The Lady's Magazine;
|The Lady's Magazine was one of the most
enduring and influential periodicals of the late
eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
For six pence a copy, readers were provided with a monthly miscellany promising to both entertain and educate.
Short stories, serialized fiction and poetry were combined with essays extolling the female virtues of propriety and modesty,
advice for wives and mothers, information on fashion, recipes, medicinal 'receipts' offering cures for maladies from cramp to 'hectic fevers', accounts of trials and biographies of famous historical and contemporary figures, enigmas, rebuses and domestic
and foreign news reports.
|The first issue of the Lady's Magazine
appeared in August 1770 as a joint venture between the
bookseller John Coote and
publisher John Wheble. During April 1771 Coote sold his interest in the publication to the publishers George Robinson and
John Roberts. The resulting dispute between Coote and Wheble led to a trial in July 1771 which found in favour of
Robinson and Roberts. Undeterred, Wheble continued to publish a rival Lady's Magazine, but was forced to concede
defeat to Robinson and Roberts in December 1772, when the final issue of Wheble's magazine appeared.
little is known of the life of George Robinson. According
to his DNB entry, Robinson's partner John Roberts
|In its introductory address to readers, the Lady's
Magazine outlined its aim to 'render your minds not
than your persons'. While it would provide sporadic fashion engravings, reports on the latest styles
in London and Paris, embroidery patterns for gowns and aprons and recipes for cosmetics,
the magazine's main concern, as it so vehemently protested, was for the adornment of its readers' minds.
Such comparative trivialities as dress were counterbalanced by an interest in historical events and biographies of prominent men and women through the ages as well as articles upon world geography ranging from descriptions of topography, foreign customs and dress and description of cities, to a detailed account of james Cook's voyage serialized over a five year period from 1784 to 1789.
While these descriptions were designed
to enlarge the reader's mental horizons, much more of the
|One of the factors that made the Lady's both
unique and uniquely successful was its reliance upon the
of readers for much of its content. Extracts from the works of leading literary figures were quite literally placed
side by side with the amateur works of anonymous contributors. The monthly 'To our Correspondents' columns
give the sense of a vibrant and active community of readers and writers producing more works than the publication
room to include. While this unique form of interaction secured an apparently firm following, the magazine's dependence
upon this unpaid labour force often led it into difficulty. Frequently the editor justifies the exclusion of certain
contributions due to their lack of quality, and more frequently has to lament the unreliability of contributors
whose tardiness in providing instalments often led to hiatuses in serial fictions, while other writers simply failed
to complete stories they had begun. Volunteer fashion reporters proved perhaps the most unreliable of all.
Their failure to satiate reader desire for information on the latest styles worn in the metropolis was
a recurrent cause of editorial complaint. Despite these problems, however, the Lady's Magazine remains
one of the most influential and unique periodicals, offering a wealth of information upon subjects
from the seriousness of the French Revolution to the comparative banalities of curing cramp, as well as
providing an insight into how the eighteenth-century periodical sought to construct an ideal of femininity,
and how the eighteenth-century periodical reader sought to construct herself.
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