High on my list of periodicals with an unidentified female editor is Weldon’s Ladies’ Journal (1875-1954), one of the first British home dressmaking monthlies. Selling cheaply at 3d (about £1 today), it offered paper patterns and practical instructions. It was part of the vast Weldon and Co. dressmaking empire, which also published the long-running Weldon’s Practical Needlework series. (Speaking of needlework, don’t forget to check out the Great Lady’s Magazine Stitch Off over at the Lady’s Magazine Project blog!)

Weldon's Ladies' Journal 1892 fashion plate

Weldon’s Ladies’ Journal 1892 fashion plate

In the first decades of its existence, Weldon’s Ladies’ Journal was successfully run by an editor working under the name of “Marie Bayard” who also wrote advice manuals for Weldon such as Hints On Etiquette (1885) and Toilet Hints, or, How to Preserve Beauty, and How to Acquire it (1883). I confess I am intrigued by Madame Bayard to the point of distraction. Was she a French émigrée kindly sharing her fashion expertise with England’s women (and earning some money doing so)? Or a stylish pseudonym waiting to be uncovered? I have always assumed the latter, since I could not find any Marie Bayard in the English censuses who fit the profile. I did come across a young employee of the journal in the 1881 census, though: 24-year-old London-born Louisa E. Patterson, who gave her occupation as “Sub Editress Weldon’s Ladies’ Journal.”[1] Was this the closest we would ever get to the elusive Madame Bayard?

Marie Bayard in the 1884 Business Directory of London

Marie Bayard in the 1884 Business Directory of London. Historical Directories of England & Wales, University of Leicester. specialcollections.le.ac.uk/

The plot thickened about a year ago when I found a “Bayard Marie paper modellr” at 7 Southampton Street and 23 Exeter Street, Strand, in the 1884 Business Directory of London. Why would anyone use a pseudonym in a business directory? Did Marie Bayard exist after all? I rushed to the censuses of 1881 and 1891, but there was no one listed as a paper modeller at either address. I did stumble across Christopher Weldon himself at 9 Southampton Street, though, and the Post Office London Directory confirmed what I should have known all along: Southampton Street and Exeter Street – parallel streets in the heart of London’s publishing district – were Weldon and Co.’s business addresses. Even if Marie Bayard worked there, she almost certainly would not have lived there. Convinced I had reached a dead end, I saved my findings in a separate Word file and forgot about it.

A few weeks ago, while we were fine-tuning the data model for the database, Madame Bayard caught my attention again. Since she ran a paper modelling business, I figured she may have been mentioned in the London Gazette, an obvious source I had somehow overlooked. I did a quick search for her name and got one hit: on 15 June 1920 a deceased estate notice was published for a Mrs Marie Bayard Johns who had died on 3 October of the previous year. This was a name I had not come across before.

1891 ad for G. E. Johns, Son & Watts. Grace's Guide to British Industrial History. http://www.gracesguide.co.uk

1891 ad for G. E. Johns, Son & Watts. Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History. http://www.gracesguide.co.uk

Some further sleuthing revealed that Marie Bayard Johns was born Maria Bayard Arnott on 13 December 1846 in Christchurch, Hampshire, the second daughter of Capt. Henry Arnott and his wife Charlotte, née Clarke. “Bayard” (often abbreviated to “B.”) is not her last name but her middle name, which is why I did not find her in genealogical records before. On 20 January 1890, she married widower Edward Wildy Johns, partner of John Brand and Co. chromo-lithographers, engravers and printers. His father was George Edward Johns, owner of a large fancy-box manufacturing company in London. Marie Bayard Johns died at the Hawthorns Hotel in Bournemouth in 1919. Her estate was valued at almost £29,000.

According to her will, she left considerable sums to various high-society friends and family members, some of whom I hoped would enable me to connect her to Christopher Weldon. My heart skipped a beat when one of these friends led me via her husband to Georgina Weldon, the famous campaigner against the lunacy laws. No direct relation of Christopher Weldon, as far as I can tell.

Arnott’s first and middle names, her evidently genteel background and her late marriage at the age of 43 to a chromolithographer and engraver (someone any fashion editor and paper pattern maker would have had to deal with at some point) all make her a likely candidate for being the Marie Bayard who edited Weldon’s Ladies’ Journal. But that’s not enough for a positive ID. What do you think? A good lead, or a frustrating coincidence?

(08/12/2015)

Marianne Van Remoortel

[1] 1881 Census Returns of England and Wales, The National Archives of the UK, RG12/478 f.56 p.6.