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Original Atlantic reviews of classic books. How did The Atlantic review Charles Dickens's Great Expectations in 1861? What did The Atlantic make of Lolita in 1958?

"A History of The Atlantic Monthly" (1994)
"The first issue of The Atlantic Monthly appeared in November of 1857, and the magazine, which billed itself as a 'journal of literature, politics, science, and the arts,' was an immediate success." By Cullen Murphy

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The Edith Wharton Society
Since 1983, the society has held conferences and published the Edith Wharton Review. The site includes links to information about Wharton, the text of her works, and a discussion list.

The House of Wharton

July 25, 2001
Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton in the early 1880s

lmost a century after the original publication of her major works, Edith Wharton's closely observed, unsentimental depictions of American society at the turn of the century continue to resonate with readers. In 1997-98 the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery presented an exhibit titled Edith Wharton's World, displaying portraits of Wharton and those in her circle along with detailed biographical information. And with the recent release of a critically acclaimed Sony Pictures Classics film version of Wharton's novel, The House of Mirth, and the publication of two Library of America volumes featuring Wharton's short stories, attention is once again being drawn to Wharton and her writing.

From Atlantic Unbound:

Poetry Pages: "Recollecting Longfellow" (October 19, 2000)
In The Atlantic's early years, he was the poet of the age. But was he a great poet? David Barber introduces a selection of Longfellow's poems that were originally published in The Atlantic.
From the very beginning of her career, Wharton had close ties to The Atlantic. In the fall of 1878 a friend of the family's passed some of her poems along to Atlantic co-founder and contributor Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who in turn passed them along to the editor at the time, William Dean Howells. Eager to discover new talent, Howells, who later became a friend of Wharton's, published five of her poems—"The Parting Day" (February 1880), "Areopagus" (March 1880), "A Failure" (April 1880), "Patience" (April 1880), and "Wants" (May 1880).

Among other verses by Wharton to appear in The Atlantic's pages were "Euryalus" (December 1889), "Mould and Vase" (September 1901), and "Ogrin the Hermit" (December 1909).

In 1903 Wharton, who had by then begun publishing short stories in Scribners, complained in a letter to The Atlantic's editor Bliss Perry,
Why have you never asked me for a story for the Atlantic? I am tired of waiting ... My usual price for a short story is $500 but I know that the Atlantic does not pay as high prices as the illustrated magazines and I shall be quite satisfied with this ... first because I have always thought it was an honor to appear in the Atlantic and secondly because I believe it is always advantageous to a writer to get a fresh audience.
Her petition was successful: the following year The Atlantic Monthly published her story "The House of the Dead Hand" (August 1904), the tragic tale of a young woman kept from the man she loves by a domineering father. And eight years later, her short story "The Long Run" (February 1912), about the consequences of a man's decision not to run away with a married woman, was published as the cover story. That issue of The Atlantic sold out in just two days.

Wharton expressed her fondness and respect for the magazine that had helped establish her career in an undated letter to Perry. "I cannot tell you how much praise I think you deserve for maintaining the tradition of what a good magazine should be in the face of our howling mob of critics and readers," she wrote. "And I hope that the Atlantic will long continue to nurse its little flame of sweetness and light in the chaotic darkness of American 'literary' conditions."

Her close relationship with the magazine did not save her from a mixed review, however, when she published her second novel, The House of Mirth, in 1905. In January, 1906, Mary Moss wrote, "For all its brilliancy, The House of Mirth has a certain shallowness; it is thin. At best, Lily can only inspire interest and curiosity. You see, you understand, and you ratify, but unfortunately, you do not greatly care." A later review by the frequent Atlantic contributor Henry Dwight Sedgwick was more liberal with its praise. Sedgwick suggested, in "The Novels of Mrs. Wharton" (August 1906), that Wharton's developing talents as a storyteller were finally coming into full flower as she turned her hand to writing novels.
On reading The House of Mirth, the first sensation of everybody, included or not among those whose plebiscite granted the laurel, was one of exultation, of "I told you so," as they recognized all Mrs. Wharton's talents, but better and brighter. Her mastery of the episode is as dashing as ever, and more delicate.
This summer The Atlantic Monthly once again addresses the work of Edith Wharton in a review by the British novelist Margaret Drabble of two collections of Wharton's short stories which were published this winter. In "Wharton's Sharp Eye" (July/August 2001) Drabble discusses a number of Wharton's stories individually, and offers an impressive portrait of Wharton as a woman who shrewdly observed and captured the social landscape of her time.
Wharton had a sharp eye for the whims and dictates of fashion in literature, in art, in intellectual debate, in décor, and in haute couture. She could detect a fake, and she could recognize the real thing. She was in every sense a well-traveled woman of the world, and the range of her discrimination was considerable. She was no modernist in manner, but she was formidably well read and relentlessly up-to-the-minute—indeed, ahead-of-the-minute—in her methods of social analysis. Her astute perception of the changing of fashion in morals has long been recognized as one of the major strengths of her novels, and in many of these stories she applied herself to charting the new social map of the twentieth century.
—Kushal Dave

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Kushal Dave is an intern for The Atlantic Online.

Copyright © 2001 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.