Tatler (1709 journal)

Categories Fashion
Frequency Tri-weekly
First issue 1709
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Tatler was a British literary and society journal begun by Richard Steele in 1709 and published for two years. It represented a new approach to journalism, featuring cultivated essays on contemporary manners, and established the pattern that would be copied in such British classics Addison and Steele's Spectator, Samuel Johnson's Rambler and Idler, Goldsmith's Citizen of the World, and influence essayists as late as Charles Lamb and William Hazlitt. Addison and Steele liquidated the The Tatler in order to make a fresh start with the similar Spectator, and the collected issues of Tatler are usually published in the same volume as the collected Spectator.

1709 journal

Tatler was founded in 1709 by Richard Steele, who used the nom de plume "Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire". This is the first known such consistently adopted journalistic persona,[1] which adapted to the first person, as it were, the 17th-century genre of "characters", as first established in English by Sir Thomas Overbury and then expanded by Lord Shaftesbury's Characteristics (1711). Steele's conceit (embodied in the title 'Tatler')was to publish the news and gossip heard in various London coffeehouses (in reality he mixed real gossip with invented stories of his own), and, so he declared in the opening paragraph, to leave the subject of politics to the newspapers,[2] while presenting Whiggish views and correcting middle-class manners, while instructing "these Gentlemen, for the most part being Persons of strong Zeal, and weak Intellects...what to think." To assure complete coverage of local gossip, he pretended to place a reporter in each of the city's four most popular coffeehouses, and the text of each issue was subdivided according to the names of these four: accounts of manners and mores were datelined from White's; literary notes from Will's; notes of antiquarian interest were dated from the Grecian Coffee House; and news items from St. James's Coffee House.

The journal was originally published three times a week, and Steele eventually brought in contributions from his literary friends Jonathan Swift and Joseph Addison, though both of them pretended to be writing as Isaac Bickerstaff and authorship was revealed only when the papers were collected in a bound volume. The original Tatler was published for only two years, from 12 April 1709 to 2 January 1711. A collected edition was published in 1710–11, with the title The Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.[3] In 1711, Steele and Addison decided to liquidate The Tatler, and co-founded The Spectator magazine, which used a different persona than Bickerstaff.

Subsequent incarnations

Several later journals revived the name Tatler.[4] Three short series are preserved in the Burney Collection:[5]

James Watson, who had previously reprinted the London Tatler in Edinburgh, began his own Tatler there on 13 January 1711, with "Donald Macstaff of the North" replacing Isaac Bickerstaffe.[6]

Three months after the original Tatler was first published, an unknown woman writer using the pen name "Mrs. Crackenthorpe" published what was called the Female Tatler. Scholars from the 1960s to the 1990s thought the anonymous woman might have been Delarivier Manley, but she was subsequently ruled out as author and the woman remains unknown. However, its run was much shorter: the magazine ran for less than a year—from 8 July 1709 to 31 March 1710.[7] The London Tatler[8] and the Northern Tatler[9] were later 18th-century imitations. The Tatler Reviv'd ran for 17 issues from October 1727 to January 1728; another publication of the same name had six issues in March 1750.[10]

On 4 September 1830, Leigh Hunt launched The Tatler: A Daily Journal of Literature and the Stage. He edited it till 13 February 1832, and others continued it till 20 October 1832.[11]

In July 1901, Clement Shorter, the publisher of The Sphere, introduced a magazine called Tatler, named after Steele's periodical. After several mergers and name changes it was still in print a hundred years later, owned by Condé Nast Publications.


  1. Bonamy Dobrée, 1959. English Literature in the Early Eighteenth Century 17001740 in series Oxford History of English Literature, pp 7783.
  2. "principally intended for the Use of Politick Persons who are so publick-spirited as to neglect their own affairs to look into Transactions of State."
  3. The Tatler, Literary Encyclopaedia
  4. 300 Years of Telling Tales, Britain’s Tatler Still Thrives Eric Pfaner, New York Times, 5 October 2009, p.B7
  5. 17th18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers Title List, Gale
  6. Marr, George Simpson (1923). The periodical essayists of the eighteenth century. London: J. Clarke. p. 29.
  7. Issuing her Own: the Female Tatler, Latha Reddy and Rebecca Gershenson Smith, 2002. (Site includes sample issues #41 and #67)
  8. Marr, George Simpson (1923). The periodical essayists of the eighteenth century. London: J. Clarke. p. 72.
  9. Marr, George Simpson (1923). The periodical essayists of the eighteenth century. London: J. Clarke. p. 96.
  10. George Watson, ed. (1971). The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. Volume 2; Volumes 16601800. Cambridge University Press. col.1330,1332. ISBN 0-521-07934-9.
  11. Ireland, Alexander (1868). List of the writings of William Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt. John Russell Smith. pp. 143–8.



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