emma (1815).

This sounds too good to be true (a project follower’s words). Is there a catch?

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Not really. If you are willing to have your work on display and don’t mind it being handled – it will be on a table, not behind glass – then all you need do is send it to us and we will return it to you when the exhibition ends. It will take pride of place on a display in the Oak Room of Chawton House Library, which will be devoted to the subject of female accomplishments (music, painting and needlework) for the exhibition’s duration. We’d also love it if you could send pictures to us via Twitter or Facebook along the way so we can share your work and experiences with others.


Do I need to be skilled in historic embroidery techniques?

Absolutely not. Some of our Stitch Off participants are wielding their tambour hooks with breathtaking dexterity. Others (like me) are resurrecting dim memories of how their grandmother taught them to do chain stitch and satin stitch. Some are using period sensitive fabrics, silks and colours. Others, to use the words of another Stitch Off participant, are modernising and ‘going wild’. You might try working up a small detail or a full garment. Whatever you do, we’re just happy you are taking part.

How do I register interest in the Stitch Off?

If you follow us on social media, just let us know there. If not, why not put a comment below?
We’ll be delighted to hear from you any which way you choose.

Where do I send my completed work and when do you need it?

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If you want your work to be at the exhibition from the start we would need it, ideally, by 16 March. However, it that seems too soon, we can always add your work to the exhibition once it’s started (the advantage of not being behind glass).

Work should be sent to: Sarah Parry, Learning and Visitor Manager, Chawton House Library, Chawton, Alton, Hampshire, GU34 1SJ.

Please do send us your address if you would like your work returned after the exhibition closes.


Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent

The Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off goes to Chawton House Library

If you have been following the project Twitter feed (@ladysmagproject) or recently set-up Facebook page you’ll have seen some of the recent updates we’ve been getting from project followers about their progress in the Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off.


© Sue Jones (2016).


We were absolutely delighted a little over a week ago to receive images of this beautiful worked-up sprig detail from one of our patterns from Sue Jones. Sue (who blogs over at Tortoise Loft ) completed this fine shadow work in filament silk (from Devere Yarns) on some silk habotai fabric. The colours and delicate finish really bring this pattern to life and have been much admired by the project’s followers.



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Sue learned of the Stitch Off from Rachel Wright of Virtuosew Adventures, which has to be one of my favourite blog titles ever. Rachel has also embarked on her Stitch Off project in the past week: a caramel-coloured pashmina. Rachel has written a really interesting post on her blog about her first experiments on this unamenable fabric, which we hope you’ll all pop over and visit here. It’s a shame she is going to unpick them to complete the finished article, but at least she has photos of her work so far, as well as earning ‘a newfound respect for any lady of the period who embroidered her muslin dresses, or her silk gauzes’.


It’s so lovely to hear and see how you are all getting on and, in particular, to learn what you are finding out about the challenges of this kind of work. If we haven’t yet posted pictures of your current projects we promise we will soon. But until then, we have another way to repay your efforts.

You may have seen some hints on our social media pages that we have an announcement to make about the Stitch Off. Well here it is.

Drumroll, please…

We have been approached by Chawton House Library to exhibit some of the results of the Stitch Off at their forthcoming exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Emma.

The Lady’s Magazine project has strong connections with Chawton House Library, a centre for the study of women’s writing from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries housed in the Elizabethan manor house that belonged to Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight. I was lucky enough to have my first full-time academic job at Chawton and still feel very much linked to the Library and all the great work it supports; Jenny has been a Chawton House Library Visiting Fellow on two occasions in the past few years; and the two of us and Koenraad were delighted to be invited to talk about our project at Chawton in May of last year.

Full details of the ‘Emma at 200’ exhibition can be found here. As you’ll see, it really is going to be something else. The riches of the Chawton collection are being mined to illuminate the world and reception of Austen’s novel in Britain and Europe, and several other items are being loaned from other major research collections in the UK and beyond.

An entire room of the exhibition is going to be devoted to the topic of female accomplishments – music, painting and, of course, needlework – which readers of the novel will know loom large in this, as in all, Austen’s novels. And that’s where we come in.

I will be loaning my copy of the Lady’s Magazine that has the Stitch Off patterns in it and will be making copies available to exhibition goers. But what Chawton House Library would really like (really, really like) are modern-day worked-up examples of the patterns for visitors to see and handle.

So, if you have been waiting for an excuse to start the Stitch Off, maybe this is it. If you would like your working-ups of any of our patterns featured in the exhibition, all you need to do is get in touch via the comments box below or on Twitter or Facebook. We would love to have you involved. You would need to send your work to us by the middle of March (the exhibition runs from 21 March to 25 September 2016) and must not mind your work being handled as it will be displayed on a table in the exhibition room rather than behind glass. We will endeavour to return all work to you after the exhibition closes in September.

Completed (or partially completed) work for display at the exhibition should be sent to:

Sarah Parry, Learning and Visitor Manager, Chawton House Library, Chawton, Alton, Hampshire, GU34 1SJ.

We have already approached a few of our stitchers who have enthusiastically agreed to take part. We hope you might be able to join them!

Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent


The Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off: Update #1

Now we are comfortably into the new year, we thought it was high time that we gave a brief update on the Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off. For the uninitiated, where have you been? But if you have managed not to hear us shout about what we’re doing on social media, I should explain that we have made available a number of embroidery patterns from a bound copy of the magazine from 1796 that I recently acquired in the hopes that some of you (lots of you!) might try to make them up and tell or show us what you enjoyed and learned in the process. Photos of the patterns (along with their measurements) can be found here.

The first thing to say is thank you! Thank you for your interest, your enthusiasm and your expertise. Lots of people have sent us emails and tweets about wanting to take part in the Stitch Off and what you might do for it, although we know that many of you have other projects you need to finish up first. That fact, along with the holiday season and all the busy-ness that entails, has led some of you to ask us if we have an end date in mind for the Stitch Off. At the moment, we don’t. We want everyone who wants to take part to do whenever it fits in with their lives.

Some of you, though, have already got stuck in and we wanted to share some of your images and experiences so far.

Larkin Stitch Off

© Alison Larkin (2015).

The first person to contact us with their impressions of the patterns was embroiderer and lecturer Alison Larkin, whose wonderful blog on historical embroidery will no doubt be known to many people reading this post. As Alison explains in this post, she is currently working with Sophie Forgan on an exhibition for the Captain Cook Memorial Museum on Sailors’ Wives and Sweethearts for which she is producing a replica map sampler and a piece of partially completed embroidery. When she suggested that the latter might use the winter shawl pattern we’d published, we were overjoyed. Alison’s comments on the unprofessional  and untidy drawing of the pattern really intrigue us, and we’d be delighted if others of you who are working with different patterns (or others from different points in the magazine’s history) think this is a one-off or characteristic of their published patterns across its run and what conclusions we might draw from this. (I still am in the dark about where the patterns were produced and whether for the magazine, specifically, or not). Alison’s work on the Stitch-Off project so far (one of her many projects) has been to clean up the pattern and the results look terrific. We can’t wait until she has the time to begin stitching.


© Jenny DiPlacidi (2015).

The first person to complete a pattern was Jenny DiPlacidi, one third of our project team. Jenny went a little off piste for her contribution to the Stitch Off and worked on a pattern from a copy of a bound issue of the magazine she bought last year. Using material and threads she already had, Jenny returned to stitching after a long time away to produce this replica of one of three watch cases published in the magazine for 1775. She plans on attempting another design very soon. You can read about Jenny’s thoughts on the process in the blog post she wrote on the subject here.


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© Lucie Whitmore (2016).

The last example we want to share for now is by Lucie Whitmore, whom I had the great pleasure of meeting briefly and hearing speak at a multi-disciplinary conference on clothing from the medieval period to the 1960s in May last year entitled Disseminating Dress. Lucie, who has a first degree in textile design (print and embroidery) is currently completing a PhD on women’s dress in World War I at the University of Glasgow. But she jumped at the chance of transporting her research interests more than a hundred years before that to work on this design for a gown or apron. Lucie worked on some muslin she had to hand and used silks she had lying around.

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© Lucie Whitmore (2016).



The results, we’re sure you’ll agree, look really lovely, although working white on white must be tiring on the eyes in the low light of the darkest and rainiest British winter I can remember.



But never fear. As Dr Sally Tuckett (also from the University of Glasgow) reminded us, where there’s whisky, there’s a way.

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We have lots of other experiments in the pipeline after reading your queries about the magazine’s song sheets and recipes, but we hope Sally will excuse us if this isn’t one of them!

If you are taking part in the Stitch Off, we’d love to hear from you. To get in touch, you can reply in the comments box below, tweet us via @ladysmagproject or email via our new project Facebook page. If you’re not, then please do still like our new Facebook page where we will be keeping you up to date with the project in more than 140 characters at a time.


Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent


The Lady’s Magazine Project: New Year Round-up

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LM XXVII (Supp, 1796). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Happy new year from Jenny, Koenraad and me! I’m finding it hard to believe that it’s 2016 already and even harder to believe that the Lady’s Magazine Project is just 9 months from completion. The compilation and publication of our fully-annotated index to all of the text-based content of the first 48 years of the Lady’s Magazine‘s run is very much on track, thank goodness. But the fact that the end of September 2016 makes an appearance in the calendar I have just stuck on the wall by my desk at home has nonetheless prompted some audible drawing in of breath.

Therefore, and in the spirit of the season, we thought that our first post of the year should be a round-up of some of the highlights of the past 15 months, if only to remind us how far we have come.

Getting our ducks (aka Excel columns) in a row:

In many ways, the least exciting but also most contentious and important part of our work since the project began has been finalising the format and parameters of our index, which we will be making available for public use in September 2016. Establishing clear, consistent and a user-friendly layout and language to catalogue every one of the more than fourteen thousand text-publications in the magazine’s first print run – including data on their authors (names, ages, locations and sex where known), sources (for non-original items) and metadata for each article (keywords, modes and genres) – is absolutely vital if the index is to be the comprehensive search tool we want it to be. Arriving at these decisions is also much easier said than done, however.

Working with the magazine’s own eccentric (she says politely) indexing practices and having very incomplete data about some articles are only the smallest of these challenges and actually the easiest to overcome. Finding a vocabulary that is meaningful to us now, but sensitive to the time of the magazine’s publication, has been a much more perplexing conundrum. We have spent weeks discussing the merits and demerits of particular terms: What do you call an author who doesn’t claim to write a piece they send in to a magazine but might have written nonetheless? Is plagiarism a useful term to describe non-original items published without acknowledgement as being such in the magazine? What is the difference between a romance and a moral tale?

While these conundrums still produce some head-scratching and lively conversation over coffee and sometimes chocolates, we now have a stable set of terms and the layout of the Excel spreadsheet the data is in is fixed. Whether we publish it in that format or in something else is not 100 per cent certain after some potentially exciting developments in recent weeks. But that’s all up in the air for the moment. We’ll keep you posted, I promise.

Discoveries: or, how we lost years of lives on Ancestry:

When we haven’t been attempting to reconstruct an eighteenth-century coffee house in my office, we have been immersed in various archives and various online databases working on our respective strands of the project. I, for one, will freely admit to getting lost down several long, dark rabbit holes in the past year and a bit (and several years before the project even began) trying to identify authors of unsigned or pseudonymous contributors, or establish the network around the magazine’s publishers, the Robinsons. And then we entered the fascinating, labyrinthine world of genealogy websites and their uncanny ability to make 3 hours slip away in what feels like 8 minutes.

We have always been absolutely honest about the fact that our project is not the key to all of the magazine’s mythologies. We will provide as much information as we can on everything in the magazine from 1770 to 1818, but there will be sources that are taken from elsewhere we might not dissever the origins of, hidden relationships between readers, writers and publishers, and many, many authors’ identities will not be able to uncover.

But we have had many small victories, too – many of which we have already shared on the blog – and every one of them has been sweet. We’ve been delighted to construct biographies for some contributors, like the prolific and talented Elizabeth Yeames (sister of fellow contributor Catharine) and for whom I now have a file containing her baptismal record, her marriage certificate, her heartbreaking will and even a picture of her gravestone. We have been fascinated by courtships carried out in the magazine’s pages and the discovery of a manuscript autobiography of John Webb of Haverhill, whose work was a mainstay of the publication for many years. There is still more to tall you about and much more to discover over the next few months and every bit of information gleaned makes those lost hours absolutely worth it.

Talks and archives:

We have been surprised and thrilled that the project has generated so much public and academic interest since it began and even more surprised and thrilled to get so many opportunities to speak about it as individuals or as a team at Chawton House Library, in LA and Toronto and the Universities of Cardiff, Glasgow, Ghent, Kent, York and Trondheim. At every talk we learn something new and every time we have spoken about the project we have found out more about what people want and need it to be. Next stop for the project is the BSECS conference at Oxford later this week, where Jennie is talking about pseudonymity in the  magazine, with Jenny and Koenraad heading to Dundee later in the year and all three of us to the University of East Anglia in May.

Making our own community:

As we’ve said on the blog before, one of the hallmarks of the magazine’s success was its creation of a community of reader-contributors who felt deeply invested in its contents. The biggest pleasure of this project has been the formation of a new community of people interested in the periodical’s history and the future research it might generate. This blog has a modest but loyal (thank you!) following and our followers on Twitter are incredibly generous in sharing their enthusiasm for and knowledge about the magazine and its diverse contents. The social media arm of the project has been its biggest revelation to me, opening up a conversation I used to just have in my own head about the magazine to the insights and vast knowledge bases of social and dress historians, novelists, genealogists, archivists, historical re-enacters and textile enthusiasts and needleworkers. The Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off – already underway, although there is still time to join in – is just one of many dimensions to the project I did not have the foresight to imagine when I first conceived of the project. I’m sure it’s just one of many surprises to come in the following months.

So, thanks again for all your support for us over the past year and I hope you stick with us for the next 9 months!

Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent

The Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off

Update: The patterns have been uploaded here for you to enjoy and try. Good luck and let us know how you get on.


Readers of this blog who also follow my Twitter feed (@jenniebatchelor) or the project’s (@ladysmagproject) will already know that this has been an exciting week for me. In the space of a week, I have purchased not one, not two, but three bound volumes of the Lady’s Magazine. I bought the first two – a bound volume for 1822 and a half-year (July to December) for 1830 – together via a conventional route which took me to a wonderful second-hand bookseller. They were a one-off and rare treat for myself, paid with by various extra-curricular work I have been doing and for which I felt I had worked hard enough to reward myself with something really pretty special. The third volume I acquired was a different story altogether.

Earlier this week, I was called at work by someone whose name I had not heard before but who had heard of me via our project website and this blog. She told me that she was trying to sort through and declutter her home after a recent and nasty fall and had a lot of old books that she had bought from boot fairs, charity shops and jumble sales over the years and that she wanted rid of. One of these books was the Lady’s Magazine for 1796. She described it as tatty and said she didn’t want it any more but wanted it to find a good home, someone who would love it and look after it as she feared it might one day be put on a skip.

I asked her more about it. I asked her what page the volume started on and worked out from her answer that it was a half year that started in July. She emphasised again that the magazine’s condition was not good and I conjured a mental picture of it based on the several broken-spined, torn and heavily discoloured copies I have seen in bookshops or photographed on Ebay. Of course, I wouldn’t let it languish and would provide a good home to any copies of the magazine out there, but I concluded that this probably wasn’t a volume I would have hunted out for purchase had I not been alerted to its existence.

But then she told me that the magazine had some interesting stuff inside. Music. Patterns.


My ears pricked up. I told her a little more about the magazine and urged her not to give it away. It was of some monetary value even if very, very tatty, and because of its cultural value, I would be very interested in it and would keep it as far as possible away from that skip.

I arranged to travel to meet the book’s owner, who was an incredible and fascinating woman with whom I had so much more in common than it was possible to imagine when I first picked up the phone. We had a cup of tea and chatted about various things. She gave me cooking pears from her garden, some books for my children, and then she presented me with the magazine, which I subsequently insisted I bought from her.

It is gorgeous! Yes, it’s mottled and discoloured in places, but the binding is in tact (half-years generally fair better than the incommodiously large annual volumes, I was reminded). But the greatest pleasure of all was finding a pattern folded behind almost every one of the fold-out song sheets the volume also contained.

We have commented before on the blog about the expectation of the magazine’s publishers that patterns would be used and therefore ripped out of monthly issues of the periodical prior to binding in annual form. Some patterns survive in bound volumes, but the vast majority do not. We have been acquiring as many images or hard copies of these patterns as we can (if you know of or own any, please get in touch!), and I am looking forward to seeing in person a number that are in bound volumes of The Lady’s Magazine in the University of Cardiff’s Special Collections next week.


A New Pattern for a Gentleman’s Cravat

But this half-year, now my half-year for 1796, has patterns for almost every monthly issue it contains.

I was recovering at home yesterday after a minor accident, which has left me with a very sore back. I couldn’t concentrate on work, so I concentrated on the least concentration-demanding activity I could (briefly) think of: Twitter. I was so excited about my new acquisition, I wanted to show it off to other people by sharing pictures of the patterns and other engravings and song sheets. I was staggered by the reaction the images got (retweets, likes, comments, direct messages). Talk about spreading a little happiness.

In the course of my many and fascinating interactions with people yesterday, one from the lovely @ExpatHistorian in conversation with my friend, historian and fellow eighteenth-century fashion enthusiast Dr Hannah Greig (University of York), completely stopped me in my tracks. Tweet

Wouldn’t that be great, I thought… Hang on. No: wouldn’t that be brilliant? Shouldn’t we do that? How could I make this happen? This had to happen!

As a child, my grandmother taught me to sew and I did embroidery for relaxation (and because I am hopeless at doing only one thing at a time) until my 20s. Sadly, I haven’t embroidered for nearly 20 years and, as a consequence, I am not nearly as relaxed now as I was when younger. I have often played around with the idea of one day trying out a Lady’s Magazine embroidery or tambour pattern for myself. Now might be the time to try. But how much better would it be to have lots of people doing this too? People much better at sewing than I am. What could this tell us about the patterns? About the period? About the magazine?

I don’t yet know the answers to these questions, but what I can say is that I am now confident that we are going to find out.

A New Pattern for a Gown or Apron.

A New Pattern for a Gown or Apron.

Thanks to the enthusiasm of our tweeps, I am going to scan all of the patterns to which I own the copyright in the next week or so and within two weeks I plan to make them available on the Lady’s Magazine project website so that people can download them and attempt to replicate them. We plan to post results and people’s experiences of trying to recreate these wonderful designs on the blog in future weeks and months.

We are completely delighted that lots of people, novices and experts with needles alike, have expressed interest in the experiment. Some will no doubt attempt to do the work in as historically authentic a way as possible. Others might feel inclined to modernise. We don’t mind. Anything goes!

All we ask is that if this does interest you, that you spread the word by sharing this post and asking people to visit our Twitter feeds where we will update you when the scans are ready.

In the coming weeks, I plan to write a little more about the context of the patterns for those who don’t know their tambours from their tambourines. But in the mean time, do let us know if you are interested in our little experiment.

Ready, set, STITCH!

UPDATE: The patterns have been uploaded now and can be found here. Enjoy and let us know how you get on!

Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent




Lost in translation: transnationalism and the Lady’s Magazine

One of the great pleasures and well as challenges of working on the Lady’s Magazine and other miscellanies of its day is the extraordinary breadth of content with which you are confronted. My literary training in the period has equipped me with ways of, and contexts in which, to read eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century novels, tales, poems, essays, criminal biographies, reviews, travel writing, news and other, principally prose genres too numerous to mention. My expertise is clearly much stronger in some areas than others, but I’m not going to reveal the chink in my academic armour and tell you which I’m not so hot on. Oh well, as it’s just us, I’ll tell you that basically anything to do with maths or what we could call the sciences makes me sprint for the aspirin jar.

My life-long fascination with material culture means I have strategies for reading fashion plates, reports and embroidery patterns, too, although despite my best efforts, I know that I will only ever be an amateur art or textile historian. I lack the knowledge to situate and fully grasp the context for the magazine’s sheet music, but years of dabbling in lots of musical instruments, none of which I play very well, means I can sight read and hum or sing the tunes I come across.

The real headache for me is the foreign language material in the magazine, of which there is a small but significant amount, most of which is in French. My French is just not good enough to be competent in reading these articles in a scholarly context. (This is another of the million reasons why Koenraad is such an asset to the project.)

Often the foreign language material is translated in the magazine, however, so I can at least usually read it in English. But I am always aware that to do so is potentially to limit meaning and erase context. The more I read the magazine, whether I am looking at Parisian fashion plates, or reading memoirs, or essays on education translated from French or German, the more I am interested in how this self-avowedly British magazine is, like so much eighteenth-century print culture, produced in a much more complex and rich European context of intellectual exchange and debate than we Anglophone scholars often acknowledge and that we overlook to our cost.

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 20.34.44

LM XLI (Nov. 1810): 508. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

This is an issue that was brought home to me very forcefully in recent weeks when I was spending more time with the 1810 and 1811 issues of the magazine, which featured from November 1810 to August 1811 a serial and apparently unabridged translation of a work from the Spanish under the following title: A Defence of Women. Written A. D. 1726. Translated from the Spanish of Geronymo Feijoo. The translator’s name is given as Elenir Irwin, a name which, to my knowledge, does not appear again in the magazine and whose identity, if indeed this is a legal name rather than a pseudonym, I have not yet been able to confirm.

The fact that the magazine was publishing translated Spanish essays and excerpts did not surprise me. Although French and German are the most common languages of non-English source-texts in the magazine, Spanish material appears from time to time. In 1810, however, the magazine excels itself in an interest in all things Spanish. In March 1810, for instance, it publishes a biography of King Ferdinand VII, and throughout the year extracts appear from texts including Jean-François Bourgoing’s Travels in Spain (an English translation of which had been published by the Robinsons in 1789),  Robert Semple’s Second Journey in Spain (1809) and Alexandre de Laborde’s A View of Spain (also 1809). What did surprise me was the content of Feijoo’s extraordinary work and the fact that, in my ignorance, I had never heard of him before.

Benito Feijoo

Portrait of Feijoo y Montenegro by Juan Bernabé Palomino.


A quick search pulled up an English and a more detailed Spanish Wikipedia page for Benito Jerónimo Feijoo (1676-1764), a Benedictine monk who wrote hugely engaging and popular learned, multi-volume collections of essays, including the Teatro crítico universal de Errores communes (1726–1740) from which ‘Defence of Women’ (Defensa de las Mujeres) is taken. From the opening lines, I was hooked by the compelling modernity of Feijoo’s words, at least as they were translated into English:



While I enter with alacrity upon the defence of the female sex, I am aware how arduous is the undertaking: I am not merely preparing to encounter the prejudices of the vulgar, but in  attempting a universal defence of one sex, I am in danger of a general censure from the other; as there are few men who do not please themselves in asserting their superiority in the scale of being; and many of them extend their contempt for women so far as to deny them almost every excellence. They think their minds peculiarly prone to vice, and their bodies subject to disease.

The point on which these objectors argue with the least reason, is the narrow limit of the female understanding; and therefore after I shall have given a concise refutation of their other attacks, I mean to speak more largely upon the capability of women to acquire the most abstruse sciences, and to ascend to the sublimest speculations. (LM XLI [Nov. 1810]: 508-9)

The text proceeds with a debunking of various, spurious philosophical, medical and cultural myths of gender and reflections on the achievements of a catalogue of European female worthies in its bid to assert women’s moral, physiological, spiritual and intellectual abilities. As it does so, the text betrays some hallmarks of its time, but the abiding sense I had in reading this extraordinary work was shock was that this was a text from the 1720s, authored by a Spanish monk, and that I had never heard of it. Could Feijoo have ever imagined that his essay would be being read by British women in English nearly 90 years after its first publication in Spanish?

I tried to research the reception history of the text and track down British translations from which the Lady’s Magazine translation could have been drawn. My initial searches turned up a couple of prior British translations, one of which I located easily on ECCO, the other I couldn’t initially find (but later did). Neither of these translations matched that in the magazine. And then I had the extreme good fortune to be put in touch with Dr Mónica Bolufer Peruga in the Department of Modern History at the Universidad de Valencia, and who has published a wonderful essay on ‘Rational Equality in the Early Spanish Enlightenment’, which includes a wonderful account of Feijoo’s Defensa in a broader European context in Sarah Knott and Barbara Taylor’s indispensable, Women, Gender and Enlightenment (2005) [1].

Monica alerted me to the fact that there are three known English translations of Feijoo’s Defensa in the eighteenth century: An Essay on Woman, or Physiological and Historical Defence of the Fair Sex. Translated from the Spanish of el Theatro Crítico (London: W. Bingley, c. 1765); Three Essays or Discourses on the Following  Subjects. A Defence or Vindication of the Women. Church Music. A Comparison between Antient and Modern Music. Translated from the Spanish of Feyjoo by a Gentleman (Londor: T. Becket 1778); An Essay on the Learning, Genius and Abilities of the Fair-Sex, Proving them to be not Inferior to Man, from a Variety of Examples extracted from Ancient and Modern History. Translated from the Spanish of El Theatro Crítico (London: T. Steel 1774). The Lady’s Magazine translation matches none of these. And while this doesn’t definitely prove the translation is original to the periodical, it does suggest that Elenir Irwin might well have existed and that she may have been able to translate – and it is an eloquent translation – from Spanish into English, or perhaps Feijoo came to her via a 1755 French translation that neither Dr Bolufer nor I have been able to locate.

In a sense, though, the originality or otherwise of the translation is the least interesting thing about it. Its contents are provocative and rhetorically charged yet measured in its learned campaign to persuade readers that ‘the excellencies of men cannot be denied to women’ (LM XLI [Dec 1810]: 531). There are hints of Mary Astell’s Serious Proposal (1694-97) and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and there is a lot more to say about the text’s argument than I have space to say here.

But to leave off for now, it was a shade of Jane Austen in the translation of Feijoo’s ‘Defence’ that almost stopped me in my tracks. In Chapter IX, Feijoo introduces an ‘allegory’ from the Sicilian Carducio (Vincenzo Carducci) in his ‘dialogues on painting’ about a man and a lion discoursing on the relative merits of their species. Feijoo interprets the ‘fable’ of the allegory in the context of the woman question and formulates it thus: ‘Men were the writers of those books in which the understanding of women is stigmatized as inferior to ours. If women had penned them, we ourselves might have been brought low.’ (LM XLI [Supp 1810]: 595)

Had Jane Austen read this when just a few years letter she too would put such similar words in the mouth of Anne Elliot? I wish I could say I knew. But I don’t. And as the very often (though not always) right Anne concludes, we really can’t allow books to ‘prove anything’ after all. But the rich, transnationally influenced and culturally complex contents of the Lady’s Magazine surely have lots and lots to teach us.

Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent


[1] Mónica Bolufer Peruga, ‘”Neither Male, Nor Female”: Rational Equality in the Early Spanish Enlightenment.



Plagiarism (n): What other people do, or, The P-word part III

We have spent a lot of blog column inches in the past few weeks attempting to work our way through the quagmire of terms and ethical considerations that frame the culture of reprinting, repurposing, or remediating that characterises eighteenth-century magazines. The intellectual hand-wringing that has accompanied our debates about how to acknowledge unacknowledged republications of previously published material that appeared in the Lady’s Magazine in our index has resulted in a more pragmatic and, we hope, much more  accurate and historically nuanced view of the legal and, more importantly, moral face of periodical publishing in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

But, as we have said before, we can’t ignore the dreaded p-word entirely, in no small part because the magazine itself did not. As promised, therefore, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I want here to turn briefly to the question of what these terms meant (and to whom they meant most) in a publication that not only made no bones about the fact that it would situate its original contributions alongside extracts from  ‘the whole circle of Polite Literature’, but that also insisted that such a move undergirded its claims to public utility (‘Address to the Public’, LM XXIII [Jan 1972]: iv).

So what, according to the Lady’s Magazine is a plagiarism? Well, not, as we have documented, when it reprints something with minor amendments, reframing and no acknowledgement. No: plagiarism is not something the magazine does, it appears; it is something that happens to it.

Plagiarism, in short, is what other people do. It is not what the staff writers whom we suspect The Lady’s Magazine employed to draft its non-original content produced. It is what the magazine’s army of volunteer ‘ingenious correspondents’ who provided its original content did when lacking in ingenuity or sufficient guile to pass off others’ work as their own.

No doubt in part aware of the dangers of throwing stones in its own glasshouse, the magazine could be forgiving of such crimes and frequently registered as much in its monthly ‘To our Correspondents’ columns from which source we can glean most about the magazine’s day-to-day operations. In the April 1773 column, for instance, the editor noted that the received ‘Verses to Miss P.’, and which  contained ‘a Translation of an ode of Horace’ was ‘probably a Plagiarism‘, but stopped short of recrimination beyond refusing to publish the missive. Likewise, in May 1772, the editor had reminded readers that it had ‘ever been’ its ‘endeavour to make the poetical part of our Magazine particularly pleasing’, to which end it requested with what seems like unnecessary politeness that ‘no pieces which are not originals’ be submitted to ‘that department’ (LM III [May 1772]: 226).

As these examples intimate, one of the most striking aspects of the magazine’s discussion of plagiarism is how little concerned with the practice it often seems to be. This is not to say that the editors didn’t occasionally wallow in public self-congratulation when they detected that original submissions had been fraudulently transcribed from elsewhere. When, in March 1789, the magazine divined not only that an ‘excellent’ letter from a contributor to the columnist, the Budget, who went by Clio was ‘printed Forty Years ago in the Connoisseur’, but that a ‘long Poem on Taste’ that had also been submitted was from a source that the magazine would not disclose, the editor(s) glee and superiority are not even partially masked.

More often, however, the magazine seems principally to care (perhaps was only forced to care) about the p-word when readers did so. Take, for example, the following, printed in the ‘To our Correspondents’ column of the February 1776 issue:

image 1

LM VII (March 1776): facing p. 116. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

The blend of gallantry and threat on display here is an uneasy combination. The magazine refuses to name names or publish the full extent of the putative calumnies to which it is has been alerted. It wants to protect its authors against such imputations – to act in good faith – and sometimes went to great lengths to give contributors redress against such insinuations. When Constantia Maria, a contributor of historical essays to the magazine in the 1770s was accused of being ‘a plagiarist’ by the apparently unjustly self-righteous Justus, the magazine gave the accused, who had ‘never’, in fact, offered anything to the public as her own’ work, a right of reply (LM VIII, [July 1777]: 277) Not only that, they condemned the tactics and classiness of Justus in the ‘To our Correspondents column of the same issue: his attack on Constantia Maria is itself outed as a ‘plagiarism’ by the magazine’s editor, who pointedly declares also that he has ‘strong reasons to intimate’ that his composition – a ‘series of letters from a nobleman to his son’ is ‘not the composition of a nobleman, but a plebeian‘ (277).

Such acts of courtesy to impugned contributors extended only so long as it was mutually enforced by the behaviour of reader-contributors, however. If they failed in their part of the bargain and ‘put upon’ the magazine by trying to pass off other’s work as their own, then all bets were off, and in no uncertain terms. Such ‘literary robbers’ could be and deserved to be outed before the magazine’s readers (‘To our Correspondents’, LM [Aug 1784]).

If the magazine’s references to plagiarism smack of hypocrisy then that is in part because the stance is at least partly hypocritical, although as we have explained before, lightly edited reprintings by staff writers were a mainstay of the periodical press and seem to have considered, in modern parlance, examples of fair use . But the bigger story here, to my mind, is not why the magazine took the attitude it did towards plagiarism, but why readers seem to have taken it much more seriously than editors did. Another story again is why the act of literary plagiarism, like so many real and imagined vices of the period seems to have fallen upon women with a double weight. As a bizarre article from July 1794 notes, if the female equivalent of the male plagiarist is a woman who has lost her reputation, then a female plagiarist is surely the worst of all creatures on earth (LM XXXV [July 1794]: 352).

In none of the cases mentioned above (or any those I have come across so far) are readers who accuse other contributors of plagiarism aggrieved, as they would surely rightly be, because another has sought to pass off his or her words as their own. Indeed, even when writers did have such grounds for complaint within the periodical’s history, such as when the magazine in October 1773 famously published a song based on verses by Clara Reeve, without consulting her, the author’s complaint was not that her words had been plagiarised without her consent, but that they had not been borrowed accurately.

As Koenraad noted in his fine overview of the periodical’s position in terms of contemporary copyright law, occurs at least eighteen in the Lady’s Magazine between 1770 and 1800,  and there are three of “plagiarist”‘. Even allowing for the various words used by the magazine for what we would without hesitation call plagiarisms today (articles wanting in originality, literary frauds etc), what strikes me most about these statistics is not how frequent but how infrequent these terms are in the magazine’s history. For each full year of the magazine’s run, there were 13 issues, each of about 50 to 60 pages of densely printed content. Even if we generously treble the number of references to plagiarism to encompass any and all synonyms used by the magazine, 60 references to plagiarism in well over 19000 pages of content suggests that plagiarism bleeps much more loudly on our radar than it did on that of our predecessors. Except of course, when those predecessors (like Justus) had a particular if partly inaccessible axe to grind.

So where does all this leave us? The short answer is not much further from where we began. The longer answer is not much more satisfying. The p-word was a term in widespread circulation in the period and in our periodical, as in others of the time, was registered more commonly as an ethical rather than legal matter (although the legal framework should not be forgotten). It was also a practice for which there was widespread tolerance. When W. S. wrote to the magazine in August 1784 to complain vociferously about a plagiarised letter and essay (from the Wit’s Magazine) in the Budget columns earlier in the year, the editor acknowledged the legitimacy of the discovery before noting that August 1784 issue of the Wit’s contained a novel ‘stolen’ from the Lady’s Magazine. 

In the opportunistic, tit-for-tat world of the late-eighteenth-century periodical, reprintings, stolen pieces, plagiarisms (choose your own nomenclature) were everywhere. This is not to say that plagiarism doesn’t exist in or shouldn’t matter in our understanding of the Lady’s Magazine. But it is to say that the assumption that plagiarism is an intrinsically important matter without attending the complicated questions of how much it mattered, why it mattered and to whom it mattered is a least a little misguided.

To refuse to ask such questions is potentially to privilege a set of modern assumptions about the relationship between author, text and originality that we have argued numerous times on this blog have pushed periodicals like the Lady’s Magazine to the margins of literary history. Looking closely at the magazine’s vocabulary for things we think we know and describe, including plagiarism, for its contestations of arguments and concepts that we take for granted can be deeply unsettling. Nonetheless, we remain convinced that in the long term scrutiny of these issues in the magazine’s own terms and those of its time proves illuminating.


Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent




The P-word: or, is it ever right to call a periodical a plagiarism?

The best thing about working on the Lady’s Magazine project is working as part of a team. I’ve worked with colleagues before on conferences and workshop series, and have learned so much from editing with friends. But this is really the first time that I can honestly say that I have researched collaboratively. It’s not the most common model for humanities research, and not all projects would require or possibly even much benefit from this approach.

Honestly, though, nearly a year into our project, I couldn’t imagine having continued my work on it without Jenny and Koenraad, aka my academic consciences, who keep me enthused and keep me honest by questioning my conclusions and nudging me to think differently week by week. We work together in a manner not dissimilar from the way that contributors to the magazine worked with each other: collaboratively, conversationally. Anything we say can be picked up and run with (or unceremoniously dropped) by anyone else. Our contributions to that conversation get better the more they are encouraged or challenged by others.

But like the magazine’s contributors, we don’t always reach a consensus. It’s not often that these disagreements are profound, but they are always important because they tend to strike at the very heart of what we think is at stake in our research and why it might (or might not) matter. The most recent of these few flash-points has been around what I have come now to refer to as ‘the P-word’: plagiarism. It’s not a term I find easy to associate with eighteenth-century periodicals, even though the Lady’s Magazine itself was not averse to using it. So what is my problem with the P-word, and why I am resisting its use in our index?

The fact is that a significant number of contributions to the Lady’s Magazine were originally published elsewhere. The periodical did not conceal this fact from its readers. Often such extracts were published with their original author’s name and the full title of the work from which they were extracted or republished in full underneath the article headers. Indeed, the magazine was quite clear throughout its history that it would serve as a miscellany of works from ‘the whole circle of Polite Literature’ as appeared to the editor or editors to ‘merit their readers’ attention’, as well as providing a forum for the numerous original and amusing communications which we continually receive from our ingenious and liberal correspondents’ (‘Address to the Public’, LM XXIII [Jan 1972]: iv).

Rather more has been made in the slender body of scholarship on the Lady’s Magazine, including my own, about these ‘original and amusing communications’ than its miscellany content. There are, I think, good reasons for this. The tantalising prospect and, as this blog has already demonstrated several times over, the satisfying reality of locating previously widely-read texts by largely unknown authors such as C. D. Haynes (later Golland), John and Elizabeth Legg, Catharine Bremen Yeames and Elizabeth Yeames and John Webb recalibrates our sense of the authorial landscape in our period in ways that I still believe are potentially far-reaching in their implications.

That said, we overlook the miscellany content at our peril. Apart from simply filling so many of the magazine’s pages, this material gives us clues as to the shifting priorities of the magazine as it shaped or responded to oscillations in literary taste and notions of female education, for instance. It also provides clues as to how published works were disseminated and received by their readers. Knowing that some selections from Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) made it into the magazine in June 1792 might seem only to confirm things we already knew: for instance, that Wollstonecraft’s work was part of the public consciousness immediately after its publication; and that the Lady’s Magazine‘s publisher, George Robinson, was sympathetic to the Jacobin cause.

LM VXIII (June 1792): 285. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Librarr. Not to be reproduced without permission.

LM VXIII (June 1792): 285. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Librarr. Not to be reproduced without permission.s

But only reading these extracts will tell you which aspects of Wollstonecraft’s work – her condemnation of false modesty and excessively sensibility – were deemed most worthy of the attention of the magazine’s readers. Moreover, only engaging with this content will give an indication of how the material might have been read. Given that many readers only engagement with Wollstonecraft’s work likely derived from the extracts printed in the popular press, examining such extracts as extracts is an important part of building up a sense of her work’s early reception history. If a reader’s engagement with Wollstonecraft’s work was confined only to these extracts, how does A Vindication of the Rights of Woman read? What does it seem most to be about?

The questions that arise from the publication of such extracts would merit a whole series of blog posts or book chapters of their own. Instead I want to focus briefly here on another kind of extract the magazine publishes: extracts that aren’t acknowledged as such.

As Koenraad has recently explained, he is currently doing battle with the herculean task of seeking out whether seemingly original (because not acknowledged as unoriginal) articles in the Lady’s Magazine were, in fact, written expressly for it. So far, he has identified a number of sources (some unexpected!) for material in the magazine. Some of this material has no signature underneath it; some of it appears with a pseudonym and therefore might seem to be the work of one of the reader-contributors about which we (OK, I) get so excited. Neither of these things is the case.

But are these plagiarisims? The short answer is: I don’t think so.

Plagiarism is a notoriously difficult term to pin down or prove in the eighteenth century and Romantic period. As Tilar Mazzeo’s wonderful book Plagiarism and Property in the Romantic  (2007) elucidates, plagiarism was not a criminally chargeable offence with ‘direct legal consequences’ in the period (10), and was often considered more of an aesthetic rather than moral or legal question. Throughout her book, Mazzeo distinguishes between ‘culpable’ and ‘aesthetic’ plagiarism. Culpable plagiarism is unacknowledged yet conscious – a definition that chimes with our own modern sense of what constitutes literary fraud –  but arguably more important is that culpably plagiarised work is unimproved. Work that has been improved, taken and reworked or repurposed by another hand, is arguably not plagiarised at all [1].

Now if all of this sounds a little murky, it is because it is. Even the most cursory overview of scholarship on the Rowley (Chatterton) or Ossian controversies will point to how internecine these issues were in our period. But add magazines into the mix and it gets a whole lot muddier still.

Histories of copyright and plagiarism offer fascinating context for thinking about the status of unacknowledged, repurposed content in periodicals such as the Lady’s Magazine. Ultimately, however, their general failure to address periodicals as a genre leaves important questions hanging: How were eighteenth-century and Romantic periodicals understood to function in terms of copyright law? Were they, as the magazines themselves often claimed, a special case? And if so, is it at all appropriate to use a word like plagiarism in the same breath as periodicals.

Returning to Mazzeo’s helpful definition for a moment, I can’t really bring myself to do so for several reasons, only some of which I have space to elaborate below.

The first is the difficulty we sometimes experience in trying to establish the original iteration of a work we suspect has been published before it appeared in the Lady’s Magazine. In this digital age, it is, of course, much easier to find previously printed sources for magazine content through search engines or online databases than was once the case. (Note to self: remember, though, that the internet should not be mistaken for a complete archive.) Sometimes the answers obtained from such sources are only partly helpful, however. Often magazine contributions appeared simultaneously or near simultaneously in multiple periodicals. Finding out that a poem appeared in the Lady’s Magazine and the Town and Country (another Robinson publication) or The Gentleman’s Magazine (not a Robinson publication) in the same month tells us nothing about the originality of the work or what its author’s intentions for it were.

Then there is the imaginativeness that needs to be deployed to find some contributions we suspect might not be original to the magazine. Koenraad has already written about this and I hope will do so more as the project develops, but the inventiveness he shows in digitally searching for textual originals (omitting character names, as sometimes these were changed, or finding synonyms for keywords) knows no bounds. But it also leaves me pondering: if a text, while essentially the same in terms of argument, structure, subject or narrative, has names changed, parts excised or keywords altered, can it legitimately be called a plagiarism? Isn’t this a rewritten work. At the very least, while such changes may have be made wilfully, the ‘improvements’ made to the original certainly seem to leave its ‘author’ immune to the accusation of culpable plagiarism as defined by Mazzeo.

Another reservation I have about the P-word when talking about magazines from this period is cultural. For one thing, we know that eighteenth-century novels constantly reworked each others plots, often relying upon readers’ recognition of stock character types or conventional names or plot devices to raise or subvert expectations that would excite readers’ sympathy, fear or horror. For another, intertextual referencing or allusion are commonplace in all textual genres throughout the period, and there was clearly a huge degree of tolerance for (cough-cough) variations in accuracy of citation.

But periodicals are, nonetheless, something of a special case. People reading eighteenth-century and Romantic magazines did not expect to be reading wholly original content. Nor did contributors to magazines always feel they had to be original in their submissions. A common type of submission to the Lady’s Magazine is what I refer to as the commonplace: of a reader who reads a book, the title of which they may or may not remember or disclose, or which they have found in another, sometimes unacknowledged publication, but they find particularly noteworthy for whatever reason and from which they excerpt extracts they send to the magazine for republication.

There are at least two possible ways of reading this practice. It could, and in some cases likely often was, a ruse, whereby staff writers used this convention to recycle already published material in a way that didn’t seem culpably plagiaristic. At other times, these may well have been genuine instances of readers wanting to share with others works they found particularly notable, relevant, or interesting and, in the process, implicitly to declare their own readerly credentials. These kinds of submissions are ones that I would like to return to in a future post. In this context, though, they speak to the widely perceived acceptability of repurposed content, repackaged by a third party, in contemporary magazines.

But I would go further than this. Generically, periodicals (especially magazines as opposed to, say, the essay-periodical) don’t work in the same way as other genres. If, as David Mazella has recently explained, the magazine is a genre, then it is a unique one, one that ‘by definition consumes other, smaller genres or microgenres and presents a temporally segmented selection of content on a regular basis’ [2]. When an extract from a previously published work – a biography, an anecdote, a meditation on good conduct – appear in extracted form in a magazine like the Lady’s,  it becomes something different from what it previously was. Whether it is ‘improved’ or not by its reiteration is a judgement call about which we might not all agree. Even so, it is surely true that the status of the extract, by virtue of its remediation within the magazine genre, is fundamentally different than in its original format even if its wording is substantively or even exactly the same. The Vindication of the Rights of Woman that appears in the Lady’s Magazine, a magazine that also published acknowledged extracts from works of James Fordyce, Dr. Gregory and Jean Jacques-Rousseau that Wollstonecraft held were paradigmatic of the degraded state of woman, is not the same work that Wollstonecraft penned. It reads differently.

These, and many other issues besides, have been discussed at length by the three of us in recent weeks as we establish our terminology for indicating repurposed / recycled / remediated / plagiarised material. It’s led to some lively debate and an extended conversation with some of our followers on Twitter on the @ladysmagazineproject feed and on my own personal Twitter feed (@jenniebatchelor).

Our resolution, for now at least, is to opt for the phrasing  ‘previously published’ to divest from our own terminology the legal and moral implications of the term plagiarism, which may well be anachronistic for our period, especially when referring to periodicals. The solution might seem cowardly or non-committal, but I don’t see it that way. Instead, I see it as a pragmatic, historically sensitive stance on an important issue. The question of why, I think, it matters so much is one I will return to in my next blog post in a few weeks’ time.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on this!


Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent

[1] Tilar J. Mazzeo, Plagiarism and Literary Property in the Romantic Period (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).

[2] I am very grateful to Professor Mazella for sharing his paper ‘Temporality, Microgenres, Authorship and The Lady’s Magazine’, which was delivered at the ASECS 2015 conference.









Living in Periodicals: the curious case of the two Charlotte Richardsons

We have written before about some of the many difficulties involved in identifying writers published in the Lady’s Magazine. A few weeks ago I was confronted with an oddity that was a new one to me, even after working with the periodical for such a long time: two women with near identical signatures whom I was convinced were different people.

Disambiguating (to use a term Wikipedia is fond of) signatures of contributors to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century periodicals is a knotty problem. It’s very likely, for instance, that generic signatures like A. Z. or Leonora were used by multiple individuals over time or even at the same time. To complicate matters further, we also know that the signatures of a single individual could be variously presently over the course of several months or years or even in a single issue of the magazine. The prolific early nineteenth-century prose and poetic contributor James Murray Lacey, for example, went by Mr. J. M. Lacey, Esq, J. M. Lacey, J. M. L. and possibly J. M. (author of many poems in the 1800s). Internal and external evidence can help resolve these riddles, but sometimes we just can’t be sure that we can definitively link all contributions by a single author. There is also, of course, the danger that we may attribute contributions to an author on the basis of such circumstantial evidence where, in reality, their authors were two or more different people. J. M. may well be James Murray Lacey. But he may also be John Mayne, another regular poetic contributor in the same years. Or J. M. may be someone else entirely.

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LM XLI (Aug 1810): 376. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British l Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

My own disambiguation conundrum began when reading the poetry section of the August 1810 issue of the Lady’s Magazine. Something intrigued me about the “Lines by C. C. R.”: talent; a distinctive voice. I idly wonder who s/he was (a Charles Rowley or Clara Robinson, I pondered), but setting aside my feminist concerns about essentialist assumptions for a moment, I was convinced that C. C. R. was a young woman. And then I remembered a poet whose work had appeared in the magazine a couple of years before: a Charlotte Richardson whose ‘Stanzas by Charlotte Richardson’ had been published in August 1808 and who had been addressed in a sonnet in the same year by none other than the hardworking J. M. L. Could C. C. R. of Hinderwell and Charlotte Richardson be the same person?

A cursory skim through the magazine provided some clues. C. C. R. was, indeed, a woman and, to top it all, a woman whose surname was Richardson. All was revealed in a poem entitled  ‘Lines respectfully addressed to Miss C. C. Richardson, Hinderwell’ by fellow contributor Joanna Squire in the September 1811 issue (LM [Sept 1811]: 429). But I just couldn’t believe that this Charlotte Richardson and and Charlotte Richardson of the 1808 ‘Stanzas’ were one and the same. The tone and style of the poems that appeared above these signatures were too different.

I knew from a previous life of mine that Hinderwell is in North Yorkshire. So, I started googling ‘Charlotte Richardson’ and ‘Yorkshire’ and initially found several references to a Charlotte Richardson (nee Smith, 1775-1825) who had attended the Grey Coat School in York before entering service and who had developed an improbable but undeniable talent for poetry. Widowed as a young woman, with a child to feed and poverty stricken, this natural genius had been discovered and patronised by the philanthropist Catharine Cappe, who raised a subscription to have some of Charlotte Richardson’s verse published.

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LM XLII (Oct 1811): 477. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British l Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

All this sounded very familiar. I went back to my notes on the magazine and found a biography of Richardson authored by Cappe and published in the Lady’s Magazine in September 1805 (LM [Sept 1805]: 477-79). How could I have forgotten that Cappe had written to the Lady’s Magazine alongside the Gentleman’s and a select group of other leading periodicals to help her raise subscriptions to see a volume of Richardson’s verse into the press? It duly appeared as Poems on Different Occasions in 1806.

Was Charlotte Richardson C. C. Richardson? I didn’t think so. I couldn’t find any evidence that Charlotte Richardson had a middle name at all, least of all one beginning with a C. But I found the answer I was looking for soon enough. C. C. Richardson of Hinderwell was in fact Charlotte Richardson. Just not the same Charlotte Richardson.

Charlotte Caroline Richardson (1796-1854) did live in Yorkshire, but was born in Lambeth, and led a very different life from her fellow poet. She was the daughter of Robert (died 1804) and Elizabeth Richardson (1760-1841), both of whom were poets, and had two siblings, Elizabeth (yet another poet) and Eleanor. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Charlotte, who would become the most successful writer in her family, was sent to live with her aunt in Hinderwell, Yorkshire, as a child. In 1817 she returned to live with her long-since widowed mother, now running a school in Vauxhall. The place names that sometimes appear alongside her signatures in the Lady’s Magazine chart this move. That same year, she published Waterloo, a Poem on the Late Victory and a book of children’s verse entitled Isaac and Rebecca. Until 1818, she regularly submitted poems to the Lady’s Magazine, although none of the biographical sources I have identified mention this fact. [1] The only poem to appear under her full legal name in the magazine was ‘Hymn on the Death of her Most Gracious Majesty’ which appeared in the December 1818 issue (LM [Dec 1818]: 575). Other poetic volumes followed, as did the Robinson-published Gothic novel The Soldier’s Child, or Virtue Triumphant (1823). Four years later she married a John Richardson. A woman whose name had so perplexed me didn’t even complicate things by getting married and changing it. I couldn’t have forgiven myself if I hadn’t been able to identify her!

What interests me about the two Charlotte Richardsons is not just their writing, but the complex ways that their lives and writings are woven together in the rich if not always evenly sewn tapestry of the magazine. In a rather different way to the natural genius Charlotte Richardson, whose brutalising life story as well as sentimental verse was regaled before Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine readers, Charlotte Caroline Richardson’s life was a life lived in periodicals. Her father, a regular contributor to the long-running almanack The Ladies Diary (1704-1841), courted her mother, fellow contributor, Betty Smales, in its pages in flirtatious poetry before tracking down her location and eventually persuading her to marry him. Charlotte Caroline Richardson and her sister Elizabeth would also both publish poems in the Diary, although my initial researches suggest that none of the poems that Charlotte sent to the Lady’s Magazine were published in the Ladies’ Diary. Poetry submitted to both periodicals later appeared with other works in her Harvest, a Poem in Two Parts, With other Poetical Pieces (1818), a volume dedicated to the Ladies’ Diary‘s editor, Charles Hutton. 

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The Ladies’ Diary; or, Woman’s Almanack, For the Year of our Lord 1815, 112: 21.

She had reason to be grateful to Hutton. For it was in his annual, in 1815, in a poem entitled ‘The Redbreast’s Fate’ about a ‘shivering’ robin caught in a storm and nurtured by the poet before being killed by a cat, that (however improbably it may sound) a reconciliation between Charlotte and her estranged mother was achieved. Perhaps it was these lines that affected Elizabeth to write back to her daughter: ‘So oft in life’s uneven way,/ Some stroke may intervene,/ Sweep all our fancied joys away/ And change the once-lov’d scene.’ [2]. In the next year’s number, Elizabeth addressed her daughter in a poem that begins by hailing her daughter’s literary talent and mourning the loss of her spouse, and Charlotte’s father, whose ‘numbers’ had ‘Long […] graved Diaria’s page’ [3]. Touched by Charlotte’s words Elizabeth vowed to ‘clasp’ her daughter to her ‘aching heart’ once again. Their reconciliation on the page as well, it seems in life, was complete.

Of course, behind these poetic effusions lay complex psychological realities that are beyond reconstruction. But what is clear is that for both Charlotte and Charlotte Caroline Richardson, life inflected their poetry and their poetry materially affected their lives, raising much needed funds or rehabilitating broken relationships. Periodicals including the Lady’s Magazine and the Ladies’ Diary were a vital technology in these processes.

Dr. Jennie Batchelor

School of English, University of Kent



[1] These sources include: Gideon Smales, EWhitby Authors and their Publications, with the Titles of all the Books Printed in Whitby (Whitby: Horne and Son, 1867), pp. 214-15;’Charlotte Caroline Richardson’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 July 2004, 10:55 UTC, <> [accessed 25 August 2015 ]; and  J. R. de J. Jackson, “Richardson, Charlotte Caroline (1796–1854)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. <> [accessed 25 August 2015]

[2] Ladies Diary or, Woman’s Almanack, For the Year of our Lord 1815, 112: 21.

[3] Ladies Diary or, Woman’s Almanack, For the Year of our Lord 1815, 113: 20.