Category Archives: Index

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

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

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

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

index excerpt 20 April

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Koenraad Claes
School of English, University of Kent

Juvenile Genius: girls and boys writing for the Lady’s Magazine

LM, XXXII (1801). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Titles are an important element of a publication’s marketing strategy, and will usually be chosen to draw the attention of a target readership. In the case of the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1837), it is quite likely that the title was meant to position this periodical as an alternative to the long-established Gentleman’s Magazine (1731-1922), suggesting that it offered content of the same standards and prestige as the male-gendered original, but more directly appealing to a female audience. As we have discussed before, it would however be a mistake to assume that the Lady’s Magazine was only read by women. Many of the reader-contributors who submitted unsolicited copy to the magazine were male, and after studying the subscription lists of provincial booksellers, Jan Fergus has furthermore found that men as well as women associated with schools for both boys and girls, and their respective pupils, constituted a significant part of the subscribers.[1] Submissions by these pupils, in a variety of genres, regularly make their appearance in the magazine.

There are several reasons why the Lady’s Magazine would have been deemed suitable reading for younger readers, but we need look no further than the neat summary of the periodical’s mission in its subtitle. This tells us that the magazine is conceived as ‘an Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated solely to their Use and Amusement’. Even though the many contributors do (cautiously) discuss the issues of the day, editorial notices in the magazine do indicate that submissions were turned down if they were considered potentially offensive, because they would be of a scurrilous or too controversial nature. For the standards of what would be ‘appropriate[d]’, the magazine tends not to distinguish the sensibilities of (adult) women from those of younger readers, as perhaps is typical of the age. For instance, yoking together ‘juvenile’ readers and ‘the [Fair] Sex’, the ‘Preface’ to Vol. IV (1773) aims to dispel all possible misgivings of concerned parents and professional pedagogues by ensuring that

preface 1773

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

The ‘Use’ mentioned in the subtitle is covered here too, by referring to the prominent educational mission of the magazine. As is often emphasized in the magazine’s internal advertisements, readers could expect more than just light entertainment from the Lady’s Magazine. They would learn from its fiction and essays rules of conduct, and from the many historical or geographical pieces they would get a smattering of book smarts into the bargain. It is clear from the above statement that the editors grasped that the “appropriated” and edifying content could potentially attract a broader readership than only adult women, foremost including younger readers. Many contributions are aimed directly at this demographic, with short fiction about young ladies often set in schools, and essays (usually in the form of letters) that tell daughters or sisters how they should behave there.

From the first year of the Lady’s Magazine onwards, we also find pieces that are attributed to such ‘juvenile’ reader-contributors themselves. Like most of the contributions to the magazine, these are mostly anonymous or pseudonymous, but with precocious young authors the age is sometimes stated, and affiliations with specific schools are often emphasized. No doubt this was an opportunity for the represented schools to advertise the level of their pupils. Especially in its early years, the magazine often included short French essays with the invitation to submit translations for inclusion in the next number, and for instance in 1775 one such translation, suspiciously faultless, appeared from a “G. Stennett, aged ten years, at the Academy, Woodford, Essex” (Vol. VI, p. 180). Perhaps it was common for Miss or Sir to have a quick look at the efforts of their wards before they were sent off. The merits of boarding schools for girls are a topic of debate among correspondents in the magazine’s earlier years, and for those institutions it must have been a concern that they appeared at their best. Additionally, it is possible that the magazine was used as material for classroom assignments. Though some translators can be identified as adults, these translation exercises do noticeably often appear with full mentions of the school or age of teenage contributors. The submission of the class’s best work to the Lady’s Magazine may have been an appealing incentive to ambitious pupils. Translations of short Latin poems and excerpts from the Classics sometimes appear too, and may well have originated as (a boy’s) classwork. After the first decade these possibly didactic items become rarer.

The flow of items in other genres, however, continues unabated. During the entire run of the magazine, ‘enigmatical lists’ are often supplied by girls at boarding schools, who clearly enjoyed writing fanciful descriptions of each other. There is no practical advantage to circulating a riddle throughout the British dominions that could hardly be solved by anyone not living in the same house as you, but let s/he who never chats to colleagues on Facebook cast the first stone. There would of course be the joy of seeing one’s submission in print, which was no doubt an even greater thrill to the many young contributors regularly sending in poems, usually short and lyrical.

hail papa April 1771

LM, I (April 1771), p. 431. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Poets will draw inspiration from their surroundings and experiences, and these aspiring bards are no exception. Already in 1771 ‘a female genius at a boarding school in Leicester’ (Vol. I, p. 431) apostrophizes her ‘dear papa’ in a poem about her homesickness. How many now legendary poets started off by writing verse like this?



Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] Fergus, Jan. Provincial Readers in Eighteenth-Century England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. passim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Koenraad Claes
School of English, University of Kent

Entertaining puzzles in the Lady’s Magazine

Periodical publications, and especially the subgenre of the magazine, are seldom a one-way street. The content they provide readers with may stimulate response in the form of letters to the editor and other unsolicited copy, and many  periodicals turn this reciprocity to good use. As previous blog posts have shown, the Lady’s Magazine was particularly welcoming to the writings of its readership, developing it into a community of reader-contributors who used the magazine as a platform to express their thoughts and feelings, and sometimes to engage with each other. They did this in opinion pieces, (overly) serious poetry, prose fiction and philosophical essays, but there was also room for more light-hearted contributions. There are for instance entertaining puzzles in almost every issue. These come in several closely related forms, such as “charades”, being playful descriptions of a person or object (often in verse); “enigmatical lists” that provide clues to a number of hidden concepts from within an indicated category; and traditional word riddles like anagrams and rebuses. All were meant as a challenge to other readers, who would submit their solutions to be printed in the following number.

blog image 2

LM, VI (1775). Image © Adam Matthew Digial / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

The popularity of the Lady’s Magazine made it a frequent reference in secondary sources, and we can gain insight into how readers enjoyed their puzzles from such contemporaneous accounts. Henry Mackenzie’s essay periodical the Lounger features a seriocomic account of a clergyman who complains that “a young lady […] tried [him] with the enigmas of the Lady’s Magazine, and declared [him] impracticably dull”.[1] Another reverend personage, in the similar publication the Looker-on, objects to “persons, who are called ingenious gentlemen, who have in general no other claim to this title than what is derived from the solution of an enigma in the Lady’s Magazine”.[2] That both puzzles and solutions were regularly published with signature already implies that, even with these less consequential items, there was a sense of achievement if one’s ruminations made it into print. This is not surprising, as devising and solving such riddles allowed for the demonstration of the contributor’s quick intelligence and sense of humour, united in the then highy valued qualification for social life, “wit”. The solutions often contain comments on the originality or intricacy of the puzzle replied to, and certain contributors appear to develop a fondness for each other, repeatedly responding cordially to one another’s submissions.

blog image

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

The puzzles are often still amusing today, and give us an idea of the kind of entertainment that the public sought to derive from print media. Because biographical information on reader-contributors is very scarce, they are furthermore useful for finding out more about the demographics of the magazine’s readership. Not only do readers who seem to know each other outside the magazine sometimes divulge information about their correspondents, but the often highly specific topics of the riddles can also suggest research leads. For instance, the but limited local interest of the “Enigmatical list of Young Ladies of Aldborough in Yorkshire” (August 1784) may help to identify its otherwise mysterious contributor signed “G. Dixon”. When the unknown quantity “R. Beaumont” replies to the long “Enigmatical list of Aldermen in the City of London”, submitted by one “J. Randolph” (March/April 1790), this would suggest some acquaintance with (or at least interest in) metropolitan local government for both correspondents. As contributors in this section often contribute material in other genres too, the puzzles can be very helpful when attributing pseudonymous contributions throughout the magazine.

Regrettably, the gallantry of the gentlemen contributors to the Lady’s Magazine was sometimes compromised when a topic for an enigma presented itself. In December 1788, an anonymous lady wrote in to complain that she had found in a previous issue a puzzle that listed “Old Maids in Newark”, and her name, she believed through error, “inserted in the list of that venerable tribe”. She got her revenge by instantly submitting a list of no less than thirty bachelors in her Nottinghamshire home. From then onwards, editorial statements in the front matter regularly advised contributors that similar “lists of old maids” would no longer be printed: “We affront no species of females”.

If you wish to find out whether you would have fared better than the rustic reverend, we recommend that you follow the Lady’s Magazine research project on Twitter, @ladysmagproject. Choice examples of puzzles, and their solutions, are regularly posted there.

Dr Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] Modestus [John Cleland?]. “Qualifications required in a country clergyman by his patron and his patron’s family”. The Lounger, Vol. 2, Nr. 40 (5 November 1785), pp. 35-39. p.38

[2] Olive-Branch, Rev. Simon [William Roberts]. “Mr. Barnaby, the Churchwarden”. The Looker-on. Vol. 1, Nr. 3 (17 March 1797), pp. 27-42. p. 40

An open-access research index for the Lady’s Magazine

Over the next two years, the Leverhulme-funded research project on the Lady’s Magazine at the University of Kent will share with you its findings on the diverse contents and often obscure authors in this pioneering women’s periodical. The project’s most ambitious service to the scholarly community is its fully searchable index of the magazine, from its launch in 1770 to the start of the reformatted ‘new series’ in 1818. Used alongside the digitized holdings in the Eighteenth Century Journals database, the index will allow researchers to find their way around the magazine much quicker than with the means currently at our disposal.

LM, XIII (1782). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

The original readers of the Lady’s Magazine obviously approached their favourite periodical much differently from modern-day literary scholars and historians. The publishers therefore understandably catered to the needs of their immediate readership in the minimalistic tables of contents and annual indexes that they themselves provided. These documents lack data that researchers are most interested in, and are not user-friendly. They invariably contain errors in pagination, omit many items that were likely deemed of too ephemeral interest, and are not arranged systematically. Authors are never mentioned in these listings, and when they are credited within the magazine, inconsistencies in signatures frequently hamper exhaustive queries. Furthermore, there is as yet no comprehensive index for the entire run of the series.

Our open-access index will address all of these formal issues, delivering detailed records for each of the over 15,000 contributions. To facilitate research within specific genres or interests, all contributions will be assigned one or more relevant genre categories, and keywords will be provided based on subject matter or themes. As the Lady’s Magazine even more than other periodicals actively encouraged interaction between its reader-contributors, useful tags will point out when given contributions are noticeably in dialogue with each other, bringing back to life the controversies that caught the interest of the magazine’s wide readership over two centuries ago. If the magazine gives information about the sex or age of the contributor then this is recorded as well, and mediating contributors who preface or translate the work of others are also identified. When content has been taken from other publications (be it another periodical or a book), then this source will be stated.

partial preview of index

Besides being the first reliable and comprehensive listing of the magazine’s contents and contributors, the index should also be considered a scholarly work in progress, to which new insights will be added continuously. The project’s researchers will identify as many anonymous and pseudonymous contributors as possible, and enter these attributions into the index too. It will become clear that the countless initials and pseudonyms belong not only to obscure amateurs ‘to fortune and to fame unknown’, but also to a diverse array of more famous authors and public figures.

Dr. Koenraad Claes

School of English; University of Kent