I still miss my dear Victoria magazine. I guess I think about it especially this time of year because the Valentine’s issue was always so delectable. And perhaps because the first one I ever picked up in the grocery store was February 1989. I could scarcely believe my eyes as I started flipping through, and closed it with an instinctive gesture. This was no ordinary periodical to peruse aimlessly in a check-out line. This was a literal infusion of beauty that made something glow deep down inside of me. I carried it home with a secret delight, and sprawled across my bed in my pink and blue room I fell under the spell of a magazine that impacted me as no other publication ever has–or ever will.
It sounds trite to say it, but Victoria was truly a friend to me throughout my teenage years, a companion that offered me a lovely alternative to the ungainly and downright ugly trends I saw all around. Into my twenties I started picking up decorating ideas for my someday coming ‘house o’ dreams’. And when I was planning my wedding, I knew exactly which issues to take to the florist and to spread before the cateress. At last I would have my own version of the flower coronet from June 1990 and the afternoon tea reception all silver and lace and roses that was a composite of many nuptiuals covered in those grace-laden pages.
I found the inspiration for my dear kitchen in January 2000. We had been talking about tackling the project for months, but the moment my eyes lighted on those white cabinets with inset doors and glass panes I knew where to start. "This is it," I told Philip. And he believed me enough to start ripping up the floor and pulling off the cabinet facings!
When the old editor stepped down and a new one emerged I began to feel nervous. My friends and I would discuss it with furrowed brows–"Have you seen the new Victoria?" "Yes, it looks like Good Housekeeping or Elle Decor." We were worried. The cover lost its sloping script. The by-line tellingly went from A Return to Loveliness to Celebrating the Achievements of Women. The only achievements that I was interested in celebrating–at least in the pages of that old-fashioned publication–were the time-honored ones of true beauty, home-keeping, literature, gardening, fine arts. I wanted to read about the tender, nostalgic things that first drew me in the first place, that spoke to my feminine heart and told me I was not alone in my passions.
I cancelled my subcription after an almost tearful deliberation. I just couldn’t watch the demise. It was like seeing an old and dear friend slowly distance themselves. But then I thought better of it. I would rather go down fighting, for surely Victoria was worth fighting for. So I wrote a letter. (I can hear Jo March–"A letter? That’ll show them…")
For those who are interested you will find find it below:
Dear Ms. —-,
I have never been very good about writing letters of praise or complaint. To be honest, I have composed far more in my head than have ever been set down on paper. But this situation, owing to its nearness to my heart, compells me to voice my opinions as vehemently as possible.
I have been a ‘Victoria’ subscriber since almost the very beginning. (April 1989) From the first moment that I opened your beautiful magazine I was transported to a sweet, romantic time that I have always felt akin to. Your writers have possessed the artful ability to captivate and charm, to make one feel as if the world really was a place where loveliness thrived and gentle thoughts and manners held an honored place. And your photographs are works of art! It has always been calming to me merely to flip through the pages and lose myself in the sheer prettiness of them–the verdant English landscapes and tumbling gardens, dainty dressing tables and gowns fit for princesses.
I buy your decorating books and your cookbooks (and I have never known a ‘Victoria’ recipe to fail!). As teenagers, my friends and I would attempt to re-create scenes from your magazine, coming up with outfits and events inspired right out of your pages. I was even published in your ‘Reader-to-Reader’ newsletter, an honor which I hold very dear. I have saved each and every issue in pristine condition, pulling out old ones seasonally to glance over and gain fresh ideas from.
I share all of this to give weight to my complaint. As you can see, I have been a faithful ‘Victoria’ reader for twelve years, and have awaited its monthly arrival with eagerness. What a disappointment, then, to witness the change that has apparently swept over it in recent months.
What has become of my beautiful magazine, with its elegant fonts and sweeping title and its timeless, edifying articles? I don’t want to read about facial peels in ‘Victoria’; I want to read about rosewater and glycerin, and gardenias in the hair, and all of the other pretty things that set it apart from every other magazine. I don’t know this new Victoria; it’s a stranger to me.
I understand that nothing can remain changeless with stagnation. That variety and progress are necessary to keep your readers becoming bored. But I felt that you had always done a good job at that without compromising that intangible charm that makes ‘Victoria’ so special. I hate to say this, but I find much in the last few issues to be trite and unappealingly up-to-date, with glaring block letters stamped across the front and pictures all layered on top of each other. I flipped through the entire January issue without seeing one thing that made me want to stop and savor.
I dislike coming across so critically. This is just to important to me to let it slip by. I cannot bear to see my favorite magazine reduced to something I don’t want to spend money on anymore. Please consider these thoughts and feelings from a loyal subscriber. They represent those of many others I have talked with.
Have the last five issues been merely an experiment? Have the vision and purpose of ‘Victoria’ changed altogether? Can I expect to see a ‘return to loveliness’ in the pages of my magazine?
In just a few weeks I had a very kind, handwritten note from the editor herself. She explained away the changes as an attempt to attract advertisers, and cordially invited me to view Victoria as a ‘old friend in new clothes’. And she promised that I would never see another article on facial peeling in my magazine (emphasis hers).
She was right–I didn’t see that again, or much of anything else. For soon after that Victoria died. My friends and I started receiving Self and Cooking Light to fill out the remainder of our subscriptions. And my dear friend was no more.
Please don’t think me overly-sentimental. (Okay maybe I am, but that’s beside the point…) There’s just never been anything like it, and I have reason to think there never will. I am not a person that gets excited over magazines–I hate to admit it, but my Living will lie untouched for weeks after its arrival. (Actually, I’ve cancelled that one, too, now…) But I have all of my old Victorias, carefully sorted and filed and ready for easy access whenever I need them. And in this frantic modern world, that’s more often than not.
Who will join me in lifting a tea cup to the lost, lamented Victoria?