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

By Ellery Sedgwick | Go to book overview

6
Horace Elisha Scudder (1890-1898) Missionary of Yankee Culture

Horace Elisha Scudder was by temperament almost Aldrich's opposite. While the slight, erect, youthful-looking Aldrich was known for his aestheticism, his aversion to prolonged work, and his quick, sometimes wounding wit, the roundish, stooped, balding, bushy-bearded Scudder was an incarnation of Victorian earnestness, dedication to work, patient kindness, and moral idealism. If Aldrich's character and values were grounded essentially in aesthetics, Scudder's were grounded in religion. One form of Scudder's religion was a humane, nondogmatic, but firm and sustaining Congregationalism. He attended church regularly, read and annotated his New Testament daily in the original Greek, wrote a commemorative biography of a missionary brother who died young in India, and was an early admirer of the Christian socialism of F. D. Maurice, later personified for him in his beloved niece, Vida Scudder. Scudder's second religion was Western literary culture, particularly the works of those older New England writers whom he had felt privileged to know from afar. This culture and these works, he believed, were a deep source of moral and spiritual as well as intellectual values and a potent force for good in American society. To the preservation, development, and propagation of this humanistic culture, he committed his energies with the patient zeal, the self-effacement, and sometimes the cultural myopia of a missionary.

Although his official term as editor was briefer, Scudder had a far more powerful influence on the Atlantic than Aldrich did. He had been employed by Houghton since 1863 in increasingly responsible positions, was editor-in-chief of Houghton Mifflin's trade division from 1886 until his death in 1902, and had far more credibility and influence with the magazine's publishers than Aldrich had. He also wrote more for the magazine, mainly in literary criticism, than anyone else before

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