The Young Ladies’ Journal

I’ve wanted to so a series of “overviews” of comics for ages now, but held off because I wanted to have a “good range” of issues from a title’s run before writing the article. BUT that was taking too long, and for some papers may prove nearly impossible, as they are very rare. So I’m just going to go for it!

These overviews are really being created so that people googling the name will have some big pictures and general information to look at. They aren’t going to be super-in depth, I’ll leave that for looks at individual stories, or titles that I do have large runs of.

The Young Ladies’ Journal

Not much has been written about girl’s comics, in comparison to those aimed at males. Most of what has been written writes off everything that came before Misty (or, if the author is feeling particularly risqué, Jinty or even Tammy) as worthless. Of course,I’m not going to be toeing the right-on party line, so lets look at a girl’s comic from 130 years ago!

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No title or price on the ‘cover’. It’s possible that the individual issues were sold wrapped in another cover, which might have been covered with adverts.

The Young Ladies’ Journal, published by E. Harrison from 1862 (NB: Assumed from the fact Volume 20 came out in 1882)  contained 3 serial text stories, with large instalments of 2-3 pages, as well as complete stories of a similar length. Scattered around these were small articles on random subjects, for instance about animals or tidbits of foreign culture.

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Small article about Sardines at the bottom.

The stories were not exactly profusely illustrated, some had no illustrations at all. Apart form the large picture on the cover, it seems to have been standard practice to only have one other story illustration inside. They were usually well-drawn, though all in the same style. At the time there appears to have not just been a ‘house style’ for illustrations in story papers / penny dreadfuls, but an “only style”, that everybody used!

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Not always of a very exciting incident, either.

While the story illustrations were few and far between, every issue contained a two-page spread with pictures of the latest fashions on one side, and patterns, decorations and furnishings on the other. The illustration style probably not-entirely-unrealistically depicting the hourglass figure women acheived with dangerously tight corsets. I’ve seriously only ever seen one person with a shape like that naturally (well, I’m presuming naturally), if it was as ‘common’ then the manufacturers of such torturous devices must have been doing a roaring trade.

Still such pictures might appeal to “loligoth” fashion devotees. Well they’re not going to be playing the loligoth-themed videogame Rule of Rose any time soon, thanks to sickening aintellectual articles in the false-patriotic Daily Mail, written by knee-jerking, sub-telligent underscum who see “lolita” and assume “sex with children”. Yet these supposed ‘defenders of Britain’ allow no-win, no-fee companies, the real threat to this country, to advertise in the paper as much as they like.

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Anybody want any more?

Other regular features included “One Thing and Another”, a joke column with short gags and longer funny anecdotes. There was also “Grains of Gold”, with uplifting moral advice and examples, and short poems. A section called Pastimes contained word puzzles.

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Wall o’ text. I ought to have called this a story paper blog with occasional comics XD

Also, as with many periodicals of the era, there was a “correspondence” column. These contained replies to reader’s letters, omitting the letters themselves. Readers often used pseudonyms, to whom the replies would be addressed. Even these names can be an interesting insight into the era a paper was published in. In Boy’s papers of the 1900’s you frequently see names such as “electric” and “photographer”, for instance. The advice given in these columns was always wide-ranging. Often it would be of a general nature, and so the reply would go into detail about, say, a famous musician or craft technique. Though other times would be a vague “there are cases where applications of the kind are useless”.

Of course, today’s “answers to correspondents” is called Google!

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Readers could also buy “patterns” from the office, presumably those of the dresses featured in recent issues.

On the back of each issue is some music, occasionally with words, but more often just a tune. At the time the accomplished middle and upper class daughter was expected to at least be able to play the piano, entertaining the family in the withdrawing room after tea. I wonder if I could bung some of these tunes into a MIDI-making program and see how they sound?

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Most I can play on the piano is the Jaws theme.

I’ve not yet read any of the stories (and there’s an admission you’ll never see in any of those other articles that write off all pre-70’s girls’ comics as worthless), but they all seem to revolve around the couple who face endless obstacles coming between them and true love. One of these obstacles being held prisoner by Malay women, for some reason or other. This one is written by George Manville Fenn, a well-known writer of Boys’ Own adventure stories! In fact he wrote the lead serial in another paper that I’ll get round to reviewing sooner or later.

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Those are the most casual guards ever

Other stories are the more commonplace “country gent” style popularised by the Bronte sisters earlier in the 19th century. Still I’ve read a similar story from the 1920’s that could easily have been written in 1802, so little reference does it make to telephones or motor cars (the use of which would have wrapped up the plot in about 5 minutes, mind you).

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 “Frightfully sorry, I thought I’d hide in the bushes and make pheasant-like noises, knowing that the hunt was coming this way. I don’t see any way in which that could be dangerous.”

Mind you I do fancy reading one story, called “His Prettiest Daughter”. Mainly because the woman in it has short, boyish hair. It must have been very unconventional for the time, but it’s the sort of thing I go for, so I’d definitely consider her the prettiest!

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The attention to detail on that furniture isn’t half bad either. Furniture companies these days don’t put in half the effort the artist has put in to merely draw it.

 Occasionally the fashion pages would have several “modeled” dresses arranged in one illustration. The backgrounds to these were often brilliantly done, though the average reader probably hardly even noticed it.

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The frontispiece to the volume mentions that it contains colour plates, but these are missing from this volume. It’s been privately bound in a marbled cover, so must have been left out. Though I understand some papers such as Chatterbox charged extra for their plates, so whoever bought these originally may simply not have bothered. The “full size patterns” don’t seem too  “full size” either. Perhaps they were some sort of folded sheets included with the issues that have also since gone missing.

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“Toilet” at the time referred to washing and putting on make-up (for women, or disguised detectives).

Just as an additional bit of information, like Union Jack, The Boys’ Friend and so on, the serial stories were not contained within one volume, but could begin in one and end in another. For instance the story about the woman held hostage in Malaya actually started in volume 19. That’s for sale on ebay right now, should anybody fancy it XD (Especially if they live nearby and we can swap ’em at some point).

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Mind you, there’s an empty space right there.