Monday, March 22, 2010

The Ladies' Pocket Magazine (1825-39)

My 1831 copy of this must-have book for the fashionable lady is conveniently pocket-sized and comprises 244 pages of short stories, poems, articles on famous women, dozens of ‘preceptive distichs’, fashion advice and twenty-seven illustrations, including some ravishing hand-coloured fashion plates.

The fashion advice discusses the fashion plates; for example, in the picture shown, we learn that the dress is ‘etherial (sic) blue tulle over satin’ and the boa is swansdown. It’s also obvious, from the model’s elaborate hair style, that a lady’s maid is a must.

The fashion section continues with news on what’s in and what’s out – Dunstable straw bonnets are in and this Season’s colours are emerald green, azure blue, lilac, rose and canary-yellow. In Paris, blond lace is very popular and, for jewellery, it’s gold and emeralds.

The ‘preceptive distichs’ are moral maxims, e.g:

Avoid voluptuous pleasure in your prime –
Your days will last and you enjoy their time.


Some of the comments on famous women are, frankly, bizarre. Take this one on Anne Boleyn: ‘We think she remained a girl after she was a wife – a pretty, tittering partner in a dance, but devoid of the mind and steadiness suited to the conjugal state.’

Not a view of the forceful, intelligent and sophisticated Anne we hold today!

The short story, ‘Flirtation – a Tale of Modern Times’ has interesting echoes of Lydia Bennet. When the regiment comes to town, the lovely Emily’s attention wanders from the eligible Charles, who adores her, to the fascinating Colonel Darlington … Will Emily come to her senses before Charles runs out of patience? Or will Charles turn to her sensible older sister, Lucy?

Alas, poor Lucy doesn’t even get a look in; at twenty-seven, she’s far too old.

‘The Ladies’ Pocket Magazine’ tells us a lot about the period: what ladies wore, what they read and how they thought. Though, if I were editor, I’d demand that Charles dumps the tiresome Emily and goes for sensible Lucy instead.

Elizabeth Hawksley


Jan Jones said...

Lovely, Elizabeth, but it sounds as though the copy writers were as inventive as they are today. That dress doesn't look like my idea of ethereal!

Jane Odiwe said...

I love these sort of periodicals and am very lucky to own a volume of the Ladies Monthly Museum which sounds very similar to the pocket magazine. I've used it countless times for inspiration with my writing - the descriptions of dress are particularly useful.

Leah Marie Brown said...

As a rabid devourer of all things 18th century, I've been thoroughly enjoying your blog.

I see you are a fan of Marie Antoinette, as well. I found a curious item from 18th C. France for sale on Christie's recently and wrote a blog about it. You might be interested.

Louise Allen said...

Fascinating stuff! I love these magazines. And great detail of the hairstyle too.
The idea of Ane Boyleyn as a giggling little miss is too funny!

Nicola Cornick said...

How fascinating! I liked the preceptive distich but sometimes it's fun to go in for a bit of voluptuous pleasure - within reason, of course!

miss decadent said...

I am an avid but rather new collector of fashion plates from 1800-25 and absolutley love them, a few that i own come with descriptive text I love reading them! sadly i dont own a complete book of these ladie magazines but I have 2 magazines which were torn out of the books but still they make a lovely and often comical read. a sample of my collection can be seen in the november entry on my blog, my favourite has to be the lady with blue and white dress and blue feather in her hair :)

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I love the fashion plates myself. Sadly, someone removed four of them. Still, I do have eight left. You know they're hand painted because there are some paint splodges on the back of some of the pages.

Actually, that might be a good job for a heroine - colouring fashion prints. She could be sent to a ball as an observer, and there she could meet ....

eggytrucks said...

I have two watercolour prints from the ladies pocket magazine dated may 1st 1831 framed and is top condition.
I am willing to sell them for good offer, e-mail