E.D.E.N. Southworth's originally massively popular novel, The Hidden Hand (1859), was not published as a book until it had undergone serialization three separate times, over the course of a quarter century, in a weekly story-paper called the New York Ledger. This bare fact about the material form in which it circulated and gained its large and admiring audience has consequences for interpreting the novel that have gone entirely unexamined by scholars. Thus, Southworth's novel offers a good test case for the claim that the material form of publication (in this case, periodical serialization) is a substantively important aspect of the work's meaning: the readers who responded to it so enthusiastically had all read it under the conditions of seriality. In this essay I attempt to take account of the interpretive implications of seriality for understanding Southworth's novel, exploring some of the ways in which it was ideologically embedded in the Ledger and describing the active and canny role it played in that periodical's strident apoliticism. The Hidden Hand embodied the magazine's declared nonpartisanship in, among other things, various forms of generic melding and imaginary scenarios of sectional uni�cation. Critical accounts that have sought to characterize this novel as proslavery or antislavery have all missed the point that Southworth's tale actively ignored such political issues and thus sought to transcend the dire sectional controversies that were unmistakably impending at the time of its publication.
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