fiction, poetry, and literary criticismnare just window dressing, high-tonednafterthoughts. The Atlantic says it allnwith a Table of Contents heading:n”Humor and Fiction.” Literature maynbe good for a few laughs or help to passnthe time at the beach, but today’snmagazine editors have serious businessnto attend to.nWe need not cross the Atlantic andngo back to the days of Addison’s Spectatornor Sam Johnson’s Rambler, ofnFrancis Jeffrey’s Edinburgh Review andnThackeray’s Cornhill to find widelynread journals serious about literature.nWe need not even return to Poe’snSouthern Literary Messenger, WilliamnDean Howells’s Atlantic Monthly, ornG. W. Curtis’s Harpers New MonthlynMagazine. In the opening decades ofnthis century, America enjoyed a halfdozennlarge-circulation magazines devotednchiefly to literature, includingnHarper’s, Century, The Bookman,nScribner’s, and Saturday Review ofnLiterature. In the early 1920’s, a typicalnissue of Harper’s Monthly Magazine,nfor instance, featured fiction bynConrad Aiken, Wilbur Daniel Steele,nor G. K. Chesterton — as well asnlesser-known writers. Poetry, too, wasna Harper’s mainstay in the 20’s, withnverse coming from A. A. Milne, CarlnSandburg, and now almost forgottennversifiers such as Florence Keady andnMorrie Ryskind. At the same time.nThe Saturday Evening Post was publishingnRing Lardner, Stephen VincentnBenet, Willa Gather, TheodorenDreiser, and Joseph Conrad. The literarynstandards were perhaps even highernat Scribner’s, where editors RobertnBridges and Fritz Dashiell had theninside track with the Scribner’s stable;nF. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson,nErnest Hemingway, ErskinenCaldwell, John Galsworthy, andnThomas Wolfe. Scribner’s poetry camenfrom such pens as Mark Van Doren,nEdmund Wilson, and John HallnWheelock.nBy the 1920’s, The Atlantic Monthlynhad become much less literary thannit had been under Howells or undernBliss Perry (who left The Atlantic fornHarvard in 1909), but it was still possiblento find—amid the articles on “ThenDecline of Crime in Great Britain” orn”Disarmament—An American Plan”n—first-rate literary criticism on SamuelnJohnson, Charles Dickens, IzaaknWalton, or A. E. Housman. Poetrynthen offered by The Atlantic includednthat of Archibald MacLeish, AmynLowell, and Sara Teasdale.nAlso auguring well for the state ofnAmerican literature was the appearancenin 1924 of the Saturday Reviewnof Literature under the editorship ofnHenry Seidel Canby, a professor ofnEnglish at Yale. Originally started inn1920 as a supplement to the New YorknEvening Post, the Saturday Reviewnattempted “an audacious shifting fromnthe timely … to present aspects ofnthe eternal” by surveying “the best innfiction, poetry, and the general fields.”nThe effort fast won the support of suchndistinguished writers as Joseph WoodnKrutch, George Santayana, and VannWyck Brooks and poets such as Walternde la Mare, Conrad Aiken, and Mari­nnnanne Moore. But this flowering ofnliterary journalism did not last. It was anbad sign that when Harold W. Rossnfounded The New Yorker, his attemptnto woo the flapper generation was onlynsuperficially literary, offering lightnverse (Ogden Nash), satire (JamesnThurber), and witty commentary onnthe manners, entertainments, morals,nand fashions of the rich. As EugenenExman, an editor at Harper’s, put it,nthe new magazine was for “the modernnreader”—“cynical of moral, religious,nsocial, political, and economicnstandards” and in search of “newnvalues.”nIt was, Exman explains in ThenHouse of Harper, because of the rise ofnthese new attitudes among readers thatnThomas B. Wells, editor of Harper’s,nhad decided in 1925 that the magazinenOCTOBER 1985141n