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[160]

Chapter 20: magazines, annuals, and gift-books,
1783-1850


I. Magazines

Of the short-lived literary journals that were founded before and during the American Revolution, none appears to have survived the closing years of that struggle. Hardly had peace been declared, however, before new magazines were undertaken, and throughout the years covered by this chapter much of the literary history of America is bound up with a history of its periodicals. A complete account of American magazines during the early part of this period would be to a great extent a story of literary Chauvinism, of absurd literary ambition on the part of individuals and of communities, of misplaced faith in the literary tastes and interests of the people. The many failures are reminders of the unattained intellectual ambitions of the nation; a few commercially prosperous magazines furnish an index to the taste of the average reader; and a few show the best that was being thought and written. In a brief presentation only the most general tendencies can be considered and a few magazines cited as examples of important types. For convenience the period may be divided roughly into two sub-periods, one extending from the close of the Revolution to the close of the War of 1812, the other from 1815 to 1850.1

1 In this treatment it will be unnecessary to draw any sharp line between ‘literary’ magazines and those that were largely religious or scientific. The distinction between magazines and newspapers is more troublesome. By agreement with the author of the following chapter literary weeklies, except in one or two cases to be noted, will be considered as newspapers rather than as magazines.

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