Home  »  Volume XVI: American EARLY NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART I  »  § 9. New England; The North American Review

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XX. Magazines, Annuals, and Gift-books, 1783–1850

§ 9. New England; The North American Review

The most important of the more serious periodicals was The North American Review, founded at Boston in 1815. The first editor, William Tudor, and several of the early contributors had been members of the Anthology Club. Tudor in later reminiscences gave as the reasons for establishing the magazine a desire to emancipate America from undue subservience to England in literary matters, and to neutralize the effects of the French Revolution on American political thought. But the Review was less flamboyant and absurd in its patriotism than many of its contemporaries, and to this fact may have been due its success. As first established it was a bi-monthly and published poetry, fiction, and other miscellaneous contributions, but in 1818 it became a quarterly and restricted the nature of its contents. The list of early contributors includes the names of Edward T. Channing, Richard Henry Dana, Jared Sparks, Edward Everett, Alexander H. Everett, John Adams, William Cullen Bryant, Gulian C. Verplanck, George Ticknor, Daniel Webster, Nathaniel Bowditch, George Bancroft, Caleb Cushing, Lewis Cass, and many more of the Americans best known in literary and political life. Like most such enterprises it was financially unprofitable at first, and it was never highly remunerative; but its literary importance was soon recognized abroad as well as at home. Until the founding of The Atlantic Monthly in 1857 it was the most valuable organ of the best conservative thought in New England; and it continued its traditions until 1878, when it suffered a change of management and of habitat, and to some extent of ideals.

Although the greater New England writers of the nineteenth century were well started on their careers by 1850, Boston succeeded in maintaining no general literary magazines of the first rank before The Atlantic Monthly. Several were begun with brilliant prospects and distinguished lists of contributors, but, sometimes for unexplained reasons, each in turn failed. Among those best remembered are The United States Literary Gazette (1825–27), to which Longfellow was a frequent contributor, The New England Magazine (Boston 1831–35), in which Holmes published two papers to which he gave the name “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table,” and Lowell’s Pioneer. This last ran for but three issues in 1843, and left the promoters heavily in debt, though its list of contributors contained such names as those of Poe and Hawthorne. The North American Review furnished an opportunity for the publication of serious essays, but much of the lighter work of Longfellow, Hawthorne, Whittier, Lowell, and their contemporaries was contributed to the magazines of New York and Philadelphia. In what might be called informational periodicals Boston continued strong. Interest in one of the least of these, The Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge, has been preserved by the fact that Hawthorne was for a time the editor. Littell’s Living Age, the best of the reprints from foreign journals, was begun in 1844.