Russell’s Magazine was the last of the southern antebellum literary magazines and arguably the best. It should be credited for a desire to keep politics out of literary assessments, although in practice this objectivity applied only as long as slavery was not in any way attacked or “falsely” portrayed. It was also the home base for two of the best poets in antebellum South Carolina, Paul Hamilton Hayne (its editor) and Henry Timrod, poet and critic. Russell’s was the magazine of the professional middle class—lawyers, college faculty, and doctors. In Charleston the magazine had the support of two literary groups. The first, the Wigwam, met at William Gilmore Simms’s town residence for little suppers, while the second and larger group met in John Russell’s Charleston bookstore. They were confirmed conservatives, Charles- ton’s most literary and literate professionals, and all males.
Hayne promised to publish “undiscovered genius” in the South, largely due to the reluctance of northern editors to publish southern writers. The only undiscovered genius, however, turned out to be Henry Timrod. George C. Hurlbut was added as assistant editor to help Hayne, but no one could solve either the financial problems or the political ones as secession and war drew nearer. At another time Russell’s might have succeeded, but the clock had run too late. Its last issue appeared in March 1860.
Hayne did coax Timrod into writing his version of “What Is Poetry?” (October 1857), presenting a case for romanticism as opposed to the conservative taste for neoclassicism evidenced in the literary opinions of William J. Grayson, author of The Hireling and the Slave. The result was a version of the ancients versus the moderns and the neoclassicists versus the romantics that reveals much about the hesitancy of Charleston professional men to accept change in literature. It was, however, the works published by the South Carolina triumvirate of Timrod, Hayne, and Simms that distinguished Russell’s Magazine.
Calhoun, Richard J. “The Ante-Bellum Literary Twilight: Russell’s Magazine.” Southern Literary Journal 3 (fall 1970): 89–110.
Longton, William Henry. “Russell’s Magazine 1857–1860.” In The Conservative Press in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century America, edited by Ronald Lora and William Henry Longton. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1999.