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The Looker-On

(New York, 1895-1897)

Prepared by Ruth Henderson
Online only (2016)

The Looker-on [LOO] is a monthly journal devoted to music, drama, and literature including fiction, short plays, and poetry, published in New York from October 1895 through June 1897 by the Looker-on Publishing Company. Four volumes were issued in total, the first consisting of three issues, and the other volumes, six issues each. Despite its short period of publication, LOO’s substantive essays by recognized authors and scholars, together with its review and news features, earned it a position of respect and lasting influence. Shakespearean scholar and author William Hansell Fleming (1844-1915) was principal editor and contributor, although his name does not appear as editor until March 1897 (vol. 4, no. 3).

Music critic and writer on music Henry T. Finck (1854-1926) is the second most frequent contributor. Fink studied at Harvard University with John Knowles Paine and was music editor for the New York Evening Post and The Nation from 1881 to 1924. He attended and reviewed the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876 and remained a lifelong supporter of Wagner’s music, but also championed the music of Schubert, Liszt, Chopin, Grieg, and MacDowell. Finck is outspoken in his aversion to the music of Brahms and Richard Strauss and occasionally spars with rival music critic Henry Edward Krehbiel. Essays on music and musicians are contributed by various other authors, most notably William Foster Apthorp, Louis C. Elson, William J. Henderson, H. E. Krehbiel, and Joakim Reinhard.

Regular features include F. Townsend Southwick’s frequent column, “Expression in Voice and Action,” which considers the place of elocution among the arts; Alfred Remy’s “Review of New Music” (beginning with vol. 3, no. 4), and his columns analyzing recent programs of the New York Philharmonic Society and the New York Symphony Society (beginning in vol.3, no. 5); and six installments of “Friendly Observations on People and Things in Books, Society, and Real Life,” the first four by Simon Olive-Branch, Jr., and two additional ones by Henry Van Dyke. Henry Finck’s tastes are frequently reflected in his music news column, originally entitled, “Musical Notes” then revised to “Musical Comment and Gossip” for the following five issues, and reverting to the original title with vol. 2, no. 4.

Editor Fleming contributed most of the book reviews and a column, “Dramatic Notes,” featuring reviews of current productions in New York theaters. His analysis of the dramatic construction of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar appeared in eight installments over the course of the four volumes. Seven installments of “Portraits, Interviews, Sketches,” usually unsigned, focusing on the methods or criticism of current musicians, are of interest. The unsigned “Professional Notes” includes news of New York musicians and, perhaps because its pages are unnumbered in the second two volumes, are usually deleted when these volumes were bound in most copies consulted.

The copies on which the RIPM data is based are from the New York Public Library and the Peabody Conservatory.