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The Virginia Quarterly Review, 1925–1935

A “National Journal” in the New South

PUBLISHED: June 11, 2009


The Virginia Quarterly Review was first published by the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in the spring of 1925. Conceived as a “national journal of discussion,” the journal was created by liberal Southern educators who sought to cultivate a “fellowship of uncongenial minds” among editors, writers and readers in the South, in an era when the region was publicly derided for its lack of intellectual leadership and debate.1 But while every issue of VQR made room for Southern authors and Southern topics, VQR was self-consciously styled as a national journal. It contained articles on topics of national interest, written by authors from all parts of the nation, and was read by a broadly national, although very limited, audience. By publishing a “national” journal based in Virginia, VQR editors—first James Southall Wilson (1925–1931), later succeeded by his assistants Stringfellow Barr (1931–1934) and Lambert Davis (1934–1938)—hoped to draw the South into conversation with the rest of the nation, not as a junior partner or as an oddball cousin, but as an equal participant in discussions of national scope.

In a sense, the Virginia Quarterly Review was a two-headed creature. To its Southern constituents, the journal sought to demonstrate the necessity and viability of critical discourse. To the rest of the nation, it aimed to prove that a “fellowship of uncongenial minds” could exist in the South, free of old sentiments of sectionalism and separation—and indeed, that a journal published in the South could make a vital contribution to national discussions.

VQR editors never fully resolved the tension between these two roles in the journal’s first decade. For example, in spite of VQR’s struggle to develop a national identity during its first decade, the tenth anniversary issue featured Southern writers exclusively—and VQR was hailed by newspapers throughout the country for bringing together the brightest and most critical minds in the South. While it succeeded in demonstrating the vitality of Southern intellectual life, this exclusively Southern issue highlighted the continued distinction between Southern intellectuals and their counterparts in the rest of the nation.

The founding years of the Virginia Quarterly Review demonstrate the complex and often paradoxical motives, values and goals of the Southern liberal leaders who created the journal. The story of VQR also shows how these people built an institution intended to set their ideology into motion. For people who valued rational discourse and the free dissemination of knowledge above all else, VQR must have seemed an essential vehicle for progress in the South.

The Virginia Quarterly Review’s identity as an elite and eclectic national journal of discussion was a calculated, self-conscious response to the charges of cultural sterility which critics had leveled at the South. The editors wanted VQR to be perceived as the embodiment of the best qualities of liberalism in the South. They defined liberalism as the critical and rational discussion of all issues, Southern and national, which they felt would bring the South into full partnership with the rest of the nation.

The contents of VQR during the first ten years reveal it as a journal of national scope. While almost every issue contained at least one article on a Southern subject, no issue (except for the 1935 anniversary issue) was dominated by Southern topics or by Southern authors. The contents of the magazine varied widely; of approximately 330 articles published from 1925 to 1935, almost half dealt with history, politics, and economics—either Southern, national, or international in scope.

Almost eighty of the remaining feature articles were devoted to literary criticism. A wide variety of essays—for example, on nature, philosophy, art, and travel—as well as poetry and occasionally fiction and drama, made up the rest of VQR’s contents during this period. Every issue included a section called “Discussion of New Books” which featured five to ten book reviews on topics as widely varied as the feature articles.2

The contents of the Virginia Quarterly Review reveal the affirmative results of editorial decisions, but there are other, and better, ways of examining the relationship between the ideas which motivated the editors and the institutional expressions those ideas assumed. The impetus for founding the journal, the editors’ choice of writers to solicit and manuscripts to reject, the advertisements they ran, their circulation goals, their publicity campaigns, and their correspondence, public writings and speeches, all these disclose a great deal about VQR editors and the mission of the magazine they founded.

Taken together, the different currents of VQR’s first decade reveal which issues most preoccupied Southern intellectuals in the 1920s and 1930s. On the one hand was their desire to demonstrate to intellectuals in other parts of the nation that critical discourse could exist in the South, and to overcome the problems posed by the region’s scant financial resources, its physical isolation from the nation’s publishing centers, and its limited reading public. On the other hand were the substantive issues contained in the contents of the journal, which reveal where the limits of Southern liberalism lay: the tyranny of the unchallenged political order of the “Solid South”; the issue of race relations in the South; and the twin issues of the region’s perennial impoverishment and the advent of industrialism in the 1920s.

Several episodes in particular demonstrate how VQR functioned as an institutional embodiment of Southern liberalism. First was the combination of events which resulted in the creation of VQR: on the one hand, University of Virginia President Edwin A. Alderman’s desire for a journal in an era of growth and relative wealth at the University of Virginia, made more pronounced by his awareness that the other leading universities in the South had founded similar journals; and, on the other hand, the influential criticisms of intellectual life in the South written by Baltimore pundit H. L. Mencken and others.

A particluarly revealing episode from VQR’s early years was the publication of an article on race relations by a retired newspaper writer from South Carolina, Charlton Wright. The story of this article’s publication reveals much of the editorial policies and processes of VQR, and the relationship of the journal to writers and newspaper editors in the South. The Wright episode also helps define the limits of Southern liberalism on the issue of race in the early 1930s.

Finally, there is the story of Stringfellow Barr’s widely publicized debate with Nashville Agrarian leader John Crowe Ransom in 1931. In the context of VQR, this debate becomes important not only for the substance of Barr’s and Ransom’s disagreement, but for the ways they spun this disagreement into a publicity circus from which they both benefited. The debate over industrialization which the Agrarians stimulated in the early 1930s gave Southern intellectuals a focus they maintained through much of the decade. For the editors of VQR, the Agrarians provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to everyone the vitality of Southern intellectual life, and to encourage their readers to examine seriously the effects of industrialization on the South’s regional identity.

An examination of the circulation and distribution strategies undertaken by VQR editors reveals that the magazine was read both throughout the South and nationally. Although VQR’s direct audience was limited, the editors targeted influential writers and editors across the nation, often sending them complimentary copies of the journal. These writers would then relay the contents of VQR, usually in the form of editorials, to their own larger audiences.

Each of the first three VQR editors hoped that the magazine would take its place among the well-known national quarterlies, rather than alongside other Southern university publications. To this end, they invited comparisons of VQR with the Yale Review and other well-established national journals, and they visited New York and New England regularly in order to cultivate relationships with prominent non-Southern writers and editors. At the same time, they sought to establish themselves as the nexus of the growing community of liberal newspaper writers and editors in the South, who often felt quite isolated in the small towns where they worked.

In their own way, the editors of VQR worked to change their region, but the elitist nature of their enterprise cannot be mistaken. Their writings and their work at VQR reveal them to be men who believed deeply that what the South needed most was a properly educated and critically-minded class of leaders. In retrospect we might perceive that the success of VQR only diverted attention from the problems which the majority of Southerners continued to face. As a “liberal but reasonable” journal, which Wilson promised in 1925 would be published with “more than a modicum of old-fashioned courtesy and good taste,” VQR reflects the ambivalence of Southern liberals like Wilson, Barr, and Davis, who sought to speak in a national voice in spite of their own distinctly Southern accents.3

In the first ten years of VQR, the primary challenge which the journal’s editors faced was the problematic task of publishing a national journal in Virginia, while still maintaining a regional identity peculiar to the South. Reviewing the tenth anniversary issue of VQR in 1935, the editors of the New York Times wrote that the South now seemed to possess the most distinguished group of writers in the nation. This issue marked the triumph of the journal’s first ten years, but it was praised as a Southern, rather than as a national journal—suggesting the unresolved contradiction inherent in the journal’s desire to blend Southern writing into the national discourse.4

I. The Founding of the Journal

James Southall Wilson, the founding editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, introduced the journal in the spring of 1925 as “an organ of liberal opinion” which would “seek to publish papers . . . in the fields of literature, public affairs, fine arts and the sciences.” The quarterly’s aim, Wilson wrote, was “to be liberal but reasonable; open to the discussions of all topics and to all stimulating and engaging points of view.” Previously, in a letter to a potential underwriter of the University of Virginia’s new quarterly, Wilson had described his plans for a magazine “of a broad nature without being too narrowly specialistic or local. . . . In general broadly national in spirit and aims, it will seek to develop a group of Southern contributors and to contain from time to time articles of special interest to Southern readers.”5 But the journal, as Edwin Alderman conceived it, would be “in no sense a local or sectional publication.” Nor would it be an “organ of University of Virginia opinion.” Rather, its editors would seek as contributors “men and women everywhere who think through things and have some quality of expressing their thought in appealing and arresting fashion.”6

VQR was founded in the midst of a major surge in Southern arts and letters in the 1920s and 1930s. Historians have most often spoken of this “Southern Renaissance” as a post-World War I phenomenon. One of the tangible components of this awakening was the creation of numerous literary and critical journals like the Virginia Quarterly Review, which seem to have popped up overnight throughout the South in the 1920s. But in fact, Alderman had conceived of publishing “a review of national scope” at the University of Virginia as early as 1904, when he came to Charlottesville as president of the university. Eleven years later, he again called for “a magazine solidly based . . . to become a great serious publication,” but he had yet to hire a staff and to raise the necessary funds for the journal.7

In 1919, shortly after James Wilson began teaching at the University of Virginia English Department, Alderman persuaded him to take over the editorship of the university’s Alumni Bulletin, with the promise that in time he would replace the Bulletin with “a magazine of discussion.” Several years passed before Wilson, growing impatient with the Alumni Bulletin, approached Alderman with an ultimatum: he was ready to write a biography of Edgar Allen Poe, and if he began writing he would be unavailable to edit the quarterly Alderman had proposed. At that point the two men began to work in earnest to raise money and to establish specific goals for what would become the Virginia Quarterly Review.8

While serving successively as president of the University of North Carolina, Tulane University, and the University of Virginia, Alderman had become widely recognized among Southern educators for his ability to raise sorely needed funds for Southern schools. As a leader of the Southern Education Board from 1901 until its dissolution in 1914, Alderman had been particularly successful at gaining the support of Northern philanthropists as he worked to publicize and raise money for schools in the South. By raising capital for and promoting the academic strength of the leading Southern universities, Alderman hoped to cultivate an indigenous Southern elite who he felt would break the region’s cycle of poverty. At the same time, Alderman and his colleagues on the Southern Education Board saw their “intersectional” partnership with Northern business and philanthropic leaders as an important stride toward sectional reconciliation.9

During the mid-1920s Alderman oversaw a period of major growth at the University of Virginia. He raised several hundred thousand dollars for the medical department; in 1924–25, fifteen new faculty members were hired; the following year, the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, funded by a Rockefeller grant, was established; new facilities were built and enrollment rose steadily. In this climate of increasing financial support and institutional expansion, Alderman’s plans for the new quarterly finally got under way.10

II. The “Sahara of the Bozart” and the Southern Renaissance

While these changes were taking place within the University of Virginia, external pressures, which were critical to the identity VQR would finally assume, were also mounting. Since around the turn of the century, nearly every leading university in the South but the University of Virginia had founded at least one quarterly journal. And Alderman, like many Southern liberal intellectuals, grew increasingly sensitive to attacks published by critics like H. L. Mencken, who ridiculed Southerners for their muddied thinking, their political apathy, and their indifference to good books and fine arts.11 Mencken’s essays never offered precise analysis or detailed prescriptions for change, but their rhetoric was blistering, and the South was one of his favorite targets.

A number of journals had been founded in Southern universities in the years prior to 1920. The Sewanee Review, primarily a literary journal, had been published at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, since 1892. The South Atlantic Quarterly first appeared at Trinity College (later Duke University) in Durham, North Carolina, in 1902. The University of Texas produced the Southwestern Historical Quarterly (1897), the Texas Review (1915) and the Southwestern Political Science Quarterly (1920); the University of North Carolina began publishing Studies in Philology in 1906 and The Journal of Social Forces in 1922. While these journals were mostly specialized academic publications, the Virginia Quarterly Review was intended to appeal to a general-interest, well-educated audience.12

VQR consciously sought to confound the charges which Mencken had brought against the South in his most resounding essay, “The Sahara of the Bozart.” Mencken’s article, circulated nationally in 1920, referred to “that stupendous region of worn-out farms, shoddy cities, and paralyzed cerebrums. . . . It is almost as sterile, artistically, intellectually, culturally, as the Sahara Desert.” Mencken directed his most bitter condemnation specifically at Virginia, chiding the state for its dramatic lapse from “the great days” when it was

indubitably the premier American state, the mother of Presidents, . . . the home of the first American university worthy of the name, the arbiter elegantiarum of the Western world. It is years since a first-rate man, save only [Richmond satirist James Branch] Cabell, has come out of it; it is years since an idea has come out of it.13

Emily Clark, editor of the Reviewer, a Richmond magazine, declared that after the publication of “Sahara,” Mencken became “a state of mind” among Southern writers. Mencken’s barbs certainly found their mark at the University of Virginia. Alderman remarked in a letter in 1925 that Mencken was in “enormous vogue” at the university: “Practically every intelligent member of the University . . . has read Mencken’s essay on ‘The Sahara of the Bozart.’” And the article, Alderman believed, was “on the whole . . . doing good in the South.”14

Thus Mencken’s rhetoric (and the writing of other critics who imitated his style), to a great extent helped shape the identity of VQR as a magazine which invited the “fellowship of uncongenial minds.” A 1927 advertisement for VQR echoed precisely the language of the “Sahara” article in its promise to its readers—though predictably, it shifted the focus away from the South, speaking of “America’s” need for fresh air:

The benighted heathen in torrid lands sells water—just plain water—in the streets. But nobody thought it necessary to sell fresh air, not even in the enlightened slums of our industrial centers. Yet fresh air is the scarcest commodity on record. . . . America needs it badly, and there are more and more Americans demanding it. They want not only to sleep with their windows open. They want to think with them open too. Fresh air does not frighten them. Stale and stuffy ideas do. They have no propaganda ax to grind, no party log to roll. They like to read writers who think until it hurts. . . . They insist on the original; on mere stock opinions being blown away or anyhow thoroughly ventilated. They insist on it, and they are getting regularly what they demand.

They are the readers of the Virginia Quarterly Review.15

Mencken’s rhetoric struck a nerve among Southern critics because they recognized the truth in his hyperbole. The years following 1900 had seen growing repression in a region already marked by poverty, violence, and racial strife. The story of economic and physical violence in the early twentieth century South is a familiar one. One by one, the Southern states had systematically disfranchised blacks by the turn of the century, by rewriting their state constitutions, creating poll taxes, and manipulating voting registration qualifications. Tenant farming increasingly offered little but thankless toil and financial indebtedness to black farmers in the South. Segregation not only denied blacks access to much of the economic opportunity which whites in the South enjoyed, but was dehumanizing and spiritually corrosive to everyone in the South.

Segregation and disfranchisement in the South were accompanied by a dramatic shutdown of political and intellectual dissent in the years before the 1920s. This suppression was often violent. George B. Tindall captures the feeling of fear and repression in the 1920s when he writes, “By 1921 the Klan was a national phenomenon, but its influence was nowhere so pervasive or violent as in the South. Its progress across the region left a trail of threats, brandings, floggings, emasculation, and murder.” As North Carolina sociologist Howard Odum pointed out, “during the Ku Klux era one was advised . . . to keep one’s mouth shut because one never knew who was around.”16

Significantly, though, as historian John Kneebone points out, liberal journalists in the South “gained their liberal reputations in the 1920s not as racial reformers but rather as defenders of the intellectual and cultural liberties of white southerners such as themselves against indigenous forces of intolerance.” For example, in 1924, Nation magazine published an article in which Richmond News-Leader editor Douglas Southall Freeman issued a challenge to his “Gentle Dominion” of Virginia. Writing that the state had been controlled by the Democratic party since the Civil War, Freeman called for what would amount to a bi-partisan system within the Democratic party, arguing that this would help revive Virginia from its alarming state of political apathy. He charged that liberal Virginians, despairing of their hope of being elected or passing legislation through the conservative state legislature, had let indifference overcome them. In addition, he wrote, “the skeleton in the great Widow’s closet”—the disfranchisement of black voters after 1902—had made it so difficult to vote that in a state of 2,300,000 as few as 200,000 Virginians typically voted in a general election. As Freeman’s article suggests, disfranchisement’s inevitable result was the virtual elimination of political dissent. But it was the political tyranny that accompanied disfranchisement, rather than the racial basis of restricted suffrage, that most distressed Freeman.17

In the 1920s, then, Southern liberals were concerned not only with the substantive problems that faced the South—financing public education, fighting political apathy and racial violence, and attracting industry and capital to the region—but with fighting the impingement on their own intellectual freedom. While articles like Freeman’s appeared regularly in national media outlets in the 1920s, it was easy for detractors to dismiss such magazines as alien to the South, and their articles as creations of the New York media. But at the same time, Mencken’s attacks embarrassed Southern liberals, and nationally circulated articles like Freeman’s drew increasing attention to the anemia of liberal leadership in the South. It was into this climate that the Virginia Quarterly Review was born.

III. A “Liberal But Reasonable” Journal and Its Editors

In an effort to attract as wide an audience as possible, and to keep from being too easily labeled a “Southern” journal, VQR editors published a wide variety of articles in every issue. An early VQR advertisement portrays an editor pondering the tensions among the journal’s various audiences:

One reader writes, “I like your Review better than any magazine I see, but why call it ‘Virginia?’ It has no more about Virginia than most other magazines. I think you ought to have certainly two articles each issue on strictly Virginia or at least Southern topics.” Then I see an old friend from Philadelphia. “Fine work you’re doing on the Quarterly,” he says; “only one criticism atmosphere too Southern and too Democratic.” Next a fine old gentleman of the Best Traditions sweetly but firmly suggests that this or that in the Quarterly was a sin against the Past and a week later The Baltimore Sun invites my attention to North Carolina for a lesson in real liberalism. So there you are. What’s an editor of any magazine in the South to do? He can’t please everybody.18

As this advertisement demonstrates, VQR was perceived differently by each of its various constituencies.

The tension between VQR’s twin roles as a national and a Southern journal is also evident in the circulation strategies initiated by the editors. To boost the circulation, managing editor Stringfellow Barr sent out form letters in late 1926 to potential subscribers in various regions of the country. One letter, aimed at Virginia natives living in New York, read in part:

As a Virginian living in the North, you must have been often asked embarrassing questions about the intellectual life of the State you love. I know I have. Even most Northerners who admire the background and social distinction and romance of the oldest State, look on her as intellectually sterile and decadent. Where in Virginia, or indeed in the South, is there published any periodical reflecting genuine intellectual activity - not sentimental “Confederate” stuff, but something a Virginian could feel happy to have his Northern or European friends pick up from his library table?

The Virginia Quarterly Review, Barr declared, was such a journal. He continued: “Its articles are quoted and its verse reprinted by newspapers throughout the country. . . . Its contributors are Southern, Northern, English, Continental—whoever can write best what cultivated people want to read. Here is something with which you can match anything published in the North. To Virginians living in the North it will be as welcome as ammunition to a frontline trench!” While Barr’s letter is full of the hyperbole and rhetorical flourishes one would expect from a promotional letter, it reveals the self-consciousness which he felt and which he assumed other Southerners felt—about the quality of intellectual life in the South.19

As Barr’s letter indicates, VQR not only brought articles on a wide range of topics to its Southern audience, but among its national readership it also functioned as a publicity organ for the South. By aggressively drawing non- Southern writers and readers to the journal, the editors hoped to expose their Southern readers to national and international issues, and at the same time to expose the national and international audiences to Southern issues.

VQR never had a large circulation; the number of subscribers averaged between 1,600 and 2,000 from 1925 to 1935, and showed no growth during those years. Probably about two hundred of these subscribers were university and public libraries.20 Anywhere from 2,100 to 3,200 copies of each issue were printed, and complimentary copies were distributed to newspapers editors and prominent authors. These writers would then relate to their own larger audiences the ideas first published in VQR. This strategy allowed VQR, in spite of its limited circulation, to multiply its readership geometrically throughout the South and other parts of the nation and, to a lesser degree, into Europe.21

In soliciting writers for the early issues of VQR, James Southall Wilson sought out nationally prominent writers as well as academic colleagues. He also made certain that complimentary copies of the journal found their way to the desks of the Saturday Review of Literature, (after unsuccessfully soliciting Saturday Review editor Henry S. Canby for a contribution to the first issue of VQR), to the Nation, the New Republic, the New York newspapers, and to other national media outlets. VQR advertised in the Contemporary Review, the Modern Quarterly, Dial, the Greenwich Village Quill, and other avant-garde New York publications.

The strategy paid off. The New York press noted from VQR’s inception that the journal was “a new departure in Southern publications.” The New York World, commenting on the first issue, remarked that “the average reader when he picks up a magazine from somewhere south of the Potomac is likely to throw it down after a few minutes on account of the hopelessly sentimental flavor of it. But the new review is different stuff: it is no sleepy symposium on the virtues of the late Confederacy. . . . Conventional intellectual conformity seems to be far from the intention of the editors.”22

The New York Times ran a number of editorials on VQR articles which treated both Southern and national topics. In addition, VQR was read by the editors of the Cleveland News, the Fayette Review of Fayette, Ohio, and other midwestern newspaper editors; in Washington, D.C., representatives of the American Federation of Labor, the Treasury Department, senators and congressmen, and State Department officials were reading VQR.23

There was a limited but influential international readership as well. In 1927 Wilson noted that although VQR had not actively sought a British audience, there were a half-dozen subscribers in Britain; in France, the Annales de la Societe J. J. Rousseau reviewed an article published in VQR, and the editors of the Paris Monde wrote asking VQR editors if they cared to swap advertisement space.24 In 1930, Garrett G. Ackerson, Jr., wrote Wilson from the American Consular Service in South Africa. Ackerson complimented Wilson on VQR, which helped him maintain his contacts “with the history and present developments in the South. Such an article [as the] discussion on Leadership in the South, are of particular interest to one who is now a resident abroad, and who finds it difficult to keep up with the vast changes which are taking place throughout the entire South.” Wilson took this as an unintentionally backhanded compliment, insisting in his response to Ackerson that VQR was not primarily a Southern journal.25

But while Wilson claimed that VQR was a national journal, it was first and last a product of the South. One reader complained that although the magazine claimed to be “national in scope,” it seemed always to write from the Southern viewpoint. Barr responded that the “policy of the Virginia Quarterly as regards the South is necessarily a complex one. One of the main sources of strength, in the North and the West—as well as—or even more than—in the South is the attention we give to matters which especially concern the South.” Every issue of the journal contained some item related to Southern politics, literature, or social problems. The small but influential readership in the South, and the response these readers sent to VQR offices, confirms that VQR began to open up important Southern issues for debate during the 1920s.26

No single topic or author stands out in the indices of the journal. The contents of the January, 1931, issue provide a sense of the wide variety of subjects treated in the journal. The issue begins with an essay comparing Irish playwright Bernard Shaw to Woodrow Wilson. Next is an essay by Sherwood Anderson on Virginia wood-cutting artist J. J. Lankes. A sociologist from New York, Henry Pratt Fairchild, calls for a socialist solution to the unemployment crisis in his article, “Machines Don’t Buy Goods.” Pratt’s article is followed by an Aldous Huxley essay, “Boundaries of Utopia,” which reflects on the relationship between liberty and private property. Other items in the issue include a tongue-in-cheek piece on the virtues of Southern laziness, an essay on the profession of politics in Europe, a sketch of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, a story by Roark Bradford, as well as an assortment of poetry and the usual complement of book reviews.

The table of contents
Facsimile of the Virginia Quarterly Review’s Table of Contents, January 1931

This assortment indicates VQR editors’ conscious effort to include a broad variety of articles which would interest the general reader. But, as Wilson promised in the first issue, the journal was always “peculiarly concerned with themes growing out of the life and problems of the South and especially cordial to the work of Southern writers.”27 And, in the correspondence of VQR editors, in their own writings, and in the public relations strategies they initiated, it is evident that they were most deeply concerned with the issues which preoccupied other Southern liberals: politics, race relations, and economic growth. Underlying all of these discussions was the tension between maintaining the South’s regional identity and assimilating the region into the national mainstream.

Articles on Southern politics generally railed against the effects of the one-party system. A year after Douglas Southall Freeman’s article appeared in the Nation, VQR published a similar article by Gerald W. Johnson entitled “A Tilt With Southern Windmills.” An outspoken critic from North Carolina who modeled his style closely after his friend H. L. Mencken (for whom he later went to work), Johnson was to become one of the most regular and most enduring contributors to VQR. Johnson, like Freeman, was distressed by the political constrictions in the segregated South. But, like Freeman, Johnson sought to cure the disease by treating the symptoms. Writing after the 1924 presidential elections, Johnson lamented that the solid South had forfeited its national political clout in its determination to “maintain a white man’s government.”28

“Our sole political principle,” Johnson fumed, “is to vote for anything bearing the Democratic label. The North and the West determine the bearer of the label. The South supplies his votes. . . . We have traded in our political principles in return for the privilege of maintaining a white man’s government.” As long as the breakdown of the solid South meant the loss of white supremacy, the South would continue to vote Democratic. This led Johnson to conclude, in an image which smacks unmistakably of Mencken’s influence, that if “Beelzebub were nominated by the Democrats, the vote of the Southern clergy would . . . be lost. They would feel that to cast a ballot either way would be to vote for the Prince of Darkness.”29

Johnson also noted that the South’s reputation for racial violence compromised the region’s credibility with the rest of the Democratic party: “Every unnecessary hardship inflicted on the black South postpones the day when the white South can resume its full membership, political, moral, and intellectual, in this union.” But like Freeman, Johnson did not condemn segregation itself, but instead sought to provide a greater degree of equality within the system: “No one expects or desires the white South to repudiate its racial integrity [or] to abandon reasonable police regulations, as, for instance, separation of the races, provided such regulations are enforced equally.”30

Several years later another liberal Southern critic offered his opinion in VQR on “The Southern White Man and the Negro.” R. Charlton Wright, the recently retired editor of the Columbia, South Carolina, Record, had spent his career, as he put it, acting as “something of a belligerent” through the pages of his paper, “especially active in combatting the lynching of Negroes.” The story of the publication of Wright’s article reveals the dynamics of VQR editorial process, the ways in which the journal sought out writers, and the way in which small-town newspapers transmitted the VQR’s articles to communities in the South. It also reveals the limitations and taboos which guided the Southern liberal posture on the issue of race, as well as the underlying tenet of Southern liberalism: greater progress for white Southerners made possible through the carefully circumscribed “liberation” of blacks.31

Wilson asked Wright in 1929 for an article on any topic which treated “the success of progressive thought in the South.” Wilson suggested a variety of topics including Southern politics, industry, education, prohibition, or “anything relative to the Negro.” Wright agreed to try an article about race relations, but he found the subject difficult, noting that “a little earnest thought on it leads into quite deep water.” He wrote to Barr: “I did not realize the difficulties involved until I began to put my thought into words, whereupon I found some of the difficulties to be insuperable, as I think most white men would find them if they were to quit posing and get down to bed-rock. I have at least tried to be honest.” In addition to railing against racist violence—which presumably was familiar ground for Wright—in VQR article he wanted to explore tentatively the subject of what he called an “amalgamated” or racially mixed society.32

Barr, who had recently taken over the editorship of VQR, had his own reservations about publishing Wright’s article. He commended Wright for his “combination of courage and restraint” in executing the article, but noted that “we must print a negro story by Roark Bradford. . . . This will make the issue a little negroid but I think I can get away with it.” Barr never had to make that decision; on November 20, Wright sent an “extra rush” telegram to Barr which read:

On reflection I withdraw my article on Negro question stop it is highly dangerous and must not be published under any circumstances stop please return manuscript and destroy any proofs answer quick. 33

Two years passed before Wright wrote Barr explaining that he had been ill at the time when he had sent the telegram, and was unable to deal with the consequences of publishing the article. At Barr’s urging, he resubmitted it. Again, Wright complained that the subject was difficult to write about, and he ended up sending two complete drafts to Barr, who performed tedious editorial surgery until he brought the two drafts together. The painstaking editorial cuts and revisions reveal the well-defined contours of Southern liberalism, indicating which issues Wright and Barr were willing to treat and just how far they were prepared to push them. Barr commented to Wright that “I personally question the statement that no Southerner would advocate equal suffrage assuming, of course, that other suffrage qualifications such as literacy were there to protect us against the Negro voter who really is ‘inferior.’” Barr and Wright also excised a “long historical [section] about racial intermixture”; Wright wrote to Barr that he felt the final version of the article was better because it “got away from the . . . stilted language and too much elaboration of the intermarriage-intermixture question.” Wright, who had spent his career fighting lynching and promoting economic opportunity for blacks, was left tongue-tied when he arrived at the issue of interracial marriage and Barr shared his anxieties.34

The story behind the publication of Charlton Wright’s article in VQR appears as another chapter in the irony and shortcomings of Southern liberalism. Like Freeman writing in the Nation in 1924 and Johnson in VQR in 1925, Wright failed to ask questions which probed at the central assumptions of the racial myth. Southern liberals like Wright and Barr would continue to look for a “solution” for relations between whites and blacks, but during the 1920s and 1930s they would not think of questioning the separate society.

Wright’s article, as it finally appeared in April 1933, began with the premise that there was no longer any danger of political domination by Negroes in any Southern state, even if they joined with Republicans or disaffected Democrats. Wright’s proposition to Southern liberals amounted to co-opting black voters, to “make a political ally of the Negro and divorce him from our political adversaries.” He urged Southerners to improve race relations of their own accord before they were forced to do so: “It would result in eliminating much discord from bi-racial relations and allay much sectional prejudice, for the South to take liberalizing action before it is faced with the alternative of having to back down before the situation that will certainly result from the Negro’s advance in property and educational qualifications.” Wright’s formula for racial harmony was rooted firmly in segregation. He wrote that it was “positive law” that a dominant race would exist in a bi-racial society, and that “the white race is now, and will continue to be, the dominant race in the United States.”35

Harry M. Ayers, publisher of the Anniston, Alabama, Star, sent Barr a clipping of a Star editorial which favorably cited Wright’s article:

“The sanest thinkers in the South long since have come to the conclusion that this section can never attain to its maximum of development in so long as the white people of the South undertake to carry the dead weight of a dependent and non-productive people on their backs; . . . As an evidence in the growth of tolerance . . . there is an excellent article in the April number of the Virginia Quarterly Review. . . . We believe that the majority of intelligent white persons will subscribe to most of the points made by Mr. Wright . . . although agreeing with the contention of Mr. Jefferson . . . that there can be no sanctioned amalgamation of the races.36

Barr responded to Ayers, writing that “the interest of Southern newspaper men like yourself has been invaluable to us in two ways: first, in pointing out to their readers things in the Virginia Quarterly Review which ought to interest them, and, secondly, by steering in our direction new writers whom they happen to know.”37

VQR enjoyed a particluarly warm relationship with the leading newspapers in Virginia—Richmond’s Times-Dispatch and the Leader-Call, and the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. Barr, while an assistant editor of VQR and a history professor at the University of Virginia, also wrote editorials for the Virginian-Pilot when editor Louis Jaffe was on leave. And Allen Cleaton, an editor at the Times-Dispatch, frequently corresponded with Barr, sending him clippings of favorable reviews of VQR from the Times-Dispatch from time to time. Cleaton also helped to orchestrate a highly publicized debate between Agrarian leader John Crowe Ransom and Barr in Richmond in 1930.38 As the exchange between Barr and Harry Ayers of the Anniston Star indicates, VQR was able to reach thousands of readers indirectly, in spite of its own limited subscription lists. Newspapers editors in cities and towns throughout the South covered articles published in VQR: the Atlanta Journal and Constitution; the Knoxville News Sentinel; the Columbia, Tennessee, Daily Herald; the Houston Chronicle, the Lexington, Kentucky, Herald, the Fort Smith, Arkansas, Times Record, the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, American—the list goes on and on. The editors wrote praise and damnation, just as Wilson and Barr hoped.39 For liberal newspaper editors like Wright and Ayers, who had fought racial violence in their own towns, VQR provided both a broader audience and a community of like-minded people.

The editors of the Atlanta Journal assessed the first ten years of VQR in a 1935 editorial. They focused on VQR’s claim as a “liberal” journal, and noted the extreme malleability of Southern liberalism. Commenting on Wilson’s original commitment to publishing a “liberal but reasonable” journal, they wrote that “liberalism is diverse things in diverse hands, especially on this side of the Border.” They continued, “like an easy host, [the Southern liberal] can welcome new ideas without turning a cold shoulder to the tried comrades and servants of his mind; and he is not so devilishly cosmopolitan as to ridicule those fine flavors and loyalties of life that are rooted in the provincial. Such a liberal is the Virginia Quarterly Review.”40

Lambert Davis, editor of VQR in 1935, agreed with this judgment as he added his own assessment of the journal’s first ten years:

Perhaps the notion of liberalism even in 1925 lacked complete intellectual clarity; but it could be used to define a general purpose. . . . The major changes of the last decade have grown out of attacks upon, and defenses of, what has been called “the liberal point of view, I as it has been maintained in dealing with the problems of economics, politics , and intellectual activity in general. . . . In the battle over liberalism the word has lost any preciseness that it may once have possessed, until it has become a mere tag, of high emotional potentiality, attached to whatever attitude or program its advocates most approve or its opponents most contemn. When the Virginia Quarterly’s policy in selecting contributions is described as liberal, the word is used in an older and more precise sense, and refers to the belief that a free interaction of opposing ideas is a necessary condition for the humanizing of knowledge.41

The issues of liberalism (meaning open discourse) versus dogmatism, and sectionalism versus nationalism had been foremost on Wilson’s mind when he founded the journal in 1925. People like Wilson who sought progress in the South faced the dilemma of moving the region into the national mainstream while still maintaining its sense of regional identity.

The answer for Wilson, as for many progressive Southerners, lay in the adoption of a program of “regionalism.” The South’s best-known regionalist, University of North Carolina sociologist Howard Odum, had developed a program of regionalism from his headquarters at the Institute for Research in Social Science in Chapel Hill, sending out teams of sociologists to measure the effects of poverty in different parts of the South. Odum’s regionalism was multifaceted, featuring both a call for social scientific analysis of Southern problems, and an appeal to Southerners to reaffirm their connection with the rest of the nation. Wilson and Barr looked to the University of North Carolina as a model of liberalism, as the 1926 advertisement above suggests. Their regionalism emphasized a symbiotic partnership between the South and the rest of the nation. This partnership would allow the South to maintain its identity as a region, while contributing its best qualities to the rest of the nation.

In a 1931 commencement speech at the University of Virginia, Wilson said that the manifold paradoxes of the South could be resolved through the spirit of regionalism. The South, he said, “the home of individual liberty, is committed and recommitted to the regulation by law of life and behavior. It is a care-free land and pleasure-loving: it is the fortress of conservatism in religion and politics. The most homogeneous in race, it has the race problem as a factor in every phase of its public policy. [It] . . . was built up on an agrarian life . . . but its burning issue today is industrial development—the means and manner of it.” Wilson argued that these paradoxes must be resolved in terms of the South’s own “nature and history,” within the framework of the traditional Southern virtues of “courage, loyalty, and kindliness.”42

Wilson argued that an understanding of these regional traditions, coupled with a commitment to progress, would result in a Southern contribution to national leadership.

He concluded his remarks:

What I have called the paradox of the South is a situation that calls for leaders in clashing disagreement until the South knows her own mind in terms of a loyalty to her own traditions. Then will develop what I have called a new regionalism. The men true to those traditions and trained in the leadership of their own regions will become . . . leaders beyond their region’s borders.”43

Of course Wilson’s rhetoric is colored by his audience and by the occasion of his speech. The point remains that he defined regionalism as an attitude in which progressive Southern ideals, articulated in an atmosphere of critical discourse, could be applied to national as well as Southern problems.

Stringfellow Barr offered a similar view in a speech before a conference on regionalism held in Charlottesville in 1931, saying that the only way any tradition could continue to live “is through a constant and intelligent revision. . . . Since the forces that are changing our environment are forces which shaped themselves largely in the North, we cannot take too deep an interest in these sections of the United States.”44 Regionalism allowed these men to tip their hats to Southern tradition, and at the same time to look to the future to resolve the Southern “paradoxes” of political repression, racism, and the the industrialization of the South. And, Wilson’s regionalism explains his desire for a “national” journal of literature and discussion.

*  *  *  *  

All of these Southern liberals—James Southall Wilson, Stringfellow Barr, Douglas Southall Freeman, Gerald Johnson, and Charlton Wright—were heirs to the belief in what historian Paul M. Gaston has called the “New South Creed.” Charlton Wright, for example, cites the leading New South spokesman of the nineteenth century, Henry W. Grady, as “one of the truest friends the Negro race of the South ever had.”45 Much like the early proponents of the New South Creed following the Civil War, these twentieth-century writers sought progress through industrialization, sectional reconciliation between the North and South, and racial harmony within a system of white supremacy. The fundamental irony of this creed, which Gaston likens to the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, lay in the proclamation of progress and achievement by people who were blind to the illusion of “racial harmony” in a segregated society.

Gaston argues that the standard bearers of the New South Creed following the Civil War had cultivated a sense of continuity between the Old South and the New South in order to promote their program of industrialization in a manner palatable to Southern tastes. Just as the myths of the Old South had allowed antebellum slaveholders to conceive of themselves as “guardians of liberty, defenders of republican virtue, and keepers of a gentleman’s code of honor,” so, too, the leaders of the New South proclaimed that the South “accepted and exemplified the American credo of bountiful opportunity, defended the nation’s honor, and provided . . . equally bountiful but harmoniously separate opportunity for the Negro.”46

By the early twentieth century this sense of continuity was locked into place in the mythology of the New South. But with the rapid growth of industry in the South in the 1920s, the future of the South’s regional identity would be called into question. The Virginia Quarterly Review emerged as a center stage of the debate over what direction the South might take.

IV. Stringfellow Barr and the Agrarians

Just as Alderman and Wilson had planned from the outset, the Virginia Quarterly Review published articles on a number of subjects which promised to be controversial among Southern readers during the 1920s. Those who had criticized the South for its lack of debate began to notice a new spirit of criticism in Southern writing.47 With the publication of the Nashville Agrarian’s symposium I’ll Take My Stand in 1930, the terms of the debate among Southern intellectuals shifted toward the changes wrought by the South’s industrializing economy and toward the changing vision of the South that industrialization seemed to require. As George Tindall puts it, “in the 1920s, Southern writers laid the foundations for regional rediscovery; by the 1930s they were charting the intricate designs of meaning in the transition of Southern life.”48 The Agrarians argued that the South’s industrializing economy was threatening the very center of the Southern identity—the agrarian values which formed the core of the South’s integrity as a region.

Concerned about northern industries coming South in search of cheap, unorganized labor, and mindful of the evils that followed industrialization in England and the northern United States, the Agrarians urged Southerners to return to what they believed was the simplicity and self-reliance of the yeoman past. The agrarian past, they argued, was the only source of continuity and stability in a region otherwise subjected to the upheavals of war, defeat, and poverty.

Stringfellow Barr, who took over the editorship of VQR when Wilson stepped aside in 1930, jumped headlong into the debate among Southern intellectuals which the Agrarians aroused. Barr felt that industrialization was an integral component of regional progress. He argued that Southern industrialists and policy makers, learning from the past mistakes of other industrializing economies, could regulate against the excesses of industrialism. But Barr also recognized a good opportunity for publicity when he saw one; in addition to his editorial duties, he had established himself as a successful publicity agent for VQR in the 1920s, traveling frequently to New York where he sold advertisements and cultivated friendships on behalf of the magazine.

Barr’s research in European history in the early 1920s provided the framework for his response to the Agrarians. After studying on a Rhodes scholarship in 1921, and after a brief stint working in the New York Herald Tribune offices in Paris, Barr had spent time studying industrialization in Belgium. This study left him aware of the profound costs that could accompany unchecked industrialism. As he recalled many years later:

Among the chilling documents I examined were some replies that the chambers of commerce of Belgium’s industrializing cities wrote when the government inquired into child labor in the new factories with their machines. Namur’s chamber of commerce replied that child labor had proven somewhat unsuccessful. For, if ten-year-old children did a ten hour day at the machines, they were likely, Namur discovered, to collapse from fatigue and fall into the machines they were cleaning. The cleaning of these machines after such mishaps could cost a factory more money than it had saved by paying the very low wage that children then received. Namur’s chamber of commerce therefore advised against child labor.

I had never recovered from the Namur report.49

Barr, initially invited by Agrarian Allen Tate to contribute to I’ll Take My Stand, wrote an article for the symposium entitled “Shall Slavery [meaning wage slavery] Come South?” But rather than offering an unqualified indictment of industrialization, Barr argued in his essay that industrialism in the South was inevitable, and, learning from the mistakes of Namur, that industry could be effectively regulated: “The industrialist, to get the good will of the community in which he proposes to operate, must be forced to accept those checks on irresponsible exploitation that older industrial communities . . . have already worked out in tears and bloodshed.” After the Agrarians declined to publish Barr’s paper, he and Wilson published it in VQR.50

Barr’s article, which had started out as a submission to the Agrarian symposium, thus became a public rebuttal to the group’s stance on the industrial question. The three leading Agrarians, John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, and Allen Tate, published an open letter in the Nashville Tennessean, challenging Barr’s proposal, writing to Barr that “you have abandoned the Southern tradition. Its virtues were leisure, kindliness, and the enjoyment of a simple life. These are virtues which thrive in an agrarian climate but which do badly in an industrial.”51

Although their disagreements were sincere, Barr and the Agrarian leaders seemed to be primarily interested in capitalizing on the publicity value of their differences. The debate which emerged from Barr’s initial disgreement with the Agrarians evolved into a full-blown media event. After the New York Times published an editorial on “Shall Slavery Come South?,” drawing attention to the debate, the Agrarians sent an open letter to Barr to the Associated Press. Barr replied with an open letter of his own, restating his position. Barr wrote in a note to Donald Davidson that he was sending his open letter to the Associated Press as a means “of getting wider public notice for your coming book and for the Virginia Quarterly Review.” 52

George Fort Milton, editor of the Chattanooga News, suggested to Lambert Davis, then the managing editor of VQR, that a public debate be staged between Barr and the Agrarians.53 By November, editor Allen Cleaton of the Richmond Times-Dispatch had arranged a face-off in Richmond between Barr and John Crowe Ransom, recognized as the “first among equals” of the Agrarian group. The Richmond debate was a showcase from the outset, an attempt to parlay two well-articulated arguments into a publicity campaign which would bring Barr, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and the Agrarians into the national limelight. James Wilson, writing to William Terry Couch, head of the University of North Carolina Press, wrote in response to Couch’s idea of using the debate as an introduction to a book Couch was publishing: “I do not think that the debate in Richmond can be utilized further than the natural extent to which its publicity might contribute to such a book as this. . . . The debate Friday night . . . will be, I take it, largely a repetition of the arguments” which Barr and Ransom had already published.54

Sherwood Anderson, who introduced the debaters in Richmond, observed that there was a considerable degree of consensus between Barr and Ransom: “You all want the same thing. Your debate, after all, is only a debate as to the way of going at it. None of us really want communism or even socialism until individuality has had another chance.” And Barr, the following April in a letter to Clarence Cason, an Alabama journalist, wrote: “Technically, I challenged Ransom; but not with any great moral earnestness. Frankly, we wanted—and received—a good deal of publicity.”55

The night of the debate a capacity crowd of over three thousand people filled the Richmond City Auditorium. On stage with Barr, Ransom, and Anderson were the governor of Virginia and the Richmond mayor. Ellen Glasgow and James Branch Cabell, two leading Richmond writers, as well as Saturday Review editor Henry Canby, Howard Mumford Jones, and H. L. Mencken were in the audience. After Anderson’s introduction, Ransom began with a sober and carefully organized argument in which he rejected Barr’s proposal for regulated industry on the basis that the checks necessary to inhibit industrial exploitation were not suited to the Southern qualities of individualism and self-sufficiency.56

When Barr’s turn came, he unloosed his acerbic wit upon Ransom’s carefully orchestrated argument. He pointed out that eighteenth-century farmers did not reject Jefferson’s invention of a new plow “because God had a special fondness for the old model and resented the innovation.” Concluding his remarks, he thundered, “When problems are complex, you ought never to cry ‘I’ll Take My Stand,’ but ‘Sit Down and Think’!”57

There was no vote to declare a winner. Barr recalled many years later that “there was too much professorial solemnity” in Ransom’s delivery, “so quite suddenly I turnec ironical and ribald. I am not proud of the effect I produced. There was uproarious laughter and a more skillfuj debater than Ransom could have made me pay dearly for the intellectual arson I was committing. . . . But I think many of my listeners shared my desire not to go to Namur while singing Dixie!”58

The debate in Richmond was followed by a series of similar debates in cities around the South. Ransom faced off with the editor of the Sewanee Review in New Orleans; he met Barr again in Chattanooga in February 1931; the next month, Ransom took on an Atlanta manufacturer; and finally, at the 1936 meeting of the Southern Historical Association in Nashville, Donald Davidson debated William Terry Couch, who inspired an angry walkout by the Agrarian block.59

The Agrarians never seriously hoped to slow the pace of change in the South, much less to set back the clocks. But to a large degree they established the issues which Southern intellectuals found themselves addressing in the early 1930s. Historian John Kneebone writes that “by admonishing the Agrarians to view the South as it really was, the [liberal] journalists obliged themselves to do the same. . . . Instead of seeing either a “benighted” or an “advancing” South in the early 1930s, both [groups] discovered a far more complex and varied region than either had imagined.”60

Additionally, by provoking debate, the Agrarians served to enliven and focus intellectual life in the South. And, for the purposes of the Virginia Quarterly Review, they focused attention on intellectual life in the South. Here was a debate among Southerners which highlighted both the vitality of Southern intellectual life and the “special” regional identity of the South. After 1930, when I’ll Take My Stand was published, until the tenth anniversary issue of VQR was published in 1935, the impact of the Agrarian symposium on VQR is evident. More than twenty of the feature articles and book reviews which the Virginia Quartlerly Review published during those years were written by one of the Twelve Southerners. Numerous other essays and book reviews were written by their critics, or they addressed the issues which the Agrarians had raised (see listing below).

VQR Articles and Book Reviews Written by Agrarians, 1931–1935


  • Allen Tate, “The Oath” (poem)
  • Robert Penn Warren, “The Second American Revolution” (review essay)
  • Donald Davidson, “Expectancy of Doom” (review essay)
  • Andrew Nelson Lytle, “The Lincoln Myth”


  • Stark Young, “Parallels in Italy”
  • Robert Penn Warren, “Not Local Color” (review essay)
  • Andrew Nelson Lytle, “Old Scratch in the Valley” (fiction)


  • Stark Young, “Theatre 1932 New York”
  • Stark Young, “The Room Where My Uncle Died”


  • John Donald Wade, “Southern Fiction Catches Up” (review essay)
  • Donald Davidson, “Sacred Harp in the Land of Eden”
  • John Donald Wade, “Two Souths” (review essay of novels by T. S. Stribling and Stark Young)
  • Frank L. Owsley, “The War of the Sections (review essay of Gerald Johnson’s The Secession of the Southern States)


(Tenth Anniversary Issue:)

  • Allen Tate, “The Profession of Letters in the South”
  • John Crowe Ransom, “Modern With the Southern Accent
  • Andrew Nelson Lytle, “Mister McGregor” (fiction)
  • John Donald Wade, “Old Wine in a New Bottle”
  • Stark Young, “Encaustics for Southerners”
  • Robert Penn Warren, “Her Own People” (fiction)

In addition, the Virginia Quarterly Review published a number of articles written in response to the Agrarians. Beginning with Stringfellow Barr’s “Shall Slavery Come South?” in October 1930, the journal continued with articles by University of North Carolina economist Claudius Murchison and Johns Hopkins University economist Broadus Mitchell. Alabama journalist Clarence Cason and John Peale Bishop contributed articles on “The Southern Conscience” and “The South and Tradition.”61

By 1935 H. L. Mencken himself, in an article entitled “The South Astir,” acknowledged in the pages of VQR that criticism in the South had come alive, from the “flabby, timorous” tones of occasional critical newspaper editorials, to a “flood of new and stimulating fancies.” Qualifying his praise with the observation that only a fraction of Southerners were yet of a critical mind, he nevertheless conceded that “there is now in the South a minority of opinion that is quite as enlightened as that . . . in any other part of the country.” He chastised the Agrarians for naively conjuring up a “beautiful Utopia,” but he praised the eagerness and the sense of intellectual adventure which they brought to Southern writing. He wrote that the interplay of ideas in the South, led chiefly by the “literati” who most vividly and candidly described the Southern scene, was already beginning to force the “old delusions [into the] backwaters of the Southern domain.”62

V. Lambert Davis and VQR’s Tenth Anniversary Issue

Shortly after VQR’s tenth anniversary issue was published in April, 1935, a conference of the South’s leading writers and editors was held in Baton Rouge. Panelists John Peale Bishop, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Lambert Davis and others addressed many of the questions on which VQR had focused since its inception: the relative lack of a reading public in the South, the tension between the expectations of a “backwoods” audience and the New York reviewers, and the editor’s role as a mediator between writers and readers. Lambert Davis, editor since the spring of 1934, commented at length on these questions:

[The editor] tries to create a community. There are any number of communities he could create. . . . As an editor his job is simply to create the (literary) community, using every appropriate device he can devise. . . . The editor has to look two ways—toward his readers and toward his writers. . . . As to his relationship to his authors, the editor [in the South] suffers from physical isolation. Except in New Orleans, there is no community in the South that supports an active writing group. . . . Because of physical isolation, it is impossible for the South to support a weekly or monthly devoted to journalistic repartee. Isolation, on the other hand, is an advantage to a quarterly in the way of perspective. With regard to the Southern reader there are two groups which condition the Southern editor. First, there are those who want the New York approval. They believe that a Southern magazine is good if it is mentioned in the New York reviews. . . . I am not one who objects to New York. Most writers in the South who are any good have gone through the New York mill and come out grateful for it. The other type is the Southern patriot. . . . He wants to tone down criticism. . . . The editor’s function is to play between these two groups and to reconcile them. He should make the Southerner with an inferiority complex lose it, and the patriot examine his presuppositions.63

The issue following the publication of Mencken’s “The South Astir” marked the tenth anniversary of VQR. As Davis planned the issue, he devised a way both to court the recognition of the New York critics and to win the approbation of the magazine’s Southern readers. He solicited the South’s best-known fiction writers and poets for the issue, a move sure to catch the eye of the New York “mill.” And, as he wrote to potential contributors, he sought to emphasize the South’s “literature, manners, [and] mores, as distinguished from the South’s more material problems”—a strategy which would highlight the strengths of Southern intellectual life, rather than dwell on the problems of the region.64

John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Thomas Wolfe, Stark Young, Katharine Anne Porter, and Robert Penn Warren were among those who were selected to contribute to the anniversary issue. The issue won high praise from newspapers throughout the country; the New York Times editors hit upon a common theme of these reviews when they wrote about Gerald Johnson’s article, “The Horrible South.” Johnson’s article reviewed the “raw-head-and-bloody-bones” literature of T. S. Stribling, Thomas Wolfe, William Faulkner, and Erskine Caldwell. Johnson, who had frequently echoed Mencken’s criticisms of the South in the 1920s, contrasted the vitality and brutality these writers brought to Southern literature to the “moonlight and magnolias” literature of the nineteenth century:

The horrible South was the South that was morally, spiritually, and intellectually dead. The South that fatuously regarded every form of art . . . as a pretty toy, but in no sense one of the driving forces of civilization—that was the horrible South. . . . A South full of bitter, muscular men with swords that may be alarming, but it isn’t horrible. . . . If a good deal of the South’s recent literature stinks, . . . it is with the odors of the barnyard, not those of the charnel house.65

The Times noted that the writers whose work Johnson discussed “have invented new Souths. They feed on strong meat.” Johnson wrote that they “drive the Confederates [the Agrarians] into apoplexy.”66

The Madison, Wisconsin, Capital-Times also picked up on Johnson’s article, issuing a “middlewest lament” that their region lacked writers like Faulkner and Caldwell who would “show up the rotten spots of a civilization with such submerging horror that the reader feels that he has been dipped in slime.” Bewailing the dearth of literature of the midwest, the Capital-Times noted with envy the works of prominent Southern authors such as Stark Young, Thomas Wolfe, Julia Peterkin, and DuBose Heyward. The editors expressed the desire for “some publication which gave expression to the literary feeling of the Middle-West as ‘The Virginia Quarterly’ does for the South. But perhaps . . . it might be more to the point to wish that there was such a group striving for an organ as an expression of a united feeling.”67

It is interesting that Southern fiction writers, rather than the non-fiction essayists whose work VQR had most consistently featured, emerged as the most widely recognized critics of their region. While the essayists were obliged to work within the “modicum of old-fashioned courtesy and good taste,” artists like William Faulkner and Erskine Caldwell were exempt from those constraints.

Allen Tate described 1935 as the height of the Southern Renaissance. With the tenth anniversary issue, the VQR demonstrated the literary and critical aptitude which Southern writers had achieved by the height of the Renaissance. The journal, begun in 1925 with the intention of breathing fresh air into the stale intellectual climate of the South, had emerged in its first ten years as proof of the region’s intellectual and critical vitality. The editors had tried to throw open the protective shutters of sectionalism, inviting national inspection of Southern problems,and seeking the stimulation of “uncongenial minds.”

Within ten years, the pages of the journal were filled with criticism of Southern writing, which would lead the editors of the New York Times to write that “some of us . . . had imagined that the South possessed the most distinguished group of professional writers in the United States.” Where Mencken had perceived a vacuum in 1920,

Ellen Glasgow now felt that the “trouble with the South nowadays is not stillness, but too much misdirected activity. In the midst of endless speeding to nowhere, I begin to envy that ancient people ‘whose strength it was to sit still.’”68

Southern writers set intellectual life in their region into a conspicuous frenzy in the 1920s and 1930s. Southern liberals like VQR editors, working to bring their region into step with the rest of the nation, had helped cast the spotlight on the South. The Agrarians, in addition to the conflict over industrialization they brought, had brought the issue of tradition versus modernization to the attention of Southern intellectuals. In the early 1920s, critics like Mencken and Johnson had condemned Southerners for their inattention to good books and fine arts. By the mid-1930s, this criticism was transformed into approving commentary on the burst of energy in Southern letters.

In the years from its inception in 1925 until the anniversary issue of 1935, the Virginia Quarterly Review consciously strove to rehabilitate the South’s reputation as the nation’s cultural outback. The handful of liberal Southern leaders who created the journal felt that overcoming the region’s isolation was the best first step toward improving the intellectual, cultural, and political life of their region. Guided by their faith in rational discourse, VQR editors fought to free their region from the grip of sectional dogma.

But the tension between the editors’ hope of establishing a national journal, and their desire to maintain their uniquely Southern voice, was never fully resolved in the magazine’s first ten years. In spite of all the editors’ protestations that VQR was a “national” journal, it remained a distinctly and self-consciously Southern reaction to the expectations of its national audience. VQR’s various audiences projected different expectations and different identities onto the journal, which ironically broadened the appeal of the magazine, making it palatable to both the “fine old gentlemen of the Best Traditions” and to the “mill” of the New York critics.

In VQR’s first decade, the editors met many of the journal’s original goals. By creating a journal dedicated to the “free interaction of opposing ideas,” and by publishing articles by well-known writers, the editors diffused the charges of cultural sterility which critics had directed at the South.69 The publicity strategies which VQR editors initiated were overwhelmingly successful; in spite of its geographic isolation, scant financial resources, and limited circulation, the journal was widely- reviewed by admiring newspaper and magazine editors. In addition, VQR succeeded in forming a bridge among Southern editors, writers and readers, and it promoted dialogue between these Southerners and their counterparts in other regions of the nation.

*  *  *  *  

The editors of the Virginia Quarterly Review were justifiably proud of these achievements. But despite these successes, VQR in many ways fell short of its goal of bringing reform to the region. VQR’s success in diffusing criticism of the South may have had the ironic effect of diverting attention from the substantive problems of racism and economic privation, which the majority of Southerners continued to confront. What the editors of VQR failed to realize was that resolving these issues, in addition to rehabilitating Southern intellectual life, was a critical step toward progress in their region and toward equal partnership with the rest of the nation.


  1. James Southall Wilson, “The Virginia Quarterly Review and its Contributors,” VQR vol. 1, no. 1 (April 1925): iv. The journal’s epigraph was changed to “a national journal of literature and discussion” in the early 1940s.
  2. For a further breakdown of the contents, see W. V. T. Justis, “The Virginia Quarterly Review,” The University of Virginia Magazine, May 1936, pp. 212–213.
  3. Wilson, “VQR and Its Contributors,” p. iv.
  4. “Southern Writers,” New York Times, 24 March 1935, sec. 4, p. 8.
  5. Wilson, “VQR and Its Contributors,” pp. ii, iv; James Southall Wilson to Mr. Clark (undated), James Southall Wilson Papers, box 1.
  6. Edwin A. Alderman to James Southall Wilson, 7 May 1927, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 1); Alderman quoted in Wilson, “VQR and Its Contributors,” p. ii.
  7. James Southall Wilson, “The Founding of the Virginia Quarterly Review,” Virginia Librarian 3 (April 1956): 3; Wilson, “VQR and Its Contributors,” p. ii.
  8. James Southall Wilson, “The Founding of VQR,” p. 3. Charlotte Kohler, a protege of Wilson’s who became the editor of VQR in the 1940s, repeated a similar version of Wilson’s story of his ultimatum to Alderman (Kohler interview).
  9. Alderman’s biographer, Dumas Malone, writes that after he came to Virginia in 1904, Alderman was “widely recognized as an apostle of southern reconciliation.” Dumas Malone, Edwin A. Alderman: A Biography, (New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1940), p. 157. See also William A. Link, A Hard Country and a Lonely Place: Schooling, Society and Reform in Rural Virginia, 1870–1920, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), pp. 81–89, and C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877–1913, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1951) pp. 436–437.
  10. Malone, Alderman, pp. 346–349.
  11. Alderman may have taken particular offense at Mencken’s criticism of the South for its lack of good books; he had, after all, served with Joel Chandler Harris as editor-in-chief of the massive Library of Southern Literature t a reverential seventeen-volume anthology of Southern writers assembled under “the direct supervision of Southern Men of Letters.” See Edwin A. Alderman and Joel Chandler Harris, eds., Library of Southern Literature 17 vols. (Atlanta: The Martin & Hoyt Company, 1907–1923). The Library later came under fire for its extremely uncritical posture. See, for example, Paul Green quoted in Daniel Joseph Singal, The War Within: From Victorian to Modernist Thought in the South, 1919–1945, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982), p. 109.
  12. See George B. Tindall, The Emergence of the New South, 1913–1945 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967), p. 300; Lewis P. Simpson, “The Southern Review and a Post-Southern American Letters, in Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie, eds., The Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History (Yonkers, N.Y.: Pushcart Press, 1978), pp. 85–87; George Core, “The Literary Quarterly in the South,” in Lewis P. Simpson, James Olney, and Jo Gulledge, eds., The Southern Review and Modern Literature, 1935–1985 , (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988), pp. 186–193, and Jay B. Hubbell, “Southern Magazines,” in Culture in the South, William T. Couch, ed., (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1934), pp. 170, 172. In addition to these university-based publications, a number of short-lived 1iterary journals appeared throughout the South in the 1920s. They included the Double Dealer (New Orleans, 1921–26) the Fugitive (Nashville, 1922–25), and the Reviewer (Richmond, 1921–25). These magazines published much of the most enduring poetry and fiction of the period, but without institutional support they were doomed to short lives. See, for example, Paul K. Conkin, The Southern Agrarians, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1988), p. 16.
  13. H. L. Mencken, “The Sahara of the Bozart,” reprinted in Huntington Cairns, ed., The American Scene: A Reader (New York: Knopf, 1965), pp. 157–159. The New York Evening Mail first published “Sahara of the Bozart” on 13 November 1917; but the essay was first circulated nationally when Mencken expanded and republished it in Prejudices, Second Series in 1920.
  14. Emily Clark quoted in Fred C. Hobson, Jr., Serpent in Eden: H. L. Mencken and the South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974), p. 32; Alderman quoted in Edwin A. Alderman letter to John Barton Cross, 4 February 1925, Alderman Papers, (quoted in Hobson, Serpent, pp. 57–8). Hobson’s treatment of Mencken’s impact on the South is an extension of the ideas put forward by George B. Tindall, who wrote that “with remarkable suddenness after 1920 Mencken’s cultural Sahara had turned into a literary hothouse that germinated an increasingly prolific vegetation.” See Tindall, Emergence, p. 316.
  15. Advertisement in VQR scrapbooks.
  16. Tindall, Emergence, p. 192; Odum quoted in Tindal1, Emergence, p. 193.
  17. John T. Kneebone, Southern Liberal Journalists and the Issue of Race, 1920–1944 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), p. xvii; Douglas S. Freeman, “Virginia: A Gentle Dominion,” Nation. July 16, 1924, pp. 70–71.
  18. See Virginia Quarterly Review vol. 2, no. 3 (July 1926): back cover.
  19. Stringfellow Barr to William H. Baughman, 1 December 1926, VQR publicity scrapbook.
  20. A detailed, but only moderately reliable, record of early library subscriptions to VQR is found in Edna Brown Titus, ed., Union List of Serials in Libraries of the United States and Canada, 3rd ed., vol. 5 (New York: H. W. Wilson, 1965), p. 4408. The Union List records the complete holdings of all Union libraries who subscribed to VQR, but it does not record which libraries bought the VQR retroactively. But, taking this consideration into account, the Union List records a thoroughly national library distribution of VQR in the magazine’s first ten years.
  21. These figures are from James Southall Wilson folder, VQR Papers (#292-k).
  22. New York World, 29 March 1925.
  23. VQR Papers (folder 647).
  24. QR Papers (folder 647).
  25. Garrett G. Ackerson, Jr. to VQR editor, 1 May 1930; James Southall Wilson to Ackerson, 24 June 1930, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 1).
  26. Stringfellow Barr to Mrs. F. C. Abbott, 11 January 1932, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 1).
  27. Wilson, “VQR and Its Contributors,” p. iv.
  28. Gerald W. Johnson, “A Tilt With Southern Wind-Mills,” VQR vol. 1, no. 2 (July 1925): 186. For a good portrait of Johnson and a cross-section of his writing, see Fred C. Hobson, Jr., ed., Southwatching: Selected Essays by Gerald W. Johnson (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983), and Kneebone, Southern Liberal Journalists.
  29. Johnson, “Southern Wind-Mills,” p. 186.
  30. Ibid., p. 188. This response to racial inequality recalls Morton Sosna’s observation of a “‘separate but equal’ brand of racial liberalism that emphasized the ‘equal’ rather than the ‘separate.’” See Morton Sosna, In Search of the Silent South: Southern Liberals and the Race Issue, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), p. 19.
  31. R. Charlton Wright to James Southall Wilson, 19 October 1929; Wright to F. Stringfellow Barr, 15 November 1930, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 46).
  32. Wilson to Wright, 24 September 1929; Wright to Wilson, 20 September 1930; Wright to Barr, 28 October 1930; Wright to Barr, 5 November 1930, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 46).
  33. Barr to Wright, 10 November 1930; Wright telegram to Barr, 20 November 1930, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 46).
  34. Barr to Wright, 8 December 1932; Wright to Barr, 13 February 1933; Wright to Barr, 20 February 1933, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 46).
  35. R. Charlton Wright, “The Southern White Man and the Negro,” VQR vol. 9, no. 2 (April 1933): 186–87, 193. A similar argument is made in M. Ashby Jones, “The Negro and the South,” VQR vol. 3, no. 1 (January 1927): 1–12.
  36. Anniston, Alabama Star (undated), clipping enclosed in Harry M. Ayers to Stringfellow Barr, 3 May 1933, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 2).
  37. F. Stringfellow Barr to Harry M. Ayers, 5 May 1933, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 2).
  38. Barr,s Virginian-Pilot editorials are on file in the F. Stringfellow Barr Papers, box 9; on Allen Cleaton’s role in staging the Richmond debate, see Stringfellow Barr letter to Michael Plunkett, 10 March 1975, VQR Papers (#292-i).
  39. See VQR scrapbooks.
  40. “Ten Years of the Virginia Quarterly Review,” Atlanta Journal. 24 May 1935.
  41. Lambert Davis, “The Green Room,” VQR vol. 11, no. 2 (April 1935): ii.
  42. James Southall Wilson, “The Paradox of the South,” University of Virginia Alumni News, vol. 20 (September 1931): 7.
  43. ibid., p. 10.
  44. F. Stringfellow Barr, “Cultural Aspects of Regionalism,” in J‘Round Table on Regionalism,” Institute of Public Affairs, (5th session, vol. 3, 1931), p. 725.
  45. Wright, “The Southern White Man and the Negro,” p. 194.
  46. Paul M. Gaston, The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1970), pp. 239–240.
  47. See, for example, H. L. Mencken, “The South Astir,” VQR vol. 11, no. 1 (January 1935): 47–60; Gerald Johnson, “Southern Image-Breakers,” VQR vol. 4, no. 4 (October 1928): 508–519, and E. R. Richardson, “The South Grows Up,” Bookman 70 (January 1930): 545–550.
  48. Tindall, Emergence, p. 650.
  49. Stringfellow Barr to Michael Plunkett, 10 March, 1975, p. 4, VQR Papers (correspondence, #292-i).
  50. Stringfellow Barr, “Shall Slavery Come South?” VQR vol. 6, no. 4 (October 1930): 490; Barr tells the story of Tate’s solicitation, writing the article and subsequently being turned down in his letter to Plunkett, 10 March 1975, VQR Papers (correspondence, #292-i).
  51. Allen Tate, Donald Davidson, and John Crowe Ransom to Stringfellow Barr, 20 September 1930, published in Nashville Tennessean; copy in VQR Papers (correspondence, box 13).
  52. New York Times, 21 September 1930; Barr to Allen Tate et al., 25 September 1930, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 13)
  53. For an account of this debate, see John T. Kneebone, “About Face or Forward March? Nashville Agrarians, Southern Liberals, and the 1930 Richmond Debate on the Future of the South,” Virginia Cavalcade vol. 36, no. 3 (Winter 1987): 112–127; Thomas Daniel Young, Gentleman in a Dustcoat: A Biography of John Crowe Ransom (Louisiana State University Press, 1976), p. 220; Richmond Times-Dispatch, 15 November 1930, p. 1, and M. Thomas Inge, “Agrarians Sought a Simpler Life,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6 December 1970.
  54. James Southall Wilson to William Terry Couch, 13 November 1930, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 11).
  55. Sherwood Anderson to Stringfellow Barr, 23 November 1930 (date approx., letter undated), VQR Papers (correspondence, box 2; Barr to Clarence E. Cason, 21 April 1931, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 9).
  56. Kneebone, “About Face or Forward March,” p. 122; Inge, “Agrarians Sought a Simpler Life.”
  57. Inge, “Agrarians Sought a Simpler Life”; Kneebone, “About Face,” p. 123.
  58. Barr letter to Plunkett, 10 March 1975, VQR Papers (correspondence, #292-i).
  59. Kneebone, “About Face or Forward March,” p. 123.
  60. Ibid., p. 127.
  61. Claudius Murchison, “Captains of Southern Industry,” VQR vol. 7, no. 3 (July 1931): 379–392; Broadus Mitchell, “Perspectives in Southern Industry” (review essay), VQR vol. 7, no. 3 (July 1931): 463–470; Broadus Mitchell, “A Test of Technocrats” (review essay), VQR vol. 9, no. 2 (April 1933): 281–285; Claudius Murchison, “Nationalism and the South,” VQR vol. 10, no. 1 (January 1934): 1–15; Clarence E. Cason, “The Southern Conscience,” VQR vol. 8, no. 3 (July 1932): 350–360; John Peale Bishop, “The South and Tradition,” VQR vol. 9, no. 2 (April 1933): 161–174.
  62. Mencken, “The South Astir,” pp. 50–51, 58–59.
  63. Lambert Davis, quoted in transcript from the Conference on Literature and Reading in the South and Southwest, 11 April 1935, in Simpson, Olney and Gulledge, eds., The “Southern Review” and Modern Literature, pp. 53–54.
  64. Lamber Davis to Thomas Wolfe, 11 September 1934, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 46).
  65. Gerald W. Johnson, “The Horrible South,” VQR vol. 11, no. 2 (Spring 1935): 216–7.
  66. “Southern Writers,” New York Times, 24 March 1935, sec. IV, p. 8; Johnson, “The Horrible South,” p. 211.
  67. “A Middlewest Lament,” Madison, Wisconsin, Capital Times, March, 1935 (undated, date approx.), VQR scrapbooks.
  68. “Southern Writers,” New York Times, 24 March 1935, sec. IV, p. 8; Ellen Glasgow to Lambert Davis, 3 January 1935, VQR Papers (correspondence, box 19).
  69. Lambert Davis, “Green Room,” VQR vol. 11, no. 2 (April 1935): 2.

Sources Consulted


Alderman Library, University of Virginia

Edwin Anderson Alderman Papers
F. Stringfellow Barr Papers
Virginia Quarterly Review Papers
      [papers, #292-k]
      [correspondence, 1925–1935, boxes 1–47]
      [manuscripts, 1925–1935]
      [scrapbooks, 1925–1965]
James Southall Wilson Papers


F. Stringfellow Barr, September 1972 (University of Virginia Oral History Project)
Charlotte Kohler, Interview, 8 March 1988



Virginia Quarterly Review. (Charlottesville, Va.), 1925–____.
Anniston, Alabama Star
Atlanta Journal
New York Herald-Tribune
New York World
New York Times
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Richmond Virginian-Pilot


Alderman, Edwin A., and Joel Chandler Harris, eds. Library of Southern Literature. 17 vols. Atlanta: The Martin & Hoyt Company, Inc., 1907–1923.

Allen, Charles A. “Regionalism and the Little Magazines.” College English, 7 (1945): 10–16.

Barr, Stringfellow. “Catching Up With America.” New York Herald-Tribune, October 26, 1930.

———. “Cultural Aspects of Regionalism.” Round Table on Regionalism. Institute of Public Affairs, 5th session, vol. 3 (1931): 721–727.

———. “No North, No South.” Nation, 21 January 1931, pp. 67–68.

———. “Shall Slavery Come South.” Virginia Quarterly Review, 6 (October, 1930): 481–94.

———. “The Uncultured South.” Virginia Quarterly Review 5 (April 1929): 192–200.

Couch, William Terry, ed. Culture in the South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1934.

Davidson, Donald. “Dilemma of the Southern Liberals.” American Mercury, 31 (February, 1934): 227–235.

———. “‘I’ll Take My Stand’: A History.” American Review, 8 (February, 1937): 301–321.

DuBois,Arthur E. “Among the Quarterlies: The Question of ‘Regionalism.’” Sewanee Review, 45 (1937): 216–27.

Freeman, Douglas Southall. “Virginia: A Gentle Dominion,” Nation, July 16, 1924, pp. 68–71.

Gold, William Jay. “The Cause of Good Books in the South.” Publisher’s Weekly, 137 (1940): 706–11.

Heyward, DuBose. “The New Note in Southern Literature.” Bookman, 61 (April, 1925): 153–56.

Hibbard, Addison. “Again—A Renaissance!” New South, 1 (March, 1927): 61–62.

———. “A New Deal for Southern Literature.” Southern Magazine, 2 (July, 1924): 49–53.

Hubbell, Jay B. “Southern Magazines.” Culture in the South. William T. Couch, ed. Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1934, pp. 159–82.

I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition. By Twelve Southerners. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1930; reprint ed., New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1983.

Johnson, Gerald W. “The Advancing South.” Virginia Quarterly Review, II (October, 1926): 594–96.

———. “After Forty Years—Dixi.” Virginia Quarterly Review, 41 (Spring, 1965): 192–201.

———. “A Tilt With Southern Windmills,” Virginia Quarterly Review, 1 (July 1925): 184–192.

———. “Critical Attitudes North and South.” Journal of Social Forces, 2 (May, 1924): 575–79.

———. “The Horrible South.” Virginia Quarterly Review, 11 (January, 1935): 201–217.

———. “Southern Image Breakers.” Virginia Quarterly Review 4, (October, 1928): 508–519.

———. “The South Faces Itself.” Virginia Quarterly Review, 7 (January, 1931): 152–57.

Jones, M. Ashby. “The Negro and the South,” Virginia Quarterly Review 3 (January 1927): 1–12.

Justis, W. V. T., and Coleman Rosenberger. “The Virginia Quarterly Review,” The University of Virginia Magazine, May 1936, pp. 211–214.

“Little Magazines.” Intermountain Review, 1 (February 1937) : 2.

Mencken, H. L. The American Scene. Huntington Cairns, ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1965.

———. “The South Astir.” Virginia Quarterly Review 11 (January 1935): 47–60.

———. “The South Begins to Mutter.” Smart Set, 65 (August 1921): 138–44.

Peterson, Martin Severin. “Regional Magazines.” Prairie Schooner, 3 (1929): 292–95.

Pinckney, Josephine. “Southern Writers’ Conference.” Saturday Review, 7 November 1931, p. 266.

Poems from the “Virginia Quarterly Review:” 1925–1967. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1969.

Ransom, John Crowe. “Modern With the Southern Accent.” Virginia Quarterly Review, 11 (April, 1935): 184–98.

Richardson, E. R. “The South Grows Up,” Bookman 70 (January 1930): 545–550.

Turner, Alice Lucille. A Study of the Content of the Sewanee Review, with Historical Introduction. Nashville, Tenn., 1931.

The Virginia Quarterly Review, A National Journal of Literature and Discussion: Twenty-Year Index, 1925–1944. Charlottesville: Virginia Quarterly Review, 1946.

Wilson, James Southall. “The Novel in the South: A Taboo is No Longer a Red Light.” Saturday Review of Literature, 23 January 1943, pp.11–12.

———. “The Paradox of the South.” University of Virginia Alumni News, 20 (September 1931): 7–10.

———. “The Virginia Quarterly Review and Its Contributors,” Virginia Quarterly Review 1 (April 1925): i–iv.

Wright, R. Charlton. “The Southern White Man and the Negro.” Virginia Quarterly Review 9 (April 1933): 175–194.

Secondary Sources: Books and Articles

Anderson, Elliott and Mary Kinzie, eds. The Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History. Yonkers, N. Y.: Pushcart Press, 1978.

Conkin, Paul. The Southern Agrarians. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1988.

Gaston, Paul M. The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1970.

Hobson, Fred C, Jr. Serpent in Eden: H. L. Mencken and the South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1974.

Hobson, Fred C., Jr., ed. Southwatching: Selected Essays by Gerald W. Johnson. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983.

———. Tell About the South: The Southern Rage to Explain. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983.

Holman, C. Hugh. The Immoderate Past: The Southern Writer and History. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1977.

Inge, Thomas. “Agrarians Sought a Simpler Life,” Ricmond Times-Dispatch, 6 December 1970.

King, Richard H. A Southern Renaissance: The Cultural Awakening of the American South, 1930-1955. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Kneebone, John T. “About Face or Forward March? Nashville Agrarians, Southern Liberals, and the 1930 Richmond Debate on the Future of the South,” Virginia Cavalcade 36 (Winter 1987): 112-127.

———. Southern Liberal Journalists and the Issue of Race, 1920-1944. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.

Link, William A. A Hard Country and a Lonely Place: Schooling, Society and Reform in Rural Virginia, 1870-1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986.

Malone, Dumas. Edwin Alderman: A Biography. New York: Doubleday, Moran, 1940.

O’Brien, Michael. The Idea of the American South, 1920-1941. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979.

Rubin, Louis D., Jr., and Robert D. Jacobs, eds. Southern Renascence: The Literature of the Modern South. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1953.

Simpson, Lewis P., James Olney, and Jo Gulledge, eds. The Southern Review and Modern Literature, 1935-1985. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988.

Singal, Daniel Joseph. The War Within: From Victorian to Modernist Thought in the South, 1919-1945. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982.

Sosna, Morton. In Search of the Silent South: Southern Liberals and the Race Issue. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

Tindall, George B. The Emergence of the New South: 1913-1945. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964.

———. “The Benighted South: Origins of a Modern Image.” Virginia Quarterly Review 40 (Spring 1964): 281-94.

Titus, Edna Brown. Union List of Serials in Libraries of the United States and Canada 3rd. ed., vol. 5. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1965.

Wilson, James Southall. “The Founding of the Virginia Quarterly Review.” Virginia Librarian, 3 (April 1956) 3-4.

Woodward, C. Vann. The Burden of Southern History. New York: Vintage Press, 1960.

———. “The Historical Dimension.” Virginia Quarterly Review, 32 (1956), 258-67.

———. Origins of the New South, 1877-1913. Baton Rouge: University of Louisiana Press, 1951.

———. “Why the Southern Renaissance?” Virginia Quarterly Review 51 (Spring 1975), 222-239.

Young, Thomas Daniel. Gentleman in a Dustcoat: A Biography of John Crowe Ransom. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976.


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