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

XIX. Later Magazines

§ 3. Short Stories

Short stories, which have proved so important a part of American literature during the last fifty years, have almost in-variably made their appearance in magazines. By far the greater number of novels by writers of distinction have been published as serials before they were issued in book form. A considerable amount of poetry, many essays, and even historical writings of scholarly importance have found a place in the better popular magazines.

These changes have been accompanied by the good and the questionable effects that always accompany the democratization of culture. It has been well that the patron of the news-stand should be able to procure, sometimes for so small a sum as a dime, a periodical that contained work by the best living authors. It has been a misfortune that magazines which called themselves literary should be in the control of men who valued literature chiefly for its indirect effect on advertising receipts, and who mixed contributions signed by great names with others whose merit was a showy and specious appeal to the mass of readers. Nor has the offer of high pay to contributors been an unmixed blessing. The great author who was aware that the editor cared more for his name than for literary merit has been tempted to print work that he must have known was unworthy; and the young man or woman just coming into notice has been persuaded by an exploiting publisher to write too hastily. All the phenomena just mentioned can, however, best be traced in connection with a brief survey of some of the more important magazines.

It will be impossible, in the brief space allotted to this chapter, to discuss or even to name all the magazines with which the student of American literature may find himself concerned. There have been informational magazines, which made much of the timeliness of their articles; scientific and professional journals, popular, semi-popular, and technical; journals of sports; juveniles; and many others not easily classified. The changes of greatest importance have been the death or metamorphosis of the old-fashioned quarterlies and other heavy reviews, and the rise of two groups of popular magazines. One of these groups is represented by the Atlantic, Harper’s, Scribner’s Monthly, afterward the Century, and Scribber’s Magazine, which all pride themselves on maintaining the highest practicable standard of literary and artistic excellence; the other and later group is represented by The Ladies’ Home Journal, McClure’s, The American Magazine, and a number more which frankly make an appeal to the widest possible constituency of fairly intelligent readers.