Jennie Batchelor, University of Kent
This article addresses the problems associated with the study of women’s magazines of the later eighteenth century, using The Lady’s Magazine as a case study. The vast quantity and miscellaneous nature of the material involved, the incompleteness of library collections, and the paucity of digital projects that have advanced periodical studies of other centuries combine to make coverage and synthesis illusory for the eighteenth century. Moreover, while the cultural significance of serial publications in the period is becoming clearer, hard evidence of subscription rates, readerships, and methods of publication remains patchy at best. The Lady’s Magazine is a landmark publication that survived for over sixty years in an overpopulated marketplace. The magazine’s reliance upon the amateur contributions of largely anonymous authors of sometimes indeterminate gender, although key to its popular appeal, resists many of the analytic terms and critical paradigms upon which literary scholars rely. This article specifically focuses upon the notion of literary community that the magazine established. Not only does the writing community that the magazine promoted help account for the publication’s extraordinary success, but it also models new paradigms for, and ways of understanding, women’s writing in and across other genres in the period. This article urges that we overcome the obstacles to studying eighteenth-century periodicals to assert their place in literary history and, more specifically, within women’s literary history.