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Letters to Pioneering Journalist and Critic Jeannette Leonard Gilder
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As co-editor/editor of literary journal The Critic, Gilder corresponded with the leading authors, editors, and critics of the day. This archive consists primarily of letters addressed to Gilder, by eminences such as John Bigelow, James Bryce, George W. Childs, Charles Anderson Dana, and John Lothrop Motley. The archive includes a dual portrait photograph of J.M. Barrie and George W. Cable (circa 1898), a photograph of poet Joaquin Miller (inscribed to “Jeany L Gilder”), and a Jan. 29, 1900 letter to Gilder from Edwina Booth Grossman regarding her father, the late Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth (older brother of assassin John Wilkes Booth).

JEANNETTE LEONARD GILDER. Archive. Approx. 100 items, mostly Autograph Letters Signed to Gilder, 1874-1915.

Inventory #24592       ON HOLD

JOHN BIGELOW undated letter teasing Gilder about her coffee habit, expressing his hopes for “effecting your Emancipation from the Chains of the Mocha Demon.

CHARLES A. DANA’s May 15, 1886 Letter Signed, on letter head of The Sun, questioning the text of her publication of his sonnets.

WILLIAM J. LAMPTON undated typed postcard signed: “I could tangle my hands in your hair, Jeannette,/ For saying my book had come out, for as yet / It hasn’t come out; but it will, and then / You will see for yourself, Miss, what different men,/ Are me and Walt Whitman; and your eyes will be dim / With weeping at having compared me to him.

Jeannette Leonard Gilder (1849-1916) was born in Flushing, N.Y. to Jane Nutt and William Henry Gilder. Her father, a Methodist clergyman, died in 1864, and she went to work at age 15 while briefly attending Bridgeton Female Seminary. After clerical jobs in the state adjutant general’s office at Trenton and the US Mint in Philadelphia, in 1868 she joined the Newark Morning Register, recently established by her older brother, Richard Watson Gilder. She was briefly Newark correspondent for the New York Tribune, and in 1875 became literary editor of the New York Herald. Her popular “Chats about Books” and reviews and criticism of music, drama, and literature made her a central figure in New York City’s cultural life.

In 1881, Gilder and her brother Joseph founded The Critic, a biweekly (later weekly) journal of literary criticism. She contributed a regular column, “The Lounger,” and served as co-editor before becoming the sole editor in 1901. The Critic earned high regard for its reviews of literature, music, and drama. Gilder herself wrote many of the pieces for the journal. During her tenure with The Critic, Gilder also contributed columns to Harper’s Bazaar, the New York Commercial Advertiser, and the London Academy, and (under the pen name “Brunswick”) was a New York correspondent for the Boston Saturday Evening Gazette and the Boston Evening Transcript. In 1906, The Critic was absorbed by Putnam’s Monthly, of which she was associate editor until the Atlantic Monthly incorporated it four years later.

Gilder’s editorial work produced several books, including Essays from the “Critic” (1882), Representative Poems of Living Poets (1886), Masterpieces of the World’s Best Literature (1905), and Heart of Youth (1911). She wrote several plays, including Quits (produced in Philadelphia in 1877), and A Wonderful Woman (1878). In 1887 she published a novel, Taken by Siege, about literary life in New York, and her Autobiography of a Tomboy (1900) and The Tomboy at Work (1904) were modest successes. Gilder also served as New York agent for a number of authors and publishers, and in later years supplied book columns to McLure’s magazine, Woman’s Home Companion, and the Chicago Tribune.


Swann Auction Galleries, September 18, 1958, lot 183.

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