Stumbling upon another woman editor

Skimming the internet for photos of Victorian women, I came upon one I was quite taken with, of a Lady Welby, Victoria Stuart-Wortley. It was the right era, 1859 or so, and she’s wearing a crinoline with luxurious dress fabric and signs of wealth.

Miss Victoria Stuart-Wortley, later Victoria, Lady Welby (1837-1912), Royal Collection Trust

Usually such aristocratic women don’t interest me very much, except that I had never heard of her. A historian’s curiosity wants to know! Turns out she was Maid of Honour to Queen Victoria for awhile, and educated herself to become a philosopher, musician, and artist after she had become a mother of three. There’s ambition for you.

Searching some more, I came upon a Wikipedia page, short but informative, about her mother: Lady Emmeline Stuart-Wortley. Her image is romantic even for a romantic age.

Lady Emmeline Charlotte Elizabeth Stuart-Wortley (1806-1855), National Portrait Gallery

Supposedly this is 1855/59, which means not that far apart from the image of her daughter, but it could have been commissioned in memoriam. Lady Emmeline is more than just a pretty face. She was a poet and writer, and editor of the 1837 and 1840 editions of The Keepsake, a magazine aimed at young women. She would have been about 30 years old then.

And after her husband died in 1844, she and Victoria traveled the world, as one does, until her death 11 years later, age 49 or 50, far from home. Mrs. Henry Cust wrote a book about their journeys in 1928.

They remind me a bit of Mary Wollstonecraft (18th century feminist) and her daughter Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein), although those two couldn’t have known each other much since Wollstonecraft died shortly after giving birth. But both mother and daughter were writers, philosophers, and, in modern parlance, influencers. And, in 1829, Mary Shelley contributed to The Keepsake. An interesting connection.

Women editors have come to fascinate me. Beginning with Anne Little Ingram of the Illustrated London News, I started imagining a woman in charge of printers, engravers, and writers, almost all of whom would have been male (not all – both Ingram and engraver Margaret Dalziel are featured in Murder at an Exhibition). A new line of research, perhaps!



Royal Collection Trust on image of Lady Welby.

Wikipedia on Lady Emmeline (with long list of her published works)