A Magazine of Her Own? Domesticity and Desire in the Woman's Magazine, 1800-1914

By Margaret Beetham | Go to book overview

5

THE BEETONS AND THE ENGLISHWOMAN'S DOMESTIC MAGAZINE, 1852-60

The ENGLISHWOMAN'S DOMESTIC MAGAZINE will doubtless be found an encouraging friend to those of our countrywomen already initiated in the secret of making 'home happy' and to the uninitiated…we shall offer hints and advice by which they may overcome every difficulty…

(Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine I 1852:1)

The Case of Albert: NETTIE writes: I am induced…to address Albert, since he has in your last number so kindly favoured us with a description of himself and made us acquainted with that he considers his beau ideal of a wife. Now I must tell Albert first of all a terrible little secret…-Oh Albert …I am (I must say so) very very untidy. Can Albert ever exist with an untidy wife but one who promises faithfully to endeavour all she can to improve herself in this particular. NETTIE never mends her stockings and cannot undertake to keep either boxes or drawers tidy but. is of a most 'amiable, loving and affectionate' disposition and would be very useful to ALBERT and try to keep his gloves mended and his buttons on.

('Cupid's Letter Bag', Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine III 1854-5:96)

The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine (hereafter EDM) launched in 1852, marked a watershed between the exclusive ladies' magazines and the popular women's domestic journals which were to become the staple of the genre from the 1890s. It assumed that women wanted fiction and fashion but it also dealt with the dailiness of readers' lives. Unlike the mothers' magazines, however, it secularised those lives, offering the way to domestic happiness rather than salvation.

It was an immediate success. By 1857 it claimed a circulation of 50,000 readers (Preface, EDM VI 1857). The Daily Telegraph's assertion that it had 'in one year gained a greater number of patrons than any other magazine in the Empire', though impossible to verify, indicates the standing of the magazine among the middle classes (Spain 1956:69). Ten years later the Standard, another middleclass paper, reported that 'We have the authority of materfamilias for saying that the house would go to sixes and sevens if the Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine failed to make its appearance' (in Spain 1956:131). Some of this success was due to Beeton's 'bold' experiments in selling. He offered various prizes, notably a 15

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