Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Best List Part IV

Some of us take great satisfaction in the work we have done; and I would be among them. But I had no idea when I started this blog that I would bring back together a community who loved Victoria as much as I did. All over again this past year, I have felt that rare flush of joy when one of you remembered, so kindly, what the staff of the magazine, begun in 1987, has meant to you.

Just after leaving Victoria, I asked a dear old friend, and a venerable man in publishing: Just how was it that the readers of the magazine found it so intimate and inspiring? (And of course, one has to know that not everyone loved Victoria.) He looked at me across a lunch table and said: "Nancy, these readers believe that you know and understand them. They think of you as a friend because of that." He was right that I and the staff had a special connection to our readers. I believe it was in part because we all started out together with hearts and minds in the same place.

I have quoted dozens and dozens of times a letter I received with the publication of the first issue. I know it by heart:
Dear Gentle People, How did you know?

That was the extent of the letter, but there was no reason to say more. Yes, I did know that reader. I know that she wanted grace and beauty in her life and she wanted to taste the richness of women's achievements in all the areas of life that many of us had overlooked as being "women's stuff." The world was forgetting the quiet pleasure of polishing a silver spoon and perhaps writing a note on paper you shopped for all afternoon.

The publishing world never seemed to completely understand the people who made the first issue of Victoria a newsstand sellout. I think I can tell a little secret here that I don't often share: Some of the folks on the business side of the magazine had prepared their reasons why the magazine hadn't worked to clients who advertised in that early issue. Of course, that was a prudent thing to have done. But luckily, it wasn't necessary. The first issue was a newsstand sellout and the rest is history for me until that day in 2000 when I gracefully made an exit.

It wasn't that I no longer cared. It was that I thought my work was done--and like Queen Victoria, I had done it well. (That is what the crowds in London shouted at her as she rode in her carriage on one one of her last trips through the streets.) I have taken great satisfaction in the work I have done--and I have delight in the people I did it with. It has been even more of a "best" to read here how much it has meant to some of you. Naturally, not everyone who reads this blog is a Victoria person; but it seems many of you are.

Thank you for making my 2009 special, and I hope that while you continue to enjoy the past, we all come along to find the new and the enduring. It was Lillian Hellman who reminded us not to love the past better than the present. And now we are in a new year and on a new journey. I have plans and I'd love to hear some of yours...


  1. Wonderful to hear this, Nancy, as always, you strike a delightful note. I have a quote in my scrapbook that echoes what you've said here:
    "There are more beautiful times, but this one is ours."
    Ours to make of it what we can, to bring beauty to a world that's starving for it! And you're helping us along the way with little nudges of "look at this?" and "have you considered that?" I do love the past more than the present, I admit. But I'm also trying to bring some of the graciousness and charm of those bygone days to my everyday life when I enjoy my corporate lunch with my mother's silver spoon.
    Warmest wishes on this subzero day,
    Karen Marline

  2. Nancy, You have no idea how many of us fell in love the moment we found those first magazines... and stayed in love until the day you left. My best friend found Spring 1988-Vol 2, No 1 in the grocery store and excitedly brought it home to show me! We knew by the numbers that we had missed two issues already and combed every spot that sold magazines to find the first ones, but to no avail. (Years later I bought Vol 2, No 2 on Ebay, and I continue to look for the first issue)

    I'm looking at that first issue we bought right now, and I can assure you that it is so used, you'd probably laugh! We bought this issue and read it cover to cover... I can't tell you how many times! We impatiently waited for each next issue... and the next and the next. We were so excited when you published 6 times a year, and finally 12!! It always took too long between issues! To this day, we have every single issue you published, and even now, if there is a particular interest we acquire, we both say aloud, " I wonder if Nancy ever covered that before..." We go searching, and sure enough its usually there! I can honestly say that it has to be in the 90 percentiles that you covered our interests to a "T!" We will never throw any of them away. Your touch was, and still is ~Midas~. Vicki

  3. I apologize for getting so caught up in my comments of the "past," that I forgot to say what I plan to do in the future. During this time of economic and political unrest, ipods, distrations and gadgetry... I plan to use all I know and have learned from Victoria and apply it to each and every day. I will "return to loveliness" every moment, and in everything I do and say ... not only for myself but for my family, my children and my grandchildren. When life and society seem complicated, simplicity is a necessity. By example, I'd like to teach my granddaughter how to return to loveliness each day of her life.

  4. Ruth in San FranciscoJanuary 12, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    I recall the day I found the first Victoria on the newsstand, bought myself a copy then immediately returned to buy another for my best friend, which I gifted to her along with a subscription. Once, upon storing my collection of Victoria while living abroad, I found the collection had been ruined. Determined to replace it I was startled to find that complete collections cost so much money ($700 and far more!). Believing that Victoria had been published rather abundantly (and believing in abundance in general) I challenged myself to find a new complete collection and for under $100. It took less than 3 months to find the bulk of my new collection, which I value tremendously, and I'm just 3 issues shy and at $80 so far.

    I will most certainly take Lillian Hellman's words to heart, and in 2010 will make my little house all mine, it will be done step by step with my growing collection of Victoria in hand for design inspiration.

    With much appreciation to you, Nancy, and everyone who produced Victoria!

  5. Dear Nancy, When you left Victoria I realize it was time for you to break out to new horizons. But for me, and I suspect so many of your loyal readers, it was as if there was something important missing. I also kept all my issues even though I usually feel that we should pass along good things to others. I have since been able to complete my set thanks to a wonderful friend, Joyce Mullinax. She had a shop that seemed to personify everything Victoria gave us.

    I found Victoria at a time when my life was so busy and hectic. I was working at our community college, but you and your staff gave me that nudge to get my china cups out on my desk and use them. My co-workers loved seeing which was the cup of the day. When I retired, so many said they were going to miss my beautiful cups and how they made them smill.
    Just as Vicki wrote, you found ways to encourage us to embrace our daily lives instead of living for some future joy. I like to live in the present, but with the grace and presence of the past. In your September, 1989 issue you challenged us to celebrate days filled with joy and anticipation. Now in retirement I try to find the beauty among the mundane and pass it on to my children and grandchildren.

    I especially loved the words of Merle Shain. I would never have found her on my own. In September, 1989 she appeared on your pages. "All of life is a learning experience. Learning how to see ourselves and others in a kinder, gentler light,..." There is what I learned from you and your staff--how to explore and live a kinder and gentler life, with the beauty of our surroundings.

    I do know that sadly not everyone gets it, but we understand and embraced all the life thoughts you and your staff shared with us.

    Can't wait for more! Jean

  6. Victoria magazine represented for me a world far distant from the one in which I lived - a small jungle town on the edge of the Amazon jungle. With three small children and daily routines that took much time to accomplish, Victoria was my pleasure. To sit down in the afternoon after the housework was finished, make myself a cup of tea, serve it to myself in a china cup and peruse the pages of Victoria was a delight.
    I took so much from her pages - candles on the dinner table, floral cushions in the living room, classical music on the stereo. Victoria's beauty filled me, then challenged me to express graciousness in everyday life. It's something I still do, and have passed on to my daughters. I'm so grateful.


  7. Victoria, introduced to me by both a friend and then by my mother, brought me back to my roots. As a child and young teen, I yearned for a more gracious life, perhaps caught up as I was by reading and the likes of Jane Eyre and Scarlett O'Hara and Katherine Swynford and Bathsheba Everdeen. I saw myself walking (too short to stride!) across moors and fields in long coats, not miniskirts. So when I met Victoria, I too had the feeling that, "Yes, they understand me."

    Now as I am in the middle of a busy and somewhat stressful job, these lovely little touches calm me and soften the day's rough edges.

    In 2010, I will jettison all that does not round out my days in such a way, and find a place for all that does, as I ponder, "What next?"

    The answer to that question may be for 2011.

    Mimi in Wisconsin

  8. Nancy,

    I am a Victoria person and I thank you for sharing Lillian's quote. I need to remember it.


  9. When Victoria would show up in my mail, I would make a cup of tea and tell my husband for the next couple hours I am on vacation. It was like a mini vacation once a month. No magazine has done that for me except the original Victoria. It felt like the people that worked so hard actually cared about us, the readers. The feel of the paper in my hand and the beautiful photography and stories all made my heart sing. Thank you so much. I still have many of the magazines and occasionally I bring them up from the box in the basement and treasure them again.

  10. "The world was forgetting the quiet pleasure of polishing a silver spoon and perhaps writing a note on paper you shopped for all afternoon."

    You could not have hit a more poignant note in this, Nancy, as it describes my sentiments exactly. I am one of those women who does love to polish silver spoons and still sends notecards. While I recognize we need to embrace some change, I also love a handwritten note, the gift of a hankie, tea in teacups with friends, and words that move slowly on a page.

    Victoria was a validation of who I was as a woman. It came at a hectic time in my life. I sought and won public office at a local level, I advocated for children, and I could be be still and reflective and feminine too. I became a better person.

    I recently made a new friend through a local garden club who squealed with childish glee when she realized I, too, loved Victoria as others looked at us in confusion. My friend has every magazine but one and has found some missing issues for me. It is, indeed, sweet bliss.

    It is through Victoria, and now your journal, that I have also found the way to move forward in my life and use the past to embrace the future. I'll grow, write more, take on the presidency of a local service organization - and become a grandmother. I will seek to do it all with grace and understanding of who I am - and who others are as well - and I look forward to your words and works on the journey ahead.

    Thank you.

  11. Nancy, you have created a legacy of gracious living for many of us, and I for one am grateful for it. I like to be transported by the written word, and Victoria and its beautiful images and photography certainly did this for me.

    Now, through your blog, you continue to inspire us. So thank you.

    For me, this year will be a focus on my career and life and creating a cheerful balance of the two. I want to be inspired by my work and life and do what I love. I plan to entertain more in a casual and fun way. I use my china and silver every day because this is a legacy from my own mother and great aunt--to use what we love and not "save" it. So, even before Victoria hit the newsstands, I was practicing a legacy of gracious living.

    Cheers to you, Nancy, and best wishes for a joyful and gracious 2010. May it be a year of dreams fulfilled for us all.