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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 heen 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 at 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, 257
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 “Edinburgh,” 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 (15) 17
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 Athenceum 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 younger rivals.
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
A LITERARY CONTRAST. 250
sketch of English literature would be complete without such a view. Laying down the last number of the “Quarterly” or the “Cornhill,” we bethink us of the little leaf, on which, a hundred and fifty years ago, poor Dick Steele and stately Mr. Addison wrote the first magazine and review articles, that deserve the name in English literature; and are filled with wonder at the vast increase of the kind. There are many Addisons and very many Steeles among the literary men of our day; but so great is the supply of healthy, graceful English writing, and so much have matters altered in the way of remunerating literary men, that the Commissioners of Stamps and the Secretaries of State are not chosen by Lord Palmerston from among the contributors to Blackwood or All the Year Round. Then, there is the pleasant thought to compensate for this want of fame and of political promotion, that every man of letters, who can use his pen well, and can sit steadily at his desk for some hours a day, is sure of earning a comfortable livelihood, and holding a respectable place in society. In Queen Anne's day, it was Addison and Steele, Pope and Swift, and a few more, who got all the fame and the guineas, who drank their wine, and spent their afternoons in the saloons of the great; while the great majority of authors starved and shivered in garrets, or pawned their clothes for the food their pens could not win. In Victoria's reign there are few political prizes, but there is widespread comfort; and the man qualified to live by pen-work, is sure of finding that work to do, if to his ability he but adds the all-important qualities of industry and common sense.
WHEN Joseph Addison was born in 1672, his father was rector of Milston, near Amesbury in Wiltshire. He received the best part of his education at the Charter-house in London, a school which has sent forth many of our first wits and literary men. It was there that he met Dick Steele, a good-hearted, mischief-loving Irish boy; and the juvenile friendship, cemented no doubt by numerous tart transactions and much illegal Latin-verse making, was renewed at college and in later life. At the age of fifteen Addison left school for Queen's College, Oxford; two years later he obtained a scholarship in Magdalen, where his Latin poems won for him considerable renown.
His first flight in English verse was an Address to Dryden (1694), by which he gained the great man's friendship,—no slight matter to a newly fledged poet, whose face was hardly known in the coffee-houses. Dryden admitted his Translation of part of the Fourth Georgic into a book of Miscellanies. Other poems followed from the same pen. Some verses in honour of the King, though poor enough, won the favour of Lord Somers, through whom they reached the royal hand; and the fortunate writer
received a pension of £300 a year, that he might cultivate 1699 his classic tastes by travel on the Continent. So, with a
full purse and the reputation of being the most elegant
scholar of his day in England, Addison set out upon the grand tour. From Italy he wrote a poetical Letter to Lord Halifax, which is looked upon as the finest of his works in English verse.