Category Archives: Content

Identifying ‘R-’, part 2: possible family connections in the Lady’s Magazine

One of the recurring themes in this blog has been our conviction that the much-slighted Lady’s Magazine occupied an important position in the literary field of its time. It offered some later successful authors with a first opportunity to get their work into print, as for instance ‘C.D.H.’ or Catharine Day Haynes who went on to publish novels with the popular Minerva Press, and, although a leading literary historian has dismissed its tales as ‘predominantly decorous, sentimental, and moral’,[1] Jane Austen may have disagreed. However, every single contributor to the magazine is worthwhile looking into, because even if they did not develop into famous authors in their own right or were the unknown toilers who paved the way for writers of more renown, through their minor literary, critical or philosophical interventions they all participated in the shaping of literary history.

   It is easy to get carried away when investigating these contributors and to romanticize them as characters in the novel of their own lives, as some did themselves. A great many of the more obscure authors to the Lady’s Magazine were amateurs and few will have received payment for their submissions, so I used to wonder what it was that they got out of their efforts. I believe now that this is a cynical question for a cynical era, that would have been duly frowned upon in the age of Evelina. Part of the attraction of amateur authorship was the sheer thrill of it, the fashioning for oneself of a separate, often hidden second identity that made a change from one’s daily routine as a shopkeeper or unchallenged Georgian housewife. Eighteenth-century periodicals can themselves be a lot like eighteenth-century novels. Readers of the fiction of this period will know that there you are often given tantalizing dashes instead of (full) names for the leading characters, who sometimes go by mysterious spurious identities at that. Investigating a magazine you soon find yourself wanting to know all about the elusive flesh-and-blood people behind the countless paper-and-ink personae, represented by so many partial signatures and pseudonyms, with as much ardour as (though with less imagination than) Charlotte Lennox’s Arabella speculates about the ‘true’ identity of Edward the carp-stealing gardener. However, when the heroes are periodical contributors instead of characters in novels, the desired dénouement is not always possible.

LM X (Jan 1779): p. 6. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

LM X (Jan 1779): p. 6. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

   This makes it all the more gratifying when we do find out what we wanted to know. Through our combined sleuthing we have learned a lot about quite a few contributors already, and we are adding these discoveries to our annotated index. Two weeks ago, Jenny reported on ‘R- ’, whom we now know for sure to have been Radagunda Roberts, a minor female author and translator from a family of intellectuals. Though now forgotten, she moved in prominent literary circles sufficiently to warrant her an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, where she is included as “R. Roberts”. This note was very helpful for the research leads it offered on Roberts, but the fact that its immensely knowledgeable and experienced author Arthur Sherbo could only trace the initial of her first name, while her nowhere near as active and (from a literary and cultural-historical point of view) less important male relatives left more paper trails, is symptomatic for the fate of many female writers. It feels good to finally be able to fill in the gaps.

   That of course does not mean that the male members of the Roberts family would be irrelevant. Radagunda’s eldest brother Richard was the high-master of the prestigious St Paul’s School (London). She was also related to William Hayward Roberts, provost of Eton College, Anglican clergyman and religious poet, who may have been the “Rev. W. R.” who in 1785, about a year and a half after Radagunda disappears from the magazine, contributes a translated serialized extract from Juan Alvarez de Colmenar’s Annales d’Espagne et de Portugal (1741). This connection is as yet too tentative to dwell on, but will be pursued, as we are particularly interested in discovering relationships between authors outside of the magazine because this can help us to reveal networks for its many contributors. Reading and writing are social activities in this period to an extent that we are just beginning to understand.

   Another relative, present at least once in the Lady’s Magazine, was Radagunda’s youngest brother, (another) William Roberts. Jennie has located a birth certificate indicating that he was born in 1725, and an inclusion in the A biographical dictionary of the living authors of Great Britain and Ireland of 1816 which suggests that he at least lived into his nineties (if he had lived many years beyond that he would arguably be more famous). He is on record as having served in the military before settling as a tutor in Wandsworth.[2] Though not a professional author, he does have two books to his name: the essay Thoughts upon Creation (1782) and a slim volume of Poetical attempts (1784), both issued by prominent London publisher Thomas Cadell.

   The Thoughts are meant to prove that the state of the art in natural history and archaeology was in accordance with Scripture. It is for instance explained that ‘the eternal Essence, the invisible Jehovah’ inspired the invention of writing in the Middle East rather than elsewhere so that Moses could record the Torah,[3] and that, more recently, the findings on geography by the expedition of Captain Cook merely confirm the Book of Genesis.[4] While such views may seem odd several decades into the Enlightenment, they were by no means rare. However, the fact that Roberts went to the trouble of committing his Thoughts to paper may point towards a link to the then rising Evangelical movement. More hints about his ideological stances can be gleaned from the enthusiastic dedication of the Poetical attempts to Thomas Howard, 3rd Earl of Effingham, who in 1775 was the object of some controversy after his resignation from the British army in protest to the impending wars against the American colonial rebels. According to Roberts, Howard had hereby ‘manifested the true feelings of virtue, in rejecting emolument, when incompatible with principle’.[5] The Poetical attempts themselves are also intriguing, and for several reasons. Besides poetry by William Roberts himself, it also contains a poem ‘by Miss Roberts’, who could be one of William’s daughters Mary and Margaret (later literary executors to Hannah More), or indeed his sister Radagunda (unmarried and therefore also still a Miss). Either possibility would be exciting, but as the poem appears never to have been publicly acknowledged by or attributed to a specific author, we will probably never know.

Thomas Howard, by unidentified artist

Thomas Howard, by unknown artist

   In a roundabout way, the attempts have at least helped with the attribution of a poem in the Lady’s Magazine. In June 1781 a poem entitled ‘Nancy. An Elegy’ appears in the magazine, with the signature ‘E. G’. After I checked this item against a few online databases I found that it was almost identical to an unsigned “Elegy” that appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine in August 1758. There, however, the poem is addressed to a ‘Molly’ instead, making this one of many instances in the Lady’s Magazine of appropriated occasional verse for which only specific details were adapted in order to detach the purloined work from its original context. So, nothing unusual so far, but great was my surprise when I discovered that the poem, in the decades-old version of the Gentleman’s Magazine instead than in its more recent version of the Lady’s at that, was included three years later in a poetry collection by the brother of a regular contributor to our magazine. It seems unlikely that the fifty-nine-year-old William Roberts, who does not appear to have ever nourished strong ambitions to establish himself as a poet, would claim authorship for an unremarkable poem that he had not written himself. As he was 33 when it appeared in the Gentleman’s, he could certainly have been the original author. There is furthermore another poem addressed to ‘Molly’ among the attempts to corroborate this theory. Several scenarios can be imagined for how the adapted version ended up in the Lady’s Magazine 31 years after its original appearance. As said above, reader-contributors tacitly appropriated poems from other periodicals all the time, not rarely from sources as old as this. It is possible that Radagunda and her brother were as surprised as I was to see this poem suddenly resurface, submitted by whoever it was that chose to be known as ‘E. G.’. Alternatively, William could have been toying with the idea to collect his old poetic trials, and maybe wanted to test the waters by submitting pseudonymously an edited version of this elegy to the Lady’s Magazine, maybe motivated to change it slightly by the inconsistent attitude the magazine showed towards republication from rival periodicals such as the Gentleman’s.

Hannah More, by Henry William Pickersgill (1822)

Hannah More, by Henry William Pickersgill (1822)

   Besides daughters, William Roberts also had a son, named (again?!) William Roberts. William junior is most likely the author of “Cephalus and Procris, A Tale, by a Youth of Fifteen”, also in the attempts. Years later he would write the first biography of Hannah More (1834), and, as editor of the Tory-Evangelical British Review (1812-1825), he has the unenviable claim to fame of being lampooned by Byron in Don Juan. We have not yet found any evidence that the third and final William or his sisters Mary and Margaret contributed to the Lady’s Magazine, but this may well turn out to be the case. Whatever we find out will be waiting for you along with our many other discoveries in the index!

Dr Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] Mayo, Robert. The English Novel in the Magazines: 1740-1815. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968. p. 188

[2] G. Le G. Norgate. ‘Roberts, William (1767–1849)’. Rev. Rebecca Mills. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004 [] Last accessed 14 March 2016.

[3] Roberts, William. Thoughts upon Creation. London: T. Cadell, 1782. p. 23.

[4] idem, p. 59

[5] Roberts, William. Poetical attempts. London: 1784. n. p.

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

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 P-word, part II: is it ever right to call a periodical a plagiarism?

In the past few weeks, a recurrent topic in our blogs has been the regular appearance in the Lady’s Magazine of material taken from other sources, as opposed to original submissions. Our interest in this matter was sparked by a new phase in our work on the annotated index. I have recently started cross-checking the over 14,000 items in the magazine with several online databases, as manual a job as they come in the age of digital research, and noticed that a considerable number of items appearing without ascription in fact had appeared elsewhere first. There are a number of possible reasons why the magazine does not always own up about this: the editors were sometimes fooled themselves by reader-contributors (as I argued in my last), they felt that they were legally and ethically entitled to republish without acknowledgement, or they thought that acknowledging republications might tarnish their reputation for offering novelty. Printing non-original material without ascription was of course a widespread practice in the eighteenth-century press, and several readers of our blog have kindly contacted us to tell us about their own thoughts and experiences.


This monkey never appeared in the LM.

   One highly important problem that repeatedly surfaced was one that usually takes some explaining to people who do not dwell – day in, day out – in the fascinating / exasperating world of periodical history: what to call this ubiquitous phenomenon. Last week, Jennie argued persuasively against using ‘the P-word’, plagiarism, for unacknowledged republications in eighteenth-century magazines, even if we would not hesitate to use it for such items as they occur in publications of today. She pointed out the notoriously hazy copyright laws of the period, and the equally relevant difference between eighteenth-century ethical notions of intellectual property and our own. We were excited and very grateful that Prof. David Mazella, who has done vital work on the Lady’s Magazine before, accepted Jennie’s invitation to write a response.

   Prof. Mazella there elaborates on the issue of ambiguous authorship, and adds (amongst other pertinent suggestions) that a prominent cause of this ambiguity was that periodicals were in the eighteenth century not explicitly covered by copyright legislation. As he points out, copyright was at the time regulated under the Statute of Anne (1710). This pivotal legislation ended the monopoly of the Stationers’ Company  by for the first time stipulating that copyright was not to be held in perpetuity, but for a fixed period. From now on, copyright was also subject Statute_of_anneto other specific regulations, that were intended to protect not only the interests of the author, but also those of society at large, by creating what we now call the ‘public domain’ so that texts that were out of copyright could circulate freely.[1] Even though publishers kept referring to obsolete legislation to claim an unlawful absolute property of works that they originally issued, the judges usually would have none of this, and the Statute worked relatively well for books. However, Prof. Mazella, following Slauter,[2] suggests that the anarchic attribution policy of magazines was made possible by a lack of specific regulations in the Statute concerning periodical publications, and an unwillingness of the publishers’ sector to remedy this because the industry had come to rely on the manipulation of such unclear legal descriptions. This enabled, for example, a proliferation of newspapers, as snippets of texts regarded as ‘news’ could in slightly altered phrasings quickly travel across different titles, to the point that it is nigh on impossible to find out in which publication they originate. Prof. Mazella suggests ‘that the brief “textual units” of the [Lady’s Magazine], though formally and generically examples of short fiction, moral essays, biographies, etc., were […] treated on the model of the newspapers’ “textual units,” as a kind of readily accessible, transformable information that could be extracted or reworked as needed’. Using the term ‘plagiarism’ for this would be misleading, as we tend to use this term to denote, with an eighteenth-century definition also quoted by Slauter, ‘surreptitious theft of a named property’.

   I fully agree that the connotations of the P-word are misleading. Furthermore, an allegation of plagiarism requires an assessment of the intentions of the alleged plagiarists, which is obviously highly precarious when you are dealing with authors about whom you have little or no information. Although I have in a past blog post once referred to certain items as ‘plagiarized’, I have reserved this verdict precisely for those cases where the ‘surreptitious’ appropriation of another’s labour seemed clear to me. For instance, when a reader-contributor, without acknowledgement, cheekily adopts the entire text of a poem, except for all references to people and places proper to the original poet, swapping these for cherished connections of her/his own. The reasons why I restricted it to this sense is that I agree with the points made by Jennie and Prof. Mazella, and their recent posts have convinced me that I should drop the term altogether. In what follows, I would nevertheless like to address (briefly) the abovementioned two ideas that are frequently cited in discussions of the supposed absence of a notion of fixed authorship during the eighteenth century: (1) the legal argument that there is no specific legislation for copyright of magazines in the period, and (2), the ethical argument that people did not think of the ownership of intellectual productions as we do today. Both are correct; they however do require, in my opinion, some nuance.

   It is of course true that the Statute of Anne does not explicitly refer to publications other than books. Because of this, the republication of content between periodicals was always safe, as lucidly explained by Prof. Mazella. That, however, does not mean that there was no legal praxis concerning periodicals appropriating content from books, and in many cases this quite simply derives from the more straightforward regulations on the book trade. This is an important consideration because a significant number of republications in the magazines were taken not from other periodicals, but from books. Eighteenth-century copyright boils down to the general rule that, while texts are in copyright, republication in any form is prohibited to anyone but the copyright holder. This includes serialization in periodicals. However, partial republication, for instance the extracting of books in periodicals, was not covered by this. Even abridgements were sometimes ruled to be new works, thereby not constituting infringements of copyright, when the efforts of the editor/author would have produced a text that had the added value of brevity to a hurried reader, although here, problematically, intentions and motives needed to be gauged. This is also how magazines defended their miscellaneous character: the ongoing boom in publications had made it impossible for readers to keep up with everything that was being printed, so the magazines offer a digest tailored to their needs.

   In his invaluable history of copyright in Britain, Ronan Deazley cites two cases against pioneering magazine publisher Edward Cave of the Gentleman’s Magazine (1731-1922).[3] These may offer a simpler explanation for the prevalence of extracts in magazines than the parallel to news items circulating across newspapers. In Austen v. Cave (1739) the plaintiff was publisher Austen, who held the copyright to the moral treatise The Nature, Folly, Sin and Danger of Being Righteous Over-Much (1739) by Joseph Trapp. The defendant, Cave, had excerpted this work, and was now accused of infringing the plaintiff’s copyright. Cave defended himself by stating that he excerpted books all the time, and that this was usually welcomed by the publishers and authors. He also referred directly to the Statute of Anne by stating that he only had intended to republish a part, and not the whole, and that too stringently applying the regulations as to copyright would be detrimental to the dissemination of knowledge that would have been the Statute’s main objective. Still, an injunction against further publication was obtained by the plaintiff, only to be lifted if Cave could satisfactorily prove that it had never been his intention to republish the work in its entirety. Cave failed to convince the judge, and therefore was forbidden from resuming the series of extracts. The second case, Cogan v. Cave (1743), is similar. The Gentleman’s Magazine excerpts Eliza Haywood’s Memoirs of an Unfortunate Young Nobleman (1743), copyright holder Thomas Cogan obtains an injunction, but this is lifted after Cave has cleared himself. Deazley suspects that Cave had once again referred to the Statute.

   Both items could just as well have appeared in the Lady’s Magazine, where extracts from moral treatises and novels abound too. Only rarely do editorial notices betray any misgivings about such republications when these appear unsigned (presumably furnished by staff writers), but the editors do get nervous when they catch reader-contributors at sending in unascribed items for publication in the magazine. Here is one example from 1776:

image 1

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

I have in a previous post referred to this sort of moral posturing as a sign of hypocrisy, but after further consideration, I think it rather was a strategy of risk containment. Although they had no actual qualms about repurposing content, the editors may have wanted to discourage readers from submitting non-original items without acknowledgement, because they had no control over these. Caution was advised, because republication could land you in court and make you squander time, money and your reputation, as every rival magazine would gleefully report on court proceedings against you. Whether or not to acknowledge the source for a republished item must have been regarded as a call to be made by the editors, not the readers. If there was no deontological argument against unacknowledged republication, this would arguably not have been a concern at all. Consider also the following notice, appearing after the magazine had published an extract from Dr. Gregory’s conduct book A Father’s Legacy to his Daughters (1774):

image 4

LM XV (Aug 1784): facing p. 36. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

“Mary Turner” was most likely a reader-contributor who submitted the item in question without due ascription to the original source. Even though this was only an excerpt of about a page, and the magazine should legally have had nothing to worry about, there appears to have been some worry about the mere allegation of content piracy.

   It may be relevant to remark that plagiarism, despite what is commonly thought, is actually not a legal concept, but rather pertains to the ethics of authorship. After all, even today you can plagiarize a text that is in the public domain without having to worry about any legal consequences, because you did not infringe any copyright. This brings me to the second assumption concerning ambiguous authorship in the eighteenth century, being the argument about publishing ethics. There are countless accounts of publishers and authors resenting the appropriation of their labours, but I believe that it is also easy to overstate the claim that readers would not have cared about correct attribution. The abovementioned attempts of the editors to deny that the Lady’s Magazine featured unacknowledged republications, despite these being undeniably present, and the magazine’s staff writers’ cosmetic edits to decontextualize appropriated material suggest that the reputation of offering (mainly) original matter, and reliably acknowledging non-original items, was deemed a valuable asset. A certain part of the readership, large enough to fuss about, must have cared.

   As Slauter indicates, the term ‘plagiarism’, in exactly the sense that we use it today, already occurs in the 1730s.[4] Although I have not yet had time to check all possible associated search terms exhaustively, I did find that there were at least eighteen instances of the term ‘plagiarism’ in the Lady’s Magazine between 1770 and 1800, and three of ‘plagiarist’ . These sometimes occur in discussions (often heated) between reader-contributors about the originality of submitted pieces. To do the subtleties of this debate justice, we will return to the attitudes of readers towards the P-word in a future post, but one more example from an editorial notice may suffice to prove that there definitely was an ethical dimension to republication that went beyond legality.

image 3

LM XI (June 1780): facing p. 284. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

This even though, as I have found, the magazine’s staff writers had repeatedly repurposed items from the Gentleman’s Magazine before, without acknowledgement. It’s all very complicated!

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] Cf. Mark Rose, “The Public Sphere and the Emergence of Copyright: Areopagitica, the Stationers’ Company”. Privilege and Property: Essays on the History of Copyright, Ed. by Ronan Deazley, Martin Kretschmer and Lionel Bently, Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2010. <> [last accessed 23 Sep. 15]

[2] Will Slauter, “Upright Piracy: Understanding the Lack of Copyright for Journalism in Eighteenth-Century Britain”, Book History, 16.1 (2013), 34-61.

[3] Ronan Deazley, The Origin of the Right to Copy, Oxford: Hart, 2004. pp. 79-80

[4] Slauter 2013, p. 48

‘Steal upon the ravish’d sense’: readers plagiarizing poetry in the Lady’s Magazine

Our regular readers will already know that the most important goal of our research project is to learn as much as possible about the thousands of readers who contributed to the Lady’s Magazine. Only last week, Jennie explained how she had succeeded in identifying two amateur authors, following hints within their contributions and in editorial notices about them. She found that these writers were personally invested in the magazine, and that it played a very important role in their lives. This was not the first time that we have blogged about such discoveries, and we will continue to do so, because we are always excited when we find out more about the relationship of reader-contributors to the magazine. What, after all, did they get out of their contributions? It was not money, because unsolicited submissions were in all likelihood never paid for, and although some ambitious authors may have used these first humble publications as a stepping stone, most left it at getting a few of their musings into print. The predominance of anonymity and pseudonymous or cryptically abbreviated signatures strongly suggests that the latter, larger category must in general have contributed solely for the sheer satisfaction of it. If this is the case, then it is puzzling why many readers felt the need to pass off as their own work material that had in fact been plagiarized.

  As I have discussed before, unacknowledged appropriation of contributions to other periodicals and, of extracts from books, was standard practice in the eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century press. Editors skimmed rival publications for quality content and employed hack writers to help fill up their magazines with copy that was taken from other sources, and to varied extents edited to make it seem original. This may have been unethical and even illegal, but commercially, it made a lot of sense. There is however little reason for unpaid contributors to pillage the creative output of others. Often, of course, readers would act in the capacity of what we have called ‘intermediate authors’, for instance when they recommend for republication certain items, mostly short poems or edifying extracts, gleaned from periodicals and books, and then usually they do so with a short prefatory headnote stating that they were not the author. In quite a few cases, however, some would simply submit plagiarized work. It is of course impossible to know whether this plagiarism was intentional, but at least there is no sign of any attempt to give due credit to the original author.

    Today we have recourse to wonderful databases such as Eighteenth Century Journals, Eighteenth Century Collections Online and Google Books to detect the plagiarized contributions, but back then, editors had to rely on their own, obviously extensive, knowledge of contemporaneous print culture. With almost endearing hypocrisy, the Lady’s Magazine’s monthly correspondence columns do call out plagiarizing reader-contributors on such ‘petty Larceny’:

The angry letter from a Correspondent, signed Musarum Amicus, deserves some Animadversion : He threatens us with withdrawing his Favours from us for ever, if we do not insert a thing which he entitles, The Maid’s Soliloquy, a Parody, from Cato – By a Parthenian Lady; which, he knows, was inserted in the Covent Garden Magazine for March last — We might have excused this petty Larceny, had he addressed us in terms which were due to the Sex ; but when the Crime is aggravated by want of Delicacy, it deserves Resentment[.]“ (LM [July 1773]: 392).

    According to the scholarly consensus on literary history, the early years of the Lady’s Magazine coincided with the breakthrough of sentimental verse, and much of the poetry submitted by readers does adhere to what Jerome McGann has called ‘the poetics of Sensibility’: literature primarily conceived as an attempt to record and communicate an individual’s ‘affects’, i.e. emotional responses to specific situations.[1] It is interesting that many of the poems plagiarized by reader were either (purportedly) personal lyrics, or ‘occasional verse’ meant to mark a specific event that impressed the poet, but that usually the only alterations are changes to the absolute specifics of settings or addressees. The following two examples are representative of the bulk of the plagiarized readers’ poems that I have so far managed to trace.

comparison LM - GM

    In January 1771, a contributor with the signature ‘Fidelis’ submits a melancholy poem of 58 rhyming couplets, dedicated to an absent friend ‘Miss J. P—r’ whose initial is revealed in the poem to stands for ‘Jenny’ (LM [January 1771]: 278-279). Cross-checking sampled lines with online databases has demonstrated that this poem is in fact an edited version of an original from the Gentleman’s Magazine of July 1749, signed ‘Sylvia’, and there dedicated ‘[t]o Amanda’. The juxtaposed opening lines of the two versions will show how very similar they are. Fidelis has made only minor alterations, changing the location from Dulwich to Hagley, and – luckily – not forgetting to change the name of the addressed lady either. Worcestershire, where Hagley is located, must in the eighteenth century have been remarkably similar to Dulwich’s Middlesex, as the ruminations on the original speaker’s surroundings seemingly did not require adaptation. It is worthy of note that the re-attribution of the poem from a female to a plausibly male signature (the nominalized adjective ‘fidelis’ is masc.) would alter the possible readings of the poem significantly. The poem in both versions contains the line (not in image) “Hail sacred Friendship! Virtue’s best defence”, which is intriguing in the original due to its female signature, but in the later version with male signature arguably less so.

comparison LM - UR - JP

     My second example is a short occasional poem that appeared in the Lady’s Magazine one year later (LM [September 1772]: 428). It was submitted by ‘Almira’, based in Guildford, to declare her rapture “[o]n hearing the reverend Mr. Williams preach the condemn’d Sermon to the prisoners” in that town. Again, a database search revealed that this poem is a but superficially edited plagiarism. The earliest version that I found is the unsigned ‘Some extempore Lines on reading a Fine Poem’ that appeared in the April 1751 number of the Universal Magazine. The Lady’s Magazine adaptation shifts the earlier version’s enthusiasm for the ‘eloquence’ of a poem to that of a preacher, who may have been the popular Dissenting clergyman John Williams (1727-1798).[2] The only differences are that the fourth line of the original is omitted, perhaps because it was judged inappropriate in a poem on a religious occasion, and in the new line 4 the adaptation has ‘sink us into fears’ for ‘sink us in our fears’. We can see how mobile contributions to periodicals were in this period from the fact that yet another version appears years later, in the American weekly Juvenile Port-folio of Saturday 4 March 1815. This version is nearly identical to that of 1751, but the anonymous plagiarist has changed the title to ‘Extempore on reading the poetical works of Walter Scott’. The Wizard of the North, of course, was not yet ‘warm[ing] us into love’ in 1751. Intriguingly, the 1815 version has the Lady’s Magazine’s reading ‘into fears’ as well. This suggests that there was another version of the poem, which may have been the original to all three versions, that has been lost or at least never digitized. We never can be entirely sure about the earliest instances of periodical contributions.

    I do not believe that in either case the plagiarizers were conscious of doing anything wrong. Although reader-contributors to magazines did not have the same motives for appropriating the work of others as the editors had, the transgressions of both were rooted in the particular views on authorship prevalent in the eighteenth century. As is common knowledge, the notion of intellectual property was until the nineteenth century predominantly legal, and had not yet filtered through to the everyday ‘ethical order’ yet. I have discussed in an earlier post how, in contemporaneous satire on the hugely successful Lady’s Magazine, coy pseudonymous reader-contributors actually longed to be found out, as their masks would impart an elegant modesty to their authorship, adding charm to their contributions if they were recognized. This may well have been true for many, as locations in the dateline and references within the contribution were full of potential hints. In the same way that many magazine editors (I think genuinely) considered material found in rival publications to be up for grabs, there was for these amateur poets no ill in borrowing a line or two (or 58) from a more felicitous bard. The risk of getting caught would also be rather low. This must have been very convenient!

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent


[1] Jerome McGann, The Poetics of Sensibility (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), passim

[2] Diana K. Jones, “Williams, John (1727-1798)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. [last consulted on 31 Aug. 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

The Lady’s Magazine team goes to Cardiff

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

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

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

Panel convened by Jennie Batchelor (University of Kent)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

Constructing authorial identities: A Suffolk Weaver Poet in the Lady’s Magazine

When Byron’s first publications did not meet with the favourable reception which they undoubtedly deserved, the young poet wrote one of his most scathing works of satire, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809). In this infamously delightful poem, he not only lampoons the critics who had slighted him, but he also attacks various literary fashions prevalent in what we now know as the Romantic era. Among these is a vogue for “self-taught” poets:

Let Poesy go forth, pervade the whole, / Alike the rustic, and mechanic soul!  / Ye tuneful cobblers! still your notes prolong, / Compose at once a slipper and a song; / So shall the fair your handywork peruse, / Your sonnets sure shall please—perhaps your shoes. / May Moorland weavers boast Pindaric skill, / And tailors’ lays be longer than their bill! (ll. 789-798)

This ironic passage contains direct references to poets who were well-known at the time; foremost the tailor’s son and shoemaker Robert Bloomfield, and the “Moorland weaver” Thomas Bakewell from Staffordshire. The Lady’s Magazine, which features representative examples of all literary phenomena of its time, reflects this fad as well, and the former poet is regularly republished (a euphemism for “pirated”) there. The reasons for their success are too complex to go into in this blog post, but such rurally situated poets without an advanced formal education tended to be popular for two main reasons: (1) their very rusticity, as at this stage of the Industrial Revolution many self-taught poets were indeed still based in the increasingly idealized countryside, far away from the supposedly stifling influence of cities, and (2) they would not be tempted to use the stock phrases, stylistic mannerisms, and intertextual clichés from Classical literature typically acquired through an Augustan education. According to the proto-Romantic myth, which certainly predates the Lyrical Ballads (1798), uneducated equals unspoiled, and these poets would be inspired directly by nature. Much of this is of course problematic as the most successful self-taught poets were arguably more learned than many university graduates today, but one can see why people found the idea attractive.

     The assumptions on which it rests suited periodicals like the Lady’s Magazine, which relied for most of its content on myriads of amateur reader-contributors, whose confidence would naturally have been boosted by the example of “rustic and mechanic souls” turned poet. Despite the superficially democratic new taste, getting published was not easy for poets lacking connections in the literary trade, and the platform offered by the magazine was for many a welcome opportunity. The readership of the magazine was found across the United Kingdom and notably in every English county, and this means that it could be of special use to those authors who next to no connections also had a disadvantageous geographical situation. Perhaps many had hopes for more than occasional publication in a women’s monthly, but as the magazine was such a commercial success, you could achieve some form of celebrity even if you never got published elsewhere.

Hogarth weavers

Hogarth – Industry & Idleness (1747) – I. The Fellow ‘Prentices at their Looms

     One reader-contributor who achieved moderate success within the magazine was the Suffolk-based “weaver poet” John Webb (1768-1840). Thanks to a few preserved personal documents we know more about him than about most other authors. Webb was an exceptionally productive contributor, publishing dozens of poems and causeries for the magazine from 1800 to 1818. These poems are mostly derivative lyrics that evoke bestselling poets of the period, and the causeries are moral reflections, often occasioned by walks around (the almost proverbial) country churchyards. Webb tells us in the handwritten memoirs that he left us, which were never published, that he was a pious man, likely a Presbyterian, belonging to the Nonconformist community of the town of Haverhill where he would be buried at the Independent Church.

     The aforementioned autobiographical document, though somewhat self-aggrandizing, is a great source on the motivations of reader-contributors like Webb to write for the magazine. Webb tells us that he was born into a family long-established in the fustian trade, who appear to have been respected artisans. The region had a tradition of textile manufacturing, and from the difference between his status in his early youth and the relative prosperity that he implies for himself near the end of his life, it would appear that the family had profited by the momentous transition from handloom to powerloom weaving, which occurred throughout Webb’s professional life. At any rate, the man who says that he wrote most of his early poetry under the tutelage of a former “journeyman weaver” who taught him his letters and not much more at the parish school, soon was making frequent business trips to London, where all of his children would come to live. It is fascinating that he continues to present himself nevertheless as a “weaver poet” throughout that time, despite the fact that he would have progressed in financial status and social habitus, in his later work for instance referring to opera singer Angelica Catalani, whom he is unlikely to have heard at a humble church social back home in Haverhill. That he continues to exploit this image repeatedly by referring to it in his poetry, is likely due to more than class loyalty, but also to a desire to participate in the literary fashions of the day, and maybe to take advantage of this good opportunity to market his own work.

     Not only did many readers consider the self-taught poets “[r/R]omantic”, a more or less self-conscious presentation of oneself as “self-taught” would also function as a strategy for poets without a public school and university education to position themselves in the literary market, where any sign of deficient breeding was still habitually and ruthlessly picked on; Byron’s snide remarks still being a mild example. Webb wrote two long narrative poems about his hometown that did not appear in the Lady’s Magazine but as privately printed books, entitled Haverhill (1810) and The Market Town (1821), which take their cue from the thematically similar work of George Crabbe (The Village and The Borough). Both touch upon his personal educational history. He cites his sources meticulously, and mentions that after his indifferent schooling with the incompetent schoolmaster, he educated himself further by reading poets such as Milton, Goldsmith, William Whitehead, and Cowper. The preface to Haverhill apologizes ambiguously for any possible faults in the title poem and the shorter pieces appended, stating that most of them “were written while the author moved in the humble sphere of a Journeyman Weaver”.[1] This was commonly understood as meaning that the poet himself had been a journeyman, but this appears never to have been the case: rather, his schoolmaster had been. Although this may seem a detail, it does nuance the class-based profile that Webb constructs for himself. Tellingly, the autobiography is very scanty with details on Webb’s day job, maybe not to burst the bubble, and it is not unimportant that the poet who wrote in The Market Town that his home was “[a]far from London’s proud imperial towers”[2] was to spend so much of his time in the capital. The anonymous critic for the Monthly Review, discussing Haverhill, appears suspicious, and states that “to speak the plain truth, Mr. Webb appears to have been singularly favoured [by the Muses] for a man in his situation in life”.[3] It is indeed probable that he was less rustic than he himself claimed.

     Webb says that that after having started his allegedly autodidactic studies of other poets, he soon tried his own hand at poetry, and wanting a forum for his effusions, he naturally turned to the magazines. In 1785, he took advantage of a competition in the Wit’s Magazine (1794-1795), “the conductor of which [Thomas Holcroft – KC] gave four silver medals monthly, to such correspondents as produced the best original essay, tale, etc., or who wrote the best answers to their Prize Enigma”. Webb did not win, but was not deterred by this, and in 1792 went on to publish “many humble attempts at Poetry in the New Lady Magazine [sic], but having entered the nuptial scene […], I hung my harp on the willows, and attended to more important matters”.[4] The periodical that he mentions here is actually the New Lady’s Magazine, a rival publication to the Lady’s Magazine that was published by Alexander Hogg, former associate of Lady’s Magazine publisher Robinson and Co. It followed an editorial policy very similar to that to the Lady’s Magazine, and pirated so much of its content that Hogg was eventually taken to court.

LM XXXIV (Nov 1804). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

     As he now dedicated himself solely to his family for a few years, we have to wait until the Lady’s Magazine publications for Webb to resurface again, but luckily here his work found a permanent home. The often enthusiastic reader-contributor community appears to have embraced him wholeheartedly, and he even received fan mail. In November 1804 his poem “The Old Bachelor’s Petition” appeared, where he assumes the persona of a “lass-lorn” older man who laments not having gotten married in his youth, which was such a hit that had he wanted to and not already had a wife, our weaver could have wed a spinster. Two sent lengthy replies in verse to Webb, probably by way of the magazine’s publishers, in which they offered him marriage. Mercifully, these amorous epistles were never published in the magazine.

     All of this attention must have been flattering, but it is a far cry from establishing a reputation as a poet. At one time, Webb appears to have almost made it, when he published by subscription his first long poem, Haverhill, and by his own admittance was left with a cool £100 after all expenses were paid. Again according to himself, he was visited soon after its publication by Sir George Beaumont, one of the subscribers and the doyen of English art patrons. Beaumont claimed to have shown it to Wordsworth, who in turn would also have thought it a decent poem, and (amusingly) admired the fact that Webb had made so much money out of it. However, nothing much happens after this, presumably because Webb’s first priorities always were his family and business. The Lady’s Magazine may not have secured him a place in the canon, but it must have helped him to attract the support of his generous subscribers.

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent


[1] Webb, John. Haverhill, a descriptive Poem, and other Poems. London: privately printed, 1810. n. p.

[2] Webb, John. Poems. London: privately printed, 1859. p. 66

[3] Unsigned. “Haverhill, a descriptive Poem, and other Poems “. Monthly Review Vol. LXII, Nr. 8 (August 1810), pp. 343-344

[4] Webb, John. Autobiography. Manuscript.

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