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.