Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Kenneth Curry, Michael Lofaro, Ralph W. Haskins
Although the American magazine market was fairly glutted in late 1844, there was room for The American Review: A Whig Journal of Politics, Literature, Art and Science since it was the official organ of the Whig party as well as a literary review. In spite of the fact that most magazines of the period perished within one or two years, the American Whig Review (a more characteristic name adopted in 1850) served as the political journal of the conservative Whigs and as a competent literary review during eight of America's critical growing years, 1845-1852. During these years, the magazine underwent several changes of names, editors, publishers, and contributors; however, it was able to maintain a fairly consistent and respectable quality of literary contents. The achievement of the magazine is emphasized by the fact that it maintained its quality without the aid of prominent literary editors and without continuing contributions from influential writers. The American Whig Review, therefore, reflects the spirit of the New York magazine industry from 1845-1852. In addition, the magazine reflects the history of the Whig party since it was born during a political contest and died in the aftermath of the Whigs' defeat in the election of 1852. This study deals specifically with the history of the American Whig Review and the literary criticism, imaginative prose, and poetry within its sixteen volumes.
On the whole, the critical articles devoted to American literature in the magazine were sound assessments. Nearly all of the critics were discriminating and vigorous in their praise and condemnation of the major American writers and works of this productive period. Similarly, the general attention given to the major British writers of this period was representatively fair. Although some British writers were given insufficient coverage, in no case was the criticism capricious or malicious simply because of nationality.
The American Whig Review printed more than one hundred and fifty pieces of imaginative prose from 1845-1852. While the magazine had no continuing contributions from major prose writers, it did, nevertheless, print several outstanding pieces by major writers and, primarily, by lesser-known or amateur writers from all sections of the country. Two tales by Edgar Allan Poe, several Western adventure narratives by Charles Wilkins Webber, translations by Elizabeth Ellet, travel narratives by Donald Grant Mitchell, and occasional tales, essays, and sketches by unknown authors form the core of a commendable body of imaginative prose.
The poems in the magazine are, with a few notable exceptions, rightly called "very minor verse." The magazine contains nearly three hundred poems of various types and authorships which range in quality from five contributions by Edgar Allan Poe, including "The Raven," to such a mundane piece as the unsigned "Sonnets to Fill Blanks. Number Three. "Whatever the individual qualities may be, when taken as a whole, the poems demonstrate the position that poetry held in the minds and hearts of American writers and readers in the period of 1845-1852.
Although the American Whig Review has no unique distinction in the history of American periodicals, it is still an interesting and stable literary journal that played an active role in the promotion of American literature through its publication of imaginative contributions from all levels of writers. It also aided the formation of American literary criticism through its usually perceptive critical assessments of the major American and British writers and works during the time of an American literary Renaissance.
Andrews, Donald Frank, "The American Whig Review, 1845-1852: Its History and Literary Contents. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 1977.