Southern Periodicals

Source citation
"Southern Periodicals," Charleston (SC) Mercury, December 15, 1857, p. 2.
Newspaper: Publication
Charleston (SC) Mercury
Newspaper: Headline
Southern Periodicals
Newspaper: Page(s)
Date Certainty
Stephen A. E. Acker
Transcription date
Transcriber's Comments
The illegible word most likely has negative connotation.

The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.


Southern Periodicals.

So far as we know, the periodicals of the South are now reduced to three in number: Russell’s Magazine, the Southern Literary Messenger, and DeBow’s Review. Here, then, in these three fields, you find the only media, of this class, through which the more elaborate performances of the Southern intellect seek the public. Here, from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, the Southern genius exercises its limited province. Whatever is done among us, in all this extent of country, in prose or poetical art, philosophy or fiction, must seek one or other of these channels: and the whole of these three works you can procure for eleven, perhaps ten, dollars per annum. Suppose you tax yourself to this extent. for these three works: make it a point of principle: make it, if you please,  a matter of patronage: make it your pride, that you do your little towards the proper encouragement of your native mind, and that you seek to perpetuate these vehicles of thought, which are especially useful – nay, necessary – in the maintenance, not only of your own independent opinion, but in the creation of those champions upon whom only can you rely in the conflict of opinion which is everywhere now waging throughout the world. and which, everywhere, prepares the nations properly in the event of a conflict of material weapons. Not to maintain your literary organs, is next to the surrender of all your rights. Ideas, everywhere, now, are establishing or overthrowing human institutions: and that people who are so obtuse to be indifferent to such agencies, are as certainly doomed as if they never conned an alphabet. The effect of your patronage of these three works will be to increase their value to a wondrous potency. which, in advance, you can hardly estimate. It will create a school of good thinkers and writers: create a literary profession: and these will constitute, in time, a cohort from which you may easily select such persons as Presidents and Professors of Colleges – classes for which, at present, we are compelled to content ourselves with the most wretched pretenders and even imposters. It is, perhaps, the redeeming feature in our case, that we have to seek even these from other States. The process suggested  for supplying the better persons, the truly competent, at home, is no doubt only one of many that might be implicated: but is also unquestionably one of the best processes by which to train them. An able critic of Belles-Lettres, or History, or Art, in a Magazine or Review, can readily make himself a competent Professor in either of these departments in the Colleges: and such a critic will prove himself something more than a mere creature of the text-books. He will not require to con his own lesson nightly before he calls his class to recitation in the morning, as is too apt to be the case with a large proportion of those who we now dignify with the title of Professors. He will be able to rise above the text-book, to correct its mistakes, to suggest new branches of progress, to indicate fresh problems, to make his own text-books: in other words, to teach thoroughly to the understanding of others those departments of knowledge in which he himself has become a master. The periodical is one of the best schools for training the critical mind to this sort of capacity. But to win such minds to the periodical, they must have compensation. There must be some motive for their prosecution of such labors. Now, in Southern periodical writing, there is no such motive. Neither pay nor praise – and Cowper was wont to say that both were essential even to the Poet – now rewards the litterateur. Our periodical publishers are so badly paid themselves that they can pay nothing.  They live by [illegible] literature. Their contributors are amateurs-occasional writers, who write only in their moods, by fits and starts-soothing, as humor prompts the idle vein. They are accordingly never critical in respect to their own performances. It is charity literature. What need they care? And the publisher, hard pressed for matter, is compelled to receive what, in a thousand instances, he would otherwise fling into the fire. To do anything well, we must buckle to it lovingly, with earnestness and all our might. This can only be done where we make a business of it. It must become professional. To support such a magazine as either of these mentioned, four thousand paying subscribers are necessary.  It will require between two and three thousand to pay printer and paper manufacturer. The publisher makes nothing, the contributors get nothing, unless the subscriptions reach four thousand or five thousand. Now, neither of these magazines pay to their contributors five hundred dollars a year.  They ought to pay from three dollars to six dollars from every page of prose. and twenty-five for every page of poetry. Paying thus, they will obtain good articles. They will be able to choose between contributions, and publish nothing but what is good. Now, if every friend of Russell’s Magazine, DeBow’s Review, and the Messenger, will take this matter to heart - recognize these views - recognize the claims and uses of these works - recognize the wants and necessities of the South in literary respects-and will address himself heartily to the task of bringing up their subscriptions to 5,000 each, they will all live, flourish, and fester into existence such a literature as the whole country will be pleased and proud to cherish. As it is, neither of them can be said to live now. They are all doomed to perish!

We have left ourselves only sufficient space to say that the last issues of all these Magazines, now lying before us, fully reach the grade which previous issues had established. They are all honest, manly, various, and distinguished by thought, grace, beauty and spirit.  But they have neither, as yet, accomplished these things in thought, depth, fancy, or originality, which the Southern mind, under proper stimulus, would certainly accomplish: and neither of them will be able to preserve its present status, unless the aliment of public patronage, and the stimulus of a more genial public sympathy, are more liberally supplied. To the citizens of Charleston alone, it should be assigned as a  duty to support Russell’s Magazine. If two thousand citizens would resolve to sustain it, their subscriptions alone would place it above the reach of overthrow, and enable it to foster that intellect from which alone can it draw its own resources.

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