JOTTER - 1. One who jots.
1827 Blackw. Mag. XXII. 451 All the jottings that ever were jotted down on his jot-book, by the most inveterate jotter.
 (Oxford English Dictionary [OED] definition and example. The reference is to Blackwood's Magazine )


Editors of nineteenth century periodicals impressed their ideas and personalities upon their journals to varying degrees and in different ways. Women's magazines, in particular, seem to have cultivated an editorial persona who directly addressed readers through the "Answers to Correspondents" pages, or a regular gossipy feature. Matilda Browne's "Spinnings" column in The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, for example, which blended personal revelation with consumer information, created a vivid editorial personality. Given their common experience of home nursing in the "sick-room" how many of her readers must have sympathised with her as she  apologised for one column:

Long vigils, constant anxiety, regrets, and mourning, are not very good helps to work such as mine. I feel how deficient in interest must be these Spinnings, spun from a heavy heart, and written a few lines at a time during the watchings by a sick bed.

The cheap magazines of the 1890s provide other models. "Isobel's" "Fireside Talks" in Home Notes carried short opinion pieces on contemporary social and domestic issues, snippets of royal and celebrity trivia, laced with frequent plugs for future issues of the magazine and other Pearson publications, whilst the parallel "Editorial Chit-Chat" in Home Chat laid rather more emphasis on readers' letters than on editorial views. Both, however, sought to give readers the sense that their editor engaged in a dialogue with them, and that their contributions to the magazine were valued. For examples of paragraphs and content see the article on Rational Dress on the Fashion Page ("Fireside Talks") and the extracts from competition entries on the Journalism Page ("Editorial Chit-Chat".) This latter was unusual for an editorial column in that the entire column was devoted to what had obviously proved a popular competition.

This editorial space, like the correspondence columns, proved also an ideal place to publicize evidence of the magazine's success and popularity with readers. Mrs Warren, in her New Year's address  to her readers in 1859 focusing on the generous sentiments associated with present-giving, remarks in her concluding paragraph

While we are on the subject of New Year's Gfts. we would recommend. as the most appropriate present for a lady at this season, the third volume of the LADIES' TREASURY, just published. This popular periodical has already achieved a success quite unparalleled with works of the kind...

A letter such as that given in "Readers' Letters  to Victorian Magazines" (headed "And Mutual Compliments")  would probably in  a popular late nineteenth century  women's magazine have  been  turned  into copy  for  a "Fireside Chat" or  a  "Chit-Chat". Another journalistic genre which contained some material which could equally well have turned up in an Editor's Column was the Society Gossip feature. An example is included in the item on Victorian Fog below.

The decorative title for "Chit Chat" appeared in a September issue but is actually entitled "January" and appropriately the flowers at the feet of the child appear to be snowdrops! Both the flowers and the confusion seem to suit my gardening pages and recent rather arbitrary treatment of the seasons.


I wanted to reflect this journalistic genre on Victorian Page, but not to create the kind of Blog that is more about me than about the topics of this site. I wanted a space for the sort of notes addressed to groups of former or current students, which currently appear either on the Home Page or the Contents Page. Here I can also post up as necessary further information about planned changes and additions to Victorian Page, and occasionally alert visitors to major external projects which may be of use to them. Temporary items are dated.

For Dictionary Addicts - Why "Editor's Jottings" ?

Titles like "Fireside Talks" or Annie Swan's "Over the Teacups" * didn't seem quite appropriate; on the other hand "From the Editor" suggests a rather more weighty article than readers will get. i came up with "Editor's Jottings" which has for me the right tone, suggesting a collection of quick comments rather than a carefully constructed column. As it happens, after checking the OED I am pleased to discover that it is an appropriate choice since the word in its sense of "brief note" is a late-comer, becoming current only in the nineteenth century. The  quotation from  Blackwood's is interesting as "jotter" there refers to the person making the note, but by the 1880s the word had come to have the meaning I recall from my schooldays when a "jotter" was the pad or exercise book with cheap paper on which one could make "rough notes".

*As Margaret Beetham in A Magazine of Her Own (1996) has pointed out, the novelist Annie Swan was not in fact the editor, who was the almost invisible Robertson Nicoll. Some readers must have been confused as "Notes to Correspondents" - at least in the first volume - specifically stated that communications to the Editor 'must not be 'addressed to Mrs. Burnett Smith'. (Annie Swan) However the magazine carried Swan's name on the front cover, and the feminine editorial persona of the wise female friend in her "Over the Teacups" column strengthened the impression of a woman editor.

For my Students - past and present

The Journalism feature page contains Job-hunting hints for those students taking "Communications at Work" this year. Interesting for anyone considering journalism as a career, as some of the advice has survived the passage of time. The Fashion Page was started because so many of the large group of students on CAW last year focused on women's magazines and aspects of fashion coverage. It is now the most visited page on this website.
The Introduction to "Features" on the Journalism page also includes an item of interest those who enjoyed my "Victorian Crime: Fiction and Fact" course.
Readers who came to my study day on Victorian Women's Magazines will find the "Ladies' Page" and "Agony Aunts" reflect some of the issues we discussed, and currently feature some  topics such as Victorian beauty  products and fashions- we had time to mention only briefly. The "Literature Page" also focuses at the moment on reviewing in women's magazines. 17/10/2008 (updated June 2009)
Additions on Victorian kitchen equipment promised earlier this year I hope to dovetail in with work on the cookery elements of the Christmas supplement. (20/11/2009)

External Links

HerStoria   www.HerStoria.com
Companion website of the lively  quarterly of women's history, it carries additional articles about women throughout the ages. On its "Discover" page these are organised by century as well as by theme and name so an article on Women and Bicycles can be found either under 'Sports' or 'Nineteenth Century'. There is also a very useful links page.
Victoria Research Web http://victorianresearch.org
For many years I have been recommending Patrick Leary's site to students working on any aspect of the long nineteenth century. It is designed for researchers, teachers and their students, but has much valuable information and advice on resources for anyone  with a serious interest in the period, including a links page.

I mentioned on the Home Page my latest publication, a chapter on the early nineteenth century illustrated annuals and gift books. This particular genre was marketed to a female readership and, importantly, offered women an entree to publication and in some cases editorship. This site already has a few references to the genre, and I hope to add further material from it where appropriate in future. The Christmas Supplement and Theatrical Entertainments section of the Christmas Miscellany pages both contain examples from Christmas annual publications.

Latest new Page:
Lancashire Landscapes in Photographs and Engravings

A few months ago I discovered two fascinating books of Victorian photographs held in the Priestley Collection, and taken by the Priestley family of professional photographers, who for many decades were based in Wallasey. I thought the images of commercial and industrial landscapes of Lancashire and neighbouring counties, and documenting events such as the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal, would provide an unusual and interesting pairing with the early nineteenth century steel engravings, such as that pictured above, which illustrated topographical books and periodical articles. Mike Priestley, the author of the books, has generously allowed me to reproduce some of these on my new Travel Page. He has a great affection for this part of England, where he spent much of his life, and an enthusiasm for its history, which I share having spent my formative years in Liverpool's great rival city, Manchester. Mike's books, including Merseyside in Monochrome from which these images are taken, are available on Amazon or can be ordered directly from him (see  address below). Readers who would like to copy any of his photographs used on Victorian Page should contact Michael G. Priestley rather than me. He is a member of Writing East Midlands.
Note that I am continuing to add material to this page.

Earlier Jottings!

Crinoline, Hats & Petticoats

In recent months I have received some interesting - and, I hasten to say, very polite and proper - correspondence about 1860s fashion, in particular about what underwear ladies wore to support those very full and long skirts. I thought it might be interesting to other readers to pass on the kind of information that 1860s fashion magazines were advising their readers on this question. For any American readers intending to go to the Victorian fair in New York ( www.historicfairs.com ) and wanting some last minute ideas for decorating their costumes I have also added some further illustrations, including heavily decorated straw bonnets of the period. Victorians loved their ribbons, flowers- both real and artificial- feathers and lace, so plenty of scope for amateur milliners! If you are interested in millinery have a look at a comic view of fashionable hats on the Agony Aunts page.31/8/10


Even More on Hyacinths

See the Editor's  Mailbag for more information about Mr Tye and hyacinth bottles which has just been posted up. 7/7/2009
More about Victorian hyacinth growing in Europe, including details of prices of bulbs and a new illustration, has just been posted in the Late Summer Gardens page. A pity that I hadn't done it earlier and taken some of the advice to heart, as my own newly emerging hyacinth bulbs outside look as if they have suffered from the bitter frost and snow earlier this month. The swathes of snowdrops, however, have never looked so lovely. 22/2/2009

Compliments for Victorian Page 

As you will see from the article (above) on editorial columns in women's magazines, the Editor is only following in Victorian editors' footsteps in boasting on her Mailbag page, though she hopes in a suitably genteel manner, of how this relatively young site has assisted a Dutch reader with an obscure query when august organisations were unable to help.
She is also delighted to report that the May issue of HerStoria, a new quarterly magazine of women's history, featured Victorian Page in its "Girls On-Line" review of 'two of the best' webs for women's history. She particularly appreciated its description of this site as 'a very twenty-first century resource which manages to create an authentic and entertaining Victorian voice'. See External Links for information on this magazine.
Miss Mitford's Miserable Summer
2012 I little realised when I published Miss Mitford's piece on a wet English Summer back in 2008 that her description might prove even more relevant this year (2012)when we have "enjoyed" the wettest summer for a hundred years. This is what I said then.
Unlike Miss Mitford my red and white currants did survive whereas my raspberries  mouldered on the cane. 
Why a Page on Late Summer Gardens in October?

Apologies. Simply that here in England we have had such a dull, depressing summer that I hadn't the heart to get down to it as the clouds lowered and the wind howled; and when the sun did blaze forth for a few precious days wasting them by sitting at a computer seemed positively sinful. As October has far has been pleasantly mild, in this part of the country  at least, I  thought Mary Mitford's description of a June almost contemporaneous with the "jottings" quotation from Blackwood's, put our miserable summer into perspective. Practical gardening advice for late summer and early autumn in the nineteenth century, as today, looked forward to spring so an article on hyacinths seemed very appropriate too.  17/10/2008
A most unseasonable blast of arctic weather last Tuesday has prompted me to return the Autumn and Winter Gardens Page to the Main Menu gardening pages. We had over an inch of snow fall in my part of Surrey, and if I couldn't remember ever seeing snow in October it was not surprising. The last time snow was recorded in London in October was in 1934! October 2008

More Victorian Weather News - Fog!

One extreme Victorian weather condition which was still common in my childhood before the Clean Air Act became effective, but is now - thankfully - rare, is the "pea-souper" - a thick fog which could cut visibility to arms-length. A mention of it in the November 16th "Society Small Talk" column of Home Chat (1895) reminded me that there are some weather changes we can be thankful for.

The Late Visit of the Prince of Wales to Leeds emphasises the fact that it is not only Londoners who are victims of the fog fiend. On one of the days "fears were entertained that the Prince would have to be escorted to the music festival by torchlight, as was the Duke of Albany two years ago." Happily, this year a violent thunderstorm cleared the air.
October 2008

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.

*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.

©  Barbara Onslow 2007-2017    Page Published October 2008 Last updated April 25th. 2017