The original Tatler was founded in 1709 by Richard Steele, who used a nom de plume of "Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire", the first such consistently adopted journalistic persona, which adopted in the first person, as it were, the seventeenth-century genre of "characters", as first established in English by Sir Thomas Overbury and soon to be expanded by Lord Shaftesbury's Characteristics (1711). Steele's idea was to publish the news and gossip heard in London coffeehouses, hence the title, and seemingly, from the opening paragraph, to leave the subject of politics to the newspapers, while presenting Whiggish views and correcting middle-class manners, while instructing "these Gentlemen, for the most part being Persons of strong Zeal, and weak Intellects...what to think." To assure complete coverage of local gossip, a reporter was placed in each of the city's popular coffeehouses, or at least such were the datelines: accounts of manners and mores were datelined from White's; literary notes from Will’s; notes of antiquarian interest were dated from the Grecian Coffee House; and news items from St. James’s.
In its first incarnation, it was published three times a week. The original Tatler was published for only two years, from April 12, 1709 to January 2, 1711. A collected edition was published in 1710–11, with the title The Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq..
Three months after the original "Tatler" was first published, Mary Delariviere Manley, using the pen name "Mrs. Crackenthorpe," published what was called the "Female Tatler." However, its run was much shorter: the magazine ran for less than a year--from July 8, 1709 to March 31, 1710.
The current publication, named after Steele's periodical, began publishing in 1901. For some time, a weekly publication, it was filled with news and pictures of high society balls, charity events, race meetings, shooting parties, fashion and gossip. Cartoons by "The Tout" and H. M. Bateman were featured regularly. From the 1940s until the early 1960s, the then-weekly magazine was entitled Tatler & Bystander (after absorbing The Bystander). In March 1968, the "Bystander" was dropped from the magazine's title, and it began to publish monthly. Tina Brown was the editor from 1979 until 1983. She put together a young team of writers and photographers including Nicholas Coleridge, Michael Roberts and Dafydd Jones.Tina Brown tripled the circulation from 12,000. The owner of the magazine Gary Bogard sold it to the venerable Conde Nast organisation who pumped in serious resources. Mark Boxer became editor (for the second time in his career) and during his period the circulation increased to over 80,000. One famous issue included a spoof copy of the Spectator. After Mark Boxer's untimely death, Churchill's granddaughter Emma Soames was appointed. But in a recession it was thought that Emma Soames's magazine was too hard-edged and she was sacked. Then started the period of Jane Procter's editorship. She increased the circulation and started the various promotional parties.
The magazine also throws a number of large parties throughout the year. The two most important are the Tatler Summer Party, and the Tatler Little Black Book Party. The Tatler Little Black Book is an annual list published by the magazine of the country's 100 Most Eligible Men and Women.
The Bystander section is now made up primarily of photographs taken by a variety of photographers of a small number of exclusive private parties. This section is edited by Tatler's social editor Lady Emily Compton.
There are also ten Tatlers in Asia - Hong Kong Tatler (launched 1977), Singapore Tatler (1982), Malaysia Tatler (1989), Thailand Tatler (1991), Philippine Tatler (2001), Korea Tatler (November 2001), Indonesia Tatler (2000), Beijing Tatler and Shanghai Tatler (both 2001) and Taiwan Tatler (2008). The Asian Tatlers are now owned by the Swiss-based Edipresse Group. There is also an Irish edition called Irish Tatler and a Northern Irish edition called Ulster Tatler (1966). The Russian version of Tatler came out in September 2008.