Victorian gossip columns are a thing of beauty, full of back-handed chatter and salacious innuendo.
In the late 1800s, a well-connected man (or woman) could make quite a nice living printing other people’s secrets and adding a few spots to their reputations.
Gossip writers for newspapers like the Wellington New Zealand Evening Post or the Daily Pall Mall Gazette spent quite a bit of time (and money) gathering juicy tidbits about the private lives of well-heeled gentlefolk from their cash-strapped servants and disaffected friends. Much of the gossip was true, although some less reputable characters simplified their reporting lives by making their rumors up.
It was all published anonymously, of course, to protect the informant’s ability to gather more dirt. But occasionally a journalist would receive a tidbit juicy enough to justify a bit of blackmail. Unless the lady or gentleman in question were particularly brazen, the journalist could make a fair amount of pocket money from the promise of keeping what he or she knew out of the papers.
It was a living. And judging by the enticing tidbits that remain in The National Library of New Zealand’s Papers Past archive, quite an engrossing one.
- Papers Past
- The Ladies’ Page (Victorian Page)
- 17th & 18th Century Advice Columns and Agony Aunts (Jane Austen’s World)