« ElőzőTovább »
Discoverer saw the light, at once there sprang up a rival, The Weekly Discoverer Stripped Naked. Mercurys of many sorts abounded on both sides.
The reigns of Charles II. and his brother James were fruitful in newspapers of small size, and generally of short life. The fantastic folly of the age was often reflected in both title and contents. How we should laugh now at the appearance of a paper entitled, as was one of these, News from the Land of Chivalry, being the Pleasant and Delectable History and Wonderful and Strange Adventures of Don Rugero de Strangmento, Knight of the Squeaking Fiddlestick. Macaulay tells us that the quantity of matter contained in one of these publications during a whole
year was not more than is often found in two numbers of the “Times." Of The London Gazette, which came out on Mondays and Thursdays, "the contents generally were a royal proclamation, two or three Tory addresses, notices of two or three promotions, an account of a skirmish between the imperial troops and the Janissaries on the Danube, a description of a highwayman, an announcement of a grand cockfight between two persons of honour, and an advertisement offering a reward for a strayed dog. The whole made up two pages of moderate size."
At this time the Newsletter did the work of our daily papers. News was to be learned chiefly in the coffee-houses, which were thronged all day long by the idle men, and for some hours were frequented by even the busiest men, in the capital. The evening before post-day, the correspondents of the country districts gathered all the scraps of intelligence they had collected in their daily rambles into the form of a letter, which went down duly by the post to enlighten justices of peace in their offices, country rectors in their studies, village tradesmen and neighbouring farmers in the sanded tap-rooms of rustic ale-houses. When we remember the slowness of communication a hundred and fifty years ago, it will not seem wonderful that the country was a week or a fortnight behind the town in the current history of the times. To us, who have electric wires and penny papers, this would seem intolerable.
OLD STYLE OF REPORTING.
It is not our purpose here to enter into a detailed account of the growth of the English newspaper. To do so would carry us far beyond our available space. The press, when freed in 1694 from restrictions on its liberty, advanced with rapid strides. There was something of a check, when the Tory government in 1712 laid a stamp-tax on newspapers—a halfpenny on half a sheet, a penny on a whole sheet, and a shilling on every advertisement. But through all checks its onward progress was steady and sure.
Yet it was not until the end of the eighteenth century that the parliamentary debates began to be reported at any length. Nor was it without a fierce struggle that the London printers won this important right. Of those who did stout battle for the public in this contest, William Woodfall was most prominent. A meagre summary at first, and some days later, an elaborate version of the speeches, some perhaps written, but many certainly retouched, by Dr. Johnson or other leading littérateur of the day, formed the parliamentary debate as it appeared in print before Woodfall's reporting began. Having set up the Diary in 1789, this extraordinary man would listen for many hours, froin the strangers' gallery in St. Stephen's, to the progress of the debate, and then, going to the printing office, would write off from memory all that he had heard. His report sometimes extended to sixteen columns -each not, of course, containing anything like the matter of a column in the “Times” of our day, but yet large enough to make the feat a rare and remarkable instance of what the educated inemory can retain. This, however, was too much for a man to do for more than a few years. There are, indeed, few men who could do it at all. The employment of several reporters to divide the labour, and the subsequent introduction of reporting in shorthand, enabled the papers to furnish earlier and more accurate accounts of what was done in the Houses of Parliament.
On the first of January 1788 appeared the first number of The Times, the new form of the little Daily Register, that had already been for three years in existence. It was a puny, meagre thing, compared with its gigantic offspring, which is delivered damp
THE PRESS-LIFE OF TO-DAY.
from the press at thousands of London doors every morning before early breakfast-time, and before the sun has set has been read over nearly all England. But it grew and throve; and when in 1814 the power of steam was employed to work the press, the foundation was laid of the magnificent success this giant sheet has since achieved. A newspaper paying, as the “ Times” does, between £40,000 and £50,000 a year for paperduty alone, is indeed a wonderful triumph of human energy, and a colossal proof of the reading-power of our age.
There is something feverish about the rate at which the drums of the newspaper press revolve now-a-days. At ten or eleven o'clock at night some noted member of the House-a Gladstone or a Palmerston, a Derby or a Disraeli-gets upon his legs to speak. For two hours he enchains the House with his eloquence, and, perhaps, concludes by turning back on his foes the weapon aimed fit the very heart of his party. At twelve or one, in some brightly lighted room in Printing-House Square, an editor sits down to his desk, with a digest of this very speech before him, to tear it to pieces or applaud it to the skies, as it may happen to chime or clash with his own opinions on the question of debate. Not far away sit the keen-eyed reporters, busied with their task of transcribing their short-hand notes for the press. On for the bare life race all the busy pens. The wheels of the brain are all whirring away at top speed and highest pressure. At last article and reports are finished. Then arises the rattle of composing-sticks and type. The great drum of Hoe's machine, and its satellite cylinders, begin their swift rounds; and before eight o'clock in the morning the bolt of the Thunderer has fallen on the speechmaker or his foes, as the case may be.
Journalism employs thousands of able pens over all the kingdom, and has done much to lift the literary profession from the low position in which all but its most prominent members lay during a great part of the last century. Let us now turn to take a brief view of the rise of those other periodicals, whose abundance and excellence form one of the leading literary features of the present age.
THE PRINCIPAL REVIEWS,
Although Defoe's Review, begun in 1704, was, strictly speaking, the first English serial, it was not until Richard Steele and Joseph Addison began to write the pleasant and eloquent papers of The Tatler, that the foundation of our periodical literature was firmly laid. The Spectator followed—a yet nobler specimen of the early and now old-fashioned serial. Then came, at various intervals throughout the eighteenth century, and with varying fortunes, The Gentleman's Magazine, The Guardian, and The Rambler,the last of which was written nearly all by Samuel Johnson ; and in Scotland, The Mirror and The Lounger, to which Henry Mackenzie was the principal contributor.
The older periodicals, which now lie upon our tables, date for the most part from the early years of the present century. We take the Reviews first for a few words of comment. Earliest, and in former times most brilliant of these large Quarterlys, was The Edinburgh Review, whose Whig principles are symbolized by the buff and blue of its pasteboard cover. One day in 1802, Sydney Smith, meeting Brougham and some other young Liberals at Jeffrey's house, which was then a high flat somewhere in Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh, proposed to start a Review. The happy idea took the fancy of all present; and the first number of the “Edinburgh" soon appeared. Its circulation reached in 1813 to 12,000 or 13,000 copies. This periodical was afterwards enriched by the stately and magnificent essays of the historian Macaulay.
When the Tories saw the success and felt the power of the “Edinburgb,” they in 1809 started The Quarterly Review, which has ever since been growing in public favour. John Gibson Lockhart, the son-in-law and biographer of Sir Walter Scott, was for many years editor of the “Quarterly." The Westminster Review began in 1824 to represent Radical opinions. These serials and their younger brethren, appearing every quarter in thick volumes at a comparatively high price, contain articles on the leading books and political questions of the day. A great work is often singly reviewed; but the usual plan adopted is to collect a number of works bearing on a topic of prominent interest, and upon these to found an essay of tolerable length. Recently, a lighter sort of
ENCYCLOPÆDIAS AND MAGAZINES.
review artillery has been brought into the literary and political battle-field. Discarding the heavy guns, fired at long intervals, as lumbering and comparatively ineffective, the writers of The Saturday Review and its tribe discharge weekly volleys of stinging rifle-balls and smashing round-shot from their light twelvepounders, often with tremendous effect. The Athenæum stands at the head of the weekly reviews, which are devoted solely to literature, science, and art.
The Magazine, which is generally a monthly serial, though dealing somewhat in light reviewing, aims rather at the amusement and instruction of its readers by a dozen or so of original articles, including tales, sketches, essays, and short poems. Blackwood, Fraser, The New Monthly, The Dublin University, Bentley, and Tait are the older favourites; but, within a year or two, there has come upon our tables a flood of cheaper periodicals of this class, and, riding on the highest crest of the wave, the rich maize-coloured Cornhill, which numbers its readers by the hundred thousand, and supplies for a solitary silver shilling a monthly crop of heavy golden grain, reaped from the finest brain-soils in the land.
A class of serials, deserving a longer notice than we can give them here, are the Encyclopædias. Chief of these is the Ency. clopædia Britannica, of which the eighth edition has just been completed, enriched with articles from the first pens in Britain. The Edinburgh Encyclopædia, edited by Sir David Brewster, is valuable for its scientific articles. Lardner's Cyclopædia contains a valuable series of histories,-part of England by Mackintosh, Scotland by Scott, and Ireland by Moore.
No men have done more for periodical literature than the Messrs. Chambers of Edinburgh. They enjoy the credit of having set on foot the cheapest form of serial by the publication in 1832 of their Journal, which has lived through a long career of usefulness, and is flourishing still in almost pristine vigour amid a host of
We have in this chapter glanced along the whole course of our serial literature up to the present day, because we shall not have an opportunity of returning to the subject, and no historical