The Female Tatler
By Mrs. Crackenthorpe, a Lady that knows every thing.
July-December 1709

The Female Tatler was a periodical first issued on July 8, 1709 under the name of “Phoebe Crackenthorpe, a lady that knows everything,” It ran from July 8, 1709 to March 31, 1710, having a total of 111 issues. Influenced by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele’s Tatler and Spectator, many of the issues commented on the manners and morals of society. It appeared three times a week, alternating on the days the Tatler ran, and consisted of editorial observations, letters, notices, gossip, and advertisements, often revolving around a female focus. The Female Tatler attempted to enter into the daily lives of its readers much like the Tatler and Spectator, but differed from other periodicals by targeting women more directly through a defined reflection of their interests and behaviors.Tatlerissue1.jpg


The authorship of The Female Tatler remains unknown. From July to November 1709, the issues were written
under the persona of Phoebe Crackenthorpe. However, after issue 51, Mrs. Crakenthorpe left The Female Tatler “to a Society of Modest Ladies, who in their turns will oblige be Publick with what-ever they shall meet with, that will be Diverting, Innocent; or Instructive. (Female Tatler No. 51). Starting with issue 52, November 2, 1709, the periodical was written under names such as Emilia, Arabella, Rosella, Sophronia, Lucinda, and Artesia. The genuine authorship was never revealed, though many have speculated that Delarivier Manley and Susannah Centlivre, as well as Bernard Mandeville and Thomas Baker, could have been involved in various issues within The Female Tatler. Regardless, of its authors, whether male or female, The Female Tatler aimed to amuse and instruct mainly female readers.

From July 1709 to December 1710, The Female Tatler’s issues illustrated a discussion on female characteristics, interests, and behaviors. Throughout these issues the tone was socially conservative, with a belief that women should dress and behave according to their social status. For example, in Female Tatler No. 20, August 1709, Mrs. Crackenthorpe discusses a woman entitled, “Lady Lisp-well”, who has “a roguish Eye, a winning Pout, a fashionable Waddle, and a thousand pretty taking Affectations” that leaves her marriage and family to run-off with a “distasteful wretch” by the name of “Jack Medley-brain”. Crackenthorpe criticizes “Lady Lisp-well”, a previously “reserv’d, precise, censorious creature”, as having become so “airy and unaccountable, that people begin to suspect the regularity of her brain,” (Female Tatler No.20) Mrs. Crackenthorpe projects conservative values by suggesting that a husband and a wife have a sense of duty towards one another, and she greatly disapproves of the selfish and irrational behavior that women like “Lady Lisp-well” can develop.

Furthermore, Mrs. Crackenthorpe illustrates the characteristics of various women within the middles class society. In Female Tatler No. 29, September 9, 1709, she states a description of “Mrs. Everchat”, who is “a lady that shows her youth only by her discourse,” seeming that she “never asks a question, but she makes a reply to it herself, before you can give her an answer.” Mrs. Everchat’s characterization allows readers to reflect on their own “ever-chatiness”and that of other people they may know. Similarly, in the Female Tatler No. 24, August 29, 1709, the Bustle sisters serve to characterize snobbery or rude manners of young women. Mrs. Crackenthorpe writes “there was not one at Table that they thought good enough to Drink to; they reflected upon People so loud, that they heard 'em, look'd scornfully around 'em, and when a Gentleman very civilly gave his Service to the Eldest, she burst out a Laughing in his Face” (Female Tatler No. 24). Crackenthorpe states that these girls are “ the Reverse of every thing that's well bred” (Female Tatler No. 24). Overall, many of the issues from July to December promote a prudent kind of femininity for women to behave with.

However, Mrs. Crackenthorpe does not ridicule just the characteristics of women, she also mocks men as well. In Female Tatler No. 13, August 5, 1709, she states, “Men are prying Creatures, and in general have but a trifling Opinion of our Sex; they compliment us, then laugh at us, see through our little Disguises, and think our Discourse meer Whipt-syllabub, a mouthful of Nothing”. Crackenthorpe understands and sheds light on the social constraints and prejudice towards women.

In The Female Tatler, gossip was the major subject of many of the issues. Like many other newspapers and periodicals, The Female Tatler discussed scandals and outrageous behaviors in an attempt to be instructional and morally edifying. Even Mrs. Crackenthorpe states “When we daily hear of unaccountable whims and extravagant frolics committed by the better sort, we must expect those of inferior classes will imitate them in their
habits of mind, as well as body, and the only way to correct great men's foibles, is handsomely to ridicule 'em; a seasonable banter has often had a reclaiming effect, when serious advice from a grave divine has been thought impudence” (Female Tatler No. 1). Gossip and scandals also proved to be intriguing for many readers. For instance, in Female Tatler No. 14, August 5, 1709, Mrs. Crackenthorpe reports that “Madam Slender-sense”, had lately “fallen ill of a swelling she receiv'd by a slip the last ball night. Some are so rude as to say that Beau Garsoon, the French dancing master, was the occasion of it; and Mrs. Manlove, who generally searches into the bottom of such an affair, solemnly protests she saw them go up one pair of stairs together. What they did there, she can't tell, but the lady has been ailing ever since”. People’s accounts of stories and opinions of other people came to take up major portions in the July through December issues of The Female Tatler. Crackenthorpe states “Tis as Natural for a Lady to hearken to the tittle-'tattle of her Washer woman, as for a Gentleman to bear the Politick Nonsense of his Barber, who positively will talk to you whether you will answer him or not”, emphasizing that people are naturally accustomed to listening to any forms of gossip (Female Tatler No. 26).

The Social Scene
The Female Tatler followed the lead of other periodicals like the Tatler and Spectator, by presenting social life and aiming “to correct the vices and vanities which some of distinction, as well as others, willfully commit” (Female Tatler No. 1). However, The Female Tatler was guided by a woman’s perspective. Around the time when men were beginning to frequent coffeehouses indulge, socialize and engage in thoughtful discussion over the literary works that were circulating, women were increasingly offering strong opinions in drawing rooms and tea-houses for the improvement of manners and morals. As a woman, Mrs. Crackenthorpe deemed herself not only accustomed to “tattling”, which she argues “was ever adjudg’d peculiar to our sex”, but also judgmental and full of gossip (Female Tatler No. 1). Furthermore, the issues do not go into public politics, as did both the Tatler and Spectator, in accounts of party politics and government, but limits to writing more familiar accounts of news. Ordinary questions and accounts of marriage, courtship, money, parenting and religious and womanly virtue dominate the July through December issues of The Female Tatler.
Susanna Centlivre

Theater Season
According to The London Stage, many plays ran continuously throughout 1709. For instance Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark ran multiple times through the latter part of the year. 1709 also marked the premiere of The Busie Body by Susanna Centlivre at the Drury Lane in London. The Female Tatler mentions Centlivre’s plays in a couple of issues, stating once “reviv'd in Mrs. Centlivre; somethere, who are esteem'd no ill Judges. were pleased to say, they thought it a Genteel, Easy and Diverting Comedy” (Female Tatler No. 69).
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Scene from The Busie Body, 1709

Susanna Centlivre’s play, The Busie Body, is essentially a romantic comedy. It revolves around two young women in love, Miranda and Isabinda. These young women have to resort to any means necessary in order to avoid a marriage of convenience. They intend to marry the suitors of their choice, Sir George and Charles. To achieve their goal, they have to deceive Sir Francis, Miranda’s guardian,who plans to keep her and her large fortune for himself; and Sir Jealous, Isabinda’s father, who had planned to marry her off to a Spanish gentleman since birth. The play illustrates with a comedic air, the girls’ tricks to evade their father and guardian’s vigilance, the lovers’ furtive meetings, and the constant interference of a meddlesome character, Marplot or “the busie body”. Marplot is described as “a sort of a silly Fellow, Cowardly, but very inquisitive to know every Body’s Business” (Centlivre 7). The character of Marplot, ultimately, brings utter confusion to the couples’ lives. The comedic part of the whole play is that his well-meant efforts nearly derail and destroy all of the romances in the story. Furthermore, the young women make a mockery of and challenge the system of marriage that a patriarchal society determines for them through their disobedience of authority.

Works Cited

"The London Stage." Avery, Emmet L. Vol. 2. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press , 1700-1729. 5 vols.
Centlivre, Susanna. The busie body, a comedy. Written by Mrs. Susanna Centlivre. The fourth edition. Dublin, MDCCXXV. [1725]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. University of Maryland College Park. 11 Apr. 2015
Crakenthorpe, Mrs. "The Female Tatler: By Mrs. Crackenthorpe, a Lady that knows every thing". 1709.