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Advice Books, Manuals and Journals for Women, 1450-1837

Part 4: The Ladys Magazine, 1801-1832


"A crucial publication."
Professor Isobel Grundy
Department of English
University of Alberta

Parts 3 and 4 make available a complete run of The Lady's Magazine from 1770 to 1832. This long running journal is valuable not only for the large quantities of writing by women that it contains (poetry, stories and reviews), but also as a source for social history.

Part 3 makes available all of the issues up to 1800. Part 4 covers all the issues for 1801-1832. Added at the end of the project are an earlier magazine with the same title (The Ladies Magazine, 1738-1739), a short lived rival using the same title (The Lady’s Magazine, 1791), a contrasting title (‘The Ladies’ Pocket Magazine, 1836) and The Final Volume of the “Improved Series, enlarged” dated 1843 for comparative purposes.

Again, there are excellent articles on a wide variety of topics from education, poetry, literature, art, music, the theater, the body, disease, health, vaccination, religion, world events, gardening, poverty, hunting, gambling, food, to commentaries on other aspects of the social and domestic scenes. Every issue also contains advice for women, poetry, short stories, reader’s letters, criticism, reports on the leading women of the day and news from London and the Empire.

From 1801 onwards every issue features excellent engravings showing the latest fashions from London and Paris (Please see examples in the PDF files).

The Lady’s Magazine is a gold mine of poetry and prose by women, news of the latest fashions, pen portraits of female role models, and frank and revealing correspondence by women readers.

During its lifetime it claimed to witness a sea-change in the status of women. In its early days it saw no reason to constrain the education or activities of women. By 1825, however, it lamented that "Women have completely abandoned all attempts to shine in the political horizon, and now seek only to exercise their virtues in domestic retirement. The wise (who happily form the majority) perceiving the bad taste manifested in striving for mastery with men contented with truly feminine occupations, but in discarding their follies, and in endeavouring to become rational companions instead of the toys and tyrants of men, have fallen from their high estate and dwindled into comparative insignificance.”

This passage is also quoted by Cynthia White (Op cit, p39) who goes on to suggest that “(t)his passage chronicled an important era in the history of upper-class women: the sudden reversal of the trend which promised their wider participation in social affairs, and their gradual withdrawal into the home.”

At about the same time the Political and Foreign News content of the magazine also disappear and the importance of personal appearance (dress, diet and complexion) and domesticity are shown by the growth of these sections.

And whilst a Letter of Advice to a Lady on the point of marriage in November 1770 counsels that: ”Prudence and virtue will certainly secure esteem but unfortunately, esteem alone will not make a happy marriage, passion must also be kept alive …” – the emphasis post 1825 is on modesty and virtue – perhaps even on companionship and governing household – but certainly not passion.

But, inevitably, the picture is more complex than that.  Numerous counter-examples can be produced to show that the cult of appearances was already prevalent from the outset; passion (especially in the romantic fiction of the magazine) is a constant; and the growing emphasis on domestic science is more to do with the expansion of the audience of the magazine beyond those with servants at their beck and call.

Scholars can now survey the evidence themselves. 

Did such a sea-change occur? How did women’s writing and language change over this period? How did the format and nature of the magazine change?

We have pieced together a complete edition of The Lady’s Magazine, by drawing on the resources of four British and American libraries. Despite, or perhaps because of, the popularity of The Lady’s Magazine, the survival of copies of the magazine is extremely patchy.  We have pieced together this run of the magazine from 3 different locations – The British Library, Cambridge University Library and Birmingham Central Libraries. 

This microfilm edition covers the Original Series (vols 1-49, 1770-1818); the New Series (vols 1-10, 1820-29); and the Improved Series (vols 1-5, 1830-32). We also include a short-lived rival using the same title (The Lady’s Magazine, 1791) and an earlier magazine with the same title (The Lady’s Magazine, 1738-1739).
Each volume is indexed.

We do not cover the magazine from 1832 to it’s ultimate closure in 1847 because of the complications of a series of mergers that occurred to the magazine and the prior existence of a microfilm affecting one of the merged titles.  A merger with the Lady’s Monthly Museum had already occurred in 1928.  Yet, after the further merger in 1832 with La Belle Assemblée (and, in 1838, The Court Magazine and Monthly Critic), even though these journals continued to be printed at separate locations and appear under their own title for some time, their contents were identical.  La Belle Assemblée is already available on microfilm.

However, we have taken this opportunity to include: An earlier magazine with the same title – The Lady’s Magazine (1738-1739) (which took it’s cue from Edward Cave’s The Gentleman’s Magazine (1731-1914); a rival that was short-lived – The New Lady’s Magazine (1791); another contrasting title – The Ladies’ Pocket Magazine (1836); and a later volume of The Lady’s Magazine for 1843.

Please note that an uninterrupted run of The Lady’s Monthly Museum (1798-1828) is separately available from Adam Matthew Publications.

The Lady's Magazine for the year 1801-1832 is a major source for scholars of gender studies and for all those interested in:

  • Women and Romanticism.
  • Gothic tales and popular readership.
  • Role models, conversation, sensibility and politeness.
  • The education of women and the cult of appearances

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