American editor and author Henry Mills Alden (1836-1919) was editor for 50 years of Harper's Magazine from 1869 to 1919. A descendant of John and Priscilla Alden of Mayflower fame, Alden was born in Mount Tabor, Vermont, on 3 November 1836.
In 1853, he entered Williams College where his fellow students included James A. Garfield, John J. Ingalls, and Horace E. Scudder. He then attended Andover Theological Seminary with the intention of becoming a preacher; however, Alden changed course and pursued a literary career after two of his articles on the Eleusinian Mysteries were accepted for publication in the Atlantic Monthly. These essays had been submitted to the magazine without his knowledge by his friend, the American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Alden moved to New York City in 1861 and supported himself through teaching while he continued to submit articles to national periodicals. In 1862, Harper and Brothers commissioned Alden to write a guidebook to the Central Railroad of New Jersey. This relationship with Harper and Brothers led to Alden becoming an assistant editor of Harper's Weekly and in 1869 the editor of Harper's New Monthly Magazine, a position which he held until his death in 1919. In his role as editor of Harper's New Monthly Magazine, which changed its title to Harper's Monthly Magazine in 1900, Alden viewed the periodical as a democratizing tool that provided the public access to current literary talents, and he supported the emerging realism movement for this reason. During his tenure, Harper's Monthly Magazine became the highest circulating periodical in the United States.
In addition to the monthly essays that Alden wrote for Harper's Magazine, he published three books: God in His World (1890), A Study of Death (1895), and Magazine Writing and New Literature (1908). He also edited several volumes of American literature and short stories with American author and editor William Dean Howells. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Alden received the honorary degrees of Doctor of Literature and Doctor of Laws in 1890 and 1907, respectively, from his alma mater.
Alden married Susan Frye Foster in 1861, and the couple had four children. Susan Alden died in 1895, and Alden eventually remarried Virginia poet Ada Foster Murray. Henry Mills Alden passed away in 1919 at the age of 83.
Upon his death, Alden left the present collection of letters to his nephew John Alden, who was a poet and editor of the Brooklyn Eagle. John Alden bequeathed the letters to the daughter of his first cousin, T. Clifton Andrews, who was Charlotte Andrews (Bauer). Charlotte Andrews had been like a daughter to John Alden and his wife, Cynthia Westover, and according to family lore, the Aldens provided significant emotional support to Charlotte Andrews when she eloped and married Mr. Bauer against the wishes of her mother. Charlotte Andrews Bauer organized the letters and accompanying envelopes and clippings into two albums. Before her death in 1980, Charlotte Andrews Bauer passed the letters on to her son, Rollin G. Bauer, Jr. (died 2004), who in turn willed joint ownership of the letters to his wife Merry Jo Bauer and his brother Jeffrey Bauer.
"Henry Mills Alden of Harper's Dies." The New York Times 8 October 1919.
Kenney, Robert C. "Alden, Henry Mills." American National Biography Online Oxford University Press, 2000. http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-00023.html (accessed 18 April 2011)
The Henry Mills Alden letters collection consists of 45 items including letters, photographs, and clippings dating between 1860 and 1949 with the majority of the material comprising letters to Alden from contemporary literary figures dating between 1860 and 1908. There are also two long letters written by Alden to his first wife, Susan Foster, during their courtship in 1860 and 1861, as well as several items relating to Charlotte Andrews Bauer and her family from the 1930s and 1940s, including letters requesting information about the history of the family and a letter and photograph from a trip Bauer took to John Alden's summer estate.
This collection documents Alden's participation in a New England literary circle of the mid- to late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as his personal reflections on that circle, his writing, philosophical questions, and religious matters. Items in the collection also contextualize the provenance of the letters within the family's history. The collection is arranged into three series: I. Letters to Henry Mills Alden and family; II. Letters from Henry Mills Alden to Susan Foster; and III. Other correspondents.
Series I. contains 32 letters dating from 1873 to 1908 from literary and intellectual contemporaries, the majority of which are addressed to Alden. Correspondents include the editors of the Atlantic Monthly; James Russell Lowell (1819-1891), who served from 1857 to 1861 and accepted Alden's first published essays; William Dean Howells (1837-1920), who served from 1871 to 1881; Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907), who served from 1881 to 1890; and Horace Elisha Scudder (1838-1902), who served from 1890 to 1898. Topics in the letters ranged from the business of articles submitted to Alden for Harper's Monthly Magazine to personal condolence letters to Alden on the death of his wife Susan Foster Alden in 1895. Several letters also commented on Alden's book God in His World: An Interpretation (1890). One highlight is a short letter from American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) requesting revisions to his poem "Kéramos," which was first published in Harper's Monthly Magazine. American author Henry James (1843-1916) wrote to Alden in 1908 to accept a request for a short essay for publication, which prompted James to discuss his writing process. There are also three letters addressed to Mrs. Susan Alden, two of which discussed literary topics. The first letter was from Margaret Elizabeth Munson Sangster (1838-1912), an editor at various times for Harper's Young People, Harper's Bazaar, and Ladies' Home Journal, who discussed her literary preferences. The second letter was from Scottish author William Sharp (1855-1905), a central figure of the Celtic Renaissance who also wrote under the pseudonym Fiona Macleod. Sharp invoked Celtic mythology throughout his letter to Mrs. Alden in which he wished her good health. Finally, there is a condolence letter addressed to Henry Mills Alden's daughter Annie Alden from Horace Elisha Scudder, who had been a friend of Alden's since they were both students at Williams College.
Series II. comprises two long letters John Alden wrote to Susan Foster in 1860 and 1861 during their courtship. In the letters, Alden discussed the sermons he was giving in local parishes as well as his literary pursuits. He planned his future career and discussed the intellectual merits of their impending marriage. Of particular interest are the insights into Alden's writing process and his opinions on religion and literary merit.
Series III. consists of four letters, four photographs, and some notes by Charlotte Andrews Bauer, all pertaining to her and her family, dating from 1933 to 1949. The items in the first grouping concern trips that Bauer and her father's sister, "Aunt Charlotte," took to visit John Alden's summer home, "a pleasant old farm" called Bushy Crest. The farm was so named in honor of Alden's deceased wife, Cynthia May Westover Alden (1862-1931), who was known as "Bushy." Included is a letter from John Alden to Aunt Charlotte Andrews, in which he looked forward to her visit and discussed family news, including Charlotte Andrews Bauer's recent marriage. Also included are several photographs of Charlotte Andrews Bauer and her new husband along with other family members at the farm and an autograph note by Bauer briefly describing the history of Bushy Crest. The second grouping comprises two letters dated 1942 from a lawyer, John D. Dwyer, seeking descendants of American free thinker and reformer Stephen Pearl Andrews (1812-1886) for the inheritance of property. The third grouping consists of two letters dated in 1949 from a researcher named Jean Burton, who was interested in writing a biography and was looking for materials on Stephen Pearl Andrews.