Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 4. The North American Review

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

XIX. Later Magazines

§ 4. The North American Review

In 1850 the chief quarterlies and reviews in existence were The North American Review, Brownson’s Quarterly Review, The Christian Examiner, The New Englander, The Democratic Review, The American Whig Review, The Princeton Review, The Southern Literary Messenger, and The Southern Quarterly Review. The decline of the quarterlies had already begun in England, and of the American list named above but one lived virtually unchanged through the Civil War. This was The North American Review, which since its establishment in 1815 had been the leader in its class. In 1850 it was continuing its steady course under the editorship of Professor Francis Bowen. In the early fifties Professor Bowen was succeeded by Dr. Andrew Preston Peabody, who continued in control until after the Civil War had begun. During these years the Review maintained its original character as a sound, scholarly, if not a very virile journal, modelled as far as might be on the great English quarterlies. Its small circulation was distributed throughout the country, and when political and sectional animosities became strong it declined all controversial articles that might alienate subscribers. At last it reached the condition which Lowell described in a well-known letter to Motley: “It wanted three chief elements to be successful. It wasn’t thoroughly, that is thick and thinly, loyal, it wasn’t lively, and it had no particular opinions on any particular subject. It was an eminently safe periodical, and accordingly was in great danger of running aground.” Lowell and Charles Eliot Norton became joint editors in 1864, and succeeded in giving the Review new force and character, though they naturally rendered it at the same time more provincial. About 1873 Henry Adams and Henry Cabot Lodge assumed the editorship. During the presidential campaign of 1876 these gentlemen found themselves at variance with the publishers regarding matters of editorial policy, and withdrew. The Review was then sold to Allen Thorndike Rice, who moved it from Boston to New York and made it first a bi-monthly, later a monthly. Since this time its character has still further changed, until current issues, with their short semi-popular and timely articles, bear slight resemblance to those of 1850. Since no other American magazine has lasted, even in name, for a hundred years, the centenary of the North American in 1915 attracted much attention.