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Republic of Words

The Atlantic Monthly and Its Writers, 1857-1925

Susan Goodman

Publication Year: 2011

A record of Atlantic Monthly authors reads like a Who's Who of American literature. The magazine's stable of contributors included Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Frederick Douglass, Louisa May Alcott, Sarah Orne Jewett, Kate Chopin, Henry Adams, Frank Norris, Jack London, Henry James, Owen Wister, Robert Frost, and many others.

In Republic of Words, Susan Goodman brilliantly captures this emerging culture of arts, ideas, science, and literature of an America in its adolescence, as filtered through the intersecting lives and words of the best and brightest writers of the day. Through this lens, Goodman examines the life of the magazine from its emergence in 1857 through the 1920s.

Published by: University Press of New England

Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-xii

The story of the Atlantic Monthly reflects the story of a nation and its aspirations. With roots firmly grounded in the antislavery movement, its founders made a pledge to the American people...

Part I

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pp. 1 -

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1. Beginnings

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pp. 3-7

On a spring day in 1857, a group of men met for dinner at Boston’s elegant Parker House hotel. They were the founders of the Atlantic Monthly, and what they achieved that day would shape not only the nation’s ways of reading and thinking...

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2. Forging Traditions: James Russell Lowell

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pp. 8-15

Excepting his speech, many Americans might have taken James Russell Lowell for a stereotypical Englishman. A handsome, “compact little man” at five foot five he had an...

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3. John Brown’s War

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pp. 16-24

Readers of the July 1861 Atlantic noted a significant change on the title page: an American flag replaced the image of Governor Winthrop. Lest there be any mistake about the...

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4. The Battle of the Hundred Pines: Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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pp. 25-31

If the civil war, as Holmes Sr. noted, asked sacrifices of everyone, few were willing to sacrifice as much as Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a Unitarian minister, militant abolitionist, and commander of the first regiment of black soldiers. Higginson...

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5. Dueling Visions: Louis Agassiz and Asa Gray

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pp. 32-41

The debate about emancipation had as its backdrop nineteenth-century debates about evolution, which was arguably the debate of the century. But “debate” seems a word too gentle for the intellectual battles waged by the opponents and...

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6. Reconstructions

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pp. 42-49

Kennedy spotted the dazed young officer stumbling about, and took him home. While Holmes Jr. recuperated, Holmes Sr. frantically traveled from Frederick through Baltimore and Philadelphia, then on to Harris-burg, haunted by images of his son’s life “ebbing away in some lonely cottage, nay, in some cold barn or shed, or at the wayside, unknown, uncared ...

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7. James and Annie Fields: The Business of Hospitality

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pp. 50-58

To Oliver Wendell Holmes and other Bostonians who had sons fighting in “the Harvard Regiment,” the day of 17 September 1862 passed in an anxious muddle of rumors about the Battle of...

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8. Harriet Beecher Stowe Tests the Magazine

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pp. 59-68

“ Her name,” Annie Fields wrote in her life and letters of Harriet Beecher Stowe, “was a kind of sacred talisman, especially in New and Old...

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9. Battle of the Books

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pp. 69-78

Mary Abigail Dodge, who wrote under the pen name Gail Hamilton, thought herself lucky in her publisher. Ticknor and Fields was the country’s premier press, and the Atlantic, which carried more than...

Part II

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pp. 77-

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10. Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, and a Changing Magazine

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pp. 79-86

Thoreau’s response to the natural world might be seen as the opposite of Oliver Wendell Holmes’s embrace of the new technologies or Asa Gray’s classification of plants, which Thoreau found depressingly scientific. Emerson thought Thoreau held a pagan’s “key to every animal’s brain, every plant, every shrub.” He also had a touch of whimsy. When ...

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11. William Dean Howells

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pp. 87-99

In the early 1860s, when the Civil War escalated and the nation’s capital prepared for a possible onslaught of Confederate troops, the Atlantic had found inspiration in the majesty of the American wilderness and the nature writing of Henry David...

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12. John Greenleaf Whittier’s Seventieth Birthday

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pp. 100-106

On monday, 17 December 1877, the Atlantic threw a party that did double duty by celebrating John Greenleaf Whittier’s seventieth birthday and its own twenty-year survival. William Dean Howells planned the event as if it were a grand...

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13. Bret Harte to the Lions

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pp. 107-113

In his autobiography, Henry Adams settled on 1870 as a pivotal year for fiction. This “fateful year . . . was to mark the close of the literary epoch, when quarterlies gave way to monthlies; letter-press...

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14. Straddling the Atlantic

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pp. 114-124

Of the many contributors who supported and found support from the Atlantic, Henry James stands apart. James, who came into his own in the pages of the magazine, published stories, reviews, and novels through half a century— and...

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15. Clarence King, Scholar-Adventurer

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pp. 125-132

William Brewer, the field director of the California survey, looked long at the Sierra’s highest peak, then back to his assistant, Clarence King (1842–1901), and shook his head: “A man might as well climb a cloud.” That...

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16. The Gilded Eighties

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pp. 133-141

The period between Reconstruction and the so-called Progressive Era owes its name to Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner’s satiric novel about political corruption and cupidity...

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17. Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Guardian at the Gate

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pp. 142-150

Thomas Bailey Aldrich published his Story of a Bad Boy (1869) in a Ticknor and Fields publication for children called Our Young Folks, meant to compete with Youth’s Companion and cultivate a new generation of Atlantic readers. His book about...

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18. In the Wake of Louis Agassiz

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pp. 151-159

Twelve years after Louis Agassiz died, the Atlantic reviewed Elizabeth Agassiz’s two-volume edition Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence (1885). The end had come peacefully to the people’s scientist, who was buried in Cambridge’s...

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19. A Magazine in Decline and Ascension

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pp. 160-170

The Atlantic’s publication of Edward Bellamy’s short stories “The Blindman’s World” (November 1886) and “At Pinney’s Ranch” (December 1887) pointed toward the next century, though Bellamy...

Part III

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pp. 169 -

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20. From the Far East to Mars: Lafcadio Hearn and Percival Lowell

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pp. 171-182

When lafcadio hearn (1850–1904) entered a room, people tried not to stare. A slight man with one blind eye and the other bulging from strain, he looked all wrong. The daughter of the renowned Orientalist Ernest Fenollosa remembered his...

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21. Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois

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pp. 183-192

On a dismal Monday evening, 22 January 1906, an estimated five thousand people made their way to Carnegie Hall for a fundraiser in honor of Tuskegee Institute’s silver jubilee. Opened just...

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22. Progressive Politics under Walter Hines Page

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pp. 193-205

Walter Hines Page (1855–1918) was the last Atlantic editor to have personal memories of the Civil War. Growing up in Cary, North Carolina, the lanky boy with nut-colored curls and Huck Finn innocence...

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23. From Sea to Shining Sea

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pp. 206-215

When John Muir first met Ralph Waldo Emerson, he thought him “as serene as a sequoia.” Emerson had come to Yosemite in 1871, at Muir’s...

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24. A State of Uncertainty

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pp. 216-223

Although Scribner’s was her usual outlet, Edith Wharton’s history with the Atlantic went back to 1878, the time when her mother sent a handful of her poems to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow...

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25. Ellery Sedgwick: Politics and Poets

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pp. 224-232

Bliss Perry’s section on recent books, to give “full rein to an intense polit-cal interest born at the age of ten.” According to his own admission, he looked “about for a hero” and found one in Woodrow Wilson. After hearing Wilson speak in 1905, Sedgwick had rushed up the steps of his house, thrown open the door, and shouted to his wife, “I have been listening to ...

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26. A Window on the War

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pp. 233-240

At times of national crisis, the Atlantic had a clear sense of its calling to fight despotism and defend liberty. The Civil War had presented such a crisis, but though the parallels between...

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27. America’s War

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pp. 241-249

The war sold magazines, and Ellery Sedgwick saw subscriptions rise as the Atlantic devoted more of its contents to the conflict. The increase in readers was dramatic, escalating from 7,000 in...

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28. The Turbulent Twenties, I

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pp. 250-259

Still edited by Ellery Sedgwick, the Atlanticdeveloped what might be called a split personality as it tried to bridge the distance between defiant youth and bewildered maturity. The generational gap was nowhere more apparent than in a chatty new feature called ...

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29. The Turbulent Twenties, II

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pp. 260-271

Atlantic contributors assumed that recent events had a direct impact on fiction and poetry. In “The Literature of Disillusion” (August 1923), Helen McFee insisted that the war had given the younger generation “a right to be morbid.” Singling out Edna St. Vincent Millay’s verse for both its rawness and lyricism, she attributed the closing lines of “Here Is a ...

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30. Across the Decades

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pp. 272-275

In the Atlantic’s November 1925 issue, the English novelist E. M. Forster wrote that “literature . . . is alive—not in a vague complementary sense, but alive tenaciously.”...


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pp. 276-278


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pp. 279-322


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pp. 323- 330

E-ISBN-13: 9781611681963
E-ISBN-10: 1611681960

Page Count: 356
Publication Year: 2011