LOWELL AND "THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY"
The early eighteen-sixties in the annals of the short story center about The Atlantic Monthly. For the first time in the history of the form Boston became the distributing center, a change of base perplexing to one who has followed thus far the course of American fiction. New England literature during the mid-century had been uniformly serious. The short story, especially in the Boston atmosphere, was regarded as a magazine product, ephemeral stuff, "light reading," or at best a miniature novel that might serve as good exercise for young writers who were pluming their wings for serious flight. Collections of short stories were seldom mentioned by the reviewers, even in the lists of "books received." One may read quite through the early volumes of the New York Nation, which aimed to furnish a complete record of the current literary product, and be unaware that such a form existed.
One is surprised, therefore, to find the tremendously serious Boston Atlantic Monthly, 1857, making a specialty of short fiction. From its first issue, three short stories for each number seems to have been the policy of the magazine--in the first two volumes thirty-six pieces of fiction may fairly be rated as short stories. And by no means were they all written by New England writers. Most of the Middle States group appear in the early numbers: O'Brien, and George Arnold from the New York Bohemians, and James D. Whelpley, Bayard Taylor, Caroline Chesebro', and Rebecca Harding from a wider field. The monthly had been started at precisely the right moment. American magazines in quality had reached their lowest ebb. The Nation, reviewing in January, 1866, the Boston Every Saturday, then in charge of no less an editor than T. B. Aldrich, summed up the situation in this characteristic sentence:
As for the articles themselves, we do not find them first-rate, and, indeed, they are of the flavor of too much literature printed for the first