Very Real" --
Hughes In Richmond, Virginia
Special Collections and Archives
James Branch Cabell Library
"The noble Greek lines up on a drowned sailor sound in our
ears and steady us to action: -
A ship wrecked sailor buried on this coast
Bids you set sail.
Full many a gallant bark when he was lost,
Weathered the gale."
[From the foward to The Reviewer, vol.1, no.1, February,
And with those words, the four year run of The Reviewer, a literary
magazine published in Richmond, Virginia, began. Published between February
1921 and October 1925, The Reviewer totaled thirty-five issues.
It came into being when Richmond was stirring with literary activity.
James Branch Cabell, Ellen Glasgow, Mary Johnston, and Douglas Southall
Freeman, all living and writing in 1920s Richmond, had all experienced
national fame of varying degree. Soon The Reviewer would receive attention helping
create Richmond as a brief but important American literary center.
First issue of the Reviewer - February 15, 1921.
Very little has been written about the rise and fall of The Reviewer
but the work of three literary historians is worth noting. Elizabeth
S. Scott wrote a solid history of the magazine in a 1978 issue of the
Virginia Cavalcade, published by the Library of Virginia. Edgar
E. MacDonald, in his James Branch Cabell and Richmond-in-Virginia, published in 1993,
and in several articles that appeared in the Ellen Glasgow Newsletter,
has also explored the topic. And a very useful bibliographic guide by
Maurice Duke was published in Resources for American Literary Study in
The magazine got off to an auspicious start according to Elizabeth S. Scott's article in the Winter 1978 issue of Virginia Cavalcade: "The Reviewer was born at a party [at the home of writer Helena Lefroy Caperton
on West Avenue in Richmond's Fan District], and it never outgrew the notion that
it had been conceived for fun. Its creators founded
it in the face of what to practical people seemed insurmountable odds. They
thought it would be fun to prove that there was an active intelligentsia in the
South, and in Richmond in particular, capable of creating and sustaining primes
in the arts."
Richmond had a thriving literary scene in the 1910s and 1920s with the authors Ellen Ellen Glasgow and James Branch Cabell leading the
charge. The scene was greatly enhanced with the pair's many literary friendships with well known authors
like Carl Van Vechten,
H. L. Menchen, and Joseph Hergesheimer.
Edgar MacDonald writes of the birth of The Reviewer in James Branch Cabell and Richmond-in-Virginia: "A few weeks after the demise of the Evening Journal, the two reviewers conceived
the idea of continuing their literary careers in a publication of their own,
and Margaret Freeman, a close friend,
agreed to find credit and a printer. Another acquaintance, Mary Dallas Street,
contributed seed money to get the project started. A prospectus was sent to possible
subscribers in the South and to editors, publishers, and critics in New York."
Emily Clark would send writer Joesph Hergershimer marked up copies of the Reviewer with her notes on what was, in her opinion, good or bad in the lastest issue. Special Collections and Archives acquired Hergeshimer's complete set of Clark edited issues of the Reviewer.
Emily Clark took on the role of editor and soliciting copy. Hunter Stagg became the literary editor and was responsible for book
reviews. Mary Dallas Street was named associate editor and would later be responsible for the makeup of the magazine. Margaret
Freeman [who would become the second Mrs. James Branch Cabell in 1950] was
managing editor until she left Richmond the following year. Each member of the original editorial staff brought
a unique perspective to The Reviewer. Edgar MacDonald wrote:
"Fortunately for Richmond's literary history, the four "editors" of The Reviewer suffered from varying social liabilities. Emily Clark, daughter of a deceased Episcopal clergyman, was long on family, short on money, and devoid of beauty. Margaret Freeman was the outspoken, overly positive daughter of a Methodist bigot and a mother sensitive to a restrictive social position. Mary Dallas Street was from a monied family but was a large, masculine, red-faced woman termed by younger contemporaries "Mr." Street. Hunter Taylor Stagg, darkly handsome, subject to seizures from a near-fatal head wound at the age of seven, was a younger son of a father sinking into financial straits. All knew and associated with the "best people" in Richmond but were excluded from the inner circle based on family, money, and personal beauty, and consequently turned to cultural interests. Thus four social misfits joined forces to bring the Reviewer into being." [From James Branch Cabell and Richmond-in-Virginia.]
The group of friends quickly "enlisted the support of predominate Richmond writers, both those of national repute and those who were locally known and respected. James Branch Cabell headed their list, and Emily Clark and Hunter Stagg approached him first. His interest emboldened them to visit or write to all the others. Mary Johnston, who was a frequent visitor to the city, gave them her endorsement. Ellen Glasgow also gave them endorsement and encouragement.... They also won the backing of the city's two leading lady historians, Mary Newton Stanard and Sally Nelson Robins." [From Elizabeth S. Scott's article, Virginia Cavalcade.]
Noted contributors included Joseph Hergesheimer,
Mary Wingfield Scott, Carl Van Vechten, Amy Lowell, Gertrude Stein, John Galsworthy,
Robert Nathan, Frances Newman, Julia Peterkin, and Louis Untermeyer.
Scott writes: "Only The Reviewer's first volume, published during
the six-month trial subscription period, can be considered a Richmond
magazine. After that, with [H. L.] Mencken as Emily Clark's mentor and
James Branch Cabell serving for three months as guest editor to "show
four awed editors just how editing could and should be done," the magazine
became an enlarged monthly and a consciously southern publication."
The Reviewer survived by being able to secure high quality material for publication without
having to pay its contributors.
The early issues of the first six months were often filled with articles, poems and reviews written by the editors
themselves, friends and friends of friends. By this time the little magazine had started to attract attention outside of the
state. Well known writers Joseph Hergesheimer and Carl Van Vechten quickly joined the ranks as frequent contributors.
The magazine enjoyed a modest success in the literary world thanks in
part to the stewardship of James Branch Cabell's editing in
the first three months after its inception and H. L.
Mencken's mentoring of Emily Clark until she left her post as editor after
nearly fours years. At the time of her departure
the magazine was solvent which was an usual state and had a "friendly" circulation of roughly twelve-hundred subscribers.
"When in 1924, Emily Clark and Hunter Stagg finally decided to write
rather than to edit and announced their intention of giving up the editorship,
Mencken urged that the magazine transfer to Chapel Hill, North Carolina,
fearing "that more traditional Southern writers would take control of
the magazine if it remained in Richmond."The
Reviewer only narrowly
escaped being taken over by those who wanted to put it under the patronage
of the Poe Shrine and turn it into a revival of the Southern Literary
Messenger [which had been published in Richmond]." [From Elizabeth S. Scott's article
in Virginia Cavalcade.]
The Reviewer came to an end after Emily Clark married Edwin Swift
Balch and moved to Philadelphia in 1924. It survived one more year after
moving to Chapel Hill under the tutelage of Paul Green only for him to
be overwhelmed by the time the publication of each issue required. He
eventually persuaded J. B. Hubbell to merge The Reviewer with the Southwest Review after a failed attempt to get Clark to resume
See this site's Bibliography/Links
page for sources of information
on The Reviewer.