The Periodicals of American Transcendentalism

By Clarence L. F. Gohdes | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER II THE WESTERN MESSENGER AND THE DIAL

The Western Messenger was the product of the literary ambitions of several young Unitarian ministers who desired to arouse in the West an interest in religious philosophy and in literature akin to that which had marked their earlier milieu in New England. Established in Cincinnati in 1835, by James Freeman Clarke, William G. Eliot, and Ephraim Peabody, the periodical announced as its primary object the purpose "to set forth and defend Unitarian views of Christianity,"1 and bore the legend, "Devoted to Religion and Literature." This combining of a clerical purpose with the desire to provide readers with literary entertainment more or less secular, while no marked innovation in the history of Unitarian journalism,2 was new to the West.

The attempt was first made to put the Messenger in the charge of several editors, but gradually the responsibility for its issue devolved upon Ephraim Peabody. During the first half of the year 1836 the burden fell upon Clarke, under whose supervision the magazine was published at Louisville, Kentucky. An effort has been made to determine the actual circumstances of its editing and publishing, but to little avail.3 The fact of the matter seems to be that frequently, when the duties of the church called the editors away from the scene of its publication,

____________________
1
The Western Messenger, I, 1. Hereinafter cited as "W. M."
2
See, for example, The Unitarian Advocate, published in Boston and elsewhere, I, 281 and 304.
3
The "proposals" for the magazine had announced its name as The Western Examiner, doubtless after The Christian Examiner of Boston, then the chief Unitarian journal in America. The change was made because a St. Louis periodical had employed the name before the first number was in the press ( W. M., I, 1). The best account of its history is to be found in R. L. Rusk, The Literature of the Middle Western Frontier, 1925, I, 183.

-17-

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