Atlantic, The

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ATLANTIC, THE. One of the nation's most distinguished and long-lived magazines, the Atlantic Monthly has been publishing continuously since 1857. No journal has showcased more illustrious American writers, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Harriet Beecher Stowe to William F. Buckley and Toni Morrison.

The Atlantic was originally an organ of Boston's male literary elite. Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. were early contributors. Its first editor was James Russell Lowell.

In the years after the Civil War, the Atlantic's scope became national. The novelist William Dean Howells served as editor during the 1870s, increasing the number of writers drawn from outside New England and making the Atlantic into one of the most influential proponents of literary realism, publishing writers such as Mark Twain, Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Sarah Orne Jewett.

The magazine distinctly fell behind the times in the 1890s. While it offered some sharp political commentary, it was not until 1909, when Ellery Sedgwick became editor, that the Atlantic took a new direction. Sedgwick, who remained editor until 1938, combined a feel for literary innovation and incisive political writing while maintaining the stately tone of the journal. He published Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein, among others. Circulation rose significantly. Sedgwick published a range of opinion, but he himself was conservative, defending the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in the Atlantic during the 1930s.

Edward A. Weeks, editor from 1938 to 1966, continued Sedgwick's editorial tradition while making the magazine's politics more liberal. The Atlantic hit another slump during the 1970s and was in danger of closing. In 1980, publisher Morton Zuckerman bought the magazine. He hired William Whitworth as editor, who published very high-quality political and cultural commentary. Zuckerman sold the Atlantic in 1999. It remains one of the more influential journals of opinion in the nation.


Howe, M. A. De Wolfe. The Atlantic Monthly and Its Makers. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1919. Reprint, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972.

Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines, 1850–1865. 5 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1938.


See alsoMagazines .