The Reviewer, February 1921

The Reviewer

The Reviewer was a Richmond-based experimental literary magazine published from 1921 until 1925 in thirty-five issues that helped spark the Southern Literary Renaissance. With an open editorial policy, it offended some and earned praise from others because the submissions simultaneously invoked the Old South, called for a New South, and addressed controversial social perspectives with work from established and emerging writers. MORE...

 

In 1920, when the Richmond Evening-Journal canceled its book page, book reviewer Emily Tapscott Clark and other young writers discussed starting a magazine to prove that intellectual activity did exist in the South. The Reviewer debuted in February 1921 (an issue cost fifteen cents; a six-month subscription was one dollar). Clark ran the magazine, serving as editor and soliciting submissions. She worked with Hunter Stagg, who reviewed books and acted as literary editor, Mary Dallas Street, who was associate editor, and Margaret Freeman, who was managing editor for one year.

The first six months' biweekly issues featured Virginia writers. Facing limited funds, the publication became a monthly and the second volume began in October 1921 with James Branch Cabell (who later married Freeman) as a three-month guest editor. He articulated the policy that Clark maintained: "The payment for such MSS. [manuscripts] as may be found available will be in fame not specie."

Clark mediated influences from critic H. L. Mencken, who wanted a southern slant, and novelist Joseph Hergesheimer, who wanted more cosmopolitan flair in The Reviewer. Responding to questions about the magazine's direction, Clark wrote in the March 1921 issue: "We are here to discover something—that is our sole excuse for being here at all."

The editors had difficulty finding many southern submissions, but they discovered new writers, like Julia Peterkin, who in 1929 became the first Pulitzer Prize–winning southern novelist (for Scarlet Sister Mary, published in 1928). The established poets and fiction and nonfiction writers they published included Donald Davidson, Ellen Glasgow, Amy Lowell, Sara Haardt (who later married Mencken), Frances Newman, Mary Wingfield Scott, Gertrude Stein, Louis Untermeyer, and Carl Van Vechten.

Despite its success, the magazine still needed funds. Philadelphia millionaire Edwin Swift Balch helped alleviate the problem when he contributed funds to finance several issues. When Clark married Balch in the autumn of 1924 and Hunter Stagg retired, The Reviewer had about 1,200 subscribers and a progressive reputation.

After thirty-one issues under Clark and Stagg's tenure, Paul Green of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, became editor to placate Mencken's fear that The Reviewer would succumb to conservative control if it stayed in Richmond. The magazine moved to Chapel Hill where Green hoped to publish more book reviews and longer pieces, and to pay contributors.

Green recruited writer Gerald Johnson, journalist Nell Battle Lewis, and English professor Addison Hibbard to aid him, but still felt that the challenges of fundraising and editing left him little time to develop the playwriting skills for which he would later win a Pulitzer Prize. To help address these issues, Green entrusted the magazine to his friends Jay Broadus Hubbell and William Stanley Hoole at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, in 1926. According to John Herbert Roper in his biography of Green, "With some changes, Hubbell combined much of the spirit, most of the authors, and almost all of the accepted but as yet unpublished manuscripts [of The Reviewer] into The Southwest Review," itself a small literary magazine that had recently been relocated from the University of Texas at Austin. The Southwest Review is still in existence at SMU today.

Clark's account of The Reviewer and its associates, Innocence Abroad, was published in 1931, and Hergesheimer's complete set of volumes with Clark's annotations is available in the Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University. Over time, critics have evaluated The Reviewer's relationship to the Southern Literary Renaissance early in the 1920s. "The magazine was essential to the literary awakening of the region during this time—and is essential to our understanding of the period—not just because it was published, but because of what it published, who published it, and when it was published," wrote Benjamin Wise in a 2005 article in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. The magazine, he goes onto say, "provided a forum for writing from and about the South, and in doing so The Reviewer played a crucial role in the development of a new artistic sensibility that reshaped southern literature."

Time Line

  • March 1921 - Emily Tapscott Clark responds to questions about the The Reviewer's direction by stating: "We are here to discover something—that is our sole excuse for being here at all."
  • 1926 - After a brief move to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Paul Green became editor, The Reviewer moves again to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, where its name is changed to The Southwest Review. The magazine continues to publish at SMU.
Further Reading
Clark, Emily. Innocence Abroad. New York: Knopf, 1931.
Clark, Emily and Gerald Langford, ed. Ingénue Among the Lions: The Letters of Emily Clark to Joseph Hergesheimer. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1965.
MacDonald, Edgar E. James Branch Cabell and Richmond-in-Virginia. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1993.
Roper, John Herbert. Paul Green, Playwright of the Real South. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2003.
Scott, Elizabeth S. "'In fame, not specie': The Reviewer, Richmond's Oasis in 'The Sahara of the Bozart.'" Virginia Cavalcade 27.3 (Winter 1978).
The Reviewer. v. 1 (1921)–v. 5 (1925) (boxed set, annotated by Emily Clark, from collection of Joseph Hergesheimer). James Branch Cabell Library Special Collections and Archives, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia.
Wise, Benjamin E. "'An Experiment in Southern Letters': Reconsidering the Role of The Reviewer in the Southern Renaissance." The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 113. 2 (2005): 146–178.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Smith, L. E. The Reviewer. (2012, September 17). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Reviewer_The.

  • MLA Citation:

    Smith, Leanne E. "The Reviewer." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 17 Sep. 2012. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: October 30, 2008 | Last modified: September 17, 2012


Contributed by Leanne E. Smith, a freelance writer and photographer, English instructor, musician, and member of the Green Grass Cloggers in Greenville, North Carolina. She is the author of miscellaneous articles and the book East Carolina University: Off the Record (2007).