The Lady’s Magazine

This week on the blog we hear from Library & Digital Assistant Becky Bavill, who explores and illuminates the rich history of an 18th and 19th-century journal…

The Lady’s Magazine – not to be confused with The Lady Magazine – was a popular publication in the 18th and 19th centuries, running from 1770 to 1818 in it’s first incarnation.  Charlotte Bronte was a fan, writing in 1840:

I 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— […] and I would have contested the palm with the Authors of Derwent Priory—of the Abbey and Ethelinda.”  (letter to Hartley Coleridge, 10 December 1840)

The family had a handful of old copies that had been the property of Charlotte’s late mother. The content was largely submitted by the readership and was extremely wide ranging.  From medical advice to troop movements; from gothic romances to marital information, the Lady’s Magazine had it all.

We hold several bound volumes from 1772 to 1800 as part of the Sanderson Collection in the Art Library.  The Sanderson collection relates to fashion and textiles, but there is less fashion advice than you might imagine in a women’s magazine from this time.  It is however a fascinating glimpse into the lives and interests of educated late 18th-century women. 

A very popular element were the enigmatical lists.  These could be very specific – young ladies in Limehouse and Poplar in Westminster, to more general – fruit.  Have a try at this list of towns in Yorkshire.  Although the original readers would have had to wait a month, you will find the solution at the end of the article.  Sometimes in fact, the solution was never published at all!

Enigmatical list of towns in Yorkshire from The Lady’s Magazine 1782, page 660

  1. A potent liquor, changing a letter, half a wild beast, and the reverse to smooth.
  2. A poet, a consonant, and the initial of a celestial body.
  3. Four sevenths of a pope’s title, the initial of our first mother, and to break.
  4. Half a wooden hammer, and twenty hundred weight.
  5. Four sevenths of an English king, and the French word for world, excluding a letter.
  6. Part of a ship.
  7. Two fifths of an amphibious animal, a consonant, and two thirds of the organ of sight.
  8. To be submissive, and half of a member which oft errs.
  9. Three fourths of a moiety, one third of a plant, and a cunning animal exchanging a letter.
  10. Two thirds of an industrious insect, three ninths of him who was treated with disdain by Pomona, and a reclining posture, exchanging a letter.
  11. A female title, the initial of a goddess painted blind, and a meadow.
  12. The produce of the field altering a vowel, and a Spanish title.

The Lady’s Magazine is not usually on public display but is available to view on request by contacting the Art Library on  or 0113 37 85005.  If you would like to know more about the magazine, The University of Kent completed a two-year project funded by the Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant scheme; which resulted in a complete index of all the content of magazine which is free to view on their website. You can also find more information about the project and a series of blog articles.

The Art Library often uses the Sanderson Collection as inspiration for events and activities. We are delighted to be planning workshops to bring to life patterns from the Lady’s Magazine later this year in the Drawing Room programme.


  1. Aldborough
  2. Leeds
  3. Pontefract
  4. Malton
  5. Richmond
  6. Hull
  7. Otley
  8. Humbleton
  9. Halifax
  10. Beverley
  11. Sheffield
  12. Heydon

Image – frontispiece, ‘Ladies, accompanied by Minerva and the Genius of the Magazine, entering into the Temple of Leaning, the Genius of the Magazine strewing the Passage with Flowers.  The Approach to Learning is certainly difficult; it ought to be strewn with Flowers.’ (c) Leeds Libraries

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