Getting 1800s with it.

The Penny Magazine was a weekly publication intended for the British working class. It was produced from early 1832 to late 1845. The issue our group has been studying was printed in April of 1833, just over a year after the Penny Magazine began circulating (“Penny Magazine”). The focus of this paper is to look at the illustrations, articles and themes of this issue as they related to the working-class and the Victorian period

During the Victorian Era, the working class consisted of people who did physical labor. Unlike the middle class where women were generally servants or governesses, women within the working class were physical laborers as well as children and men. In the 1830s, the majority of working class adults and children found work in factories and were subject to terrible working conditions for extended periods of time. Some adults would work for up to sixteen hours at a time. During 1833, the publication year for this Penny Magazine, Parliament was working with manufacturers of textiles to find new ways to accommodate the working class. Previous acts to improve the terrible working conditions of laborers were once restricted to the cotton industry only.

The 1833 Act, which came to be the same year, included all textile industries. It restricted women and children’s working hours. It also gave basic rights such as an hour lunch for all workers and measures were being taken to prevent physical abuse. Children younger than nine years old were no longer allowed to work. Those nine to thirteen years of age were expected to recieve two hours of schooling. Factory inspectors were called upon to maintain order. Inspector groups consisting generally of four men, circulated factories to ensure the new rules were taking effect. Penalties were to be administered to any factory failing to comply with the orders of this act. However, high volume of factories in use during this time made it impossible to apprehend those who chose to ignore the new civil rights imposed.

Leisure time for the average working class person was relatively non-existent. Very few people within this class had any kind of education. Mostly upper class individuals were exposed to real forms of education. Although literacy rates among the working class were low, affordable magazines such as The Penny Magazine were made available to them as a source of pastime for those who could read. The Penny magazine in particular was targeted towards the working class individual who had no other means to receive a formal education. Due to their low stance in society, such magazines were the only true source of education they might receive. It gave them a view of the world they might not have otherwise been aware of due to their time confined within the factories.

In first glancing at the cover photo of The Penny Magazine, one can see a photo of a medieval castle looking over a town. The first print states “Edinburgh Castle”. Research initially reveals the Edinburgh Castle as “a fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland” (Wikipedia). So what is it doing in a nineteenth century British magazine?

The Edinburgh Castle was a royal, medieval castle turned garrison fortress for the New Model Army during the War of Scottish Independence in the fourteenth century. Edward I of England was appointed to help judge the competing claims for the Scottish crown, and later launched an invasion of Scotland. Thus sprouted the First War of Scottish Independence. The British won rule over Scotland but after the death of Edward I, the control began to weaken and Robert the Bruce won the Edinburgh Castle back in their victory of the Battle of Bannockburn. However, after Bruce’s death, Edward III carried on Edward I’s mission, marking the start of the Second War of Scottish Independence and the British forces reoccupied the Edinburgh Castle in 1335.

Surviving many wars and battles, the Edinburgh castle remained in British rule and over the next several years, its vaults served at cells during the Seven Year’s War, the American War of Independence and the Napoleonic Wars. The rest of the rooms served as powder magazines (artillery), stores, the Governor’s house in 1742 and the New Barracks. The once royal castle was turned into a prison in the early 1800s to house prisoners of war. In 1811, there was a mass prison break in which forty-nine prisoners escaped through a hole in the south wall. The cover photo of the magazine shows this magnificent castle overlooking what seems to be a lower-class area. The answer to why this castle was amidst a lower class area is because the castle was no longer a monument of royalty, it was used to house criminals, gunpowder and soldiers.

Within the Victorian period there rested a huge gap in the separation of the upper class and the working class. The upper class Victorians were those who had been born into wealth and now had and continued to have access to special privileges, one of these being their access to provide the best education to their children that included using private tutors ( However, it was not the same for the working-class Victorians; these were citizens who were never even given the chance to obtain the most basic means of education. Instead, they were stuck in working factories that would dictate their entire lives. An article that reported the differences in the Victorian class system stated, “The fact that they represented the royal class gave these people an advantage at everything”( With this fact one would be able to establish that the upper class Victorians were probably the first to get their hands on the new era of Victorian literature and the first to experience the era’s major literary themes. Contained in this group of themes was the subject of nature.

A second article on the Victorian period stated that most British citizens had very differing outlooks on the purpose of nature, some felt as if nature consisted of plants and animals that should only be admired while others felt as if natural things such as animals should be hunted down, killed and turned into trade ( With all of that said, the information presented above could work to show the reasoning in certain topics that were added in The Penny Magazine. Within the magazine was an article titled “The Reindeer”. Its inclusion on the unearthing of the reindeer seemed somewhat peculiar but as the times, social classes and purpose of the overall magazine were taken into account there was no more need for confusion.

The Penny Magazine was created to further educate those working class Victorians who could not or would not educate themselves(Wikipedia), so as the article went on to talk about the key places of reindeer homes and the natural resources that they produce, it was clear that this was the magazines attempt to further allow the working class to become more closely acquainted with the values and knowledge of nature in the same way that the upper class Victorians were aware of it. One of the more interesting parts of this article is when it gives details of the natural resources that can come from reindeers, including milk. At the beginning of the piece is a drawing of a reindeer being milked. A fact like this could further educate the working Victorians, not only the knowledge of and history of reindeer, but also on the natural use that could come from them, an important fact of knowledge for those civilians who were suffering to make ends meet.

The last article in our issue of the Penny Magazine was one on the invention of paper. Irony of the article being printed on paper aside, furthur research on the subject revealed how paper making related to the different classes in 19th century England.

The art of papermaking began in China around the year 105, when it was only used for wrapping, then writing, and finally evolving to the production of paper money. It expanded and made it’s way all over the world and to Europe in the early 19th century (“Papermaking”). One kind of early paper was made from hemp (Knight), which comes from cannabis plants that grow in nature. This connects back to the idea of nature and creation, something the lower class, specifically the ones reading the Penny Magazine, would be much closer to as they lived below Edinburgh Castle and dealt more regularly with nature than people of a higher class would have to.

Paper was also made from cotton and silk (Knight), posing another interesting comparison between high and low class. Cotton and hemp paper would have been more affordable and therefore the material printed on for lower classes, while the upper class would read materials printed on silk paper. In an article on, it states that “silk became the first type of luxury paper”(“History of Silk”). This would put it out of reach for the common pedestrian in 19th century England. Each of these materials comes from nature, but the way they were produced early on affected the cost of books, magazines and periodicals, such as the Penny Magazine.

Links to group:





“Development and ChangeVolume 13, Issue 4, Article First Published Online: 22

OCT 2008.” Child Labour, the Working-Class Family, and Domestic Ideology in 19th

Century Britain. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. <


“Edinburgh Castle.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 09 Oct.

2012. <>.

“Factory Act.” – UK Parliament. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2012. <


“Factory Acts.” – Wikipedia, the Free Ecyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2012. <>.

“History of Silk.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Mar. 2012. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. <>.

“Jane Austen’s World.” Jane Austen’s World. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. <>.

Knight, Charles, ed. “Invention of Paper.” The Penny Magazine 20 Apr. 1833: 152. Print.

“Life in the 19th Century.” Life in the 19th Century. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.


“Natural resource.” Wikipedia. 10 Aug. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation. 10 Oct. 2012


“Papermaking.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. <>.

“Penny Magazine.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Aug. 2012. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. <>.

“Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.” Wikipedia. 09 May 2012. Wikimedia Foundation. 10 Oct. 2012 <>.

“The 1833 Factory Act.” – UK Parliament. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2012. <


“The Nineteenth Century – The UK.” The Nineteenth Century – The UK. N.p., n.d. Web.

10 Oct. 2012. <>.

“The Urban Working Class in Britain, 1830-1914.” The Urban Working Class in Britain, 1830-1914 / Major Works / Pickering and Chatto Publishers. N.p.,

n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2012. <


“V&A – Victorians – Nature.” V&A – Victorians – Nature. 8 Oct. 2012


“Victorian England.” Victorian England. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2012. <>.

“Victorian era.” Wikipedia. 10 Sept. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation. 7 Oct. 2012


“Victorian Era Social Classes,Upper Class,Middle Class and the Working Class.”

Victorian Era Social Classes,Upper Class,Middle Class and the Working Class.

7 Oct. 2012 <>.



This illustration, titled Surreptitious Correspondence, appeared in a November 1862 issue of the London Society magazine. This was a Victorian era monthly magazine intended for entertainment purposes and included “miscellaneous articles, short fiction… and serialized novels”. (Quote from wikipedia.) The image was illustrated by Matthew James Lawless and engraved by Walter Barker. The publication date of 1862 is about halfway through the Victorian period.

The depiction is of a woman, seemingly of a higher class judging by her clothes, reading a letter in the forest. The title leads us to believe she is reading the letter in secret and chose a place of nature to do so. This connects with society’s belief that women are more in tune with, and fit more appropriately, in nature than men. Reading was also considered a women’s activity in the Victorian era, so anyone coming upon the young lady in the illustration wouldn’t think much of her reading, even if she was reading something in confidence.

The Victorian era made reading materials affordable even for lower classes and the London Society seems to be a magazine meant mainly for women. Many of the contributors to the magazine were female as were the illustrators and publishers. Women taking a role in society that consisted of more than raising a family and keeping a household became more acceptable, and connects back to this photo. The woman is out in nature enjoying her free time rather than attending to her responsibilities.

Literacy in the Victorian era spread among the classes and, clearly, to women. This time period gave way to life as we know it now.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a novel based heavily on Victor’s fascination with and inclination for science or, as it is called within the novel, natural philosophy. This is defined in a footnote as the study of nature, which connects to Gilpin’s idea of beauty as found in nature itself. He says, “We pursue her from hill to dale, and hunt after those various beauties, with which she everywhere abounds.” The ideals of nature or beauty and science feature prominently in Frankenstein and give evidence to Gilpin’s claim that beauty is not derived from the scientifical.

Very early on, Victor Frankenstein entertains the idea of reanimating a dead body in hopes that he can create a new race on earth for which civilization would owe him endless gratitude and awe, both for his genius at having the ability to create life and the beauty of the creation itself. However, during the process of putting together the Creature, Victor admits to becoming so engrossed in his vision that he ignores the beauty surrounding him: “Winter, spring, and summer, passed away during my labours; but I did not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves–sights which before always yielded me supreme delight, so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation.” In addition to ignoring the beauty around him, Victor denounces beauty altogether after the Creature lives. He says, “…now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.”

Being so caught up in the science of his creation, Victor forgot that some things aren’t meant to exist in nature. He proves Gilpin’s assertion, “what a trifling circumstance sometimes forms the limit between beauty and deformity.” Victor thought he was doing the world a favor and soon realizes it was a great disservice, especially after the Creature murders Victor’s young brother and several others. In this case, science might have beget a creation, but that creation did not turn out beautiful, either in appearance or action.

My name is Stephanie. I was born and raised in Rhode Island. So I’ve come a long way! I have my dream part-time job working at Barnes and Noble, where all my bookworm fantasies both come to life in being around so much literature and are crushed by dealing with the harsh realities of retail. I like being up in the middle of the night and love going to midnight premieres for scary movies. (Or any movie, really.) I share a birthday with the one and only William Shakespeare, who is my greatest writing inspiration.

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