Seward Collins

From Academic Kids

Seward Bishop Collins (April 22, 1899December 8, 1952) graduated from Princeton University and entered New York's literary life in 1926 as a bon vivant. He knew many literary giants of his day, had an affair with Dorothy Parker, and amassed a large collection of erotica. His bookstore, The American Review Bookshop, was at 231 West 58th Street in New York. It carried many journals, broadsheets, and newsletters that supported nationalist and fascist causes in Europe and Asia. In 1936, he married Dorothea Brande. A man of independent wealth, Collins published two literary journals: The Bookman (1927 - 1933) and The American Review (1933 - 1937).

By 1928 Collins was infatuated with the writings of prominent humanists of his day, including Paul Elmer More and Irving Babbitt. Politically, he moved from left-liberalism in the early 1920s to fascist by the end of that decade. In the American Review, he sought to develop an American form of fascism and praised Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in an article titled "Monarch as Alternative," which appeared in the first issue in 1933. In that essay, Collins attacked both capitalism and communism and heralded the "New Monarch," who would champion the common good over and against the machinations of capitalists and communists. His praise of Hitler was grounded in his belief that Hitler's rise to power that year heralded the end of the communist threat, as is illustrated by this excerpt:

"One would gather from the fantastic lack of proportion of our press -- not to say its gullibility and sensationalism -- that the most important aspect of the German revolution was the hardships suffered by Jews under the new regime. Even if the absurd atrocity stories were all true, the fact would be almost negligible beside an event that shouts aloud in spite of the journalistic silence: the victory of Hitler signifies the end of the Communist threat, forever. Wherever Communism grows strong enough to make a Communist revolution a danger, it will be crushed by a Fascist revolution."

The American Review ran articles by many leading literary critics of the day, including the Southern Agrarians, who were happy to find a publisher for their anti-modern essays. Several of them came to regret their relationship with Collins, however, after his views became better known through a 1936 interview that he granted to Grace Lumpkin in the pro-communist periodical FIGHT against War and Fascism. Therein he stated: "I am a fascist. I admire Hitler and Mussolini very much. They have done great things for their countries." When Lumpkin objected to Hitler's persecution of the Jews, Collins replied: "It is not persecution. The Jews make trouble. It is necessary to segregate them." Allen Tate wrote a rebuttal of fascism for The New Republic in an effort to repair the Southern Agrarians' reputations. Nevertheless, Tate remained in contact with Collins and continued to publish in The American Review until it ceased publication in 1937.

In addition to featuring many essays by the Southern Agrarians and other critics of modernity, The American Review became the a vehicle for spreading the ideas associated with English Distributism, the supporters of which included G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. Agrarians, Southern apologists, and distributists form part of the intellectual foundation for modern paleoconservatism, whose adherents view other forms of conservatism with suspicion.

Collins and his wife, who claimed to be a spiritual medium, were actively involved with psychic phenomena during the 1930s. Their circle of friends included W.H. Salter, Theodore Besterman, and Mrs. Henry Sidgwick, all of whom were affiliated with the Society for Psychical Research in London.

Today Collins is remembered primarily as a fascist editor and publisher who detested both capitalism and communism and counted many pre-War writers as his friends or colleagues. His essay "Monarch as Alternative," mentioned above, appears in Conservatism in America Since 1930, a collection of essays by conservative writers published by New York University Press in 2003.


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