The Rise of Literary Journalism in the Eighteenth Century: Anxious Employment

By Iona Italia | Go to book overview

2

'The Conversation of my Drawing-Room'

The female editor and the public sphere in the Female Tatler

Before we can turn to the Female Tatler in more detail, it is necessary to provide a few words of explanation on the subject of its publishing history and the vexed question of attribution. The Female Tatler ran for 115 issues, which were numbered 1-112 (there were three issues of Female Tatler 88, and one issue was unnumbered) and was issued three times a week, on non-post days: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 July 1709 to 31 March 1710. Issues 1-18 were printed by Benjamin Bragge. On 19 August 1709, two rival Female Tatlers appeared, one printed by Ann Baldwin, the other by Bragge, and the two publications continued to be issued concurrently, each strenuously denouncing the other as spurious, until Female Tatler 44 of 14 October, when the Bragge issue ceased publication, and the periodical appeared with Ann Baldwin's imprint until the end of its run. The first 51 issues of the Female Tatler were written under the sobriquet of 'Mrs. Crack-enthorpe, a Lady that knows every thing', but in Female Tatler 51 the editor announces that she has 'resign'd her Pretensions of writing the Female Tatler to a Society of Modest Ladies', and the final 65 issues of the periodical are alternately ascribed to Lucinda (17), Emilia (16), Artesia (15), Rosella (10), Arabella (3) and Sophronia (3). 16

It is beyond all reasonable doubt that the original author of the Female Tatler changed publishers with Female Tatler 19 and that Bragge continued to print the periodical under a different editorship (R.B. White 1974:51-60), a practice which illustrates editors' lack of control over the use of their names or their literary property. Bragge's attempt to continue the publication suggests that it was a profitable venture. Its popularity was probably the result of its scandalous content, since Bragge's continuation appears to be a jumble of thinly veiled personal allegations, unskilfully presented in a bitter, humourless tone. All references in this chapter to Female Tatler 19ff. are to the Baldwin publication, unless otherwise stated.

The identity of Mrs Crackenthorpe remains uncertain but the two most likely contenders are Delarivier Manley and the lawyer and playwright

-49-

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