The Dial: The New England American Literary Magazine

Also Read

      THE DIAL.—Transcendentalism had for its organ a magazine called The Dial, which was published quarterly for four years, from 1840 to 1844. Margaret Fuller, its first editor, was a woman of wide reading and varied culture, and she had all the enthusiasm of the Elizabethans. Carlyle said of her, "Such a predetermination to eat this big Universe as her oyster or her egg, and to be absolute empress of all height and glory in it that her heart could conceive, I have not before seen in any human soul." She was determined to do her part in ushering in a new social and spiritual world, and it seemed to her that The Dial would be a mighty lever in accomplishing this result. She struggled for two years to make the magazine a success. Then ill health and poverty compelled her to turn the editorship over to Emerson, who continued the struggle for two years longer.

The Dial: American Literary Magazine
The Dial

      Some of Emerson's best poems were first published in The Dial, as were his lecture on The Transcendentalist and many other articles by him. Thoreau wrote for almost every number. Some of the articles were dull, not a few were vague, but many were an inspiration to the age, and their resultant effect is still felt in our life and literature. Much of the minor poetry was good and stimulating. William Channing (1818-1901) published in The Dial his Thoughts, in which we find lines that might serve as an epitaph for a life approved by a transcendentalist:—

 "It flourished in pure willingness;
 Discovered strongest earnestness;
 Was fragrant for each lightest wind;
 Was of its own particular kind;—
 Nor knew a tone of discord sharp;
 Breathed alway like a silver harp;
 And went to immortality."

      While turning the pages of The Dial, we shall often meet with sentiments as full of meaning to us as to the people of that time. Among such we may instance:—

 "Rest is not quitting
 The busy career;
 Rest is the fitting
 Of self to its sphere."

      Occasionally we shall find an expression fit to become a fireside motto:—

 "I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty;
 I woke, and found that life was duty."

      The prose in The Dial reflects the new spirit. In the first volume we may note such expressions of imaginative enthusiasm as:—

      "The reason why Homer is to me like dewy morning is because I too lived while Troy was and sailed in the hollow ships of the Grecians…. And Shakespeare in King John does but recall me to myself in the dress of another age, the sport of new accidents. I, who am Charles, was sometime Romeo. In Hamlet I pondered and doubted. We forget that we have been drugged with the sleepy bowl of the Present."

      In the same volume we find some of Alcott's famous Orphic Sayings, of which the following is a sample:—

      "Engage in nothing that cripples or degrades you. Your first duty is self-culture, self-exaltation: you may not violate this high trust. Yourself is sacred, profane it not. Forge no chains wherewith to shackle your own members. Either subordinate your vocation to your life or quit it forever."

      A writer on Ideals of Every Day Life in The Dial for January, 1841, suggested a thought that is finding an echo in the twentieth century:—

 "No one has a right to live merely to get a living. And this is what is meant by drudgery."

      Two lines in the last volume voice the new spirit of growth and action:—

 "I am never at anchor, I never shall be;
 I am sailing the glass of infinity's sea."

      The Dial afforded an outlet for the enthusiasms, the aspirations, the ideals of life, during a critical period in New England's renaissance. No other periodical during an equal time has exerted more influence on the trend of American literature.

Previous Post Next Post