American Mass-Market Magazines

By Alan Nourie; Barbara Nourie | Go to book overview

that most distinguished the Review was its very fine series of political portraits, in which essays describing great (i.e., Democratic) men were accompanied by engravings of the subjects. The engravings have become justly famous, both for their quality of work and for their imaginative designs.

Ultimately, politics proved the albatross around the neck of the Review, committed as the magazine was to the fortunes of an increasingly divided and troubled Democratic party. Reflecting the position of Northern Democrats, the Review tried to defend the ideas of Southerners as well. Siding with the moderation of President James Buchanan, villifying abolitionists as troublemaking Whig or Republican agitators--such views became more and more difficult in perilous times.

The fortunes of the Review were finally tied to the presence of O'Sullivan, who was openly or covertly editor-in-chief of the journal until 1849. Those were the years of greatness and prosperity. After 1849, O'Sullivan left the Review, and the fortunes of the magazine declined. 5 Compared to the volumes of the first decade, the Review of the 1850s is obviously lacking the fine writers and the spark of before. Eventually, the lack of O'Sullivan and the increasingly impossible Democratic politics doomed the Review. Attempts at merger, cries for payment of subscriptions, and complaints of no worthy material, all mark the last issues of the Review, which sputtered to its end in 1859, shortly before the war that would decide with blood what ink could not.

As an example of intelligent political comment, combined with outstanding original literature, the Democratic Review carved for itself a remarkable niche in American history.


Notes
1.
Julius W. Pratt, "John Louis O'Sullivan," Dictionary of American Biography, ed. Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, 20 vols. ( New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934), 14:89.
2.
Edgar Allan Poe, "letter of 12 September 1842" in The Complete Works, ed. James A. Harrison , 17 vols. ( New York: Thomas Crowell, 1902), 17:117-18.
3.
Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, vol. 1, 1741-1850 ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957), p. 679.
4.
Julius W. Pratt, "The Origin of 'Manifest Destiny,'" American Historical Review, July 1927, p. 795-99.

Information Sources

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines, vol. 1, 1741-1850. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957. pp. 677-684.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Complete Works. Ed. James A Harrison. 17 vols. New York: Thomas Crowell, 1902.

-101-

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