Academic journal article The Southern Literary Journal

The Ante-Bellum Literary Twilight: Russell's Magazine

Academic journal article The Southern Literary Journal

The Ante-Bellum Literary Twilight: Russell's Magazine

Article excerpt

Russell's Magazine began with a promising idea for a new periodical, perhaps at long last the formula for success even in the ante-bellum South, where failure in such endeavors was the rule rather than the exception. It was to be another attempt at a literary magazine which might serve as "a depository for Southern genius" (1) but this time it was to be planned and supported by two Charleston groups with some members in common. The two groups consisted of (1) those literati who shared the "little suppers" and often brilliant conversations at "The Wigwam," the town residence of William Gilmore Simms, and (2) the larger group who gathered around the stove in the "sanctum," the back room o[ John Russell's handsome Charleston bookstore.

Although the idea was hatched in "The Wigwam," the scene for the actual planning of the magazine was Russell's store. As Paul Hamilton Hayne reminisced thirty years later, it was decided to name the magazine Russell's when the proprietor, "Lord John," agreed with "a reckless gallantry ... to undertake the publication and entire business management of the work" and to "foot all bills" until the magazine should reach "self-supporting maturity." (2) However, during the planning of the magazine Hayne reported that the group hoped to secure financial support through the establishment of "a Joint Stock Concern," under the management of the Courtenays, "(a very successful, & Enterprising firm)." (3)

The editorship was offered to a promising young Charleston poet, Paul Hamilton Hayne, whose previous editorial apprenticeships had been with two short-lived Southern magazines--the Southern Literary Gazette and the Washington Spectator. His other literary endeavor, a volume of poems he had paid the Boston firm of Ticknor and Fields to publish, had also been unsuccessful, with Hayne having to find storage space for the unsold copies. Nevertheless, Hayne accepted this new opportunity with what he was to refer to later, from a position of experienced hindsight, as "unconscious audacity." (4) His optimism did not seem audacious at the time, for several good reasons. William B. Carlisle, experienced as the assistant editor of the Charleston Mercury, had promised to serve as assistant editor of the new magazine. John Russell, who knew all of the Charleston literati, was to be the publisher. And, most important of all, financial support, book reviews, and articles were to come from the group at Russell's, whose brilliance still dazzled Hayne nearly thirty years later.

Among the regulars at Russell's were James L. Petigru, a distinguished lawyer and staunch Unionist; Basil L. Gildersleeve, recently graduated from Gottingen and destined to become a distinguished classical scholar at the Johns Hopkins University; Alfred Huger; Dr. Samuel Henry Dickson of the Charleston Medical College, a noted pathologist; Protestant cleryman James w. Miles; Father Patrick Lynch, Roman Catholic bishop of Charleston and classical scholar; and William R. Tabor, editor of the Charleston Mercury. When Simms joined the discussions with his informal group, there were added Paul Hamilton Hayne; Henry Timrod; John Dickson Burns, who was a young doctor and a part-time poet; F. Peyre Porcher, another physician with literary interests, who was to be a faithful contributor to the magazine; Samuel Lord, Jr., Middleton Michel, Mitchell King, Benjamin J. Whaley, lawyers; and Samuel Y. Tupper, businessman. Not always a regular member but no stranger to the Russell's group was William J. Grayson, author of The Hireling and the Slave (1856), whose relations to the magazine will necessitate further comment later.

Undoubtedly Russell's would be the ideal magazine to report on if it were possible to portray some of the drama of the discussions that took place in John Russell's "literary emporium" and to assess their impact on the policies of the magazine. But, unfortunately, no one left such a record for posterity. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.