Gillian Williamson: British Masculinity in the Gentleman’s Magazine

Gillian Williamson, front cover of British Masculinities (Palgrave, 2015)
Gillian Williamson, front cover of British Masculinities (Palgrave, 2015)

This is a great post with which to kick off 2016, for all readers who believe the history of early modern and 18thC women should be considered (and practised) as part of a broader history of sex and gender.  WSG member Gillian Williamson has published her study British Masculinity in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’, 1731-1815 with Palgrave Macmillan (£63 hardback).  Gillian is an independent historian.  She read classics at the University of Cambridge then worked in corporate finance. She returned to academic study after editing a lottery-funded local history book.

Launched in 1731, the monthly Gentleman’s Magazine was the dominant periodical of the 18thC, drawing its large readership from across the literate population of Great Britain and the English-speaking world. Its readers were highly responsive. By the 1740s their letters, poems and family announcements, especially obituaries, filled at least half its pages, sitting alongside articles by a circle that included Samuel Johnson. It was a Georgian social network as readers engaged in a continuous dialogue with each other, but not all these readers were as comfortably established as gentlemen as the title implied.

Gillian’s study traces how, from launch to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the magazine developed as a vehicle for the creation and national dissemination of a new middling-sort masculine gentlemanliness in a Britain that was increasingly commercial, fluid and open. You can read a sample chapter here.

Update: Women’s Writing in the Nineteenth Century seminars

WSG member Susan Civale’s seminar series hosted by the International Centre for Victorian Women Writers at Canterbury Christ Church University is continuing in 2016.  Entitled “Women’s Writing in the Nineteenth Century”, several of the sessions may be of interest to scholars with interests towards the end of WSG’s time period.

The remaining seminars are:
Dr Felicity James (Leicester) on “Women of dissent: religion life writing, and female identity in the long 19th century”, Thursday 28 January 2016 (Room Nf09)
Dr Matt Rubery (QMUL) on “Human audiobooks: women, reading aloud, and technology”, Thursday 25 February 2016 (Room Prg03)
Dr Andrew Maunder (Hertfordshire) on “Infant phenomena: Victorian child stars and early-victorian celebrity culture”, Tuesday 3 May 2016 (Room Prg03)

The seminars are all open to the public, take place from 5pm, with tea & coffee available from 5 and the talk beginning 5.15.  For more information, please email Susan.

Susan has also been awarded a Visiting Research Fellowship at Chawton House Library this year to pursue her research on the fiction of Mary Robinson (1757-1800).  She will take up her Fellowship in April 2016, and will write about her research for the WSG blog.

Reminder: WSG Seminar Jan 2016

Update: 29 January 2016:

Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances, Chrisy Dennis is unable to give her paper at our seminar tomorrow.  The rest of the programme remains unchanged, and we hope to invite Chrisy back to talk on Mary Robinson at a later date.  Apologies for any inconvenience.


The third WSG seminar of the academic year will take place in just over a week’s time at the Foundling Museum.  Directions for getting to the Museum can be found here.  Doors open after 12.30pm with the session starting promptly at 1, and tea, coffee and biscuits at about 2.30pm.  Non-members who wish to attend the seminar are very welcome to come but will be asked to make a small donation for refreshments.

For the January session seminars organiser Carolyn Williams has scheduled papers on queens, singers, and writers.  WSG are also very pleased that Chrisy Dennis, who couldn’t make it in November, will present her paper at this session.  As ever, attendees are also encouraged to visit the current Foundling exhibition (free!), which in January is about illustrators of orphans from the eighteenth-century to the present day.

Saturday 30th January 2016,  1-4pm, Foundling Museum
Chair: Lois Chaber

Valerie Schutte, ‘Pre-accession Printed Book Dedications to Mary and Elizabeth Tudor’
This paper will offer a comparison of the printed book dedications received by Mary and Elizabeth Tudor before each woman became queen.  This analysis will demonstrate how each royal sibling was connected to early book culture and how that interplayed with her course of education.

Brianna Elyse Robertson-Kirkland, ‘Venanzio Rauzzini (1746-1810) and his female operatic students
Venanzio Rauzzini, an Italian castrato, was described by The Monthly Mirror in 1807 as ‘the father of a new style of English singing and a new race of singers’, and lists a number of the most esteemed opera singers of the period as his students, including Nancy Storace and Elizabeth Billington.

Sarah Oliver, ‘From Rape to Desire: Mary Hays’s Revision of the Love Theme and Jane Austen’s “New” Heroines
The discussion argues that fictional representations of female sexual desire were problematic for women writers in the Long Eighteenth Century, until Radical writers including Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Hays re-worked the theme.

Chrisy Dennis, ‘“We were born to grace society: but not to be its slaves”: Chivalry and Revolution in Mary Robinson’s Hubert de Sevrac, A Romance of the Eighteenth Century (1796)
Mary Robinson’s Romance, written during a period of anti-revolutionary backlash in England, overtly criticises the patriarchal order that pervades Europe.  It offers the reader a new family dynamic – one that is based on equality.