Visual Impairment IconHigh Contrast

Atalanta

1887-1898

Short Fiction Titles

Overview

Successor to Every Girl’s Magazine and contender to Every Girls’ Paper for popularity, Atalanta’s monthly began in 1887 under the co-editorship of Alicia A. Leith, former editor of Every Girl’s Magazine, and the prolific novelist, L.T. Meade.1L.T. Meade was a pen name adopted by Elizabeth “Lillie” Thomasina Smith (née Meade). Leith left the magazine in 1888, but Meade stayed onboard amid a string of other editors, becoming its longest working editor. Among these other editors, John C. Staples contributed illustrations, including a frontispiece, to Atalanta’s pages. When A.B. Symington replaced Meade as head editor at the end of 1892, Atalanta was merged with Symington’s own publication, Victorian Magazine, and experienced an overall decrease in aesthetic and literary quality.

During her six-year tenure, Meade harnessed her reputation as a novelist to lure submissions from popular illustrators and writers, including Mary Molesworth, Charlotte Yonge, Lady Lindsay, Christina Rossetti and H. Rider Haggard. In keeping with its progressive attitude towards women’s issues, Atalanta’s table of contents reveals as many female contributors as male ones. The girl’s monthly was also named for the Greek huntress, Atalanta (meaning “equal in weight”), who was featured on covers. Emphasizing high quality literature and art, Atalanta published a breadth of content forms including long and short fiction, illustrated music scores, drama, nonfiction, mixed-genre works, and poems arranged artistically within engravings. While known today for serial novels as notable as Robert Louis Stevenson’s David Balfour and Catriona, the majority of fiction printed in Atalanta was comparably short, ranging between one-page mini-stories to novelette-length serials.  

Though Atalanta self-identified as a magazine for girls on all rungs of the social ladder, she has been described as “aristocratic” in her devotion to scholarship and high art.2Edward Salmon, “Magazines.” Juvenile Literature as It Is, London: Henry J. Drane, 1888, 197. Atalanta’s regular “Scholarship and Reading Union” feature included female-oriented articles about literature, higher education and work placement, as well as an annual essay contest for girls under twenty-five. This latter venture took a distinctly more academic bent than contests offered by other girls’ periodicals, providing both critiques of losing essays and small university scholarships for winners.3Kathryn Prince, “Shakespeare for Manly Boys and Marriageable Girls,” Shakespeare in the Victorian Periodicals, New York: Routledge, 1973, 55. These winners represented Atalanta’s niche readership of middle-class, bookish girls and young women superbly. That readers tended to be wealthy was in no small part due to the magazine’s selling price of 6d per month, which placed her squarely out of reach of the lower-classes. A fatal necessity, this price went towards printing the huge quantity of detailed illustrations and photographs that both made Atalanta so alluring and eventually bankrupted her.4Diana Dixon, "Children and the Press, 1866-1914,” The Press in English Society from the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, Michael Harris and Alan Lee, Eds. London, Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1986, 133-148. Often by famous artists like Walter Crane, these illustrations colored plates, lifelike recreations of paintings and textile art, photographs modified to clarify details, and graceful decorative engravings, all printed on high quality paper. 

True to her erudite nature, Atalanta’s stories and articles were woven together by thematic references to visual art––its history, its makers and its relevance to young readers. Another recurring theme was French art, French geography and French literature. Short fiction often included passages of untranslated French dialogue, with which less-educated readers might struggle to grapple. A progressive outlier to other girl’s periodicals of its time, Atalanta also carved space for nuanced, diverse portrayals of womanhood.5Deborah Mutch, “Social Purpose Periodicals” in Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth-Century Periodicals and Newspapers, Eds. King, Andrew et al, New York: Routledge, 2016, 339. Despite diverging from trends, her stories maintained a highly decorous literary quality, and steered well clear of the sensationalism popular during her short life. In fact, in his 1888 review of children’s literature, Edward Salmon highlighted Atalanta as one of only three magazines with which parents could confidently entrust their girls.6Edward Salmon, “Magazines.” Juvenile Literature as It Is, London: Henry J. Drane, 1888, 195-197.

Other Title

Journal Editors

Further Reading

"Atalanta.” The Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals, 1800-1900, Series 2. Ed. John S. North. North Waterloo Academic Press, 2003. Online edition.

"Atalanta: A Monthly Magazine of Prose and Verse." The Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals, 1800-1900, Series 2. Ed. John S. North. North Waterloo Academic Press, 2003. Online edition.

Dawson, Janis. "'Not for girls alone, but for anyone who can relish really good literature': L. T. Meade, Atalanta, and the Family Literary Magazine." Victorian Periodicals Review Vol. 46, Iss. 4. Winter 2013, 475-498.

Dixon, Diana. "Children and the Press, 1866-1914." The Press in English Society from the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries. Eds. Michael Harris and Alan Lee. Associated University Presses, 1986, 133-148.

Jones, Gareth Stedman. Outcast London: A Study In The Relationship Between Classes In Victorian Society. Clarendon Press, 1971.

Mitchell, Sally M. "Atalanta (1887-1898)." Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland. Gen. Eds. Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor. Gent and London: Academia Press and The British Library, 2009, 26.

––. “Meade [married name Toulmin Smith], Elizabeth Thomasina (1844–1914).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. Oxford University Press, 2004-16. Online edition.

Moruzi, Kristine. “Children’s Periodicals” in Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth-Century Periodicals and Newspapers. Eds. King, Andrew et al. Routledge, 2016, 293-306.

––. Constructing Girlhood Through the Periodical Press, 1850-1915. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2012.

Mutch, Deborah. “Social Purpose Periodicals” in Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth-Century Periodicals and Newspapers. Eds. King, Andrew et al. Routledge, 2016, 328-341.

Prince, Kathryn. “Shakespeare for Manly Boys and Marriageable Girls.” Shakespeare in the Victorian Periodicals. Routledge, 1973, 37-61.

Salmon, Edward. “Magazines.” Juvenile Literature as It Is, Henry J. Drane, 1888, 195-197.

––. “What Girls Read.” The Nineteenth Century Magazine. 1886, 515-529. Online edition.

Sutherland, John. “Atalanta,” Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction. Longman Group UK Limited, 1938, 32.

Tye, James Reginald. “Part 1: Analysis,” Periodicals of the Nineties: A Checklist of Literary Periodicals Published in the British Isles At Longer Than Fortnight Intervals 1890-1899. Oxford Bibliographical Society, 1974, 1-18.

Editors

Posted

6 December 2017.

Last modified

5 May 2022.

Notes

Notes
1 L.T. Meade was a pen name adopted by Elizabeth “Lillie” Thomasina Smith (née Meade).
2 Edward Salmon, “Magazines.” Juvenile Literature as It Is, London: Henry J. Drane, 1888, 197.
3 Kathryn Prince, “Shakespeare for Manly Boys and Marriageable Girls,” Shakespeare in the Victorian Periodicals, New York: Routledge, 1973, 55.
4 Diana Dixon, "Children and the Press, 1866-1914,” The Press in English Society from the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, Michael Harris and Alan Lee, Eds. London, Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1986, 133-148.
5 Deborah Mutch, “Social Purpose Periodicals” in Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth-Century Periodicals and Newspapers, Eds. King, Andrew et al, New York: Routledge, 2016, 339.
6 Edward Salmon, “Magazines.” Juvenile Literature as It Is, London: Henry J. Drane, 1888, 195-197.