Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Scale of Female Literary Merit, 1792

On 4 June 2014, Dr Jennie Batchelor did a Tweet (here) about a 1792 "Scale of Female Literary Merit" that appeared in The Lady’s Magazine; and on 15 December 2014, she did a Blog post (here) about it. The Tweet provided the year (only), the blog entry, the name of the journal plus the year and month (only). The Blog was an improvement on the Tweet, but — since the list looks useful — I wanted to know little more. So here is the "Scale" and a little more information.

The full reference for this is: "The Scale of Female Literary Merit," The Lady’s Magazine, 23 (June 1792): 290; online here. (NB: the caption in Batchelor's blog entry provides the wrong volume number.)

Batchelor's tweet seems to have prompted Melissa Sodeman to post this February 2015 blog entry titled "Measuring Up: On the vexing history of assessing women’s literary achievements", which cites an earlier newspaper article —itself a response to a yet-earlier "Scale of Genius" that had ranked male writers (full citatation: "Scale of the Female Genius of this Country in the Year MDCCXCII”, The Star (2 April 1792); not online). In fact, Sodeman had cited and reproduced The Star "Scale" in her Sentimental Memorials: Women and the Novel in Literary History (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014), 125–26, which was published in November 2014, so she appears to have been mining her own book in response to Batchelor.

Although Batchelor undoubtedly located this "Scale" herself, as her Tweet claims, the Lady’s Magazine "Scale" was cited by Monica Cristina Soare in the same year in The Female Gothic Connoisseur: Reading, Subjectivity, and the Feminist Uses of Gothic Fiction (PhD, thesis, UC Berkeley, [Northern] Spring 2014), 136; and had been reproduced eight years earlier in the facsimile collection Women and Romanticism, 1790–1830, ed. Roxanne Eberle, 5 vols. (London: Routledge, 2006), 3.18.

So, unless I can find an even-older reference, the credit for the re-discovery and earliest mention of the "Scale" goes to Roxanne Eberle, Associate Professor at the University of Georgia.

No comments: