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Thinking Back through our Mothers: The Lady’s Magazine on International Women’s Day

Today, 8 March 2016, is International Women’s Day. It is a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women all over the world. It is a time to look back at all our histories. A time to see where we were and to assess how far we have come. It is a time to remember (or in some cases to learn for the first time about) the work of women of the past.

It is also, of course, a time to take stock of where we are now. And it is a time to look forwards, to plan and to commit to the work that still needs to be done. It is a moment to pledge for parity –  this year’s International Women’s Day theme – to ensure that our literal and metaphorical daughters, sisters, nieces and cousins can realise their ambitions. It is reminder that we need to ‘respect and value difference’, to foster female leadership and to ‘develop more inclusive and flexible cultures’ that root out gender bias. [1]

Both as a working mother of two children (a girl and a boy) and as a teacher, I urgently feel the obligation to pledge for gender parity now for the sake of all our futures. As an eighteenth-centuryist, who spends much of her life vicariously (and very happily) living in the past, I believe passionately that looking backwards is one of the most powerful catalysts we have to propel us forwards.

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


This isn’t just about assessing how far we’ve come. The very first thing that history, surely, teaches any of us is that there is no inexorable progress towards present-day, or even future, perfection. History is a game of gains and losses; of advancement and regression; of ‘uneven developments’, to borrow the words of Mary Poovey [2]. But taking the long view of that game, of its repercussions and the all-too real stakes for which the people involved have played, is more than instructive. History has the potential to let us see the present anew. It enables us to see through the fictions we have been told about how the world was, and to refract alternative possibilities for the future through the prism of the past.




It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I think that the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832) offers one such generative contact point between women’s pasts, presents and futures.

Now, I’m not saying that the Lady’s Magazine is straightforwardly (or even complicatedly) a feminist publication, although I do have a habit of telling anyone who will listen that the magazine called for a ‘revolution in female manners’ a good 14 years before Mary Wollstonecraft much more famously did so in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) (LM 9 [Jan 1778]: iii).

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LM I (Apr 1771): 418. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Birmingham Central Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Early feminist polemic certainly had its place in the Lady’s Magazine. The first of many times the periodical referred to womens ‘rights’ was in an essay ‘On the Strength and Bravery of the Female Sex’, signed Lucinda, which appeared in its fourth issue in January 1771 [LM I (Jan 1771): 261]. Extracts of Wollstonecraft’s work appeared in the periodical in the 1790s, alongside memoirs of and observations on the works and lives of the likes of Mary Astell, Madame Dacier, Emilie du Chatelet, and Damaris Masham. The political and cultural achievements of women from antiquity to its present and from all over the world were celebrated every month in the magazine in one-off biographies and biographical serials such as ‘Memoirs of Remarkable Ladies of Great Britain’ (1774-1776) and ‘The Lady’s Biography, Or the Lives of celebrated and illustrious Women, ancient and modern; adapted particularly to the Amusement and Instruction of the Fair Sex’ (1771-1772) .

The women remembered and celebrated in these columns excelled in classical learning, in literature, in the arts, on the stage, and in politics. They included notable women from Cleopatra and Empress Athenais, to Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, Nell Gwynn, Sarah Siddons, and bluestockings Elizabeth Rowe and Elizabeth Carter. The magazine was always international in focus. It acknowledged and helped further to entrench the influence of important French women writers including Madame de Genlis and Madeleine de Scudéry, while it brought to readers’ attention via translations of works such as Geronymo Feijoo’s  Defence of Women (1726) the lives and work of Greek, French, German and Italian women (serialised 1810-1811).

The magazine was frequently passionate in its advocacy of women’s right to education and argued that historical precedent urged its necessity and efficacy. To quote from Lucinda’s aforementioned 1771 article

Women formerly had the supreme command at Lacadaemon. These brave people were always virtuous, [… and] conceived so high an idea of the prudence and wisdom of women, who had shown amazing judgment and penetration in a a thousand important affairs relative to the public welfare, that at length nothing was determined without their advice. At Athens also, the school of wisdom, and seat of the arts, women were consulted in the most critical circumstances, and the preference was always given to their opinion. Nicaulin, the famous queen; Semiramis, empress of Assyria; Elizabeth, queen of England; and many others have rendered it doubtful, whether it is more advantageous for a state to be governed by a male or a female administration. (LM I [Jan 1771]: 261)

Benito Feijoo

Portrait of Feijoo y Montenegro by Juan Bernabé Palomino.

Culture’s insidious masquerading as nature, or to use Lucinda’s own words, ‘bad education’ and ‘the malice of man[‘s]’ corruption of the ‘intentions of nature’ in degrading women and denying them parity of opportunity, would be a recurrent refrain of the magazine for its next six decades. Women were equally as educable as men. The history of women teaches us, above all, to quote Elenir Irwin’s extraordinary translation of Feijoo’s Defence of Women that: ‘the excellencies of men cannot be denied to women’ on any rational grounds (LM 41 [Dec 1810]: 531).

Despite such claims, the magazine’s until recent reputation as a conduct book by another name and association with gender conservatism is not wholly unwarranted [3]. The Lady’s Magazine could be deeply condescending towards women, and misogyny finds its home in many articles that tried to police what women wore, could talk about or even read. The opening line of the sanctimonious 1788 serial ‘Letters from a Brother to a Sister at a Boarding School’ speaks for many of the magazine’s bluntest male contributors: ‘Do you know, Mary, that you are very ignorant?’ (LM 39 [Mar 1788]: 107).

Men, in fact, have a lot to say about women in the Lady’s Magazine. Indeed, two of the things that most surprise first-time readers of the periodical are how many men clearly subscribed to and enjoyed it, and how much of its contents seems to have been authored by male authors from schoolboys to married men and elderly bachelors. While many female contributors challenged men’s right to attempt to police their lives and behaviour, calls to ‘bar the male creatures’ from the magazine were never heeded. (LM 31 [Mar 1780]: 125).

But despite the presence of men in the magazine and despite the misogyny that pours out in a number of contributions by men and women in its pages (misogyny never was nor ever will be an exclusively male preserve), I would argue until my last breath that the Lady’s Magazine has an important place in the history of women’s writing and in women’s history more broadly.

To document all the reasons why would take much more space than I have here. It’s partly why I am writing a book about just this subject. But suffice it to say for now, that the magazine provided an important space and place for women’s writing (current and past, British and international) that had significant impact. Careers were launched in the magazine’s pages, from those of George Crabbe to Gothic novelists Catherine Cuthbertson, George Moore, Mrs A. Kendall. Later writers such as Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, who wished ‘[w]ith all my heart … I had been born in time to contribute to the Lady’s Magazine’, were undoubtedly influenced by it [4].

LM IX ( Jan 1779): 148. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Cambridge University Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

LM IX ( Jan 1779): 148. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / Cambridge University Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Most of all, though, the magazine’s greatest achievement, as I have argued before, was its creation of a community of readers and reader-contributors in which women and what we might now call women’s issues took centre stage. They did so by never taking as read that any issue, topic or pursuit was inherently gendered. Mathematics, philosophy and astronomy were widely understood as male preserves at the time, but the magazine would argue forcefully for women’s right to access and practice these fields. It was, after all, not ‘astonishing’ that ‘a Newton should not have sprung up from our [the female] sex’, the pseudonymous Sukey Foresight argued, when ‘no lady […] ever experienced an education similar to Sir Isaac Newton’ (LM 31 [Apr 1780]: 181). By the same token, traditionally feminine subjects such as fashion, to which much page space in the magazine was dedicated, were widely discussed in and disseminated by the magazine, but their politics and place in women’s lives was always open to debate and always presented as only adorning those women equally committed to the ‘cultivation of their minds’ (LM 32 [Oct 1781]: 506).

Today, of course, communities for articulating and debating women’s issues have proliferated thanks, in large part, to the growth of the internet and social media. The conversation has expanded exponentially; its current reach would have been unimaginable to readers of the Lady’s Magazine whose own circulation seems to have been around (a still quite astonishing) 15000 copies a month at the height of its popularity. Just in our the online Twitter and Facebook communities focused around this research project, I regularly talk to hundreds of followers in the US, Tasmania, Russia, Japan and India. But as the conversation grows about gender parity there is also a danger that it could more splintered or more local in focus.

Today, the example of the Lady’s Magazine, no matter how conflicted its own gender politics is, reminds me that we need to hold on to the bigger picture. We need, I firmly believe, to keep an eye on the long view, on what women have gained and lost in recent decades and even over the course of centuries. We also need to look beyond national boundaries to advocate women’s access to education and their right to live lives of opportunity without prejudice and fear wherever they live in the world.


[1] <Accessed 7 March 2016>

[2] Mary Poovey, Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).

[3] See, for instance, Kathryn Shevelow, Women and Print Culture: The Construction of Femininity in the Early Periodical (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 188-89.

[4] Letter to Hartley Coleridge, 10 December 1840, The Selected Letters of Charlotte Brontë: Vol. I, 1829-1847, ed. Margaret Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 240.


Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent


Searching for ‘R’: A Collaborative Identification

One of the questions we are often asked about the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1832) is regarding the identities of the magazine’s thousands of anonymous and pseudonymous writers who were often longtime contributors. Koenraad, Jennie and I have all written about some of the methodologies we use, problems we encounter and attributions we have made in various blog posts regarding the identity of these elusive authors. While my role on the project is focused on the examination and analysis of content, I often become intrigued (some might say obsessed) with the question of the individual behind the mask. In such instances, our team’s collaborative efforts are at once essential and particularly fruitful.

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LM IX (March 1778): 148. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

‘R’, a prolific contributor of tales and translations, was a particularly intriguing puzzle in terms of identification for a number of reasons. First, the number of contributions by ‘R’ was enormous and varied and the simple letter ‘R’ could be used by any number of different contributors. Additionally, ‘R’ was signed variously ‘R’, ‘R.’ and ‘R—’, making it difficult to pin down which contributions were from the individual we sought and not another ‘R’. Finally, the initial ‘R’ and its voluminous contributions raised the potential question of a link to magazine’s publishers, the Robinson family, and one of its initial publishers, J. Roberts. The various ‘R’ signatures to the tales and translations are likely distinct from the ‘R’ signatures to a serial feature in the magazine also appearing in the early to mid-1770s, ‘The Friend to the Fair Sex.’ While the ‘R’ who contributed tales and translations sometimes self-identifies as a ‘lady’, readers tended to address the ‘R’ author of ‘The Friend to the Fair Sex’ as a male, in part because the serial often berated women. While this isn’t proof that the signature was in use by multiple contributors, it does indicate that there were at least two distinct writers using the initial in the first decades of the magazine.

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LM IX [March 1778]. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

The search began in earnest after Koenraad located a note by E. W. Pitcher to the Literary Research Newsletter Vol. 5, No. 3 (summer 1980). Pitcher contributed ‘The Miscellaneous Periodical Works and Translations of Miss R. Roberts’ that attributes the items signed “R-” to this obscure magazine writer of the late eighteenth century. In the article, Pitcher points out that some of serials signed ‘R’ also used pseudonyms such as ‘Georgiana’ in different installments and were thus perhaps ‘translations of young ladies under her tutorship’, pointing towards Miss Roberts’ potential role as a teacher whose translations for the magazine were at times composites of her work and  that of her students (Pitcher, 127). Miss R. Roberts, Pitcher further notes, was the sister of Dr. Roberts, who was the High Master of St. Paul’s School. Using this as our starting point, the hunt began.

There is, in fact, an ONDB entry for ‘Roberts, R.’, that lists the elusive contributor as a translator and sermon writer, detailing information about her family in Gloucester and mentions her brother, Dr. Roberts, naming him as Richard (another ‘R’) and listed a host of her works; primarily translations. Roberts’ publications include: Select Moral Tales (Gloucester: 1763), a translation of four tales from Jean François Marmontel’s Contes moraux; Sermons Written by a Lady, the Translatress of Four Select Tales from Marmontel (1770); Elements of the History of France (1771), an abridged translation of Claude-François-Xavier Millot’s Élemens de l’histoire de France; Peruvian Letters — a translation of Mme Françoise de Graffigny’s Lettres d’une péruvienne (2 vols., 1747), The triumph of truth; or memoirs of M. De La Villette (T. Cadell, 1775); Malcolm (1779) an unstaged blank-verse tragedy; and Albert, Edward, and Laura, and the Hermit of Priestland; Three Legendary Tales (1783).

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The Monthly Review; or, Literary Journal LXIX (July-Dec): 342.

Roberts’ most significant work was probably the translation of Graffigny’s letters, to which she added a third volume consisting of nine letters. The attribution of the translation to Miss Roberts derives from a letter by Frances Brooke, a contemporary (and rival) translator and periodicalist who was much better known than Roberts. Marijn S. Kaplan’s edition Translations and Continuations: Ricoboni and Brooke, Graffigny and Roberts provides details of Roberts’ translations and her connection to Frances Brooke, with whom Roberts shared a publisher and whose son Jack attend St. Paul’s School, where Roberts’ brother was High Master  (Kaplan, xi-xii).

Roberts death notice

GM, 58 (Jan 1788): 85

While the ONDB entry suggests that Roberts spent most of her life in Gloucester, noting the family link to Hannah More (via her nieces Mary and Margaret, daughters of her brother William) and her connection to Dr. Hawkesworth, Roberts’ first name and any details of her own life were absent. Using the information in the ONDB I began searching for her brother and family members. Eventually I uncovered the family’s genealogy records on and although I found Richard, William, and other siblings in the records of St. Philip and St. Jacob’s, Bristol, there was no female ‘R’ listed in the available parish records. Yet the ONDB had offered a very specific death date of 14 January 1788 so, using that date and the last name Roberts, I worked backwards in my search, restarting with death rather than birth.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 13.30.07Finally, success! I located the burial record for a ‘Radiganda Roberts’ in Surrey, Southwark borough, in the parish of St. Mary, Newington, buried on 21 January 1788. The enigmatic Miss Roberts was no Rachel or Rebecca, but something much more unusual altogether.

I cast my net further, moving onto various records including the National Archives website. Another success: the will of ‘Radagunda Roberts’ – and what a will it was. It established the identity of Miss Roberts as Radagunda, who died in Southwark listed in the parish records as ‘Radiganda’. Additionally, it established a very firm and odd link to Dr Hawkesworth that was hinted at in the description of her translation The triumph of truth; or memoirs of M. De La Villette (T. Cadell, 1775) as ‘undertaken at the request of the late Dr Hawkesworth, who revised and corrected the translation’ (Daily Advertiser, 7 August 1775).

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Image © The National Archives, not to be reproduced without permission.

The will states ‘if my friends will kindly indulge me in it I beg to be privately buried at Bromley in the same grave with Dr. Hawkesworth and as Mrs. Hawkesworth may chuse to lye on his right hand I humbly sue for a place on his left and hope that favor will not be denied me but should it be too inconvenient my next request is to be buried with my father and mother’. Roberts’ request to lie on Dr Hawkesworth’s left was not granted and she was buried with her family. The intriguing request, hardly conventional for an unmarried and religious woman of the eighteenth century, points to a close relationship with John Hawkesworth (1715-1773), the celebrated translator of Telemachus (trans. 1768) whose edition of Cook’s Voyages was so largely criticised it was said to have hastened his death. Roberts’ copy of Hawkesworth’s Telemachus is singled out in her will; Roberts requests that her nephew, Alfred William Roberts, single out the book and preserve it along with her inkstand.

The will’s usual bequests to family members demonstrate her closeness to her nieces and clarifies that she did not, as the ONDB suggests, spend her life in Gloucester but rather lived with her brother Dr Richard Roberts and his wife in London. It is likely that she moved to London after the publication of her 1763 translation of Marmontel, which was published in Gloucester, and before the publication of Sermons Written by a Lady, the Translatress of Four Select Tales from Marmontel, which was published in London in 1770.

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LM VII [Sept 1777]: 484. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Her contributions to the Lady’s Magazine include a number of tales, often moral, oriental and didactic, such as ‘Malvolio; or Domestic distress’ LM VII [July 1776]: 342, ‘Dorilacia, or the fair captive’ LM VII [Sept 1777]: 484, ‘Saccharissa; or the Pitcher Broken’ LM IX [April 1778]: 171, ‘Philidor and Irene, or rural love LM X [March 1779]: 116, ‘Omrah restored’ LM X [July 1779]: 340, among many others. The tales are often illustrated and such engravings would likely either have to be commissioned after the editors received a tale or be sent to the contributor beforehand in order to match the tale to the engravings. That many of Roberts’ tales are illustrated thus hints at the possibility that Roberts was personally known to the magazine’s editors as a paid or regular contributor.

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LM VII [Sept 1777]. Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

This information is only a starting point in our ability to map out more clearly the extent of Roberts’ contributions to the magazine and to attempt to uncover a potential relationship with the magazine’s editors or publishers and perhaps discover more about her relationship with Hawkesworth. On these lines, Jennie Batchelor has recently located a letter from Hawkesworth to Roberts held in the library at Harvard that may offer further information regarding this prolific yet largely forgotten translator and writer. While our work here has just begun, it has been a fascinating process so far, and has been a truly collaborative effort of discovery.


Kaplan, Marijn S., Translations and Continuations: Ricoboni and Brooke, Graffigny and Roberts (London and New York: Routledge, rept. 2016 [2011]).

Mayo, Robert, The English Novel in the Magazine 1740-1815 (Evanston and London, 1962), catalog entries 225, 226, 287, 311, 314, 463, 859, 985, 1224 and 1260.

Pitcher, E. W., ‘The Miscellaneous Periodical Works and Translations of Miss R. Roberts’, Literary Research Newsletter Vol. 5, No. 3 (Summer 1980): 125-8.

Sherbo, Arthur, ‘Roberts, R. (c.1728–1788)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 25 Feb 2016]

Sources cited within Sherbo’s ONDB entry: J. Todd, ed., A dictionary of British and American women writers, 1660–1800 (1984) · P. Ripley, ed., A calendar of the registers of the freemen of the city of Gloucester, 1641–1838 (1991) · M. A. Hopkins, Hannah More and her circle (1947) · GM, 1st ser., 58 (1788), 85 · Foster, Alum. Oxon., 1715–1886 [Richard Roberts] · private information (2004) [Betty Rizzo]


Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent



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

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

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

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

But did Jane Austen read the Lady’s Magazine?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent



The 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

Animals, Children and Lessons in the Lady’s Magazine

Representations of animals and children abound in the Lady’s Magazine; I have written Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 20.37.34previously about John Legg’s love of wildlife and sympathy for hunted hares and foxes. Poems focusing on pets are common and range from the melancholy – ‘Verses written on the Death of Deborah’s Cat’ (LM XII [Sept 1782]: 495), to the curious – ‘Verses by a Gentleman to his Bird on his Parting with it to a Lady’ (LM VII [Dec 1776]: 661), to the downright odd – ‘Inscriptions on two monkey’s collars’ (LM XXII [May 1791]: 272). Serial features such as John Legg’s ‘Ornithology; or, A New and Complete Natural History of English Birds’ (1782-85) and Ann Murray’s ‘The Moral Zoologist’ (1800-05) provide the magazine’s readers with anecdotal and scientific information on animals both close to home and exotic. Across the genres, including tales that demonstrate the loyalty of dogs or the anecdotes regarding the sagacity of insects, animals are a frequent topic for the magazine’s contributors.

LikewiseScreen Shot 2016-02-09 at 20.43.22, children are ever-present in the magazine. In fiction, they appear in sentimental or moral tales such as Memoirs of a Young Lady (1783-86) or The Happy Discovery (LM XIX [March 1788]: 142) as beautiful and sweet, orphaned innocents. They are the focus of (sometimes terrifying) medical advice, the subject of advice queries to the Matron, or the characters in serial novels dealing with the trials of their management (‘The Mother-in-Law, 1785-86). And sometimes they are the intended readers of the items themselves.

This is the case for the serial fiction ‘Domestic Lessons for the Use of the Younger Part of the Female Readers of the Lady’s Magazine’ (LM XVII [Supp 1786]: 705 – LM XXI [March 1790]: 137), a long-running feature that is comprised of a series of short, instructive tales with a moral or conduct lesson. The anonymous serial was introduced by the editors in the 1786 supplement as a work ‘never before published’ (LM XVII [Supp 1786]: 705) and in spite of my efforts, its authorship remains unknown. Many of the short tales within the serial feature animals as well as children, with unsettling results. One of the more disturbing tales is the ‘second lesson’, entitled ‘The Mad-Dog’.Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 07.04.03

The lesson revolves around a father and mother’s attempts to cure their daughter, Georgina, of her ‘teizing temper’ that displayed itself, from a very young age, in cruelty towards animals. Georgina Sagely, ‘from her earliest infancy [. . .] pretended to be very fond of animals: of birds, beasts, and even insects, only to get them into her power, that she might exercise a cruelty over them, which was at once inhuman and unwarrantable. She would coax her dog to come near her, and then beat him unmercifully; and would tempt cats with pieces of meat or fish, and then run pins into them till they screamed with pain’ (LM XVIII [April 1787]: 202). While the parents are described as ‘very indulgent’, the author implies both from her behaviour displaying itself from infancy, and from the presence of two brothers who are kind to animals, that the fault is inherent in Georgina rather than the result of her parents’ indulgency.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 19.37.33Georgina continues to mistreat and torment the animals around her when, at age 15, her father takes away the animals under her care. The incident that follows is distinctive in its perspective. Mr. Sagely looks for his daughter and finds her in the garden and, observing her before she seems him, he realizes she is ‘spinning a cock-chaffer, suspended by a thread, which had been fixed to a crooked pin piercing its tail’ (LM XVIII [April 1787]: 203). The point of view here moves from an omniscient narrator to a limited third-person narration in which the reader sees Georgina from her father’s point of view, and is closely aligned with his thoughts as he watches his daughter, unable to access her feelings.

‘He stood, for a moment, the image of surprise; looking at her, unseen, and examining her features with the utmost attention: willing to hope, that the gratification of a trifling curiosity, and not of a cruel disposition, was the source of the pleasure which he beheld in them. He examined the features of his child with an anxious attention, and, to his sorrow, found not the wished-for satisfaction’ (LM XVIII [April 1787]: 203).

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 19.37.54What is intriguing about this scene is not only the shift in narrative perspective, but also in the emotional complexity of the father. This is no simple, formulaic moral tale; Mr. Sagely’s anxiety is palpable: he wants to believe his daughter does not torture the insect for pleasure but for, perhaps, a scientific curiosity. But he can delude himself no longer. When she goes onto so torment the family dog that he knocks her over, she retaliates by putting a rope around his neck and dragging him around the yard until he bites her. Her parents seize upon this as an opportunity to terrify her, hoping it will cause her to change her behavior, and tell her the dog is mad and that she may catch the disease. She is put into a straight-coat, confined, and threatened with being thrown into the sea as a treatment.

At length, the Sagely’s duplicity is rewarded: Georgina is so traumatized by the ordeal that she is ‘restored to [her] reason’ but warned by her parents never to lose her ‘proper’ senses again lest she be ‘more severely punished, in a manner you have not yet experienced’ (LM XVIII [June 1787]: 314). The cure appears permanent, and Georgina becomes ‘not only a comfort, but a delight’ to her parents and displays henceforth exemplary conduct.

While the ‘lesson’ of the tale is dubious at best, and certainly modern-day readers would question the efficacy of such parental conduct to cure a cruel disposition, the author’s use of narrative shift and the depth of the father’s concern are distinctive. This is more than a standard conduct or moral lesson; it reveals the anxiety and fear experienced by parents who feel helpless to understand or change their child’s inherent propensity for cruelty and torture.

The serial remains an elusive installment in the periodical; it ends in 1790, unfinished, and no further mention of it or the anonymous author appears. And while the magazine’s frequent publications featuring animals and children are an enduring and fascinating aspect of its content, as readers, perhaps, we are happier when the two do not meet as they do in the ‘The Mad-Dog’ of ‘Domestic Lessons’.


Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent

The Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off FAQS

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

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

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

What is the Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off?

The premise is simple.


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

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

How can I take part?


Alison Larkin 1

© Alison Larkin (2016).

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

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



Waistcoatpattern 1775 (PG)


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


© Sue Jones (2016)

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


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

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

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 22.05.15
Not really. If you are willing to have your work on display and don’t mind it being handled – it will be on a table, not behind glass – then all you need do is send it to us and we will return it to you when the exhibition ends. It will take pride of place on a display in the Oak Room of Chawton House Library, which will be devoted to the subject of female accomplishments (music, painting and needlework) for the exhibition’s duration. We’d also love it if you could send pictures to us via Twitter or Facebook along the way so we can share your work and experiences with others.


Do I need to be skilled in historic embroidery techniques?

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

How do I register interest in the Stitch Off?

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 20.54.04


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

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

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


Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent

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

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


© Sue Jones (2016).


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



Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 20.54.04


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


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

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

Drumroll, please…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent


Authorship Studies Now and in the Pre-Digital Age; or, A Tribute to the Old School

As Jennie reminded us earlier this month, we have recently entered the last quarter of the term allotted to our research project. Most of my time currently goes to the attribution of the countless anonymous, initialled and pseudonymous items in the Lady’s Magazine, and the ascription of appropriated content. The overwhelming majority of the over 14000 indexed items were published without a (complete) legal name for their authors, and every day I discover  more contributions presented as original work that are in fact tacit appropriations from other periodicals, or extracts from books. To make sure that I do not miss too many of the latter I merge my mind fully with my computer, like some bookish Keanu Reeves, and check each item by means of a hypnotic but productive procedure. A while ago it struck me how different my daily routine must be from that of scholars employed on exactly the same task not twenty years ago. So, where do the differences lie?

LM iv March 1773

LM IV (March 1773). Image © Adam Matthew Digital / British Library. Not to be reproduced without permission.

     I usually work as follows. I consult the Lady’s Magazine in its digitized format hosted by Adam Matthew Digital, take two samples from different paragraphs in the item under scrutiny, and query those in three online databases: Google Books, Eighteenth Century Collections Online (Gale), Eighteenth Century Journals (Adam Matthew Digital). On occasion I give British Periodicals (ProQuest) a go, but I have found this more useful for nineteenth-century publications, and for news items I sometimes give British Newspapers 1600-1950 (Gale) and British Newspaper Archive (British Library) a whirl too. In short, I usually have a very cluttered desktop, but there is no alternative if I want to do a decent job. Different databases store different information, and it is definitely worthwhile checking a few. It is common knowledge that magazine staff writers in this period were a crafty bunch, but the Lady’s Magazine’s amateur content pirates can be surprisingly resourceful too, and identifying appropriated items is not always easy because the original sources often were altered ever so slightly. You learn after a while to avoid sampling the opening or closing paragraphs (often added to provide a new context for the appropriation), as well as passages with names or locations in them. In March 1773, for instance, an anonymous contributor to the magazine thinks nothing of making some very minor alterations in an extract from Louis-Sébastien Mercier’s Memoir of the Year Two Thousand Five Hundred (1770; translation 1772), and presenting the result as “A Persian Anecdote” to fit the trend for oriental tales. The original is not “Persian” or otherwise “oriental” in the least; it is in fact a utopian early science fiction narrative.

    You cannot trust eighteenth-century periodicals, bless ‘em, and I am sure that despite my vigilance I still miss many appropriations. When I discover that an item is an extract from a book, I will check WorldCat, and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography or Orlando (Cambridge U. P.) to find out the exact title and year of first publication, and jot those down too. After I feel satisfied that I have checked the item to the best of my abilities, I enter my findings in our annotated index, and go on to the next item. So doing, I learn more about the magazine every day, but like my close colleagues I sometimes get obsessed with individual items. Tracking down the minutest detail can take up hours, and often I never do obtain the information that I was looking for. Jennie, Jenny and I have of course pointed out many times that ours is a tricky task, because data on periodical authorship in the eighteenth century is scarce and patchy at best, and for the ascription of appropriated content we rely to a great extent on textual corpora that have been digitized for cross-reference.

     But, hold on a moment. While that last statement will likely not raise any eyebrows among my fellow children of the digital age, the old school of authorship studies will perhaps be appalled by my lack of stamina, by my not spelunking into the dustiest recesses of record offices and research libraries all over the United Kingdom until I have learned exactly what I wanted to know. Although I hope that I am not an armchair antiquary, and the scope of our corpus would make in-depth study of each single item impossible anyway, I make no excuses and do realize that I am spoiled. Of course, academic scholarship has changed over the past few decades too, or so I am told by colleagues of the generation preceding mine, who witnessed these changes first-hand. How many scholars today could find the time to research and write a vast bibliographic tome like Robert Mayo’s The English Novel in the Magazines, 1740-1815 (1962)? Nevertheless, this book is still used today as a reference work throughout the field of eighteenth-century studies. We at least turn to it regularly. Besides its sheer size, what makes Mayo’s study even more admirable is that he produced it before digital resources became available. The first of these appeared only halfway through the 1970s, and until the breakthrough of the internet over twenty years later, they were hardly easy to use or update.

     Despite Mayo’s greater fame, there is one pioneering pre-digital scholar whose work in attribution and ascription in periodicals has been even more valuable to me. Even in this computerized age, you will find me about once a week in the British Library, ensconced in a little fort that is constructed largely of books by Prof. Edward William Pitcher (formerly at the University of Alberta). I expect that most of our readers, who have at least dabbled in eighteenth-century magazines themselves, will be familiar with Pitcher’s work. In 1999 he was honoured with a well-deserved special issue of American Notes & Queries (ANQ), a journal which has long published his articles, in which a short laudation by Prof. Arthur Sherbo – no less – goes a long way to explain the importance of Pitcher’s contributions to the field.[1] He has published many indexes, articles and notes on the authorship and provenance of periodical pieces in all genres, which have for a large part been collected in the ongoing series “Studies of British and American Magazines”, issued since 2000 by the Edwin Mellen Press. Impressively, 32 of the 33 book-length volumes published in this series so far are by Pitcher (incl. two co-authored titles). The only other scholar to furnish a single-authored book, incidentally, is Prof. Emily de Montluzin, whose splendid index of the poetry of the Gentleman’s Magazine was an inspiration for our own index.


Joseph Addison, by Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt. (circa 1703-1712)

     Pitcher delivers useful emendations to the work of others (among which Mayo), new indexes of important magazines of the eighteenth century from Britain and (colonial and independent) America such as the Lady’s Magazine’s more conservative competitor the Lady’s Monthly Museum (1798-1832), and notes on individual magazine writers or issues in attribution. Because of its centrality in the late-eighteenth century periodical market, the Lady’s Magazine pops up regularly, and some titles in the series have proven especially useful to us. For instance, Pitcher’s The Magazine Sources for Interesting Anecdotes, Memoirs, Allegories, Essays, and Poetical Fragments… by Mr. Addison (London 1794-97) (2004) is an index of the thousands of items compiled in this long-forgotten miscellany (spoiler alert: the reference to “Mr. Addison” is false advertising). Not only does he document several pieces that were taken from the Lady’s Magazine, Pitcher also ascribes several items taken from other sources that in between found their way into the Lady’s Magazine as well. Producing just one such elaborate index would maybe not be very exceptional, but Pitcher has done at least a dozen. His two-volume index of the British Magazine January 1760-December 1767 (2000), to give another example, has likewise shown me the way to several articles extracted without acknowledgement in the Lady’s Magazine, as have several other similar titles in the series. A third particular Pitcher favourite of mine is An Anatomy of Reprintings and Plagiarisms (2000), because its preface and its several chapters that are each dedicated to representative case studies together provide one of the clearest introductions to the murky territory of appropriation in the eighteenth-century press.

     I find the tenacity and manifest expertise behind each of Pitcher’s studies, from his most elaborate indexes of leading periodicals to his shortest notes on the obscure hacks that helped make them, nothing short of humbling. Whereas I can rely on internet databases to show me the way towards sources and to provide me with instant access to them, the previous generation had to do much more work themselves. My practical advantages include that I do not need to travel great distances between libraries whose holdings are now but two mouse clicks away from each other, or to peer for hours at microfilms to find out details that can know be had in seconds. I also imagine that the old school required a more extensive working knowledge of their subject than I need to get by; a firmer understanding of eighteenth-century culture as a web of myriads of interacting agents that each leave textual traces behind, coupled with an amazing knowledge of what these diverse traces entailed, where they can be found, and how they should be interpreted.

     When our index goes online in a few months (gulp), you will find amongst our thousands of research notes many references to Pitcher’s works. This will be a fitting tribute to a scholar whose life’s work is to ensure that people get due credit for their efforts.

Dr Koenraad Claes

School of English, University of Kent

[1] Sherbo, Arthur. “E. W. Pitcher on Periodicals”. ANQ 12.1 (1999), pp. 2-5

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

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

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

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

Larkin Stitch Off

© Alison Larkin (2015).

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


© Jenny DiPlacidi (2015).

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


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© Lucie Whitmore (2016).

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

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© Lucie Whitmore (2016).



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



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

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

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


Dr Jennie Batchelor

School of English

University of Kent


The No Longer Anonymous ‘Memoirs of a Young Lady’

The serial fiction in the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1848) is often novel-length, anonymous and absorbing. I began writing this blog about one of the serials that I found particularly engrossing, Memoirs of a Young Lady, intending to point out its originality and praise its writing style and plot. But (perhaps inevitably) as I began researching the serial for the blog in an attempt to uncover any information beyond its publication dates in the magazine, I made a very interesting discovery.Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 12.47.37

Published from April 1783 through November 1786, the serial entertained readers for over 3.5 years. The anonymous novel, never signed in any of its over 40 installments, has – like most of the fiction in the periodical – remained largely unknown and unstudied.

The novel follows the heroine, Lucretia Bertie, as she navigates her way through the constant persecutions of the primary villain, lord Belton, and his wife, her former friend Sophia. Sophia’s jealousy of Lucretia, inflamed by her husband’s infatuation with the heroine, drives her to devise increasingly vicious plots against her. One of these plots involves hiring her former footman, William, to attempt to force Lucretia into a marriage with him. The footman, posing as a wealthy gentleman, attempts (and fails) to woo Lucretia before threatening her with rape if she refuses to marry him. Sophia justifies her plan in a letter stating that she has paid for a public house for William to run as she does not want to ruin Lucretia’s ‘honour’, but wants to humble her by being a publican’s wife and hopes this will restore her husband’s affection. Lucretia is able to escape the lodgings where she is held captive and flees to safety before further machinations ensue.Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 19.16.45

The adventures sound, in a simple recitation of the plot points, far-fetched and formulaic. Yet the author ensures this is not the case; such scenes are carefully located within a much longer narrative that frequently focuses on the heroine’s everyday struggles to find gainful employment (at times in a milliner’s shop, at other times as a companion) and to resist her love for a married man, Beaumont (lord Sedley). The epistolary novel is narrated, on the whole, by Lucretia. And while our heroine is certainly virtuous and beautiful, she is also realistic and insightful, equipped with wit and understanding that expose some of the absurdities of the social circle in which she moves.

Searching for traces of an anonymous serial novel is an always time-consuming task but my instinct was that this novel was written by an author who would have kept writing and publishing. After weeks of periodically checking selections of text in various databases a result showed up through Googlebooks. And the result was surprising. The exact same section of the November 1785 installment, word for word, appeared in an 1815 novel by Jane West, Vicissitudes of Life; Exemplified in the Interesting Memoirs of a Young Lady, in a Series of Letters. The novel is mentioned on the Jane West entry on her Orlando page and is cited in The English Novel 1770-1829.[1] The 1815 novel, published anonymously and attributed to Jane West, was printed by J. McCreery in Fleet-Street.

It appears then, although further confirmation is required, that a young Jane West (1758-1852), wrote the novel and published it first as a serial in the Lady’s Magazine from 1783-1787 before publishing it in 1815 in volume form. Jane West, born in London as Jane Iliffe to parents John and Jane Iliffe,[2] moved to Norhamptonshire at age 11 and, according to The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, she was a prolific writer as a teenager.[3] Most of the information available on West is on the Orlando page, which notes that Jane married Thomas West and bore their first child in 1783, the year that the serial novel first began appearing in the Lady’s Magazine. If West was a prolific teenage writer, it is possible that Memoirs of a Young Lady was at least partially written before her marriage, although this is, of course, supposition only. Ten years later West published with the Minerva Press The Advantages of Education, or, The History of Maria Williams. A Tale for Misses and their Mammas (1793) using the pseudonym ‘Prudentia Homespun’ – a pseudonym that does not appear in the Lady’s Magazine. Why West published Memoirs in 1815, and precisely how much of its 1815 content varies from that of its earlier, serialised form, is a subject I am still researching.

Yet even in the early stages of research, such finds are fascinating in the insights they offer us regarding the afterlives of the periodical’s fiction and its correspondents who would later become established writers. It corroborates our understanding of the magazine as medium through which emerging writers could reach a wide audience and view and respond to the reception of their work by the magazine’s readership.



Dr Jenny DiPlacidi

University of Kent


[1] Peter Garside, James Raven and Rainer Schöwerling (eds), The English Novel 1770-1829: A Bibliographical Survey of Prose Fiction Published in the British Isles, 2 vols (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), II: 422.


[3] Virginia Blain, Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy (eds), The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present (New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press; Batsford, 1990).