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American Literature:
 Glance At Colonial And Revolutionary Literature

 Literature At The Dawn Of The Century

 Charles Brockden Brown

 Washington Irving And The Knickerbocker Group

 William C. Bryant

 James Fenimore Cooper

 The Early Literary Magazines


 New England Literature


 Read More Articles About: American Literature

The Early Literary Magazines

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Meanwhile, in the East, although Irving and his associates had made the practical "retort courteous" to Sydney Smith's bitter taunt in the "Edinburgh Review" : "Who reads an American book ?" it was nevertheless necessary for professional men of letters to adopt, as Bryant did, the bread-winning employment of the newspaper. Literature as a profession did not really exist, and such giants of literary genius as Poe and Hawthorne, not to mention Lowell and others, belonged to a generation of poorly paid Bohemians. In the early forties two Philadelphia magazines began to pay their contributors what was then thought to be a princely munificence. "Godey's Lady's Book," which had the chief financial success among the Philadelphia magazines, had succeeded Dennie's "Port Folio" in the fine personnel of its contributors. It began in July, 1830, and its circulation grew several years later to 150,000 a month, largely due to its colored fashion plates. Somewhat dimmed by these prismatic fashions, some of the earliest compositions of Poe, Holmes, Lydia H. Sigourney, Frances S. Osgood, Longfellow, Bayard Taylor and Harriet Beecher Stowe, appeared in this magazine. Its chief rival was the "Gentleman's Magazine," which George R. Graham in 1841 purchased from William E. Burton, the actor, and renamed simply "Graham's Magazine." "There is one thing more," said Burton, after concluding the sale. "I want you to take care of my young editor." The "young editor" was Poe, who published "The Murderers of the Rue Morgue," "The Masque of the Red Death," and the poems "The Conqueror Worm" and "To Helen" and "Israfel" in its various numbers. Later Rufus Wilmot Griswold, of somewhat unpleasant fame, sat in the editorial chair, and Lowell assisted Poe. Longfellow's "Spanish Student," Cooper's "Jack Tier," some of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Twice Told Tales" appeared in its pages. The Cary Sisters, Charles Fenno Hoffman, Thomas Dunn English, N. P. Willis, W. W. Story, and E. P. Whipple all contributed to it. Bayard Taylor and Charles Godfrey Leland are among the last names associated with it.

Nathaniel Parker Willis came of a race of printers and publishers, and began his literary career by editing illustrated Annuals for Samuel G. Goodrich. He was born in Portland, Maine, 1806, and died on the Hudson in 1867. In 1829 he established the "American Monthly Magazine," later merged in the "New York Mirror," a weekly established by Samuel Woodworth, the printer who wrote that familiar song, "The Old Oaken Bucket." Willis was associated with George P. Morris, also a song writer, but whose only surviving piece is "Woodman, Spare that Tree." Willis had distinguished himself at Yale by his "Scriptural Poems," written in blank verse. In personality Willis was not a Scriptural sort of figure. Though far from handsome, he dressed in the extreme of fashion and affected the dandified manners of a D'Orsay. He was a kindly helper of struggling literary aspirants, however, and as Thackeray, who was helped by him as an unknown, asserted, "It is comfortable that there should have been a Willis." Like Irving, he enjoyed a European tour, which resulted in "Pencilings by the Way" and "Inklings of Adventure," dashing sketches of foreign as well as American life. His style was sparkling and full of melody, but also jaunty and marred by frivolous conceits. He was, it is said, the most successful American magazinist of the second quarter of this Century. His studies of society life at American watering places of fifty years ago are still worth reading, and his "Letters from Under a Bridge" make a charming rural series.

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