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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Henry Mills Alden (1836–1919)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
HENRY MILLS ALDEN, after 1869 the editor of Harper’s Magazine, was born in Mount Tabor, Vermont, November 11th, 1836, the eighth in descent from Captain John Alden, the Pilgrim. He graduated at Williams College, and studied theology at Andover Seminary, but was never ordained a minister, having almost immediately turned his attention to literature. His first work that attracted attention was an essay on the Eleusinian Mysteries, published in the Atlantic Monthly. The scholarship and subtle method revealed in this and similar works led to his engagement to deliver a course of twelve Lowell Institute lectures at Boston, in 1863 and 1864, and he took for his subject ‘The Structure of Paganism.’ Before this he had removed to New York, had engaged in general editorial work, and formed his lasting connection with the house of Harper and Brothers.  1
  As an editor Mr. Alden is the most practical of men, but he is in reality a poet, and in another age he might have been a mystic. He has the secret of preserving his life to himself, while paying the keenest attention to his daily duties. In his office he is immersed in affairs which require the exercise of vigilant common-sense, and knowledge of life and literature. At his home he is a serene and optimistic philosopher, contemplating the forces that make for our civilization, and musing over the deep problems of man’s occupation of this earth. In 1893 appeared anonymously a volume entitled ‘God in His World,’ which attracted instantly wide attention in this country and in England for its subtlety of thought, its boldness of treatment, its winning sweetness of temper, and its exquisite style. It was by Mr. Alden, and in 1895 it was followed by ‘A Study of Death,’ continuing the great theme of the first,—the unity of creation, the certainty that there is in no sense a war between the Creator and his creation. In this view the Universe is not divided into the Natural and the Supernatural: all is Natural. But we can speak here only of their literary quality. The author is seen to be a poet in his conceptions, but in form his writing is entirely within the limits of prose; yet it is a prose most harmonious, most melodious, and it exhibits the capacity of our English tongue in the hand of a master. The thought is sometimes so subtle as to elude the careless reader, but the charm of the melody never fails to entrance.  2
  For many years he contributed to Harper’s Magazine, the essays appearing under the caption ‘Editor’s Study.’ His ‘Magazine Writing and the New Literature’ was published in 1908.  3
 
 
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