The Southern Literary Messenger, 1834-1864/Frank H. Alfriend's Editorship
FRANK H. ALFRIEND'S EDITORSHIP
In the February and following numbers, Mr. Alfriend assumes the editorial department and puts in it some good writing, in his style, which is different from that of his predecessors. He sometimes has three divisions, Editor's Table, Notices of New Works, and Omnibus, which last carries the facetiæ. At length he procures a few fashion plates, which he explains editorially. He gets hold of a number of Harper's Magazine and finds in it the following characteristic effusion: "It is only to repeat history to say that the Puritan element has saved our civilization. It is the moral influence in it. * * * If the Revolution of 1688 was the regeneration of England, Puritanism was the controlling influence of that Revolution." And this assertion is succeeded by a glorification of Massachusetts as "the foremost of all human Societies, politically, morally and socially." Of course, our editor pitches into such preposterous pretensions and explodes them.
The editor dwells a good deal upon the war and has a monthly record of it, in addition to Howison's history. Whilst he thinks this is bound to be its last year, he is hopeful as to its result, but does not undertake to direct everybody engaged in it.
Mr. Pollard's piquant brochure, "The Two Nations;" Barron Hope's poems; some school books and a number of other works are noticed, among which is "The Second War of Independence in America," by E. W. Hudson, late acting Secretary of Legation to the American Mission at Berlin. One of the new contributors is Professor Schele De Vere, of the University of Virginia, who tells about General Suwaroff and again of Sir Charles Napier.
From choice, or necessity, the magazine becomes smartly eclectic. One selection is Dickens' "In Memoriam of Thackeray."
This June number was probably not issued until late in July. It closes with a few literary notices, some "Foreign Selections" and "Varieties." Just before these is the Editor's Table, which, alluding to the alarm that had called the citizens to the field, ends as follows: "When, by the grace of his Excellency, Gov. Smith, who had discovered that the enemy were aware of the presence of the militia among the defenders of the capital and would, therefore, desist from any contemplated attack upon the city, our employe's were suddenly and without premonition returned to their avocations, we found ourselves much in the condition of a party surprised and ambuscaded—totally unprepared for such an unexpected event. We have gone to work, however, with alacrity and zeal, in order that our readers may have the Messenger at the earliest possible moment, assured that the reduction in the quantity of editorial matter is more than compensated for by the valuable and interesting matter in the body of the number."
This was le dernier mot of the venerable Messenger, for though no hint was given of its discontinuance, no further number of it is now known. But there is a fact which is very little known, that in January, 1864, Wm. M. Burwell and Ernest Legarde, editors, started in Richmond, The Age, a Southern Eclectic Magazine, monthly. Still, some of its contents were original. It was, of course, a competitor of the Messenger, but treated it cordially. It offered to supply the disappointed subscribers to The Record, which had failed. In January, 1865, it managed, "after an extended suspension" of three-fourths of a year, to get out its fifth number and promised more, but we have never seen them. The price of this No. 5 was five dollars. The price of the Messenger was raised to five dollars a year; then to eight dollars, next to ten dollars, finally to fifteen dollars a year.
Richmond had now no monthly literary periodical. Farewell to thee, dear old Messenger, thou patriarch and Nestor of American monthly magazine literature. Requiescas in honore. So far as is known to this warm friend, only one red-snapper, "scalawag" critic has wished thee an earlier demise.
The Messenger is spoken of designedly as the representative of American literature, though it was bound to be Southern also. It had hundreds of contributors from every portion of our even then wide Republic. At the same time, it is true that its founder was a Virginian and its six known editors were also Virginians.
1. James E. Heath, distinguished and honored. See what is said about E. V. Sparhawk, on p. 35.
2. Edgar Allan Poe, of whom his biographer and the Virginian editor of his works will take good care.
3. Matthew Fontaine Maury, who died in Lexington, Va., in 1873, at the acme of a world-wide fame. He left a wife, children and grand-children.
4. Benjamin Blake Minor, who is still living and enjoying literature in Richmond. He has children and grandchildren.
5. John Reuben Thompson, who died unmarried, in 1873. His writings will probably be collected and published.
6. Dr. George W. Bagby, who died in 1883, leaving a widow, children and grandchildren, in Richmond. The widow has published two volumes of his Miscellanies.
7. Frank H. Alfriend, who died a benedict. He wrote a "Life of President Jefferson Davis."
Mr. John W. Fergusson is still living and is with his son largely engaged, in Richmond, in the printing business. They published The Southern Planter.
Mr. Wm. Macfarlane has been dead some time, but has descendants.