The Paternoster Gang and the Case of the Victorian Clickbait, 1891

A quick aside. If you’re a fan of Doctor Who (like what I am), old books have recently become a bit more exciting, thanks to Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax – aka the Paternoster Gang.

This is because a lot of Victorian (and later) publications were printed in Paternoster Row, which was a centre of publishing up until the Second World War, when it was destroyed in the Blitz.

The Paternoster Gang lived at No. 13 so (in a very real sense) the publishers of the Mother’s Companion were next-door-but one at No. 9.

Mothers Companion, 1891

Mothers Companion, 1891

The Mother’s Companion knew what it was doing with this article – “Hints to Wives” by an anonymous husband. This is a “helpful critique” of wives and their activities, and reminds me rather of the famous Victorian phrase “Children should be seen and not heard”, except applied to women. In short, this is Victorian clickbait that probably inspired a fury of correspondence.

I’m imagining the lady readership of this magazine having a little water cooler moment with this article (equivalent – teapot moment?). Perhaps trying to guess the identity of the author, who vowed never to tell anyone that he had written it. I find this quite cheering – at least he knows he’ll be for it if his wife finds out.

Reading this with slightly amused scorn as I was, I became uncomfortably aware of how little some things have changed though. Basically – men don’t want to go shopping and aren’t too interested in domestic minutiae? Well, plus ca change….

(Please excuse the n-word here, it’s rather an occupational hazard with some of these publications)

A gently elegant riposte came in a later issue. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, it’s game, set and match to her as soon as she makes the point that women’s lives were “imperilled” by having children. So stop moaning and bloody well hold the baby for a bit, eh?

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1 Response

  1. November 6, 2014

    […] Here’s all the updates for 1944. Note that Paternoster Row had been bombed out of existence by this point – goodbye to the venerable old publishing centre, and to Madame Vastra and the Paternoster Gang (they lived at number 13, you know) – […]

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