The Lady’s Realm: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine
36 volumes Nov 1896 – Oct 1914.*
Nov 1896 – Oct 1909 Hutchinson
Nov 1909 – Oct 1910 Stanley Paul & Co
Nov 1910 – Oct 1914 Amalgamated Magazine Co
Nov 1896 – 1902 William Henry Wilkins 1902 – 1914 unknown
* The British Union Catalogue of Periodicals lists a volume 37 and states that it is held in the British Library and in Bradford City Library. Neither has a volume 37 on its shelves, nor do the University of Minnesota (36 volumes) and the University of Queensland (35 volumes). Extensive enquiries have failed to locate a volume 37; any information about its existence or whereabouts would be gratefully received. An addenda sheet listing its fiction could then be made available to the series subscribers.
Only the barest details are known of the publishing history of the journal. It was begun by Hutchinson’s in November 1896 as an illustrated monthly magazine aimed at an upper class or aspiring middle class audience. Its first editor, W.H. Wilkins, was relatively inexperienced. He lasted only six years in the position, and it is not known who followed him.1 Hutchinson’s records of this and other publications of the period were destroyed in the London blitz and they do not even possess a complete file copy. In 1909, with Volume 27, the journal was briefly taken over by Stanley Paul and in 1910 with Volume 29 it passed to the Amalgamated Magazine Company who produced it until its demise in either 1914 or 1915. As mentioned on p.l of this Guide the existence and whereabouts of Volume 37, November 1914 to April 1915, remain a mystery. These issues may never have been published, or if published, they may never have been bound. No records have been found of the journal’s existence in the hands of its last two publishers. If anyone has information which could clarify the matter we should be very pleased to hear from them.
The journal was handsomely produced on quality gloss paper with, according to the bound covers, ‘Over 500 Illustrations’ in every volume. Art photographs and drawings by notable artists, including Mabel Lucie Attwell, accompanied the articles, stories and poems, or stood alone. Each issue was approximately 120 pages and was good value at 6d. In overall appearance it was not unlike Annie S. Swan’s The Woman at Home. From Volume 17 supplements appeared sporadically; some containing articles, stories, continuation of serials, but some just advertisements. The supplements are noted separately in the chronological index below. The journal’s policy of producing a mixture of news from Court circles and London society, and of articles on the theatre, food, fashion and home-making, and on ways for women to earn money is not dissimilar to that of several popular journals of today, e.g. The Woman’s Weekly, though now the emphasis on London Society has changed to fashionable society anywhere. It was clearly a successful recipe. The ingredients remained much the same for the whole of the eighteen-year run with only gradual changes of the proportions. Fashion came to have a smaller place, and theatre news a larger one; news of London Court circles declined a little and was replaced by news of the family life of churchmen and governors general and even of the occasional literary figure. Changes in the fiction also occur but these will be mentioned later. On the whole the journal’s format remained very constant and there is no evidence that changes in publisher or editor caused any alteration to the formula with the possible exception of the increase in theatre news.
The first editor, William Henry Wilkins (born 1860), was a competent journalist, writing on social questions of the day such as immigration and the working conditions of women. By 1896 he had published two novels under his pseudonym W.H. de Winton, St Michael’s Eve (1892) and Forbidden Sacrifice (1893), both for Hurst and Blackett. Three others had been written jointly, The Green Bay Tree (1894) with Herbert Vivian, The Holy Estate (1895) with Francis A. Thatcher, and John Ellicombe’s Temptation (1895) with the Hon. Julia B. Chetwynd. The first two were for Hutchinson, and it is through them that he presumably became known as a possible editor. His only editing experience so far, however, had been with Hubert Crackanthorpe when between January and September 1892 they edited the short-lived Albemarle. His credentials with society, established through his work as private secretary to Lord Dunraven, then Under Secretary for the Colonies, and perhaps his reputation as the friend and literary associate of Lady Burton, wife of Sir Richard Burton the explorer, counted in his favour, though there is no material in The Lady’s Realm which reflects this latter point except a contribution by Isabel Lady Burton to a discussion on ‘The Ideal Lover’ Volume 1, pp. 158-159. Apart from a story of his own, ‘The Dean of St Benedicts’ in Volume 4, pp. 73-86, it is hard to detect exactly what his contribution to the journal was. During his term of office no editorial comment appears in the journal itself. Not until Volume 6 (1899) is there an editorial note or page and even then it is not a regular occurrence, nor does it comment upon the journal and its policy. It is usually only a notice of future attractions. After Wilkins’s departure there are no signs of a change in policy, nor a change in contributors. During his time as editor Wilkins produced a biography of Lady Burton, in 1897, and went on to edit some of her and her husband’s writings. He produced several royal biographies, one of which Mrs Fitzherbert and George IV for Longmans in 1905 was notable for the special permission he was given to use the Royal archives which enabled him to give for the first time some of the details of that liaison. He died in December 1905. After his death, in the February 1906 issue of The Lady’s Realm, the editor’s page carried this notice:-
The general public are little aware how much of the early success of The Lady’s Realm was due to his influence and advice, and we cannot but take this opportunity of acknowledging the services he rendered to the magazine during the first six years of its existence. Of the numbers of contributors who speak gratefully of him today for the courtesy and encouragement they invariably received from him, not a few who have since made their names in the world of letters have to thank him for placing their foot on the first rung of the ladder. (p. 548)
All that can be deduced of the later editor(s) of the journal is that they were men, although the journal emphasizes the writing of women and has several of its regular features written by women. From Volume 16 (1904) for five years there were regular editorial pages each month, but they were filled with information about the competitions run by the journal, which were mainly of the type ‘list the following photographs of beautiful ladies in order of merit’. There was also an abortive correspondence page conducted by a woman. From Volume 24 (1908) a new feature called ‘The Passing Hour’ appeared, consisting of short notes on social events of the month. It seems to substitute for an editorial page from then until the end of the journal’s life, taking first position in each issue and running for eight or ten pages. There are no clues to the writer’s (or writers’) identity. The only editorial containing comment on the journal itself occurs on the occasion of the 100th issue in Volume 17 (1904/5). The editor praises the qualities of the magazine as the management saw them, and, in order of importance perhaps, lists them as:- the superiority of its appearance; the writers it had attracted from European royal circles and the English nobility; its ‘well-known authors’ including Sir Walter Besant, Sir Edwin Arnold, Marie Corelli, H. Seton Merriman, Ouida, S.R. Crockett, Stanley J. Weyman, F. Frankfort Moore, Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler, E.F. Benson, ‘Rita’, Sarah Grand, Miss Braddon, George Gissing, Adeline Sergeant, Mrs B.M. Croker, and Kathleen Tynan. Also he praised the articles on ‘whatever subject is of interest in a home of refinement’ (these included a series on famous women and their hobbies, from ‘Famous Lady Cyclists’ to ‘Famous Lady Poultry-Fanciers’ with the Queen herself figuring here as an owner of Buff Orpingtons, and a long-running series on employment for women covering a range which included typing and bookbinding, sweet-making and flower-arranging).
Throughout the journal’s life one can see trends gradually emerging. There are fewer articles on and (especially) by the nobility; since ‘The Childhood and Youth of the Princess of Wales’ (Volume 1, pp. 2-16) is the first and ‘Foreign Ladies Married to Distinguished Englishmen’ (Volume 17, pp. 535-542) is significantly later, it would appear that this occurs because the vein of material is worked out. Some changes arise from changes in social awareness, as the articles on women’s work which in 1896 centred on home-based activity such as lampshade-making and art needlework, develop into articles on more widely ranging occupations in e.g. sanitary inspection and medicine (by 1905), and interests in aviation (by 1914) – though this last saw flying primarily as a hobby for the ladies of the nobility rather than as an employment opportunity. But the process of change is always gentle as one might expect in a journal aimed at a stable middle-to-upper class audience with mainly conservative views.
When the journal began in 1896 it faced potential competition from at least twenty-nine other publications for women though some, of course, like The People’s Friend (1869+), were aimed at a lower level of society, and some, like Journal des Modes (1868-1913), were of specialised interest only. When the journal ceased in 1914/15 there were twenty-one others, still an imposing number. Of those in existence when The Lady’s Realm began, eleven had ceased publication; during its life another eleven had begun and ended. It would seem from these figures that the format and content were essentially right for its audience.2 As the Review of Reviews (Volume 14, July-Dec 1896) had predicted on the basis of its first issue, it was ‘one of the most popular of the magazines that have been started this year’. No circulation figures are known and indeed there would be no audited figures available before 19Q0 anyway, but it sold well in England, Canada and the U.S.A. at least and attracted a good deal of advertising copy, always a sign of high circulation. The Editor’s Page for November 19Q4 refers in passing to twenty pages of advertising in the current number. The situation may well have changed by the last years of the journal, however, since in Volume 34 (1913), p. 290, there is an offer to send free copies of the journal to three nominated friends of the reader. This possible decline may be one of the reasons for the journal’s demise.
Why and when the journal came to an end however is a mystery. Without sighting the last six issues, if indeed it did survive to April 1915, one cannot say whether any editorial comment was offered to account for the closure. One can only suggest that the circulation was in decline and that perhaps as with Hearth and Home (1891-1914), Young Woman (1892-1915) and The Girl’s Realm (1891-1915), the First World War was a contributing factor. Alice Head, whose inside knowledge of women’s publications was well-known even at that time, wrote in The Times 26 June 1914 (p. 11c) on ‘The Failure of the Women’s Press’. She blamed the failure of the women’s papers generally on their lack of intelligent comment on current matters of concern. She foresaw that this inability to move with the times could lead to their extinction. This too may account for the demise of The Lady’s Realm.
Throughout the run of The Lady’s Realm, fiction, both short stories and serialisations, played a large part in its composition. In Volume 1 the issue for November 1896 has forty-five pages of fiction out of a total of one-hundred-and eighteen pages; in Volume 17 the (100th) issue for February 1905 has forty-eight pages out of one-hundred-and-twenty; and in Volume 35 the issue for April 1914 has fifty-three pages out of one-hundred-and-twenty. By a narrow majority women do more of the fiction writing than men, though the number of male contributors tends to increase as the journal proceeds. The tone of the fiction also changes, from simple romantic and domestic stories and some fantasies and a few melodramatic adventures to material using a wider canvas and with more sociopolitical relevance, as seen in the distance between Mary Cholmondeley’s Prisoners (1906) and H.G. Wells’s Marriage (1911/12). Authors also change (though to some the journal remained very loyal), from members of the Court circles to Robert Hitchens and Jack London, and also to contributors from overseas, Mary Wilkins Freeman, ‘0. Henry’, and Anton Tchekoff. As one might readily deduce from this, the social topics used in the fiction broaden and become at times more extreme. Mrs Humphry Ward’s Delia Blanchflower, whose serialisation was left incomplete at the end of Volume 36, is a strongly anti-suffragette novel with a very political slant.
Among the more prolific contributors were: Alice and Claude Askew, Arabella Kenealy, J. Sackville Martin, F. Frankfort Moore, Maud Stepney Rawson, ‘Rita’, Max Rittenberg and Archibald Sullivan. Among the more famous were: Rhoda Broughton, Miss Braddon, Rosa N. Carey, Walter de la Mare, H. Rider Haggard, ‘George Paston’, W. Somerset Maugham, Countess Tolstoi and Ivan Tourgenieff. Their work was mainly in short story form, only seventeen novels, fewer than one a year serialized.
Among the social articles in the journal there are several containing material of value to those researching minor fiction. The editorial matter in ‘The Great World’, ‘The Passing Hour’, ‘Famous Lady Cyclists’ and so on could provide useful information, but the only articles fully about writers of fiction are these:
Burnett, Frances Hodgson. How I Served My Apprenticeship. LR 1(1896-7):74-79.
Kelly, Mrs Tom. Marie Corelli and Her Work.LR 3 (1897-8): 299-312.
‘Darby Stafford’. In the Footsteps of a Popular Novelist. (E. Thorneycroft Fowler) LR 8(1900):79-83.
Anon. Sweden’s Great Woman Novelist. (Selma Lagerhof) LR 27(1909-10):391-394.
Anon. Mrs Katherine Cecil Thurston: The Making of a Novelist. LR 17(1904-5):655-658.
Wilson, T.W. How to Interview Mark Twain. LR 23(1907-8):405-410.
The major work on the indexes that follow was done by Margaret Versteeg, Research Assistant to the University of Queensland’s Victorian Fiction Group, and by Sue Thomas who followed her in this position. Final work and preparation of the indexes for publications was done by Joan Huddleston. I should like to record here my grateful thanks to Norma Hovden, Reference Librarian of the University Libraries, Minnesota for her kindness in doing research on the supplements to the journal for us. I should also like to thank Bradford City Library for supplying information about their copy of Volume 36.
Dulcie Ashdown. Christmas Past. London: Elm Tree Books, 1976 (contains Facsimile of Lady’s Realm 3 (Dec 1897)).
Lady Georgina Coleridge. The Lady’s Realm. London: Arrow Books 19 72 (contains non fiction material from the journal).
The following have substantial holdings of the journal:
Library of Congress l[15-16]
Chicago Public Library 1-34
Harvard University Library 1-16
University of Minnesota Libraries 1-36
British Library 1-26
Bradford City Library 10-36
University of Cambridge Library 1-24
Manchester Public Library 1-21 (lacking 8-11+17)
University of Queensland Library 1-35
- J.R. Tye (Comp.), Periodicals of the Nineties, (Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society, Bodleian Library, 19 74). In this checklist he gives Wilkins as editor for 1896-1898 only, basing this on the index to Periodical Literature of the World 1892-1900 by the Review of Reviews. See p. 4 of this introduction. [↩]
- The figures are taken from C.L. White Women’s Magazines 1693-1968,(London: Michael Joseph, 1910). The tabular histories of journals she provides are very useful, though they may not be comprehensive – she does not include, for example, La Femme Chic which is recorded in the Newspaper Press Directory of 1915. She hardly mentions The Lady’s Realm in the body of her study. [↩]