Friday, April 8, 2011

The Ladies' Fashionable Repository

One of the less well-known and seldom-mentioned Regency magazines for ladies was The Ladies' Fashionable Repository published from 1809-1829. Yet, I find it to be one of the most entertaining and, indeed, one of the most useful of the popular journals of the day. I cannot discover much information about it; its founder calls it a 'pocket-book' and it seems to have appeared bi-monthly in its first years rather than weekly or monthly.

In the end analysis, The Ladies' Fashionable Repository turned out to be one of the longest lived of the ladies' magazines, but it underwent several changes. From 1829-1834, the founder and publisher J. Raw added his name to the title. Then, from 1837, the magazine became Pawsey's Ladies' Fashionable Repository and continued in publication for the next sixty-eight years.

Its contents were varied. It particularly emphasized puzzles, charades, conundrums, rebuses and riddles--the activities much enjoyed by a pre-TV, pre-computer game society. I think I will devote another post to those items of recreation!

The magazine accepted new poetry by both known and unknown authors. Walter Scott contributed "The Violet" in about 1814:
"The violet, in her green-wood bower,
Where birchen boughs with hazles mingle,
May boast itself the fairest flower
In glen or copse or forest dingle."
Not his greatest work perhaps--it continues for two more stanzas--but charming.

Intermingled with such poetic gems were solidly useful items.
Here is an excerpt from the tables of the new window tax:

Likewise, below is a excerpt from an entry on the house duty and taxes on servants:

The charges levied by hackney chairmen took two pages, here is a portion of it::
One issue, circa 1814, included an absolutely delightful 'song' titled "Hyde Park on a Sunday". It has an immediacy that brings the world of the Regency to life, and makes it understandable and very close to contemporary with our own world.

It continues for two pages, politically incorrect for our times, but otherwise remarkably timely.

In another issue, a poem disguised as a letter purporting to be true fact, about Bath and its assemblies includes these lines:

"In Bath, dear Eliza, what pleasures abound!
Where we skip all the night to the violin's sound;
Where beauties unnumber'd hold absolute sway,
Whose charms shed a lustre that rivals the day."
 Every issue of the journal held a plate of a stately home and a description of the property and its owner. These were not always the huge palaces of the nobility but the smaller houses of the lesser aristocracy, many of which no longer exist. Here is Helmingham Hall, Suffolk, seat of Lord Dysart, from 1809:

In the introductory issue, J. Raw used a technique that is still often employed to draw in customers and reward faithful readers. He held a contest, and the prize was future issues of The Ladies' Fashionable Repository. And he sees fit to thank his patrons for their purchase of his product:

We can only thank him for publishing a magazine that has survived these two hundred years and brings us a view of Regency life that is at once different yet very familiar to us.

'Til next time,



Unknown said...

Interesting piece; I am pleased to see this online, and I enjoyed reading it.

I am currently researching pocket books and pocket diaries from 1780 to 1860, so I was wondering whether you could provide some source information for the image you reproduce here? I am especially interested in the engraving you provided, which is rather well scanned.

I would appreciate any information you can still provide on this subject. It would be a great help to me, as I am trying to catalogue a wealth of (thus far little studied) information.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I briefly had access
to the Gale 19th Century UK Periodicals and Newspapers database, and found this information, and the scans, from the Ladies Fashionable Repository there. It has been a remarkably difficult journal to research. I would be interested to hear of your research results. Thanks for visiting!