Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Gilder, Jeannette L. (1849–1916)
Author:
Roberson, Susan L.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Jeannette Gilder, sister of Richard Watson Gilder, was an influential editor, journalist, and literary critic. She began her career as a reporter for the Newark Register, which her brother Richard had helped to found. Soon afterward, she went to work for the New York Herald, writing book reviews in her popular column, "Chats about Books," and eventually became the Herald's review editor. Then in 1881 she and her brother Joseph founded the Critic (1881–1906), a highly influential literary magazine. The Critic is best known for its reviews of literature, music, and drama; its notices, many written by Gilder, were incisive, high-toned, and conservative and demonstrated a bias toward American authors. Indeed, some of the country's best talents were published in the magazine. A popular feature of the magazine was Gilder's "The Lounger," a kind of gossip column about artists and the literati.

As editor of the Critic, Gilder published Whitman's work, wrote articles about the poet, and published parts of his letters to keep the public informed of his activities and health. Moreover, the Critic published his series "How I Get Around at Sixty, and Take Notes" and a few of his poems. Most of Whitman's contributions, however, were in prose and included notes on Ralph Waldo Emerson; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Edgar Allan Poe; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; William Shakespeare; the Bible as poetry; and "Walt Whitman in Camden" (signed "George Selwyn").

In addition to her work with the Critic, Gilder was the New York correspondent for several newspapers; edited several books, including Authors at Home (1888); and wrote a novel, a couple of plays, and two volumes of her autobiography. In 1895 she established a literary brokerage, "Miss Gilder's Syndicate," and negotiated publication and dramatization rights for her clients.

Bibliography

Gilder, Jeannette L., and Joseph, eds. Authors at Home: Personal and Biographical Sketches of Well-Known American Writers. New York: Cassell, 1888.

Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines, 1865–1885. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1938.

Tutwiler, Julia R. "Jeannette L. Gilder." Women Authors of Our Day in Their Homes. Ed. Francis Whiting Halsey. New York: Pott, 1903.


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