Mrs Kruseman’s Cats
Last summer, the annual conference of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals, then held at Ghent University, made headlines when bookseller Jeremy Parrott announced that he had acquired what appeared to be Charles Dickens’s own annotated set of volumes of All the Year Round. First published in 1859, All the Year Round was a weekly magazine edited by Dickens until his death in 1870. Pencilled in the margins of Parrott’s deluxe bound set, in Dickens’s own hand, are the names behind hundreds of anonymously published contributions, including those of famous novelists Elizabeth Gaskell, Wilkie Collins and Eliza Lynn Linton. The discovery is unusual not simply because of the sheer number of attributions but also because Dickens was an exceptionally visible editor whose name alone lent interest and excitement to the find.
Unlike Dickens, most editors are shadowy presences in the nineteenth-century periodical publishing landscape, easily eclipsed by the journals they edited and the authors they recruited. Almost five months into the project, I realize that anonymity is just one of the many ways in which editors can be invisible. Caroline Alice White (1812-1912) edited the long-running British women’s magazine the Ladies’ Companion (1849-70) for seventeen years without ever being credited in print. The title pages consistently mention the publishers and printers, Rogerson and Tuxford of London, but not the editor. If it wasn’t for White’s two desperate applications to the Royal Literary Fund in 1877 and 1879, towards what she assumed to be the end of her life (she went on to live another three decades!), her editorship may have gone completely unacknowledged. 1
White’s colleague Eliza Warren, by contrast, was a household name in Victorian Britain. She was the author of popular manuals such as How I Managed My House on Two Hundred Pounds a Year (1864) and How I Managed My Children from Infancy to Marriage (1865), and served as editor of the Ladies’ Treasury (1857-95) throughout its lifespan. Born Eliza Jervis in 1810, she had lost her first husband, Walter Warren, at the age of 33, and started publishing fancywork manuals shortly afterwards. After her second marriage to Frederic Francis in 1851, she had made no bones about keeping the name of her first husband as a pen name. Yet when Francis too died prematurely just five years later, her publishers objected to a name change in his honour. “I am known as Mrs Warren Francis to my friends,” she later explained to the Royal Literary Fund committee. “In my second bereavement of Mr Frederic Francis, my Publishers made a point of my continuing to publish in the name of Warren.” 2 “Mrs Warren” sold, and her publishers knew it. From 1861 onwards, the Ladies’ Treasury was proudly presented as “Edited by Mrs. Warren”.
Yet, like so many of her colleagues, the illustrious “Mrs Warren” too is invisible in the sense that today’s bibliographic databases tend to obscure periodical editorship. In the British Library catalogue entry for the Ladies’ Treasury, Eliza Warren is mentioned in two MARC fields: 500 (General Note) and 700 (Personal Name). The general note describes her as editor, but does not include the relator term [edt], making it almost impossible to find her through the search interface for anyone who does not already know what they are looking for. This seems to be a consistent challenge for our project: we cannot just pull a list of editors from a library database, because, unlike authors, editors are not systematically recorded.
Another way in which female editorship in particular may be sparsely documented is when the editing is done in the context of spousal collaboration. Isabella Beeton may have kept a firm editorial grip on the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine (1852-79) up until her death in 1865, but just how much evidence of her hard work would we have found in the publisher’s archives, had they survived, given that the publisher was her husband, Samuel Beeton? The Dutch craft magazine Aglaja. Maandboekje voor dames handwerken (1848-64) is a similar case in point. From its inception until 1864 it was published by the Haarlem-based publisher A. C. Kruseman. According to his biographer J. W. Enschedé, Kruseman’s wife Anna Maria, née Goteling Vinnis (1819-92), was not only involved as editor but also translated material for the French edition Cendrillon, revue encyclopédique de tous les travaux de dames. 3 A short-lived German edition entitled Bijou was launched in 1849; an attempt at an English edition failed in 1851. 4 Anna Maria Kruseman was probably involved in all of them. Enschedé recalls an anecdote where a visitor to the Krusemans’ home, noticing the large number of books in German, French and English on the table, asked Kruseman where on earth he found the time to read them. “Oh that doesn’t bother me so much, he replied, it’s my wife who does the reading and sifting, only that which she approves is considered [for translation].” [O daar heb ik zoo geen grooten last van, antwoordde hij, ’t is mijne vrouw die leest en schift, alleen wat zij goedkeurt komt in aanmerking (voor vertaling).] 5
If, as Enschedé concludes, Kruseman’s publishing strategies were the result of close teamwork with his wife, it should hardly come as a surprise that direct archival evidence of her editorship of the Aglaja is difficult to find. Most of the work would have been done at home, editorial meetings may well have taken place at the kitchen table or by the living-room fire. The A. C. Kruseman correspondence at the Leiden University Library, through which I’m still trawling at the moment, appears to contain no letters from his wife, but she may have been mentioned by other correspondents. A few weeks ago, though, I was happy to stumble across a letter by Anna Maria Kruseman to A. W. Sijthoff and his wife, dated 23 December 1891 and also kept at Leiden. Since Sijthoff was the publisher of the Gracieuse (1862-1936), the journal with which the Aglaja had merged in 1864, I hoped to find her reminiscing about her editorial past.
The letter was about cats.
Kruseman thanks the Sijthoffs for sending her a copy of het “Kattenboek” [“Book of Cats”], a collection of cat illustrations by Henriëtte Ronner recently published by Sijthoff. 6 “You know, I have always loved cats and we have a cute one of our own, whose elegant poses and frolicking we believe would make him a good model for Mrs. Ronner.” [U moet weten, ik heb altijd zooveel van poesjes gehouden en we hebben een allerliefst exemplaar, die we ook wel in zijn elegante posen en capriolen een goed model vinden voor Mevr. Ronner.] 7
Anna Maria Kruseman, editor of one of the most successful Dutch women’s magazines of the nineteenth century, had vanished behind the small talk of daily life.
Marianne Van Remoortel
- Caroline Alice White. Application to the Royal Literary Fund. British Library Western manuscripts collection, Loan 96 RLF 1/2022: 30 Mar 1877-12 Dec 1879. ↩
- Eliza Warren Francis. Application to the Royal Literary Fund. British Library Western manuscripts collection, Loan 96 RLF 1/2525/2: 24 October 1898. ↩
- J. W. Enschedé, A. C. Kruseman, vol. 1 (Amsterdam: Van Kampen, 1898), 50; vol. 2 (Amsterdam: Van Kampen, 1898), 436. ↩
- Lotte Jensen, “Bij uitsluiting voor de vrouwelijke sekse geschikt”: Vrouwentijdschriften en journalistes in Nederland in de achttiende en negentiende eeuw (Hilversum, Verloren: 2001), 253. ↩
- J. W. Enschedé, A. C. Kruseman, vol. 2 (Amsterdam: Van Kampen, 1898), 436. ↩
- The full title is Henriëtte Ronner en hare katjes (Leiden: Sijthoff, 1891). ↩
- Letter by Anna Maria Kruseman to A. W. Sijthoff and his wife, 23 December 1891, Leiden University Library, Special Collections, SYT A 1891 . ↩