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Dentifrice and lotteries: advertising in the Lady’s Magazine (part 2)

Cardiff Castle; LM VII (1776): 428. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Cardiff Castle; LM VII (1776): 428. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

As Jenny told you in her post of last week, the three of us recently went to Cardiff to lead a workshop at the first annual conference of the Cardiff Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Seminar (CRECS). I second Jenny’s enthusiasm about this initiative and want to join her in thanking our kind hosts for their hospitality. It was not only great to test out new ways to discuss our work with an audience that mostly had little prior knowledge of the Lady’s Magazine; while we were there, we also had the opportunity to check the holdings of the magazine in the Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) section of the Cardiff University library. Despite their similar names, Caerdydd and Caergaint (Canterbury) are quite far away from each other, and I had been eager to spend some time in this excellent research library since Jennie on an earlier visit discovered in the SCOLAR collections some copies of the magazine with the advertisements still in them. In a previous post on advertising I have already explained that these are very rare. Old periodicals tend to be handed down to us in annual bound volumes, and usually these have been purged of all items that the binders or librarians deemed too ephemeral for preservation. SCOLAR has no less than twenty-six annual volumes of the Lady’s Magazine proper in its collection, plus one volume each of the nefarious but terribly interesting piracies of the magazine issued by John Wheble and Alexander Hogg, which makes it one of the most extensive holdings of material relevant to our project anywhere. I was very pleased to find that two of the real-deal volumes in SCOLAR did come with a rich selection of adverts.

This may not seem much to be excited about, but it really is: the copies in the British Library, for instance, do not have a single advert in them. My previous post on advertising focused on the few adverts in the one monthly issue of the Lady’s Magazine – itself a rarity – that we have in our own (also splendid) Kent Special Collections, but at SCOLAR, there is a lot more. Their aforementioned annual volumes contain adverts originally published with the individual monthly issues, amounting to 20 different items for both. We cannot be sure that no adverts were taken out over the past two centuries, but we may have here the harvest for two whole years. What makes it even better, is that the adverts we have found at Kent are from 1771, and the Cardiff ones from 1804 and 1805. Although, admittedly, two volumes are not a great deal to go by, we can use this material as a basis for hypotheses about changing advertising policies in the Lady’s Magazine, and because of the central position of this publication in the market, in late-eighteenth / early-nineteenth-century British magazines in general. These adverts, as they always do, also reflect British social history. What is advertised in a magazine is what its readers are expected to want to buy, and which commodities agents in a capitalist society seek to acquire says a lot about what sociologists after Pierre Bourdieu call their ‘habitus’; a set of beliefs determined by what they (consciously or unconsciously) consider to be their place in society. There is not much circumstantial evidence to verify what the magazine itself indicates about its readership, so we are glad to be able to study adverts to find out what readers of the Lady’s Magazine were induced to buy, or rather: buy into. From this we can deduct information about who read the magazine.

This newly-found material from the early nineteenth century corroborates our previous assumption, based on the magazine’s contents, that the magazine consistently spoke to a broad audience and took the middle class, and anybody who would aspired to be part of it, for its implied readership. The SCOLAR adverts all target consumers who have some money and leisure to spare for self-cultivation and for little indulgences, but do not attempt to sell luxurious goods or services that would be out of reach for the middling sort. Most of the advertisements, for instance, appeal to those who would improve their minds and their physical appearance.

The publisher B. Crossby advertised with a seven-page publication list, which includes books in all genres, refreshingly with no apparent proviso for the purported feminine perspective of the Lady’s Magazine as you sometimes find in female-gendered discourses at the time. Another publisher, Sharpe, advertised the ‘British Poets Series’ of affordable anthologies of canonical poets, and Cooke their series of ‘Cheap and Elegant Pocket Editions’; both again spanning a wide range of genres from belles lettres to popular science. Similarly, while Alexander MacDonald’s A Complete Dictionary of Practical Gardening (advertised by its publisher George Kearsley) may sound like a title on household management, it is in fact a popular-scientific work offering detailed information on botany, in the same way as the also advertised Topographical Description of Great Britain (Cooke again) provides knowledge with an application beyond the immediate domestic sphere. To accommodate the readership of the magazine amongst schoolchildren, or in this case perhaps rather their teachers and parents, publisher J. Harris offered the Original Juvenile Library with ‘New Publications for the Instruction of Young Minds in the Christmas Holidays’ (the poor dears). The Literary Miscellany flogged its reprints of literary and conduct literature though the magazine, and the General Review of British and Foreign Literature advertised too. Both were periodicals like the Lady’s Magazine, but operated in different genres and were therefore not direct competitors. Among the advertisements for literary publications, Elizabeth Inchbald’s twenty-five-volume edition of plays The British Theatre (1806-1809) publicized a work that will be familiar to readers of Jane Austen:

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff Universiy

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

Readers were encouraged to improve their outward sophistication and physical wellbeing as well. The early nineteenth century may have been a particularly bad period for dental hygiene, as two cosmetics companies chose to advertise their dentifrices in the Lady’s Magazine. Readers had a choice between Larner and Company, who sold ‘[p]repared Charcoal, a most efficacious and and agreeable antiseptic for cleansing, whitening, and preserving the teeth’, and Messrs. Pressey and Barclay’s ‘India Betel-Nut Charcoal for preserving and beautifying the enamel of the teeth’. Larner also provided ‘Cheltenham Salts’, a mineral powder made out of evaporated spring water for those who could not go to Cheltenham Spa to take the waters there. Pressey and Barclay’s notice comes with a long endorsement signed ‘James Lynd, Late Head Hospital Surgeon On the Bengal Establishment’ that looks like an article in the magazine, making this a Regency-era precursor to what is known today as ‘native advertising’. Periscopic spectacles formed according to the natural curving of the eye were explained with illustrations and presented as the latest thing in optics by purveyors P. & J. Dollond, whose offices, so we read, were near St. Paul’s.

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

Nevertheless, the most conspicuous advertisements in these two volumes of the Lady’s Magazine are for lottery offices. State lotteries are fascinating phenomena that played a huge role in public in the long eighteenth century, and they too exploited the aspirations towards upward social mobility then prevalent throughout British society. Lotteries were organized in periods of great expenses such as wars or when public projects needed to be funded, from the late seventeenth century to their abolishment in 1826 after continuous debate about their moral repercussions, which are discussed at length in a recent book chapter by Prof. James Raven.[1] Then, lotteries were much more complicated than in the system of the National Lottery, in effect since their reintroduction in 1994. In the long eighteenth century, they were effectively a form of financial speculation. Tickets were tradable instruments at the stock exchange, and most of the government-licensed contractors that sold tickets were concerns of financial institutions and stock brokers. Tickets could go for dozens of pounds each and were therefore only affordable for wealthy individual consumers, and this is where the advertisement in the Lady’s Magazine come in. Lottery contractors employed ‘lottery offices’, such as that of Thomas Bish of the advert reproduced here, who next to whole tickets also sold ‘shares’; a cheaper subdivision of tickets that allowed the holder to a part of the winnings if the ticket in question turned out lucky. Not surprisingly, advertising lottery offices would mention earlier success rates to attract punters who were superstitious enough to believe that one office could be ‘luckier’ than another. This Mr. Richardson certainly chose his associates well:

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

Lottery offices were in direct competition with each other, and because they were not allowed to offer discounts or any other financial incentive, they needed to outdo their competitors with such clever advertising. Eye-catching illustrations abound, such as in this advert for the rivalling office of Branscomb and Co, also in the Lady’s Magazine. The design with the ticket wreath that we recognize from the Bish advert is here complemented with an enigmatic picture of a boy holding a piece of paper. Some research has revealed that this must be a so-called ‘bluecoat boy’. These pupils from Christ’s Hospital charity schools had a prominent role in the complex lottery drawing procedure, where their innocent hands drew the winning lots. They are regularly depicted in lottery adverts, often (though not here) in contorted poses demonstrating how the regulations required that they perform their part in this ritual: ‘he shall keep his left hand in his girdle behind him and his right hand open with his fingers extended’.[2] Branscomb’s perky urchin is in flagrant breach of the rules.

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

© SCOLAR, Cardiff University

The fourth and final lottery advert in the Lady’s Magazine is my personal favourite. Not to be outdone by his former associate Branscombe’s cutesy bluecoat advert, and nearly a century before the music hall hit “The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo”, the inventive Bish inserted a song sheet into his next advertisement. This is one of many ‘lottery songs’ that appear in broadsheets and adverts at the period. I shall leave you with the first stanza, which you will please to sing to the tune of ‘Mrs. Casey’ (however that may go):

Of all the schemes ingenious man

could ever boast the invention,

there’s none will reach to Bish’s plan,

they’re all too trite to mention.

So haste and buy, your fortune try,

And wealth secure for ever;

The lucky moment may slip by,

It’s surely Now or Never!

 Dr Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] Raven, James. “Debating the Lottery in Britain c. 1750–1830”. Random Riches: Gambling Past & Present. Ed. Manfred Zollinger. London: Routledge, 2016

[2] Qtd from unspecified source in: Grant, Geoffrey L. English State Lotteries 1694-1826: A history and collectors guide to the tickets and shares. London: privately printed, 2001. p. 21

The sources of appropriated content in the Lady’s Magazine: some tendencies in vols. I to X (1770-1779)

Already several of our blog posts have discussed the many instances of appropriated content in the Lady’s Magazine. In my last post, I discussed the methodology by means of which I try to find the sources of these non-original items, and a few kind readers have since humoured me by asking about my findings. Of course, everything will be revealed in our index, but I would be happy to divulge a little more here, by looking at some discernible tendencies in the first ten volumes of the magazine (1770-1779), comprising the first 3,173 entries in the index.

    As most periodicals of its day, and particularly those in the ‘magazine’ category, the Lady’s Magazine continuously lifted content from other publications. Often these were complete and verbatim reprints, but there were also countless extracts from books and from larger contributions to other periodicals, that were furthermore regularly edited or paraphrased, or assembled into Frankensteinian collages of extracts that together form one (not always seamless) larger feature. Reader-contributors as well as editors heartily took part. After I dropped a P-bomb in one post of last year, the three of us and some of our favourite readers had a productive debate within this blog and on Twitter (@ladysmagproject) on whether ‘plagiarism’ was a suitable word for this practice, and decided that we would avoid it, in favour of the more neutral ‘appropriations’. The term ‘plagiarism’ was occasionally used in the Lady’s Magazine, seemingly in the sense that we use it today, but like other authorship scholars we are wary of oversimplifying an inevitably complicated situation by applying a damning term to what really was a very common practice.

LM VIII (July 1777): p. 377. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

LM VIII (July 1777): p. 377. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

    In most cases, appropriation was not problematic from a legal point of view, although the ways in which it happens suggest some ethical misgivings on the part of the appropriators. The Lady’s Magazine’s extracts often do not have an attribution (identification of an author) or ascription (citation of a source) and hardly ever have both; sometimes they are surreptitiously detached from their original authors and publication context by means of spurious signatures, and sometimes translated, paraphrased or edited so as to make them seem entirely new. Adapted appropriations can be difficult to spot, but one develops a sort of fondness for the intricacy of this intellectual theft. You may have seen a similar thing happen to police detectives on crime shows.

James Cook (William Hodges - 1776)

James Cook (William Hodges – 1776)

Finding sources for content that you suspect to have been appropriated does get easier after a while, because certain patterns arise that are dependent on the fluctuating prestige of the sources or the popularity of certain genres and themes. It is important to understand that then as now, magazines were business ventures, and editors value efficiency in their task to fill their publications with content that the readership will appreciate. The editors and enterprising reader-contributors of the Lady’s Magazine regularly went to work a-cutting and a-pasting themselves, and it will come as no surprise, for instance, that soon after two book-length eyewitness accounts of Captain Cook’s travels appeared in 1777 (Cook’s own A Voyage Towards the South Pole, and round the world and George Forster’s A Voyage around the World), several extracts from both are published. For topical sources like these, where the name arguably was a selling point and nobody would be fooled by a tacit appropriation anyway, due attributions and ascriptions tend to be included. Recent books in general, especially when issued by the Lady’s Magazine’s publisher Robinson, were more likely to get some bibliographical details, in keep with the secondary function of the magazine as a ‘miscellany’ that digested recent publications as a service to the reader. Newspaper accounts of famous court cases were as a rule reprinted without citation because news coverage in those days was considered at everyone’s disposal, but during the American Revolutionary War the governmental London Gazette is respectfully cited when the Lady’s Magazine takes up its dispatches. This may have been done out of patriotic deference to this institution and because of the authority carried by the source.

    For older source texts there does not seem to have been a consistent attribution policy. Correspondence columns in the magazine indicate that the editors were regularly duped by reader-contributors passing off work by others as their own, but because the appropriation practices are so similar and we know so little about the magazine’s personnel, it is rarely possible to tell which signatures refer to staff writers and which to readers. Sometimes essays from The Spectator, over 60 years old at that point, were extracted from without any mention of their provenance, for instance in the essay ‘Sketches of the whole duty of women’ (Suppl. 1777), signed ‘T.’, which is in fact a verbatim lift from The Spectator No. 342 (2 April 1712). Other items do give credit to ‘Mr. Addison,’ or to ‘Dr. Goldsmith’ (whose essay periodical The Bee of 1756 to 1759 however is pirated several times too).

    Confusingly, as content circulated (almost) freely through the press, we need to distinguish between what I have come to call ‘direct appropriations’, taken straight from the ultimate source, and ‘appropriated appropriations’ (for want of a better term). Extraction necessitates a process of selection, and it is hard work to read through a great number of old or recent publications to get to suitable bits, so it was a lot quicker if someone else had done the selecting for you. The two most recurrent types of sources in the first ten volumes are publications that do just that.

    The most common sources for appropriation are other periodicals. You should not feel sorry for them: they gave as good as they got and many borrowed from the Lady’s Magazine in turn. When you are selling your wares in a market you want to keep track of the competition, and in the case of the Lady’s Magazine that meant other successful titles catering for a socially and ideologically diverse audience.  Which competitors a periodical appropriated from can tell you a lot about its marketing strategy, although in these cases there is only rarely any acknowledgement of the source. The most common source for identified appropriations from periodicals is the Gentleman’s Magazine (1731-1922), the pioneering publication in the magazine genre in Britain that was probably the bestselling periodical in these isles for the first century of its existence. The second most regular periodical source is the Gentleman’s closest early contender, the first London Magazine (1732-1785). It takes all kinds of items from these two publications and others like it, ranging from letters to the editor to poetry. Because these publications from their earliest numbers included circulating content too, the Lady’s Magazine often copied from them not second-hand, but third-hand or maybe even fourth-hand material. I have found instances where other periodicals subsequently took this up from the Lady’s Magazine, and a chain of appropriations continued that could last for over a hundred years.

    Interestingly, as with the essay periodicals mentioned above, decades-old pieces were often chosen. The fact that sometimes, in the same period, several items from the same volume of an older periodical are reprinted in the Lady’s Magazine, implies that the staff writers when pressed for copy (true to the evocative eighteenth-century image of the ‘hack’)   would randomly open an old volume and start extracting. It happens very often that an extract is printed – again often without any mention of its being an extract in the first place – that is traceable to an ultimate source (a book), where suspiciously the extract corresponds to a quote given in an article on the book in question. Essays on books in the Critical Review and the Monthly Review are regular targets.

La Maintenon (Louis de Mornay - 1664)

La Maintenon (Louis de Mornay – 1664)

For instance, in December 1778 the anecdotal piece ‘Striking instances of the charitable character of Madame de Maintenon’ appears in the Lady’s Magazine, without signature. It turns out that this item was extracted from Memoirs for the history of Madame de Maintenon and of the last age (1757), a translation by Charlotte Lennox of the French original by Laurent Angliviel de La Beaumelle (1755). The plot thickens: the exact same passage is quoted in an article on that book which appeared in the Critical Review 2.4 (April 1757). It is more than likely that the Lady’s Magazine staff writer who provided this item had not even gleaned it straight from the book, but just made off with the bite-sized morsel conveniently provided in Tobias Smollett’s periodical. For extracts from recent and more topical books, the magazine often turned to the then most recent issue of the Annual Register (1758-), of which the main interest was that it itself had selected the most noteworthy publications of the past year, and, conveniently for the Lady’s Magazine, it too often featured generous quotations.

    The second most common sources for appropriation are reference works. As we are still in the so-called ‘Age of Enlightenment’, encyclopedic works were popular, and these seem to have been the most frequent ultimate sources of the countless historical anecdotes and popular-scientific (mostly geography and natural history) items that appeared in late-eighteenth-century magazines. These reference works are tricky to trace with certainty, because just like periodicals they are to a large extent composed of foraged content, usually being a patchwork of translated bits from French sources and pirated older sources on the same topic. To an eighteenth-century magazine editor, extracts are like potato crisps: it’s difficult to have just one. When the Lady’s Magazine ‘discovers’ a useful reference work, it tends to make the most of it, and sometimes uses it without acknowledgement to supply an entire series. In 1771, to give but one example, the series ‘The Lady’s Biography’ consisting of potted histories of the lives of famous women from Herod’s wife Mariamne to Mary Queen of Scots, is entirely lifted from the anonymous Biographium Faemineum: The Female Worthies (1766).

We are of course not the only researchers who are fascinated by appropriation. Jenny and I, joined by our Kent colleague Dr. Kim Simpson, will have a panel on ‘Appropriation as cultural transmission in the eighteenth-century periodical press’ at the upcoming conference Authorship and Appropriation (University of Dundee – 8 and 9 April 2016). We hope to see many of you there, and will say more about our papers in future blog posts!

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

Pocket books and Liquid Bloom: advertising in the Lady’s Magazine (part 1)

In my previous post on the material aspects of the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832), I briefly touched upon the advertisements that were printed on the wrappers of the magazine’s monthly issues, with the promise to return to them later. As I said there, periodicals like the Lady’s Magazine have predominantly been handed down to us in the form of bound annual volumes, which has led to the irrecoverable loss of a lot of information. The binders apparently felt that, in order to transform these periodicals into historical documents with a lasting relevance, they needed to purge the numbers of elements that they judged to be too ephemeral, because these would tie them to their original moment of appearance. We have said before that we are already very grateful for the one complete issue that is kept in the University of Kent’s Templeman Library, so you can imagine our excitement when our project PI Jennie Batchelor discovered a whole host of copies in the fantastic Special Collections and Archives library (SCOLAR) at Cardiff University that, though still missing other bits, had retained a lot of their adverts. All three researchers on our project will need to go back to Cardiff to take a closer look at these items, and I will be particularly interested in the advertisements they contain. In this post I look in some detail at the adverts in the October 1771 issue held at Kent, and then briefly glance ahead at what the Cardiff collection holds in store.

Templeman Library, University of Kent

Templeman Library, University of Kent

    In October 1771, and likely throughout the first two or three decades of the magazine, the adverts are situated on the wrappers, or paper covers that guarded the magazine proper for every monthly issue. These wrappers do not offer much in the way of protection of the main body of the periodical, because they are only made of a slightly coarser paper than is used for the pages of the magazine. This is nothing out of the ordinary for periodicals of this period, like the Lady’s Magazine, of which the publishers wanted to keep the production costs down so that a lower price could be charged that kept the magazine within reach of a wide audience. In fact, this is one way in which looking at the used materials, as described in my previous post, can tell you much about the market positioning of the periodical in question. The primary function of these  wrappers is therefore not to guard the magazine proper, but to offer a liminal zone; a threshold between reader and text, for those features of the magazine that were considered more ephemeral than even the periodical text itself. Publishers knew that most readers did not hold on to these wrappers anyway, and printed the types of notices there that readers were likely to want to remove from their preserved personal library copies. The recto side (i.e. the side facing you when the mag is closed and facing upwards) of the front cover features a masthead, a table of contents (ephemeral too because made redundant by the annual index issued with the thirteenth number), a description of the included plates, and contact details on the publishers. My colleagues and I pay close attention to the listed plates because these include supplemental loose addenda that mentioned nowhere else, originally probably either inserted loosely or ‘tipped in’ ( jargon for glued provisionally into the periodical by the upper left corner), and as a rule missing from the library copies.


Templeman Library, University of Kent

     This ephemerality argument also applies to the advertisements. Newspapers at the time had often extensive advertisement sections in the form of the ‘classifieds’ that you still get in some papers today, but most magazines, encouraging the perception of their collected annual volumes as actual books with a lasting value, would keep their adverts contained in neatly demarcated and therefore easily removable sections. In the October 1771 issue, the Lady’s Magazine’s adverts appear on the verso side of the front cover, and on both recto and verso of the back. Like the price of the periodical and the materials that went into its production, the type of services and goods that are advertised here also tell us a lot about the audience that the magazine sought to address at the time. Then as now, advertisers of course did not want to waste their money by buying space in publications that were not read by their target demographic. Of the five adverts that appear with this number, four are for other publications. The first is for the successful encyclopaedic reference work A New Geographical, Historical and Commercial Grammar, published by J[ohn] Knox. It may seem odd that the Lady’s Magazine’s publisher Robinson would tolerate such prominent advertisements for the wares of competitors in his own flagship periodical, but it is possible that Robinson owned a share of the copyright and thereby would benefit directly from the sales as well. As quite often in this period several ‘booksellers’ would pool funds to pay for more ambitious publication ventures together. This book also contains biographical profiles of the kind from which the magazine’s staff writers loved to distil “historical anecdotes”, and the promotion and expansion of this work through consecutive editions, would there be a clever investment.


Templeman Library, University of Kent

     As is explicitly stated in the page-length advert on the recto side of the back cover, Robinson was definitely one of the publishers for the Royal English Dictionary (1761). Just like the previously advertised work, this publication, originally published hot on the heels of Dr. Johnson’s by esteemed grammarian Daniel Fenning, fits in with the interests of the magazine’s broad readership. It was published in cheap editions as well as more luxurious ones, and offered knowledge with an attempt at impartiality and appropriateness for women, on topics that would be valued by socially aspirational British middleclass families. The verso of the back cover has three smaller adverts, of which two are for very similar periodicals. The first is for the Ladies’ Own Memorandum-book, or, Daily Pocket Journal, published by Robinson, and the second for the Ladies’ Annual Journal, or, Complete Pocket-book, indicated as published ‘for Elizabeth Stevens’; about whom I have not found any information. Please help us out in the comments section if you know anything about this person! Anyway, both titles are annual publications that contain regular women’s periodical fare as offered by the Lady’s Magazine, combined with items on different domestic duties such as keeping household expenses accounts and coach travel that, as the subtitle of the Memorandum-book indicated, then constituted ‘the Transactions of Business’ of middleclass women.


Templeman Library, University of Kent

     Now, this standard eighteenth-century self-cultivation through knowledge, improvement of one’s vocab to emulate the upper classes, and gaining efficiency in household management is all well and good, but as the Lady’s Magazine occasionally advised, one must not totally neglect the care for the outer person either. The last advertisement is for once not for a book or periodical, but for a cosmetic product. The ‘Bloom of Circassia’ is not a 1985 Woody Allen film, but apparently an ointment that would impart ‘a rosy Hue to the Cheeks, not to be distinguished from the lively and animated Bloom of rural Beauty’. Funnily, even this beauty product is to be purchased from booksellers. These gentlemen kept surprisingly versatile businesses.

    As I already announced above, we will dedicate more blog posts to the subject of advertising in the Lady’s Magazine. The copies of early-nineteenth-century issues that Jennie looked at in Cardiff contain more numerous and diverse advertisements, which are not restricted to the wrappers. Extensive advertisement sections appear there, that normally hardly ever make it into the annual volumes because private owners and librarians have long since taken them out. I am looking forward a lot to doing more research on those, and will keep you posted on what I find out!

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

Notes on periodical genres, inspired by a trip to Trondheim

UKCWorking at the University of Kent has many advantages. Our colleagues are great, our students contribute enthusiastically to the vibrancy of the academic community, and our hillside campus provides beautiful views on Canterbury and its Cathedral spires (when it’s not too foggy). What I like most about the University, however, is its international orientation. It styles itself ‘the UK’s European university’ and justifies this appellation by organizing acclaimed student programmes in Brussels and Paris, and by stimulating collaboration with institutions in Continental Europe and Scandinavia. It is a source of great satisfaction to me that my current department has an excellent understanding with my former, at Ghent University. On Friday 30 October, for instance, a delegation of Kent staff and students will visit Ghent for a jointly organized workshop on nineteenth-century periodical studies, where our guest speaker will be living legend Prof. em. Laurel Brake. Earlier this month, I visited the Norwegian University for Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, to talk about our project to our friends of Enlightenment News.

     After my presentation, the Enlightenment News team gave feedback on our project’s most ambitious output, the annotated index for the magazine that will be available in open access as of September 2016. They confirmed the effectivity and efficiency of the index and gave advice on the use of state-of-the-art tools for the visualization of extrapolated data. You will get to see the results of our conversations in the next months. Their splendid ideas on Digital Humanities notwithstanding; the researchers on Enlightenment News are especially valuable contacts for the Lady’s Magazine project because of their specific expertise on eighteenth-century newspapers. During our discussions I noticed that they knew much more about magazines than I know about newspapers, but that neither side felt entirely confident on the genre that it did not focus on. The Enlightenment News website also states that this project ‘springs from the mass digitization of newspapers and periodical publications’ [my emphasis].

   The distinction made there is widespread in the study of eighteenth-century print culture, and I certainly understand why the Trondheim researchers decided to uphold it. Nevertheless, it struck me that this may be another one of those institutionalized imaginary boundaries that sometimes bring about an unhelpful compartmentalization of scholarship. Although some scholars are active in both, there are arguably still distinct academic circuits for the study of periodicals as either an offshoot of literary studies, or as a discipline within media history. Essay periodicals and magazines have been getting increasing attention over the past few decades from literature scholars working within periodical studies because these genres are now acknowledged as important sites of literary publication and public debate, but apart from a few notable trailblazers (including Enlightenment News), scholars outside of media and history departments have been paying little attention to newspapers except as easily quotable sources of historical information.

     Newspapers are ‘serial publications with [their] own distinctive titles’,[i] to cite one definition of ‘periodicals’, but they are often represented as incommensurable with periodical genres like the essay periodical, magazine, journal, review publication or miscellany. There are at least two explanations for this. Between 1712 and 1855, so-called ‘Taxes on Knowledge’ were in force in Britain to curtail publications that focused on current events, and this consolidated the classification of newspapers as a genre of publication apart from others with a periodical frequency. Today, for practical reasons, most libraries in North America and Europe index newspapers separately from (other) periodicals because the internationally accepted bibliographical classification system MARC 21 (Machine Readable Cataloguing) does so too. There is however no absolute necessity to do so, and I am sure that most periodical scholars would not object to the classification of newspapers as part of the wider category of periodicals.

     After pondering this problem, I became convinced that I need to learn more about those publications that are traditionally categorized as newspapers. The awkward phrasing of that last sentence is intentional. Genre categories are demarcated by means of definitions, and this is necessary because the corresponding terms have functioned historically and need to be taken into account, but we need to remember that these are all inevitably reductive. Achieving some kind of Linnaean taxonomy of textual genre should never be our goal. Whichever genre you tend to work on, it is advisable to occassionally take a peek over the fence at the neighbours. Especially in the eighteenth century, when the press is still coming into its own, self-classification is a matter of commercial pragmatics and legal opportunism, and many publications blurred the differences between genres on purpose. It is fair to say that such clever manipulation of genre is the very raison d’être of magazines.

LM, XXI (Jan. 1790): 49. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

LM, XXI (Jan. 1790): 49. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

     The defining feature of a newspaper is that it contains mostly ‘news’, a slippery term usually understood as denoting a concise record of current events. The Lady’s Magazine, for instance, also contains news sections in every number, divided into the subsections ‘Home News’ and ‘Foreign News’. The monthly frequency of the Lady’s Magazine makes it less adequate than the usually daily or weekly newspapers for ‘professional’ readers who needed to keep up with the most recent political and commercial developments, but for a less exigent audience that was not yet reliant on the then increasing centralization of government and globalization of commerce, it probably did the job just fine. Additionally, readers who preserved their copies and had them bound into annual volumes could use these sections as a chronicle of the past year. When we give talks about the Lady’s Magazine, we are often asked where it got its news facts from (in the jargon: ‘newsgathering’), but this is a difficult question as there may well be dozens of sources for every single number. As I have discussed before, ‘news’ was unprotected by copyright law and, even more generally than other content, harvested from sundry other publications, although the leading newspapers of course had channels of their own to secure scoops. More apt questions may be what the principles were whereby the Lady’s Magazine selected some events for inclusion and omitted others, and what the ideological slant of its reports tended to be. The Lady’s Magazine is also unlikely to have gathered itself all of its monthly notices for births, marriages and deaths, another feature which it shared with newspapers.

     Besides these more obvious overlaps with newspapers, the Lady’s Magazine also contained surprisingly detailed court proceedings for the most sensational cases of its day, like the trial of the Monster. It also printed the entire defence speech of Lord Erskine on behalf of Thomas Paine during the latter’s trial for seditious libel in 1792, in which the Magazine’s publisher George Robinson was implicated. Its regular articles on official celebrations at court could be seen as ticking off yet another topical interest, even if the emphasis there usually was on the dresses worn by the Queen and her ladies. Vice versa, many publications that are categorized as newspapers included types of content that we now more readily associate with (other) periodical genres, such as book reviews, historical items that at first glance bear no immediate relevance to topical events, original poetry, and occasionally serialization of prose fiction.

Leeds Intelligencer (2 April 1771): 1. Image © Gale / British Library.

Leeds Intelligencer (2 April 1771): 1. Image © Gale / British Library.

     Also if your research is limited mainly or solely to the magazine genre, there are clear advantages to a more thorough consultation of newspapers than a quick search for keywords in online databases. To give only one example, ephemeral materials such as advertisement sections are often better preserved for newspapers than for magazines, because they are usually fully integrated into the paper’s contents and therefore harder to purge from the text. The Lady’s Magazine regularly advertised in the major newspapers of the day, and reading these adverts – ideally in context of the paper in which they appear – can tell you much about how the magazine was marketed. Reading them successively may tell you which price changes it underwent throughout its run, and how the publishers believed they could present themselves most profitably. The advert partially reproduced here is actually much longer, and contains valuable descriptions of the contents that indicate which items were expected to attract most attention.

     I came back from Trondheim with a renewed interest in newspapers as points of comparison to, and secondary sources of information on the Lady’s Magazine, and for that I am as grateful as for the warm welcome I received. As previous blogs posts have shown, presentations at other institutions where Jennie, Jenny and myself have been hosted have stimulated our research in other ways. If you work on topics congenial to our own, and think that it would be useful for us to present our project to you and hear about yours in turn, we urge you to get in touch. We welcome all suggestions wholeheartedly and are keen to gain new contacts wherever people are interested in our research!

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent


[i] Reitz, Joan M. “Periodical”. Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. [last consulted on 20 Oct. 15]

The Pirates of Paternoster Row: ruses and reprints in the Lady’s Magazine

Through our weekly posts we have been trying to keep you up to date on our progress in finding out as much as possible about the Lady’s Magazine. Although we are passionate about our research, we have also not resisted the inclination to have a little moan every once in a while about the many challenges that have sometimes kept us back. A scarcity of sources, the rather fundamental problem of not having a complete text for the magazine itself, you have read it all before. We have not done this to vent our pent-up rage. That, we do amongst ourselves, weekly over coffee. Rather, we hope that our troubles may be instructive to other scholars who want to study the Lady’s Magazine or other periodicals of its kind and time. After all, the problems that we face are characteristic of the whole of the periodical press of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The lack or disappearance of historical archives and artefacts is not the only issue. Certain clever ruses through which magazine editors sought to evade critical scrutiny into their publications in their own time can of course be even more troublesome to readers over two centuries later. In his study on the subject, E. W. Pitcher gives a long list of practices by which late-eighteenth-century magazines ‘indulged in subterfuge and marketplace subversion’.[1] I have recently started to research the ways in which the Lady’s Magazine repurposed material from other publications, both books and rival periodicals, and I have found these to be a case in point.

The publisher and Justitia Chodowiecki 1781

Daniel Chodowiecki – The publisher and Justitia (1781)

You may have anticipated that `repurposed` is a euphemism. Today we might be tempted to use a harsher term like ‘piracy’ or ‘plagiarism’ when referring to the magazine’s wholesale reprinting of second-hand material without acknowledgement. It is important to remember, however, that this was standard practice when the Lady’s Magazine was published. Although reader-contributors delivered a lot of original copy, like many magazines of its day, it partially fits in the category of the ‘miscellanies’. These were periodicals that contained a large amount of republished material. Although this internet-era jargon was of course not current back then, these periodicals were foremost purveyors of ‘content’, which is basically whatever a target audience will read and come back for. Long-running magazines could tacitly reprint old items from their own pages, like the Town and Country Magazine (1769-1796) which kept its greatest hits in circulation, and after a few decades, the Lady’s Magazine occasionally did this as well. More often, periodicals looked elsewhere. Rudimentary copyright laws did exist in the eighteenth century, and sometimes publishers did take each other to court, but it was an unwritten rule that you could get away with more in periodicals than in book publication. As long as it did not get out of hand, magazines stole from each other quite contentedly. This understanding is a direct result of the proliferation of the magazine genre during the second half of the eighteenth century. By now many titles were addressing the same, though wide readership, and the easiest way to keep up with your competitors is simply to follow their example closely when they are on to a successful idea.

Marcella March 1771 Vol I

LM, I (March 1771). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

A frequently quipped motto in eighteenth-century periodicals was ‘multum in parvo’, ‘much in little [space]’, and this soon became the enduring philosophy of the magazine genre. This preference for having a large number of short items in each issue made it especially opportune to scavenge the ever expanding print market for bits of interesting text. Eighteenth-century magazines employed staff writers, pejoratively known as ‘hacks’, whose job was to do just that. If it was considered necessary, these authorial buccaneers would also alter the originals to various extents. The Lady’s Magazine in March 1771 shows how accepted this practice was by only changing a single name in an excerpt from Johnson’s Rambler, and copying the rest of it entirely verbatim as “The History of Marcella” (her original was called “Melissa”), without citing the source. The fact that readers might recognize the well-known original, which was still in print through collected editions, can therefore not have been a real concern.


Carle van Loo – Portrait of the Empress Elizabeth Petrowna (1760)

The Lady’s Magazine also has thousands of ‘anecdotes’, of one or two paragraphs in length, and usually about historical figures. The sources for these are hardly ever given, but we would be very naïve to assume that they were gathered from the table talk at the editor’s club, or from discussions at the coffee house. These anecdotes are usually excerpts from books, either recent publications or older ones that most readers would not be overly familiar with, so that they had an illusion of novelty for the magazine’s reader. With the help of some online databases, I have for instance discovered that an “Anecdote of Elizabeth Petrowna, late Empress of Russia” (September 1770) is an extract from the then recent English translation of General Mannstein’s Memoirs of Russia, Historical, Political and Military (also 1770), though the magazine does not tell us so. The anecdotes are usually unedited excerpts, but sometimes they are paraphrased, likely to prevent readers from realizing that they were being fed repurposed content, and to put plagiarized rivals off the scent as well.

At times this appropriation of content is more blatant. A nine-part series in the first two volumes (1770-1771), entitled “The Lady’s Biography”, without any mention of this, consists entirely of slightly edited excerpts from the anonymous Biographium Faemineum: The Female Worthies (1766). Occasionally a phrase is tweaked, or one fanciful adjective replaced by another, but the magazine’s article series is undoubtedly a rewrite. Interestingly, such items tend to migrate across periodicals, often under different titles, as one plagiarism is in turn plagiarized in other publications. Periodicals have their favourite competitors to steal from, and this can teach us which publications aspired to be like each other. The Lady’s Magazine may have reprinted the work of others extensively, but its own commercial success is illustrated by how it regularly seems to have been at the start of a chain of piracies that are taken up by other periodicals consecutively. There is arguably such a thing as an ‘original plagiarism’. Some caution is needed, as other factors may influence this process too. The abovementioned Town and Country Magazine had strong links to the Lady’s Magazine because the two publications for several years shared their publisher, Robinson and Co. on Paternoster Row, and the fact that the same items often appeared in both periodicals at around the same time may indicate that already before the initial printing they would have exchanged material that was submitted to them, or produced by their respective staff writers. For all we know they may have shared the latter as well, as the records on the Lady’s Magazine do not reveal much about who it employed.

I also expect to find in the Lady’s Magazine the type of longer essays that Pitcher refers to as ‘paraphrase-and-excerpt articles’.[2] These combine elements from several sources into one ‘new’ text, travel narratives and accounts of foreign cities being a popular topic. These are very difficult to identify, as will probably have been the responsible staff writers’ intention. Unacknowledged translations that appear nowhere else than in the magazine, mostly from French sources, are also elusive because it is not always apparent where you need to look for C_LIngenu_927the original. A translated excerpt from Voltaire’s L’Ingénu (1767) is properly credited in the August 1771 issue, maybe because the author’s name was a selling point, but in the same year several translated tales from the less famous Denis-Dominique Cardonne’s Mêlanges de Littérature Orientale (1769) are not.

Needless to say, the Lady’s Magazine is generous with information when the excerpted original had been published by its own publisher Robinson, and will often indicate in the rubric that the work in question has been ‘recently published’. This makes the excerpt to all ends and purposes an advertisement. Like most of its competitors, the Lady’s Magazine also contained more straightforward announcements of books by its own and other publishers, and starting from the early nineteenth century also regular book reviews, which include long excerpts from the discussed work that function as self-contained texts. The verdict of the reviewer is limited to an introduction of a short paragraph to recommend the excerpted work to the reader’s attention, and the profuse quotation that follows makes this type of article a cunning form of republication too.

The results of my ongoing research into the sources for repurposed content in the Lady’s Magazine, and the sometimes surprising publications where its own original contributions ended up (maybe a topic for a future post?), will eventually be added to our annotated index. In the meantime I am going to have lots of fun trying to catch the crafty staff writers at their tricks.

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] Pitcher, E. W. An Anatomy of Reprintings and Plagiarisms. Lampeter: the Edwin Mellen Press, 2000. p. 2

[2] idem, p. 90

Calling all Romanticists: the Lady’s Magazine belongs to you too!

Last week Team Lady’s Magazine attended the wonderful 2015 BARS conference “Romanticbars_sidebar_logo Imprints” at Cardiff University. This was very exciting: BARS conferences always draw an international crowd with diverse research specialisms, and as we have so far mostly engaged with eighteenth century scholars, we were eager to present our work to people who at least to some extent identify as Romanticists. We learned much from the generous feedback of our audience, and we flatter ourselves that we had a thing or two to suggest in turn.

After all, although the magazine runs until 1832 and therefore spans the whole of the Romantic era as it is traditionally demarcated, and features a great number of authors, themes and social issues that Romanticists are interested in, it is usually mentioned only in the footnotes to studies of early-nineteenth-century print culture. To help clarify this neglect, I will in this post briefly touch upon two prejudices that persist in literary studies, and which I think could quite easily be remedied. It goes without saying that not all discussions of the Romantic-era Lady’s Magazine betray these popular misconceptions, and when they do appear, this is often the case for understandable reasons.

  1. ‘The Lady’s Magazine’s amateur authors become irrelevant in the age of Personality and Genius.’

One of the major goals of our research project is to find out more about the Lady’s Magazine’s countless anonymous, near-anonymous and pseudonymous reader-contributors; literally thousands of amateur authors who submitted unsolicited copy. The contributions by these at best sparsely documented readers form the bulk of the magazine’s content, the rest mainly consisting of republications from recent books and other periodicals. Unfortunately, there are two Romantic phenomena that distract attention from these reader-contributors, i.e. the closely related notions of “Personality” and “Genius”.

The Lady’s Magazine only partially confirms the accepted account of a movement towards professional authorship in the literary marketplace, which is usually said to occur gradually throughout the eighteenth century. From around 1800 we do attest a relative increase of republished material, but reader-contributors certainly do not disappear. On the contrary, they retain their predominance until the very end. Reader-contributors help make or break the reputations of more famous authors and establish trends by following or dismissing the latter’s example, and sometimes create a (minor) stir in their own right by following up their unremunerated periodical publications with books of their own. Literature functions in a market place, and, as is common knowledge, the movement towards professionalization is closely tied to publishers’ commercial strategies. Recognizable “Personalities” who all but belonged to specific publications, and who could be pitted against each other, were much easier to market than nearly invisible writers furnishing the odd contribution here and there. In Romantic studies, much attention has gone to periodicals that played out this trend magisterially, e. g. Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine and the Examiner. The Lady’s Magazine instead conceptualizes itself as an inclusive forum where individual authors are less conspicuous, and therefore it does not fit this model. It is therefore easily overlooked.

LM XXI May 1800

LM XXXI (March 1800): 272. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission

Related to this concern is the so-called Romantic cult of Genius, which in the past few decades has of course been thoroughly analysed and revealed to have been an intricate cluster of ideological, aesthetic and philosophical factors. Few if any scholars these days still read the major Romantic poets as visionaries driven solely by their hallowed vocation. However, it is hard to deny that the prominence that this defunct idea brought to certain poetic modes (and in some ways the essay) has obfuscated the presence of others in the early-nineteenth-century literary market, and discouraged scholarship on other literary genres, such as the novel. It has also brought with it a disregard for the many amateur writers who populated the magazines of their day, foremost the Lady’s Magazine. In the year 1800, the magazine reprinted without signature poems from the Lyrical Ballads, which appear alongside verse by the now obscure weaver-poet John Webb, who was a celebrated contributor to the magazine for several years. Yet, comparatively speaking, do academics publish many sophisticated rhetorical and philosophical analyses of the work of the countless Webbs of the period, who were as much part of their age as any Wordsworth? We at Team Lady’s Magazine maintain that the term “amateur” should be divested permanently of all negative connotations; it should not be an implicit insult but merely an indicator that the author’s primary source of income was not her/his writing. As to the relative intrinsic value of literary texts; that is not a call that we like to make, rather starting from an impartial study of their respective reception history.

  1. ‘Periodicals like the Lady’s Magazine are formulaic and intellectually unchallenging.’

Although the situation has certainly improved over the last few years, the distinctions between Romantic-era and eighteenth-century periodicals are often exaggerated. There is a notion that Britain wipes the slate clean after the end of the Napoleonic Wars (how topical!) and that the periodical market reinvents itself to reflect new economic realities and political ideals. Of course these factors exerted an influence on the development of magazines, but this did not happen in one cataclysmic moment. It is rather likely that the literary field of the High Romantic period would have been quite recognizable to any late-eighteenth-century author who had lived hidden in a picturesque ruin or on a sublime alp for twenty years.

In his impressively researched but negatively biased survey of literary prose in eighteenth-century magazines, Robert Mayo states that ‘most new magazine fiction published between 1740 and 1815 was lacking in vigor and permanent value’[1] and ‘predominantly decorous, sentimental, and moral’,[2] statements unlikely to induce readers to turn to the publications themselves to make up their own minds. As stated above, we do not wish to base our argument on value judgements, but a quick glance at several items in the Lady’s Magazine might convince sceptics that every issue contains at least a few items that look ahead to tropes and themes that we now associate with famous novels that came decidedly after they are introduced there. It is also anachronistic to look for some sort of highbrow fiction that could be juxtaposed to Mayo’s supposed ‘predominantly decorous’ work. Readers or even critics tended not to make such a distinction in this period, and our own assessments are shaped by two hundred years of subsequent history, both political and aesthetic.

Besides these assumptions about popular themes, certain claims often made about the innovations of the nineteenth century in literary forms are revealed to be arbitrary when earlier magazines are examined. The Lady’s Magazine from its earliest issues contains a wealth of poetic forms that are commonly associated with the Romantic age, and it will be difficult to differentiate narratologically its many tales from the short stories that are commonly said to have been first featured in Romantic-era literary periodicals. When, indeed, does a ‘story which is short’ become a ‘short story’?

The non-fictional content of publications such as the Lady’s Magazine is routinely slighted as well. Women’s periodicals originating in the late eighteenth century have fared particularly badly because of an undue emphasis on what Kathryn Shevelow (after Jonathan Swift) has termed the ‘fair-sexing’ of these periodicals.[3] Professor Shevelow’s pioneering history of the gendering of eighteenth-century periodicals discerned in these an increasing prevalence of the notion of ‘the Fair Sex’, that would have prompted a dumbing-down of those magazines catering specifically for women. Hard science and philosophy would have been scrapped in favour of domestic interests. Due to an understandable need for generalization in her broad single-volume history, she represented this movement as a steady intellectual decline, ending in a low point at the end of the century. The conclusion, at least in the minds of many of Shevelow’s readers, is that only at the very end of the century an agonizingly slow recovery would have begun, headed by education reformists such as Catherine Macaulay and Mary Wollstonecraft. Although both are present in the Lady’s Magazine, this periodical is, allegedly, still one of the insipid mags.

We cannot deny that there are plenty of contributors, male and female, who believe that women have roles distinct from those of men, and should keep to them rigidly. Nevertheless, there is also a whole lot of material in the Lady’s Magazine that in no way fits the image of female domestication. There are long and detailed historical essays, technical introductions to mathematics that go well beyond the necessities for household accounts, and a variety of natural history items. Like for the other aspects of the magazine that have been discussed in this blog post, the situation is nuanced and thereby vulnerable to reductive readings.

In the near future we will release our annotated, open-access online index that will allow scholars to find out at a glance what the Lady’s Magazine could mean to their research. In the meantime we hope that you will continue to read our blogs and follow us on Twitter (@ladysmagproject). We intend to share a lot more that is directly relevant to the Romantic age!

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent


[1] Mayo, Robert. The English Novel in the Magazines: 1740-1815. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1962. p. 2

[2] idem. p. 188

[3] Shevelow, Kathryn. Women and Print Culture: The Construction of Femininity in the Early Periodical. London: Routledge, 1990. passim

Location, location, location: the geographical distribution of reader-contributors to the Lady’s Magazine (part 1)

LM X (May 1779). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

In her recent post on ‘J. L-g’, one of the hundreds of signatures appearing under contributions to the Lady’s Magazine, my fellow research associate Jenny DiPlacidi pointed out that the contributor who used this signature was situated in Market Lavington. I have to admit that I have not yet consulted many sources on the history of Wiltshire, but I will venture a guess, and assume that it was not a major hub of the late-eighteenth-century periodical press. However, the fact that someone from there was a frequent contributor did not surprise me. Our regular readers will know that a large part of the magazine’s content was supplied by amateur reader-contributors, who sometimes are helpfully forthcoming on their whereabouts, and these locations are spread all over the United Kingdom. When possible, the locations of authors will be included in our annotated index, parts of which will be published in the near future. This is the first in a series of blog posts to discuss the many uses of this kind of information.

Scholars may want to know where contributors were based for several reasons. A location can be a great research lead when studying individual authors. When you are, for instance, looking into a contribution with a common signature such as “Camilla”, you will jump for joy upon discovering that this particular Camilla must be sought within the more manageable research context of the town of Cambridge (click image for larger version):

index excerpt 20 April

Lady’s Magazine devotees like myself, who wish to find out more about this publication as a whole, may wish to use this data to draw up so-called ‘prosopographies’ of people associated with the magazine. ‘Prosopography’ (emphasis on the third syllable) can be best understood as the practice of drawing up descriptions of groups of people about whom little precise information can be found individually, but about whom at least a few shared factors are known, on the basis of which we can get some idea of what they shared, and how they differed. You could for instance chart how different parts of the world are proportionally represented in the magazine, or, combined with the genre classifications and tags by the aforementioned Dr. DiPlacidi, which regions tended to furnish which types of content. Because for the Lady’s Magazine the categories of readers and contributors overlap, mapping the contributors will at once allow you to make cautious surmises about the geographical distribution of the readership as well, ever a problematic issue with older periodicals because data on subscription is inevitably scarce, and patchy at best.

LM XXI (Oct. 1790). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

LM XXI (Oct. 1790). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

For about one tenth of the contributions per annual volume on average, the magazine will tell you straightforwardly where its contributors were based. It does this often by giving a location with the signature appearing under contributions, as in the example of ‘J. L-g’ given above, or by telling you a bit more about the contributors in its recurrent editorial “To our Correspondents” columns and the internal advertisements in the annual Supplement. At other times, it pays to read the contributions carefully, as some authors will tell you where they live somewhere within, or talk about other contributors whom they happen to know more about. Finally, some pieces discuss topics of extremely local interest, a case in point being the many submitted enigmatical lists of (eligible?) bachelors in specific rural situations, their secluded hiding place now to be discovered by every fair reader adept at solving puzzles.

We are busily at work on our index and are now about two-thirds into the covered run of the magazine, though we obviously will continue to update the index with new findings after it has gone online. We will soon be able to provide a few basic charts indicating geographical patterns in the magazine’s authorship, but at this early stage of our research some preliminary observations may serve to illustrate the use of these locations, and suggest some issues that I will address in the future instalments in this series. The first of these is that the Lady’s Magazine seems to have been foremost an English publication. Irish, Scottish, Welsh and even colonial locations appear, but in far lower numbers than English ones. While the relative demographics of the different British territories of course are relevant, the number of contributors indicating a location outside of England is conspicuously low. This would argue, though not conclusively, that the magazine also had relatively fewer readers in these places, and begs the question whether this hypothetical predominantly English audience is reflected in the selection of republished content, and its diverse ideological implications. Secondly, although every region of England appears to be represented, a disproportionately large part of the located contributors lived close to the magazine’s publishing office in Central London. With locations in London it is taken for granted that the reader will know where to place them, as even for less fashionable areas only the street name is stated.

We hope that you are as excited as we are about getting the figures behind these observations, as well as many others that will allow us (and that means you too) to finally give this pioneering and vastly influential periodical the scholarly attention that it deserves.

Dr. Koenraad Claes
School of English, University of Kent

The Lady’s Magazine Project at “James Hogg and His World”

As Jennie Batchelor has discussed earlier, now that we are six months into our project we are excited about going on the road with our research findings, to exchange thoughts about the Lady’s Magazine with you in person. Individually and sometimes with the three of us together, we have presented and will be presenting papers at conferences and seminars in the UK, US, Canada and Belgium, and we also have a few invited talks to look forward to. The breadth of our combined research interests allows us to do justice to the great diversity of the contents of the Lady’s Magazine, and perhaps to surprise you with the wide array of subjects and authors associated with this periodical.

I will for instance attend the upcoming conference James Hogg and His World, which will take place at the University of Toronto from 9 to 12 April. As part of a highly promising panel on ‘Hogg’s Literary Networks and the Periodical Press’, I will discuss the reception of this Scottish Romantic author in the Lady’s Magazine. Nowadays Hogg (1770-1835) is mainly known as the author of the novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), but during his lifetime he was famous for his shorter tales, poems and song collections with a strong focus on his native region of the Scottish Borders, and he was often considered a lesser, coarser and markedly more Tory successor to Robert Burns. Those of you who are familiar with the self-styled “Ettrick Shepherd” may find it odd that his sometimes controversial work was deemed conducive to ‘the Use and Amusement of the Fair Sex’ that the Lady’s Magazine extolled on its title page, but nevertheless it did republish some of his writings. These republications reflect the looseness of copy right law in early-nineteenth-century Britain, and occur in two forms that are both commonly found in periodicals at the time. The Lady’s Magazine featured two poems taken from recently published collections without remuneration for the poet, and, a trick copied from contemporaneous review periodicals such as the Edinburgh and the Quarterly Review, several copious excerpts from Hogg’s tales that flesh out reviews of the books that these came from.

LM, XXXIX (1808). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

I will demonstrate that these reviews are representative for Hogg’s ambiguous reception, and that they betray attitudes towards Scottish literature in general that are typical of English periodicals of that period. On the one hand Scottish history and literature were somewhat fashionable due to the huge success of the poetry and later on the novels of Walter Scott, but on the other hand a focus on ‘North-British’ culture ran the risk of being dismissed as of too local interest, merely ‘a reflection of the things around’ the author, as one review has it of Hogg’s Shepherd’s Calendar (LM, X new series [March 1829], p. 152). As I will discuss, it is not a coincidence that one of the two poems by Hogg that the magazine republished, in August 1808, explicitly pledges Scottish fealty to the United Kingdom in the ongoing Napoleonic Wars. Amateur reader-contributors in the magazine add to the interpretative context of the magazine by providing in their own submissions satirical and critical comments on exactly the kind of work that Hogg and his Scottish peers were known for.

The Lady’s Magazine was one of the most commercially successful publications of its time, and attracted a readership of both sexes, all ages, and of a large geographical and social diversity. It therefore inevitably played a role in shaping the ‘World’ that Hogg’s work functioned in, and by zooming in on the interpretative context formed by the magazine and on the aspects of his work that were singled out for praise and republication, I hope to shed light on an as yet unresearched aspect of his contemporaneous reception.

The Kent Lady’s Magazine Project is not a rock band, but it does have a tour schedule. Here is an overview of where you can find us in the next six months. We hope to meet you at one of these wonderful events!

Jennie Batchelor: conf. ASECS 2015; Los Angeles (19-22 March 2015)

Koenraad Claes: conf. James Hogg and His World; University of Toronto (9-12 April 2015)

Jennie Batchelor, Jenny DiPlacidi, Koenraad Claes: talk A window on the world: the phenomenon of the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1818); Chawton House (26 May 2015)

Jennie Batchelor, Jenny DiPlacidi, Koenraad Claes: conf. BARS 2015, Romantic Imprints; Cardiff University (16-19 July)

Jennie Batchelor, Jenny DiPlacidi, Koenraad Claes: workshop ‘Researching Nineteenth-Century Periodicals: Text and Context’, Ghent University (October 2015 – by invitation only)

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

The Supplement, or, The mysterious thirteenth month of the Lady’s Magazine

A reasonable expectation that subscribers have of their favourite magazine is that its publication frequency offers a hint as to how many numbers they may expect for their money. One expects quarterlies to appear four times a year, and in that same time span weeklies should surely do 52 issues. You may however have noticed that some periodicals are more generous than they let on. Monthlies, for instance, will often publish no less than thirteen numbers per year. This is a long-standing custom that we already find in the eighteenth century. In fact, the Lady’s Magazine did this too.

LM, XXXIX (1808). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Issues that appear outside the regular run of a periodical are referred to as ‘supplements’. Periodical scholars think of these as an interesting oddity for more than just the temporal irregularity that they present. We want to know what the need was for such extraneous issues. Generally speaking, supplements supply content for which inclusion in the regular issues of the magazine is not deemed opportune, but that the publishers want to be associated with the periodical all the same. They may be there for a variety of different reasons that depend on the particular case. The predominant concern will usually be commercial, and, having to do with the periodical’s market positioning. In the Victorian period ‘Christmas numbers’ for instance became a popular way to cash in on the holidays with an easily marketable, self-contained publication that readers could look out for.

The annual ‘Supplement’ of the Lady’s Magazine too appeared in December, although the magazine had a regular number in that month as well. It starts in 1774 and carries on until the end of the ‘First Series’ in 1818, and over that time undergoes no radical changes. Due to the lack of circumstantial information on the magazine in general, we cannot be sure whether the Supplement came free with the December issue, or whether readers were charged for it. As is often the case with supplemental publications, at least some readers or librarians must have thought of this extra instalment as not genuinely belonging to the series, because the surviving bound volumes of the magazine often do not have the Supplements in them.

The Lady’s Magazine shares all the editorial quirks and inconsistencies characteristic of eighteenth-century miscellanies, and it is not immediately apparent which function the Supplement would have fulfilled. Despite its appearance in December, there is nothing seasonal about it. Its contents do not differ significantly from those of the regular issues, and all the same genres found in the regular run appear here too. The Supplement seems to differ from the regular issues in two respects only. The first is that the usual editorial section, normally found on the back of the table of contents, is now replaced with an advertisement for the upcoming January issue. This contains enticing references to new series that the magazine had planned for the following year, and an assurance that regular favourites such as agony aunt column ‘The Matron’ would be continued. The advertisements can therefore serve as an indication of which kinds of content were especially appreciated by the readers. For instance, in 1776 they are told that in the next year there would be ‘more particular and minute Accounts of the Female Dress’. There are also always a few paragraphs reminding the readers of the rationale of the magazine, and calling upon them to continue sending in contributions. This points to one plausible main function for the Supplement: it was likely issued to convince readers to renew their annual subscriptions.

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

A second distinguishing feature of the Supplement is the inclusion of the yearly Index, an often inaccurate and incomplete list of the Lady’s Magazine’s contents over the past year. Issuing such an index encouraged the readers to retain their copies of the magazine for later consultation. The Supplement’s abovementioned advertisement also includes instructions to the binders concerning where some of the loosely inserted illustrations needed to go; additionally useful to us today because these are sometimes the only mention we get of long vanished items. The magazine’s inducing the readers to preserve the magazine obviously goes against the disposability often associated with periodical publications. If the readers hold on to their Lady’s Magazines and ideally even have them bound into annual volumes to form actual books, then the magazine is no longer ephemeral like other periodicals. It would thereby gain the prestige deserved for its aim to be ‘the Ornament and Amusement of the Fair’ (Suppl. 1776).

Dr. Koenraad Claes
School of English, University of Kent

Robinson and Roberts vs Wheble: Periodicals and Piracy

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LM, I (1771). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

One of the many problems involved in working with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century periodicals is not knowing for sure what you are reading. Distinguishing between original and repurposed content is easier in a digital age, but is still a very inexact science because of the sheer scope of the archives from which serial publications can be drawn. Faced with a bewildering array of multi-genre content, the doggedly determined periodical scholar (is there any other kind?) is left heavily reliant on gut instinct and old-fashioned detective skills. 

Characteristically, the Lady’s Magazine does its best to keep readers off the scent. True: many articles drawn from previously published, longer works, are credited as being ‘By’ their original author or are acknowledged as extracts in their titles. But there are many other articles that appear in the magazine with no signature attached to them and no form of acknowledgement of prior appearance even though they are not originals. And there are others again that have a signature and read as though submitted by a reader for the first time when, in fact, these turn out to be, shall we say, borrowed. Whether the magazine sought deliberately to dupe its readers about such contributions or was itself simply deceived by contributors trying to pass of the work of others as their own (the editors certainly discovered authors doing this on many occasions and proudly declared so when they did) is unclear to say the least.

Trying to pursue the bigger question of how copyright law was understood to apply to eighteenth-century periodicals takes you into still murkier territory. Evidence from the magazines themselves suggests that editors and booksellers saw serial publications as working at the very margins, or even completely outside, of contemporary copyright law. Indeed, they seemed often to have operated in a culture of broad (if not unshakeable) understanding that their contents could and would be widely repurposed.

But there were limits to this understanding, and the Lady’s found itself on both sides of the copyright infringement fence. For nine years of its print run, The Lady’s  was forced to fend off the unapologetically unscrupulous efforts of publisher and rival Alexander Hogg, who, working out of 24 Paternoster Row, was the next door neighbour to George Robinson and his partners. Hogg’s New Lady’s Magazine waged an unrelentingly aggressive campaign against the Lady’s from 1786 to 1795 in a publication that Hogg claimed was more polite, better produced and better value than its predecessor and contemporary. In fact, huge swathes of the New Lady’s Magazine was plagiarised verbatim, without acknowledgement, from the Lady’s itself. Quite what Hogg and Robinson said to each other as they inevitably walked past each other in Paternoster Row intrigues me. But Robinson couldn’t claim the moral high ground all of the time. In 1819, for example, his magazine was forced to respond (not exactly apologetically) to the proprietor of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, who had complained that the Lady’s had committed an ‘invasion of [literary] property’ by printing ‘without alteration, abridgement, or acknowledgement’ a piece entitled  ‘Some Remarks on the Use of the Preternatural in Fiction’ by John Wilson, which they had printed the year before (L: Oct 1819: ‘To Our Correspondents’).

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LM, 1 (1770). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

In many ways, however, the most interesting insights the Lady’s Magazine offers us into contemporary understandings of the periodical’s place in debates about piracy and plagiarism comes early in its history. When the first issue of the Lady’s Magazine appeared in August 1770 it was as a joint venture between the bookseller John Coote and publisher John Wheble. During April 1771 Coote sold his interest in the publication to the publishers George Robinson and John Roberts for 500l. Sensing that he was onto a good thing, Wheble, who had himself previously and unsuccessfully sought to buy the interest off Coote, would not give up on the Lady’s, however, and continued to publish it alongside Robinson and Roberts’ official version. The resulting dispute between Robinson and Roberts and Wheble over which Lady’s Magazine was legitimate led them to the courtroom in July 1771 in a trial that found in favour of Robinson and Roberts, who were awarded nominal damages of 5s.

A transcript of the courtroom proceedings, which was presided over by Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, appeared in full in the July 1771 issue of the magazine. It is an extraordinary document, worth every twinge of eye strain occasioned by scrutinising its densely printed text and densely argued perspectives on the thorny question of who ‘owns’ a publication that is the work of multiple hands: a proprietor, a printer, a publisher, an editor as well as engravers and numerous (and often unknown) writers.

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LM, IV (1773). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Wheble’s defence lay in the quantity of labour he claimed he had put into getting the publication off the ground. He contended that the ‘time, application and invention’ he had invested in the magazine should have been enough to prove his title to it (I, July 1771: 44). Coote unsurprisingly disagreed, arguing that he had been proprietor and legal owner of the magazine and that Wheble’s small part in proceedings had been simply to get the publication onto readers’ bookshelves: ‘After the author has wrote, the compositor has done his part, and the printer has set the press, the last hand it comes to is the publisher [… .] All he has to do with it is, upon the one hand to publish it, upon the other hand, to transmit the profits to Mr Coote’ (I: July 1771: 42).

Coote’s case was hard to dispute, but the serial form of the The Lady’s complicated matters rather. As Wheble pointed out, some significant elements of the content of the Lady’s Magazine, such as the long-running travel narrative, A Sentimental Journey (1770-77), had yet to be concluded when Robinson and Roberts took over publishing the title. This begged an important question that the trial dodged rather than resolved: What rights has a publisher over a work that is published in part form? Wheble insisted, as he would, that as publisher of the previous eight installments, he had the right to publish future parts. Coote responded by asserting that serial literature (and its authors) belonged not to a publisher but to the publication in which it appeared. Since he had sold the Lady’s Magazine to Robinson and Roberts, the unknown author of A Sentimental Journey (known only as ‘a Lady’) was duty bound to write for its new publishers.

Lord Mansfield would not be drawn on these matters of ownership. After all, Mansfield declared, ‘there is not a colour of property’ in such ‘title[s]’ (I: July 1771: 50). In arguably the most interesting sections of the transcript, Mansfield, rather than focus on the rights of publishers, proprietors or even lowly authors, looks out for the magazine’s readers.

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LM, IV (1773). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

No law could prevent Wheble from continuing to publish the periodical after Coote sold his interest in it to his rivals, Mansfield declared, and indeed, Wheble ploughed on with publishing his own Lady’s Magazine alongside Robinson and Roberts version until December 1772, when it died a sudden death. But for Wheble not to acknowledge his break with Coote, for Wheble to present his Lady’s Magazine as a continuation of Coote’s original, was to dupe readers, Mansfield concluded: ‘If he had said Mr Coote has left off his work, and I will continue it, he had a right to do it; but he has gone on in a manner that has imposed upon the public, in saying No. 9. was a continuation of the original work, of which eight numbers had been sold which was a fraud’ (1: July 1771: 52)

By July 1771, it is clear that The Lady’s Magazine was an established brand that readers and subscribers bought into with every purchase. As Mr Wallace, Wheble’s solicitor, declared with undisguised irony, the case of Robinson and Roberts vs Wheble ‘got a great victory [for the booksellers], in being told they have got no property in such works’ (I: July 1771: 52). In the process, the court failed to resolve a set of questions about the periodical’s place in contemporary copyright law that would resurface throughout the long history of the Lady’s Magazine’s run. But it also worked to emphasise the rights of readers whose title to serial publications seemed in some ways more secure than those of their publishers and authors.

Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English, University of Kent