Godey's Lady's Book

Louis A. Godey

So much is Louis A. Godey associated with the magazine that bears his name that little biographical detail beyond that role appears to exist. Such details as his birth (June 6, 1804), his parentage (respectable survivors of the French Revolution, with small income), his education (more or less self-educated), and his earliest work (as proprietor of a small news-stand and book-shop in his home town of New York) are presented briefly, if at all, merely to preface discussion of his Lady's Book. Sarah Josepha Hale's biographer, Ruth Finlay, accords Godey some slight additional material, devoting half a paragraph to his move to Philadelphia in 1828, his employment in the composing room and then business department of "a newspaper office" before depositing him rapidly into the June 1830 launching of the Lady's Book.

Sherbrooke Rogers, another S. J. Hale biographer, draws heavily on Finlay's work but adds that Godey's job in Philadelphia was as a "scissors editor" for the Daily Chronicle. This training apparently stood him in good stead. The first six years of the Lady's Book brought yet another "American" magazine to the public that was composed almost entirely of articles clipped from English publications. Happily, this was not to remain the case. Scattered throughout even the early editions were original works by American authors, duly noted as such by the editor. This practice increased after Godey completed the act that is held by even those who are not Hale biographers to be most representative of his business acumen--the hiring of Sarah Josepha Hale as his editor.

This fine business sense is mentioned again and again by those who grudgingly praise the Book (Mott, 349), by those who condemn its literary contributions as "this marsh of emotionalism, and mawkish romance" (Pattee, 73), and most assiduously by the man himself. Godey carefully, even gleefully, keeps his audience informed of the growth, fine reputation, and wonderful progress of his magazine from the "Arm Chair" section that closes each edition. From here the Dear Reader is informed that "no periodical publisher in our own country or in England has ever presented a list of contributors equal to that now presented to the subscribers of the Lady's Book" (GLB, Jan. 1840), and from here he invited his readers to share his joy in its success by publishing the many favorable reviews received by the magazine and its publisher, including the title bequeathed to him by 1849, "Prince of publishers."

Reticent about his private life, our best picture of Godey comes directly from his editorial pages, or Godey's Arm Chair.


Finley, Ruth Elbright.The Lady of Godey's, Sarah Josepha Hale. (Philadelphia, London, J. B. Lippincott Company, 1931.)

Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines. (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1938-68.)

Pattee, Fred Lewis. The Feminine Fifties. (Port Washington, N. Y., Kennikat Press [1966, c1940]).

Price, Kenneth M. and Susan Belasco Smith, eds. Periodical Literature in Nineteenth-century America. (Charlottesville, VA : University Press of Virginia, 1995.)

Godey's Lady's Book: Samples Collection
Created and copyright by Hope Greenberg. Created/updated: March 1995/September 2001.