The Atlantic Monthly, 1857-1909: Yankee Humanism at High Tide and Ebb

By Ellery Sedgwick | Go to book overview

7
Water Hines Page (1898-1899) Progressive Editing

After hiring Page in 1895, Mifflin and Scudder rapidly gave him editorial authority specifically to bring the Atlantic into the twentieth century: to draw younger writers and audiences, to adapt the magazine to new publishing trends, and to assure its survival by making it more commercially successful. But Scudder was sincerely committed to the magazine's traditional mission to support literary and intellectual high culture. Mifflin, while impatient to stem the Atlantic's financial losses, accepted the idea that it could not afford to imitate the popular illustrated magazines but must cultivate its own modest garden. Like Scudder, he knew that its main value to his house was its reputation for literary and intellectual quality. Both Mifflin and Scudder realized that some changes were necessary, but neither wished radical change that might alienate the magazine's present readers, who demonstrated their loyalty with consistently high renewal rates. In considering Page's background and temperament, they found a record of energetic accomplishment but also values that, particularly for Scudder, raised questions about the younger man's adaptability to the Atlantic.

Page had been born in North Carolina in 1855 and at twenty had been awarded a prestigious scholarship to read Greek at the newly formed Johns Hopkins University. Soon growing impatient with the antiquarian niceties of Greek philology, he had become a newspaper reporter, first in St. Joseph, Missouri, later in New York and Washington. In 1883, he had returned to his native state to establish a progressive newspaper, the State Chronicle, that advocated Cleveland liberalism and attempted to jolt the postwar South out of its obsessive nostalgia and make it think more pragmatically of its future.

The Chronicle's progressive spirit had undermined its financial condition, and

-245-

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