Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 12. Putnam’s Monthly Magazine and Its Successors

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XIX. Later Magazines

§ 12. Putnam’s Monthly Magazine and Its Successors

Among the less successful attempts at a literary magazine were three which bore the name of another distinguished New York publishing house. Putnam’s Monthly Magazine first appeared in January, 1853, with C. F. Briggs as editor and George William Curtis and Parke Godwin as assistant editors. In introducing itself it said, with an evident glance at Harper’s, then so conspicuous and so irritating a figure in the magazine world:

  • A man buys a Magazine to be amused—to be instructed, if you please, but the lesson must be made amusing. He buys it to read in the cars, in his leisure hours at home—in the hotel, at all chance moments. It makes very little difference to him whether the article date from Greece or Guinea if it only interest him. He does not read upon principle, and troubles himself little about copyright and justice to authors. If a man goes to Timbuctoo and describes his visit picturesquely and well, the reader devours the story, and is not at all concerned because the publisher may have broken the author’s head or heart, to obtain the manuscript. A popular Magazine must amuse, interest, and instruct, or the public will pass by upon the other side. Nor will it be persuaded to “come over and help us” by any consideration of abstract right. It says, very justly, “if you had no legs, why did you try to walk?”
  • It is because we are confident that neither Greece nor Guinea can offer the American reader a richer variety of instruction and amusement in every kind, than the country whose pulses throb with his, and whose every interest is his own, that this magazine presents itself today.
  • This opinion, that for interest American writings could hold their own with those that might be purloined anywhere in the world, must have been pleasing to American authors. The editors gave evidence of their sincerity by preserving the anonymity of articles, letting each stand on its merits. The first volume contained poems by Longfellow and Lowell, and others of the New England group wrote for the magazine. Curtis contributed his Potiphar Papers and Prue and I, Lowell his Fireside Travels and Moosehead Journal, and Thoreau his Cape Cod Papers. It would seem that a Journal so edited and so supported ought at this time to have succeeded, even though in mechanical appearance it was somewhat heavy and unattractive. For reasons not fully explained, but supposedly financial, the house of Putnam sold it after two years, and after three years of deterioration under another management it was merged with Emerson’s Magazine, which itself died soon after.

    Putnam’s Magazine, sometimes referred to as a revival of the older Putnam’s Monthly Magazine, began publication in January, 1868. R. H. Stoddard, E. C. Stedman, and Bayard Taylor were connected with the editorial staff, but the list of contributors was hardly as impressive as that of the former Putnam’s. According to the frank statement of the publishers this magazine did not pay, and after three years it was merged with the newly founded Scribner’s Monthly. In 1906 a third Putnam’s made its appearance, this time Putnam’s Monthly and The Critic. The last half of the title was retained from an older periodical which was merged in the new. It was a semi-popular, illustrated, bookish journal which lasted with some changes of name until 1910.