- Subscribing to the Enlightenment: Charlotte von Hezel Markets Das Wochenblatt für’s schöne Geschlecht
From May through December 1779, Charlotte Henriette von Hezel of Ilmenau (near Weimar) edited Das Wochenblatt für’s schöne Geschlecht (The Weekly Paper for the Fair Sex) a literary-cultural journal for women. Most of the articles in the magazine were about art, music, and literature, including book reviews written by Hezel, but the journal also included a health column for women, a feature unique among periodicals of the time. Hezel, just twenty-four years old and a first-time editor from a small provincial town, succeeded in attracting 163 subscribers, male and female, from all areas of the German territories; total circulation is estimated to have been between 400 and 500 copies. 1
Little is known about the distribution of eighteenth-century German periodicals for women. 2 An examination of Das Wochenblatt für’s schöne Geschlecht can help fill this gap in publishing history, for Hezel’s venture is a rich source of information about the role of the publisher, marketing strategies, and subscription lists. Detailed ads announcing the forthcoming publication of the magazine were found in four contemporary newspapers, [End Page 96] including a specialty publication for booksellers, and Das Wochenblatt was also listed in the 1779 catalogue of the Leipzig book fair. 3 In addition, Hezel’s letters to one of her collectors, Georg Wilhelm Zapf, include information about the process of soliciting subscriptions in Augsburg, Zapf’s hometown. 4 Finally, the names of the subscribers were published on three occasions during the journal’s existence. Because almost every subscriber listed provided an occupation and a hometown, these lists provide a wealth of information about circulation and readership. 5
Charlotte von Hezel (1755–1817), was the only daughter of Johann Wilhelm Schwabe, a Lutheran minister and assistant superintendent of schools in Ilmenau. 6 Hezel’s mother, Dorothea Crusius, a talented Gelegenheitsdichterin (occasional poet), was born in Gießen into a family of renowned theologians. Education was highly valued in the Schwabe household; each of Hezel’s three brothers earned a university degree and practiced a profession (minister, lawyer, and doctor). Hezel’s self-schooling was guided primarily by her middle brother, Heinrich Elias Schwabe. In 1778, Hezel married Johann Wilhelm Friedrich von Hezel, a private tutor and scholar with a degree in ancient languages; 7 beginning in 1785 he taught for several years at the University of Gießen before settling permanently at the University of Dorpat in 1801. A little less than one year after she married, Charlotte von Hezel began to publish Das Wochenblatt für’s schöne Geschlecht. Das Wochenblatt is Hezel’s only known publication to date, although she helped her husband with many of his works. In 1789, Hezel, with the assistance of the publisher Justus Friedrich Krieger, tried to establish the first reading society in Gießen exclusively for women. After Krieger committed suicide in 1790, it appears that Hezel was unable to carry out her ambitious plan. 8
Hezel was certainly not the first eighteenth-century editor to address the female reading public specifically. The most complete listing of women’s magazines for the years 1700 through 1830 appears in Joachim Kirchner’s bibliography of German periodicals. 9 Kirchner lists 106 periodicals for women in the section he calls Frauenzeitschriften (Magazines for women). Two titles missing from Kirchner’s list are Die vernünftigen Tadlerinnen (The Reasonable Critics, classified as a moral weekly rather than a magazine), and Für Hamburgs Töchter (For the Daughters of Hamburg, listed as an “educational” journal), bringing the total to 108. The bulk of these 108 publications—81 magazines or 75 percent of the total number of women’s magazines—appeared between 1770 and 1809. 10 This time frame corresponds to the period when the societal roles and nature of women were being vigorously debated in periodicals and pedagogical writings. 11 Eleven of these 81 periodicals, or 14 percent, were edited by women, and all but one (Tadlerinnen) were published between 1779 and 1809. [End Page 97]
In general, Hezel bore sole responsibility for all aspects of the...