It’s amazing the little snippets of information you find out when researching a novel. I’m working on my latest ‘Pride & Prejudice’ sequel, in my Elizabeth Bennet series entitled ‘Easter At Netherfield: Darcy’s Dice With Fate’. I was researching whether Mr Bennet might have found out about a forthcoming concert from an advert in the Gentleman’s Magazine. The question was, did the Gentleman’s Magazine carry advertisements?
Hunting for the answer in Wikipedia didn’t help, although I ended up giving a small donation, since Wikipedia has helped me so much over the years. Some people scorn it as being unreliable, but it’s a marvellous source to double-check information found elsewhere. Other sources did not elucidate on the subject. I looked for blogs on Jane Austen sites, but found nothing specific to advertisements.
As to the above question, it turns out not ‒ at least not in the main body of the magazine, according to a publication I found online. It’s worded in both English and German, and appears to be a periodical on ‘international empirical literature’. At first reading I thought it was all in German. It contains articles by different people.
One article claims that the Gentleman’s Magazine itself, unlike other periodicals, did not contain advertisements. Instead they were printed on the wrapper. Various possible reasons for this are put forward, such as giving the readers more value for the price they paid. At the end of each year, the reader usually took the twelve monthly issues to a bookbinder, together with a supplement, an index, a title page and loose engravings. These were then bound into an annual volume.
Unfortunately, according to the article, few eighteenth-century wrappers have survived. The Bodleian Library in Oxford is said to have a collection of forty wrappers dating from 1740 to 1748. The article doesn’t mention advertisements for concerts, but an earlier paragraph in the article suggests that the target readership of the Gentleman’s Magazine included those who enjoyed attending concerts. Quite possibly the wrappers would have contained some ads for concerts.
As usual, a lot of time spent on research led to just a few sentences. Quite probably Darcy would also have taken the Gentleman’s Magazine but at the time in question he is at Netherfield away from home and is distracted by an issue which forms the main plot of the book!