Academic journal article The Southern Literary Journal

Two Young Brothers and Their Orion

Academic journal article The Southern Literary Journal

Two Young Brothers and Their Orion

Article excerpt

Lest any reader might be uncertain about the pronunciation of the magazine Orion, the editor in the third issue presented a poem to the public to clear up the matter:

A Receipt

To Pronounce the Name of This Magazine

   Three syllables distinct and clear
   In this euphonious word appear,
   The first a single vowel O--
   In full and lengthened tone should flow;
   The second an accented Ri--
   Go ask the ancient classics why;--
   The third the lips their skill may try on,
   And thus pronounce the whole ORION! (1)

But why should this particular name be chosen? The editor had an answer. The most magnificent constellation in the southern hemisphere, the Orion, has more "large and brilliant stars than any other in the heavens." The editor saw an analogy between his magazine and this heavenly body. To be sure, the stars of his Orion were "not yet brighter than those of other literary constellations," and it was perfectly true that the magazine was not yet "visible to the whole literary world," but the editor viewed the situation optimistically. He believed that one day his stars would be brighter and more visible when they had reached "the meridian of their fame." This musical name, the Orion, therefore, was selected as "a name for the future, rather than the present." (2)


To mention the Orion is to think of two young brothers, only twenty-four and twenty-two, who collaborated on it during its two years of existence, one as editor and the other as artist--and both as authors. This was an early venture for them and, to some extent, foretold the success they would have later on in their careers.

Both were born in London, England, the sons of a Baptist preacher who came to America when the boys were thirteen and eleven. The father, after being pastor of a Baptist church in Hudson, New York, went to South Carolina and to Georgia, finally settling at Penfield, Georgia. Here the boys furthered their education and started their magazine.

The editor, William Carey Richards (1818-1892), graduated from Colgate University in 1840. After his stay with the Orion and several other Southern magazines, he became a Baptist preacher in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1855. Thereafter he served as pastor of several churches. Another interest of his was science, and for a short period he was Professor of Chemistry in the Berkshire Medical College. The author of several books and articles, he received the Ph.D. degree from Colgate University in 1869 when he was fifty-one. (3)

The artist, Thomas Addison Richards (1820-1900), also in time left Georgia, studied art at the National Academy of Design for several years, became an associate of the Academy and eventually its corresponding secretary. The author of numerous books on travel and art, he contributed illustrations to Harper's Magazine and to the Knickerbocker, organized the first class in the Cooper Union School of Design for Women, and finally became Professor of Art in what is now New York University. An artist whose works belong with the Hudson River School, he was one of the best landscape painters in the United States. (4)

These two Richards brothers attempted to establish high standards for their youthful endeavor, the Orion. An advertisement in one issue said that the literary character of the magazine would be "as elevated as the best writers of the South with much talent from various parts of the world, can make it." The articles would be "strictly original," and only those works with a certain "standard of excellence" would be printed. Furthermore, the articles were to come from a number of disciplines: "History, Biography, Narrative, Philology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Physical Science, Fiction, Poetry, and the Fine Arts." The aim was not to have just a "magazine of Love Tales and Ghost Stories--the mere froth of Literature--but to contribute to the real mental wealth" of its readers. (5)

One field that was omitted was politics. …

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