Important Role of former Nazis in Eastern Germany." 

November 21, 1950
Central Files Decimal Number 762B.00

Southern Literary Messenger: Literature of the Old South, The

Remarkable articles chronicle a Southern perspective of of the pre-Civil War years

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Date Range: 1834-1864
Content: 23,949 pages
Source Library: Lost Cause Press

With its primary-source documents and wide-ranging topics, The Southern Literary Messenger: Literature of the Old South supports scholarship in literature and history alike. Researchers will find examples of Southern history, European history, military history, secessionism, states’ rights and slavery issues contained in these intriguing articles.

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In the 19th century, magazines published in the North set the tone for American literary dialogue. To capitalize on the relatively untapped market of southern readers, several editors established similar journals in the South. The “Southern Literary Messenger” was one of the most successful and influential of these magazines. Its mission, according to editor James Ewell Heath, was to “scope out the land of literary promise in the South, and to report whether the same be fruitful or barren.”

The magazine struggled in its first years until founder Thomas Willis White hired Edgar Allan Poe, then an unknown poet, to serve as literary editor. Under Poe’s direction, the Messenger increased circulation, improved in quality and developed connections with the northern literary establishment.

As issues related to slavery flared during the 1850s, however, the content increasingly veered toward issues of states’ rights, defenses of slavery, and arguments against abolitionism. During the Civil War, the Messenger published accounts of battles, and criticized both the North and Confederate governments. As economic conditions deteriorated in Virginia, the journal ceased publication in 1864.

As a chronicle of the Deep South during the prewar years, the “Southern Literary Messenger” evolved from a purely literary compendium to a forum for political viewpoints. Articles covered defenses of slavery and states’ rights, among other explosive issues.

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