Not much is known about The Dilettante, as the magazine’s publisher and editor never disclosed their identity, no important works or influential authors ever appeared in its pages, and few hard copies of the magazine survive today. But we do know it’s a good example of the “ephemeral bibelots” or “freak magazines” from the 1890s that Frederick Faxon catalogued in his Bibliography of Modern Chap-Books (1903) (see the Books page for similar titles). Much as these magazines “sprang up in the most out-of-the-way spots, and died young in most cases” (4), The Dilettante began publication in Spokane, Washington in 1898 and hung on for only a few years, resulting in maybe 24 sporadic issues before disappearing for good in 1901. Unlike the next generation of little magazines, The Dilettante, like other bibelots of the day, also had no lasting impact on American literature—a fate anticipated by the journal’s name, which takes its amateur standing, diminutive size, and humble aspirations as distinguishing features. The Dilettante nonetheless remains valuable to us today for giving us a first-hand view of what literary and artistic culture was like in backwoods America at the turn of the century. Standing at a point where high art (such as it was in Spokane) and local color meet, The Dilettante made good on its intent “to publish fiction with a Northwestern setting, sketches of pioneer life and travels, criticism and book reviews” for “admirer[s] of the arts” and “bookish folk” who “prize the art of words for itself” (1.1.31, 1.1.29, 1.2.30, 1.1.30-31). The magazine is also valuable for tracking local sentiment about the U.S.’s engagement in the Spanish-American war.
The MJP’s digital edition of The Dilettante was assembled by Kyle Scheuring, a student at Loyola University Chicago, working with Mark Gaipa in an internship at the MJP during fall 2016. The Modernist Journals Project would like to thank Whitworth University Library for providing us with scans of their copy of The Dilettante. The MJP would also like to thank the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities at Loyola for providing equipment and software support for our work on this edition.
The MJP’s digital edition of The Dilettante represents all of volume 1 of the magazine except for the September 1898 issue (1.6). A search of WorldCat indicates that only a handful of libraries, mostly from the Pacific Northwest, have scattered holdings of the magazine. Drawing from their collective catalogue information, we believe that five volumes, and possibly 24 issues, of The Dilettante were published between April 1898 and July 1901: volume 1 (10 issues) in 1898-99, volumes 2 and 3 (9 issues?) in 1900, and volumes 4 and 5 (5 issues?) in 1901.