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Apart from those titles devoted entirely to fiction, essays on every conceivable topic were a staple ingredient of general periodicals. They were the ancestors of our modern magazine articles. Middle-brow journals aimed at the expanding middle-classes often sought to emulate the serious reviews - at least in some of their content. So whilst they might not expect their readers to enjoy an erudite philosophical or religious treatise, editors seem to have thought biographical sketches, accounts of explorations, and popularizations of scientific or economic topics would prove attractive.
Over time sub-genres emerged - the travel article, the "Celebrity at home" interview, the "Inside View of .. " almost anything from a newspaper office to a Royal yacht or a prison.
Today we associate high quality Victorian illustration with fiction or poetry - Millais and Trollope in the Cornhill for instance, - but other genres were illustrated. This was particularly the case with genres like biography and travel where publishers found it relatively easy to acquire existing wood-cuts or plates of appropriate landmarks and portraits, rather than going to considerable trouble and expense to commission artists and engravers. By the 1890s new technologies made reproduction of images cheap enough for magazines to fill their pages with pictures, though quantity was often gained at the expense of quality.
*An image inset in a page of the Windsor Magazine Vol 2, 1895 to illustrate a fictionalized account of prison life. The caption reads 'Then came breakfast -- not ..... from the cookshop.' ( Prisoners on remand could purchase food from outside, but the convicted prisoner has to put up with prison kitchen gruel rather than the hot tea, rasher of bacon and decent quality bread he had previously enjoyed.)
A NOTE ON CAREERS IN JOURNALISM IN VICTORIAN BRITAIN
In the final decades of the nineteenth century both men and women journalists sought to professionalize their work, by advocating formal training and forming professional associations. This coincided with an increasing desire on the part of young men to consider a wider choice of career than simply following in father's footsteps, and a recognition that many young women too, from classes where once marriage or governessing were the only options, would also want to work. Articles on training for different jobs and accounts by practitioners of what their work involved proliferated in magazines. Journalism proved a popular example, and, naturally not too difficult for any journalist to research!
[Unfortunately for me it didn't prove quite so easy to illustrate, and the jacket of my book has one of the few recognizable images of a working Victorian woman journalist that I have seen.]
WANT TO BE A JOURNALIST? advice from Victorian journalists
Job-hunting hints for those who came to my press history lecture:
Cardinal Virtues: 'For conscientiousness, punctuality and accuracy the women of the press compared very favourably with the men.'
(Billington quoting W L Thomas, managing director of the Graphic)
For examples of some successful Victorian women journalists and a note on the Graphic see Introduction on the Ladies' Page.
For more on Victorian women's spelling etc see Editor's Mailbag
© Barbara Onslow 2007 (last updated October 2007)
*Above: An 1890's bicycling costume. Bicycling was a hot topic in the press of the nineties, and one of the key icons of the "New Woman".
For more on Bicycling costume see the article on Rational Dress on the new Fashion Page.
*A competition run by Home Chat for the best definition of the "New Woman" revealed that a number of readers clearly linked her with both the press and the bicycle. One of the definitions from a runner-up indeed claimed that she was merely
'A myth evolved for the benefit of the newspapers'
and another that she was
The "Miss Harris " of journalistic enterprise.
Who cuts her back hair off quite short,
And put on clothes she didn't ought,
And apes the man in word and thought?
Who rides a cycle round the town,
In costume making all men frown,
And otherwise acts like a clown?
Who's sweetest of the sweet, I say.
Because she throws not sex away'
Is always ladylike, yet gay?
Extract from "Editorial Chit Chat" September 1895
Below: The book jacket (reproduced by courtesy of Macmillan/Palgrave) shows an illustration from the Girl's Own Paper 1885 of a Lady Editor dealing with correspondence. Note the overflowing waste-paper basket! On the table to her left is an early copying machine from the days before carbon paper.)
For important information on Copyright, Citations, Images and References please see my Home Page. There you will also find an explanation of the aims of Victorian Page, and a note about me.
Barbara Onslow published July 2007 Updated October 19 2008
*This sign indicates a paragraph or image you may have accessed from a link on the Contents Page. Occasionally there may be more than one such item on the same page.