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Francis Fisher Browne

1843 - 1913

John Muir, with friends William Keith, Charles Keeler, Francis Fisher Browne, John Burroughs
Clockwise from top left: John Muir, William Keith, Charles Keeler, Francis Fisher Browne, John Burroughs

  • Chicago writer for and editor of literary periodicals, most notably The Dial, a modest magazine he described as "An intelligent guide and agreeable companion to the book-lover." The journal was named The Dial in honor of Margaret Fuller's short-lived Transcendentalist periodical.
  • In 1892, the same year the Sierra Club was established, Browne bought out his partners and as independent owner and editor, introduced a "new" Dial, one he stated would "assume a distinct voice upon questions of general intellectual concern." Now the magazine not only reviewed books, it carried editorials, essays on a range of topics, general articles and even letters from its readers. Through all its thirty-three years The Dial remained consistently apolitical and conservative, revering established English and New England writers, maintaining a courteous and pleasant tone, and ignoring or opposing works that showed the worst of human nature -- the ugly or indelicate side of life. Nevertheless, when Browne died in 1913 The Dial was still at its peak of financial and intellectual success, firmly established as a national rather than a regional publication.
  • Francis Fisher Browne loved literature, particularly poetry, and he edited three collections entitled Golden Poems by British and American Authors (1881), The Golden Treasury of Poetry and Prose (1883), and Bugle-Echoes, poems of the Civil War in 1886. Although he churned out numerous verses of his own, his most note-worthy work was a comprehensive biography, The Everyday Life of Abraham Lincoln, published in 1886.
  • Among his friends were John Burroughs, Charles F. Lummis, and John Muir. Perhaps influenced by John Muir, he typically signed his addressed in hotel registers and guestbooks as "Planet Earth."
  • One of the few disappointments of Browne's literary life was the failure of a special project - the establishment of an elegant bookstore that would appeal to Chicago's wealthy and cultured readers. Existing only from 1907 to 1912, Browne's Bookstore, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and located in the Fine Arts Building, struggled unsuccessfully to make a profit.
  • Elderly and ill, Browne died in California in 1913, and The Dial, which continued to be published by his two sons, Waldo and Herbert, was sold in 1916 to Henry O. Shepard Co. and relocated in New York City.
  • A memorial tribute to Browne by John Muir under the title "Browne the Beloved" appeared in The Dial in its June, 16, 1913 edition. In it, Muir tells how he and Browne reveled in the songs and poems of Robert Burns.

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