I send the “Letter to a Young Contributor,” which will cover nine or ten pages.
I am sorry to say that this household unites in the opinion that February is a decidedly poor number. Mrs. Howe is tedious. “To-day” grim and disagreeable, though not without power; “Love and Skates” [Theodore Winthrop] trashy and second-rate; and Bayard Taylor below plummet-sounding of decent criticism. His mediocre piece had a certain simplicity and earnestness, but this seems to me only fit for the “Ledger” in its decline. I could only raise one smile over the “Biglow” (“rod, perch, or pole”), but I suppose that will be liked. Whittier's poem is daring, but successful; Agassiz has covered the same ground often. Whipple uses “considerable” atrociously at beginning of last critical notice, and “Snow” has a direful misprint on page 195 (end of, paragraph) — South for Earth. I liked “Ease in Work,” “Fremont and Artists” in Italy.
The thing that troubled me most, though, was the absence of a strong article on the war, especially as January had none. I see men buying the “Continental” for its strong emancipatory pieces, and they are amazed that the “Atlantic” should not have got beyond Lowell's timid “Self-Possession.” For the “Atlantic” to speak only once in three months, and then against an emancipatory policy, is humiliating. Perhaps I ought to have written and offered one, but I could not write when busy about regiments and companies, and after that I supposed you had a press of war matter on hand, as no doubt you did some months ago; but public sentiment is moving fast if events are not, and it is a shame that life should come from the “Knickerbocker” and not from the “Atlantic.” You always get frank criticisms from me, at least, you know.
P.S. I see the papers treat the number well — but so they always do. At the lowest point ever reached by the magazine, just before your return from England, the newspaper praises kept regularly on.
SOURCE: Mary Potter Thacher Higginson, Editor, Letters and Journals of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1846-1906, p. 112-4