Scholars are uncertain about and widely contest the authorship of the Female Tatler. Any attributions are speculations based on some supporting evidence. The revelations of Mrs. Crackenthorpe, author of the first fifty-two issues of the periodical, "were notable for scandal and scurrility." Mrs. Crackenthorpe is believed to have been the pseudonym of Delarivier Manley, playwright and novelist. Manley was the author of such scandalous works as Secret Memoirs from the New Atalantis and Memoirs of Europe, which became best sellers. She was also the author of numerous political pamphlets as well as the editor of the Examiner. (See the ECE site Female Friendships for more on Manley.) M. M. Goldsmith claims that "the inaccuracy of many discussions of the paper and the confusion resulting from speculative attributions of authorship unsupported by evidence" have made correct attribution a difficult task.1 (See Historical Context for a discussion on attributing a Whiggish or Tory tone to the author of the Female Tatler.)

Cover of New Atlantis.2

On Friday, November 4, 1709, number fifty-two of the Female Tatler appeared under new authorship after Delarivier Manley was arrested by the Whig government for seditious libel. She was arrested due to her satirical portrayal in The New Atalantis of many prominent Whigs controlling Queen Anne's government. The prosecution at her trial was partisan in nature-the Whig government was in search of a Tory plot and Manley proved an easy target. That the authorship of the Female Tatler shifted just after Manley's arrest clearly supports the speculation that she served as the writer behind "Mrs. Crackenthorpe."

The supposed sisters, Lucinda and Artesia, wrote thirty-two of the remaining issues of the Female Tatler. It is widely believed that both sisters were actually the pen names of a Dutch physician, Bernard Mandeville. The other papers appeared under the names of Emilia (sixteen papers), Rosella (ten papers),* Arabella (three papers), and Sophronia (three papers). Goldsmith claims that although a total of four authors were most likely involved in the Society of Ladies, there were only two principal authors: the Lucinda-Artesia papers by Mandeville and the Emilia-Rosella papers by another, as of yet unidentified, author since, for most of the run, these two sets of writers alternated with each other.

The relative success of the early Female Tatler was due, in part, to the success of its immediate predecessor. The publication of Richard Steele's Tatler inaugurated a new era: the importance of authorship and the figure of the author. (See Publication Details.) The pseudonym Isaac Bickerstaff, first imagined by Jonathan Swift and later adopted by Steele as the eponymous author of the Tatler, allowed Steele to create and develop a persona. Bickerstaff became a person, sporting a life independent of his creator, the actual author. "Although today we tend to think of periodical work as less author-centered than so-and-so's latest Book, that work, in fact, first prospered by highlighting the writer, rather than-as with many of the contemporaneous fictional forms-the tale or subject matter."3 Sales were bolstered by the reader's familiarity with the figure of Bickerstaff, who wrote not only about other personalities but wrote his own personality into the text of the Tatler.

The Bookseller and the Author. By Thomas Rowlandson. 1780-84.4

The authors of the Female Tatler, desirous of cashing in on Steele's example and of critiquing his publication, followed his example but with a crucial difference-gender. Mrs. Crackenthorpe has some especially angry words for those who have speculated that she is not the author but that her name is a pseudonym for the actual-male-author:

Whereas several ill-bred critics have reported about town that a woman is not the author of this paper, which I take to be a splenetic and irrational aspersion upon our whole sex, women were always allow'd to have a finer thread of understanding than men, which made them have recourse to learning, that they might equal our natural parts, and by an arbitrary sway have kept us from many advantages to prevent our out-vying them; but those ladies who have imbib'd authors, and div'd into arts and sciences have ever discover'd a quicker genius, and more sublime notions. These detractors cou'd never gain admittance to the fair sex, and all such I forbid my drawing room (no. 11).

Once identified as either male or female, the "gendered writer" becomes an "object of knowledge."5 Readers claim the author by wanting and presuming to know something about him or her. The concept of author, now Author, takes precedence over the importance of the text's content.

In the Female Tatler, gender is of primary importance: highlighted not only by the title of the periodical, it figures itself within the text of the periodical in ways both obvious (its descriptions of the female authors, its addresses to female readers) and subtle. In one particularly short but clever issue, Artesia writes: "Lucinda told you in her last what I said of the design and usefulness of the Tatlers, but forgot to tell you that when I had done, the company voted for the plurality of them, and several were of the opinion that if the male had not been so old, we might have increased and multiplied before now. But it is impossible to please everybody" (no. 97). The male Tatler, older than the female (it had been published for a longer period of time), is unable to breed with the Female Tatler and is, by implication, impotent.

The Female Tatler would also eventually stop producing. The last publication is written by the hand of Lucinda, who eloquently mourns the death, from neglect and lack of opportunity, of every woman's intelligence. Recalling the modesty and humility imposed on the female members of her family, Lucinda justifies her rebellion from those strictures and that way of life:

Therefore I ventured to take my own way. My shame I keep for my faults, which but too often require it; my silence for instruction when wisdom or virtue speak, and my fear for that doubtful hour when I find it difficult to discern between good and evil, least I should blindly choose the last (no. 111).

Lucinda refuses to sit silent; her words live on, her voice is heard-even if that voice is not the "actual" Lucinda's.

A product of its time, the periodical as a whole evinces a deep-seated anxiety over its role as a literary product in this newly burgeoning commodity culture. The many authors of the Female Tatler eschew financial gain as their motive for writing and publishing this periodical. Mrs. Crackenthorpe asks in her first publication: "I wou'd intreat those who are not particularly acquainted with me, that they wou'd not imagine I write this paper merely for the profit that may accrue to me by it." She claims she has a sufficient independent income to live well without her position as an authoress although, if money were to "accrue," she would invest it wisely (no. 1). The position of the female author in eighteenth century England was tenuous at best. Sarah Prescott notes that most recent scholarship has emphasized "the woman writer's relationship to an increasingly commercialized literary marketplace centered in London, and many feminist scholars have focused accordingly on the perceived 'scandal' of women's participation in that marketplace."6 The woman who sold her writing was akin to the woman who sold her body, placing the early eighteenth century woman writer in a precarious position-one that constantly veered between creativity and respectability.

 *Rosella refers to Delia, perhaps a reference to Mrs. Manley (also known as Atalantic Dela), who published the details of her life. "Whilst some are vain on the perfections they never had; others boast the vices they have not had opportunity to act. Delia is bad enough in any account, but infinitely blackest in her own, ambitious of the first place in iniquity, she relates of herself incredible abominations, which, if true, were a scandal to the age in being passed unpunished. But this good she serves to-vice appears in her so loathsome, that to converse with her a day makes a convert" (no.108). This particularly cutting remark spares no sympathy for the outrageous Mrs. Manley.


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