Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - London by Day and Night, by David W.Bartlett, 1852 - Chapter 10 - Journalism

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CHAPTER X.

JOURNALISM.

THE TIMES.

    THERE is perhaps no single town in the world which executes so great an amount of printing as London. There are many places, where there are more newspapers, daily and weekly, but when we include all manner of periodicals and books, London must stand at the head of the world. We think too, that nowhere else has journalism become so brilliant and lofty a profession. The London daily papers are the ablest in the world, so far as mere writing talent is concerned. And first of all, towering far above all the rest in stature and importance as a daily paper of magnificent editorial-talent, stands the London Times. It is what it has once styled itself the leading journal of Europe, the journal which is read everywhere, from the Mississippi to the Ganges. Whatever people may believe as the principles of the paper, all are agreed in one point - that it is the mightiest intellectual engine in the world; if bad, then mightily dangerous.
    It is printed and published in Printing House Square, a quiet place in London, and a visit to the establishment is well worth the while of any American. Everything in its vast apartments is conducted with precision and wonderful dispatch, and one is struck with admiration to see how quietly so vast a machine can perform its gigantic labor.
    [-204-] A thousand fingers, a thousand pens in all parts of the earth, the railway engines, steamers, and the lightning are constantly at work to feed this great leviathan. It has a host of editors, and regularly paid contributors it has able correspondents everywhere - at Paris, Berlin and Vienna, it keeps men - often, we are sorry to say, to fabricate untruths - whose sole business is to furnish matter for its columns. It has reporters almost without number - some travelling and others stationary. Every word spoken in either House of Parliament, at night, appears in the next morning's Times. Not an occurrence anywhere escapes its quick ear, unless it chooses not to hear. It has steamers of its own, and often charters steam-engines, and almost monopolizes the electric telegraph. It pays for its matter most liberally, as it can well afford to do. It chief editor receives a princely salary, and all of its contributors are remunerated in a splendid manner. We know of one man, a conscientious and learned English Professor, who was a few years since seduced by old Mr. Walter, into writing a few articles for the paper, but upon his insisting on paying him in a princely fashion, the honest Professor stopped his communications - it seemed to him so much like bribery!
    As a property the Times is one of the best in Europe, and could not be purchased to-day for millions of dollars. It has an immense circulation. but its income does not come from that, so much as from its advertising patronage. That is immense, for every day it publishes a supplement entirely devoted to advertisements which alone is as large as the usual papers, and this is often doubled. The charges for advertising, too, are higher in London than here, while composition and press-work are cheaper. It is stated that old Mr. Walter, the father of the present principal proprietor, gave his daughter for a marriage present, a single advertising column of the paper, and that it was really in itself a pretty fortune For [-205-] talent, energy, and consummate abilities this leviathan sheet stands at the head of journalism in Europe. As a mere news sheet we do not admire it, for it is in that department surpassed by the Daily News, but in the splendor of its editorials, as far as talent and genius go, it has, perhaps we may safely say, no equal in the world.
    But we have said all that can be said in its favor. There is another and a darker side to be looked at. There does not exist in Europe a more unprincipled journal than the Times. There is no sheet which will sell itself so quick, body and soul, for gold. It does not even profess consistency - it reflects the times - save when a millionaire, or a foreign despot bribes it, for then it will fight against the current of public opinion. It is owned by a set of speculators whose entire and sole object is to make money by the concern. They therefore advocate that which will pay best, and principles are good or bad with them according as they are pecuniarily profitable. When Cobden's great Anti-Corn-Law Agitation commenced, the Times ridiculed and abused it. But the nation took the question up in earnest, and that journal saw that it surely must triumph. Commercial men began to withdraw advertising patronage. On Saturday morning the paper came out opposed entirely and thoroughly to Free Trade - on Monday morning it hoisted the colors of the Anti-Corn-Law League without a single word of apology. Every item in the paper which had a bearing upon the subject, was in favor of Free Trade, and an utter stranger upon taking up the sheet, would have supposed it to be an old advocate of its new opinions. England, though accustomed to its pranks, was thunderstruck.
    Its unprincipled character is best seen in the department for foreign news. It is steadily - the only thing it is steady in - the enemy of human liberty in Europe. Its continental news can never be trusted, such is its propensity to prevaricate. It has not hesitated for a moment to coin the basest [-206-] lies against Mazzini and Kossuth. Its course it this matter has aroused the indignation of universal Christendom. Mr. Cobden, in an eloquent speech in reference to its course against the poor exiles said:
    "How shall we describe those indescribable monsters who, when foes are fallen - when they are gone into exile - when they are separated from their wives amid children - when they are shivering in our streets, brought down from lofty places to beg their bread in the midst of winter - how shall we describe the wretches who are base enough to traduce the character of these men? I spoke of ghouls and vampires. They prey upon corpses and the material body; but we have no monster yet by which we can describe the nature of him who lives by destroying the character of a fallen foe.
    During the spring of 1851, the Times persisted in stating that Mazzini was in Genoa, carrying out his revolutionary projects. Day after day it reiterated this statement, and yet we knew that he was in London. At a later day it acknowledged his return, and pretended to give a report of his speech at a public dimmer. In the report occurred the following sentence :-" For the Emperor I would substitute the people- for the Pope Nature." Here was a deliberate, premeditated lie, for Mazzini said, "For the Emperor I would substitute the people - for the Pope GOD!" The object of the Times was to prejudice the English mind against the Italian hero by making him out to be an infidel in religious matters. But the course of that paper in reference to Kossuth, has damaged it perceptibly in sale and reputation, and the English people will never forgive it for its base conduct.
    We have it upon excellent authority, that in the height of the French Revolution, the Paris correspondent of the Times came to London in hot haste, saying to the proprietors : "I cannot pursue my present course of misrepresentation any longer with personal safety!"  The unprincipled but talented [-207-] gentleman was kept in London doing nothing on a full salary, until there was a turn in the tide of French politics, when he was sent back to his infamous work. One of the strongest facts which the history of this sheet unfolds, is that the best talent of Europe is always for sale, for or against despotism. Although that paper changes as often as the wind, it is not often obliged to change its contributors. With the easy principles of the members of the legal profession, they write for pay, and whether their client be in the right or wrong, it matters very little with them, so long as the remuneration is princely!

DAILY PRESS.

    Few in America are aware of the exceeding difficulty of establishing a daily journal in Great Britain. There are only six or eight in the whole kingdom, and all but one or two of those are published in London. It is strange, but Liverpool with 400,000 people, has not a single daily newspaper, and Manchester, with a still larger population, is in the same condition. One reason for this is, that London, by railway, is brought very near to all provincial towns, and the dailies of the metropolis are read all over the kingdom. The Times, Daily News, Morning Chronicle, and Post, are scattered everywhere over the land in a few hours, by the express-trains, and it is almost impossible to keep up a daily paper in a provincial town, with local news, and all else is brought the quickest through the metropolitan journals. The duty on paper is heavy in England, which, added to the specific news-tax of one penny, or two cents, upon every sheet, amounts to a terrible burden upon the newspapers. Every newspaper in the kingdom must pay into the coffers of the government two cents for its every sheet. This makes the risk of those who attempt the publication of new journals exceedingly great. The well-established journals like the tax, for it crushes all [-208-] competition. This is the reason why The Times opposes the abolition of the stamp-tax on papers - if it were swept away, instantly a hundred cheap dailies would spring into existence over the country, and it would probably lose a share of its present immense patronage. There is a duty of fifty cents upon every advertisement in any newspaper or periodical in England, so that very few people in business advertise through the periodicals. Almost every conceivable method is resorted to on account of this tax, to advertise to the world without touching the papers. Great vans parade the streets with printed inscriptions upon them; men, encompassed with boards, upon which are written flaming advertisements, and even dogs perambulate the streets. Small bills are thrust into your hands at every corner - so that the tax almost amounts to prohibition of newspaper advertising.
    There has been expended upon the Daily News, to make it pay for itself, over half a million of dollars, and even now it is not considered excellent property. Large numbers of shares are bought by men who wish to keep up a liberal daily paper in London, and who purchased the stock, not so much expecting good returns as desiring to uphold Liberalism.
    A few years ago, a gentleman of large property in London, attempted to establish a daily newspaper. Everything was done to make it successful that could be done ; not a stone was left unturned - yet after three months it perished, and its owner lost with it 30,000! He had the numbers splendidly bound, and whenever, after that any friend of his talked of starting a newspaper, he led him by the arm to his bookcase, and taking out the volume said, "That is my newspaper; it lived three months; cost 30,000!"
    Still later, an attempt was made by a powerful firm to establish a liberal daily paper, under the name of "The London Telegraph," but after a hard struggle of three month, duration, it died.
    [-209-] The Daily News is, perhaps, the next paper in London in importance to the Times. It is more thoroughly liberal in tone and manner than the latter ; still, like all the other London dailies, it cannot be trusted in its foreign news. All London newspapers in this respect are untrustworthy. The editor-chief of the Daily News, is a man of fair abilities and generous sentiments, but does not sympathize heartily with the democracy of Europe. It is, however, very far superior to the Times as a journal of news. It never prevaricates, and the only reason why it is not wholly to be trusted in its continental matter, arises from the fact, that its sympathies are not strong enough for republicanism, and it sometimes reports things against the character of the republicans, which they believe to be true, but which are not in reality. It never, however, becomes the tool of despotism for pay.
    The Morning Chronicle is, and always has been celebrated for the peculiar literary talent displayed in its columns. Charles Dickens, or "Boz," became first known to the world through its columns, and Henry Mayhew wrote in it his celebrated letters upon the English Poor. It is exceedingly conservative on some questions, but possesses talent, and a fair circulation.
    The Morning Post is the special organ of the kid-gloved aristocracy ; is full of fulsome adulation of nobles, and never admits anything into its columns which can possibly offend the eye of an aristocrat. It possesses little ability, and generally goes in England by the name of Mrs. Gamp, one of Mr. Dickens' celebrated characters in fiction.
    The Morning Advertiser is owned by the Licensed Victuallers Association, and is taken in by every victualler in London and the country. It therefore lies a steady circulation ; and it is generally favorable to freedom.
    The Globe is at present the organ of Lord Palmerston, and is a fair paper, though it has a moderate circulation. It re-[-210-]ceives official news in advance of other journals, and this fact has aroused the ire of the Times, and it takes every opportunity to revenge itself upon the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston.

WEEKLY PRESS.

    The Examiner is at the head of the London weekly newspapers. As a literary and political critic it has no superior in the world. Its wit and talent are of the first order-its sentiments are liberal. It is more than forty years since it was established, and it has ever preserved a high character as a weekly journal of politics and literature. John and Leigh Hunt owned it for many years; and while under the editorial charge of Leigh Hunt it acquired great popularity and reputation. Mr. Hunt was admitted on all hands to be the most accomplished dramatic critic of his age, and made the Examiner popular with all drama-loving people. While its editor, he wrote a paragraph reflecting somewhat upon the character of the Prince Regent, and was thrown into jail. He had his room papered, and a piano introduced, and when Byron and Moore visited him, was happy as a lark. Hazlitt, and Keats, and Shelley, used to contribute literary articles to the Examiner while under the editorship of Mr. Hunt. It then had a circulation of between seven and eight thousand, and paid well. After Hunt's death it passed into the hands of the celebrated Mr. Foublanque, under whose control it has ever since remained He is one of the most brilliant writers of the age. His articles are sought after by all classes - Tories and Whigs. Mr. Foublanque is something of a lion in literary circles; he is in personal appearance bad-looking. He is intellectual, but his long, black hair, which lies negligently over his splendid forehead, his cavernous eyes, and carelessness in dress, make him unpopular as a gentleman, but the brilliancy [-211-] of his intellect, and the keenness of his wit, gain for him an entrance into the very best society.
    Whenever the Examiner gets into a public discussion, however provoking an adversary may conduct, it always preserves its temper. It is provokingly cool on such occasions. What would set any one else on fire, only provokes its wit. But if it never is passionate, it is revengeful - it devours an enemy, not voraciously, but slowly and delightfully!
    John Forster is the literary and critical editor of the Examiner. For many years he has filled that post with distinguished ability. He has in the meantime written several books, which have gained for him a good reputation as an author. He is generally just in his criticisms of American works.

    The Sunday Dispatch has the largest circulation of any weekly paper in England - nearly one hundred thousand. It is devoted to politics, news, and general literature. It is an interesting paper, though not eminent for the ability displayed in its editorial columns.
    The Mark Lane Express is a commercial paper, and has special reference in its articles to Mark Lane transactions in corn. John Wilson, M. P., is its present editor, and although from his connection with Government, he is not to be trusted in political matters, yet the paper is noted for its abilities.
    The United Service Gazette is a military paper, well known by military men in America. For a long time it was under the editorial control of Alaric de Watts, who is a powerful writer. We chanced to meet him one evening at the house of a mutual friend, and thought we never before had seen so savage a looking man in London. He has a large head, which is covered with rough, black hair; his body is athletic, his arms sinewy and strong, and he looks as if more capable of fighting than writing. But his articles are like his frame, massive, and full of strength.
    [-212-] The Literary Gazette was a few years since a weekly paper of considerable note in London. It was published by the Longmans, the wealthy book-publishers; and while it was under the editorial management of Mr. Jerdan, it contributed much towards the fame of Robert Montgomery and Letitia E. Landon. In attempting to publish the work himself, Mr. Jerdan finally became a bankrupt.
    The Athenaeum has an excellent standing as a literary and critical journal. It was established sixteen years since, by John Stirling and James Silk Buckingham, and when its circulation had declined to four hundred, it was purchased by the present proprietor, Mr. Duke, whose business talents are not surpassed by any man's in London. He expended thousands in advertising and purchasing the best of talent for his journal, and was eminently successful. Its proprietor was one of the commissioners of the Great Exhibition, and was offered the honor of knighthood, which he had the manliness to decline. The Queen sent to his wife a diamond bracelet in token of his services.
    The character of Punch is well known jut America. It is almost the only successful journal of wit in the world, and it owes its circulation to its eminent ability both in literary matter and artistic illustration. It is a fine speculation, and well rewards its enterprising publishers-Messrs. Bradbury and Evans. There are several other journals, religious, political, and news, but we have mentioned. the most important of all. There are weekly journals which evade the stamp-duty, by excluding all current news, and which are published at a cheap rate. Some of them are the vehicles of the most degraded literature and morality, but not all.

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