Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Letters of William Gilmore Simms. Vol. 6, Supplement >> 30a The Editor of the Southern Literary Journal >> Page 289

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Page 289

Correspondence | U of South Carolina P | 2012
Transcription Additional Letters and Documents, 1828—1868 289
What is the periodical press of this country? And what is the amount of the influence which it possesses over the readers of our literature? If the editor will answer this question, he will probably be surprised to discover that the periodicals themselves in their circulation and influence bear no sort of comparison to the works which they criticise that few readers of the one are readers of the
other; and that the opinions of these several organs are in most cases utterly dissimilar.* That the work praised by the one Magazine is very frequently abused by the other; and that nothing can be more distressingly limited in this country than the influence of periodicals upon the writings and the topics of the day. They are usually regarded as vehicles for the circulation of the opinions of cliques and factions, and but very little deference is paid to them accordingly.
Let us glance for a moment at the history of some of these periodicals, and to begin with our own,—the Southern Review—which was confessedly, one of the ablest quarterlies, if not the very ablest,
while it lasted, which this country has ever known. How long
did it last? Will the editor tell us that, and what was the extent
of its circulation and influence north of the Potomac? It reached its fourth volume,—probably circulated two thousand copies, and perished through lack of patronage to pay its current expenditures. It never did pay all its contributors, and its editor, I believe, was left almost entirely without pay. Its criticisms were in the teeth, in several instances, of those of the North American, but no reader of the North American ever declared his preference for them over those of his own journal. The one lavishly praised Mr. Percival4 other handled him without gloves; but while ten thousand copies of Percival's
*[Simms's footnote] So notorious was this fact, that Mr. [Robert] Walsh in the National Gazette, actually, on one occasion, made it the subject of congratulatory remark, that the American Quarterly Review and Southern Review, in a notice of Bul er's `Siamese Twins' uttered the same opinions upon the pretensions of that work. This was amusing and ridiculous enough, but not so extravagant when we reflect that we are entirely without standards of judgment in this country in all matters which affect taste and concern the fine arts. Politeness, for example, the rules of which should be inflexible as those of truth, is a very different thing in Boston, New-York, Philadelphia and Charleston.
4. James Gates Percival (1795-1856).