The Lady’s Magazine was a popular monthly magazine made specifically for women during the late Georgian period in England. The magazine cost only six pence per month and featured poems, current affairs both domestic and foreign, and even designs for veils and other fashions. The magazine that our group examined was the 30th volume which contains all twelve issues of the magazine from the year 1799. Each issue in the volume contains a wide variety of content including serialized essays and works of fiction, poetry, sheet music, fashion designs, and local and foreign news. The text in the magazine was printed, while fashion designs and portraits were engraved on paper. This particular volume of the magazine was also enclosed in a marble binding.
The magazine ran from 1770 to 1847, making it one of the longest running magazines in England. Most literary circles in England were male dominated, therefore most media produced and spread through pamphlets and newspapers was created by and for men (English Press). The creators of The Lady’s Magazine, John Coote and John Wheble, saw how the English press catered almost exclusively to men and decided to create a popular magazine which included what they believed to be the interests of women.
Coote, a bookseller from Sussex, founded The Lady’s Magazine and published the first issue with publisher Wheble in August 1770. In 1771, Coote sold his interest in The Lady’s Magazine to publishers George Robinson and John Roberts for £500 causing conflict with Wheble who still wished to continue publishing the magazine (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). Wheble continued to publish his own version of the magazine alongside the “official” version by Robinson and Roberts eventually leading to a court trial in July 1771, disputing which version of the magazine was considered legitimate. Despite Wheble’s claim about the large amounts of “time, application, and invention” he invested in the creation of the magazine, the court ultimately found in favor of Robinson and Roberts (Batchelor, “Robinson and Roberts vs Wheble”).
Appealing to a Female Audience
The Lady’s Magazine marketed itself directly to middle class women, and its objective was to, “provide a regular periodical that contained material designed for the entertainment and improvement of women in a manner accessible to the house-wife as well as the peeress” (Adam Matthew). The magazine did want to reach women from that particular class throughout the country and did so by publishing stories and other articles often written by readers of the magazine. The magazine covered topics such as fashion, biographies of important men and women, advice, recipes, and even music notes in every issue. It is interesting to note that the news sections of each issue are not nearly as prominent as other sections because Coote and Wheble attempted to keep those issues on the mind of men while not worrying the women who read their magazine and according to them, had other things to focus on. The magazine gave a platform to women to submit their own original work in a vastly male-dominated sphere. In a letter to Hartley Coleridge in 1840, Charlotte Brontë, who owned a full collection of the magazine, expressed her regret that she “did not exist forty or fifty years ago when the Lady’s magazine was flourishing like a green bay tree—In that case I make no doubt my aspirations after literary fame would have met with due encouragement” (Batchelor, “Reader, he burned them”) demonstrating the magazine’s importance in giving women this opportunity to share their work.
This particular volume of The Lady’s Magazine contains serials of various works of fiction and nonfiction published in each monthly issue throughout 1799. This issues included works such as The Castle on the Cliff: A Romance, The Monks and the Robbers, a Tale, and The Fatal Elopement; a Tragedy – fictional stories appealing to the female audience which would typically end in a cliffhanger to ensure readers would pick up the next issue. This volume also includes Account of the Embassy of Lord Macartney to China depicting the story of the first British diplomatic mission to China in 1793.
In addition to the serialized works, each monthly issue contains various essays such as “On National Pride, founded on imaginary Valour and Power,” an excerpt from an essay on national pride by Johann Georg Zimmerman, and an entire section of poetry containing works such as “Ode for the New Year 1799” and “Sonnet for Peace” in the volume’s January issue.
To access the catalogue entry for this copy of The Lady’s Magazine held in CU Boulder’s Special Collections, click here.
In addition to The Lady’s Magazine, other works marketed specifically towards women began to emerge in England throughout the eighteenth century. To see more, click here to learn about The Ladies’ Diary, a yearly almanac catered towards women.
-Sydney Krause and Kristin Hopkins