Markets and Aesthetics
The Girl’s Own Paper was a weekly periodical which, as its name suggests, capitalised on an expanding literary market for girls and young women in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Like its counterpart, the Boy’s Own Paper, it was founded by the Religious Tract Society. The first number was published on 3rd January 1880 and, remarkably, it survived until 1956. The paper contained a diverse mix of serial fiction, short stories, poetry, music, responses to correspondents, advice on household management and etiquette, educational articles exploring professional opportunities for women, and high quality steel engravings.
One of the most important female poets of the nineteenth century, Christina Rossetti was born into a family of artists, writers and scholars, and had affiliations with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, of which her brothers William and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were founding members. On display here is an 1891 edition that includes her narrative poem, ‘Goblin Market’, with illustrations by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The poem is set in a fairy-tale world in which two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, are offered enticing wares by goblin men. Laura yields to the temptation to taste the dangerous fruits and escapes death only because Lizzie has the presence of mind to procure an antidote. Rossetti’s volunteer work at the St Mary Magdalene Penitentiary for ‘fallen women’ in Highgate may have shaped the poem’s focus on female sexual transgression and sisterly redemption.
A prolific illustrator of both fantasy fiction and popular works on palaeontology, Alice B. Woodward forged a professional artistic career. As a member of the Women’s Guild of Arts, Woodward and her colleagues were early entrants into a sector where paid and accredited work was typically a male preserve. Encouraged by her father, the Keeper of Geology at the Natural History Museum in London, Woodward provided life-like illustrations of extinct animals for many books and newspapers. In the twentieth century, her fame grew when she illustrated editions of famous children’s books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Her work here on Mary Louisa Molesworth’s The House That Grew is an early example of Woodward’s characteristically modern art style.