John Reuben Thompson, Editor

Published:May 25, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

Thompson John Reuben (undated copy of another photograph). An alumnus of the University of Virginia, John Reuben Thompson (1823–1873) was a poet, essayist, and critic. In 1847, Thompson purchased the Southern Literary Messenger, and published work by many of the most prominent southern authors, including Edgar Allan Poe, Philip Pendleton Cooke, William Gilmore Simms, and Henry Timrod. In spite of increasing quality, the journal struggled to generate subscriptions, perhaps reflecting a limited audience for literature in the South. As issues related to slavery flared during the 1850s, the journal’s content increasingly veered toward issues of states’ rights, defenses of slavery, and polemics against abolitionism. In 1860, Thompson became editor of Southern Field and Fireside, and a physician, George W. Bagby took over the journal. During the Civil War, Thompson served as a Confederate public servant and a newspaper correspondent (as “Dixie” of The Memphis Daily Appeal). (Holsinger Studio Collection, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia)