Victorian London - Publications - Newspapers - The Times

PRINTING HOUSE SQUARE, BLACKFRIARS. So called from the printing office of the King's Printers, formerly situated here. The first I have discovered was John Bill, who, "at the King's Printing House in Black Friars, printed the proclamations of the reign of Charles II., and the first London Gazette, established in that reign. Charles Eyre and William Strahan were the last King's Printers who resided here, and in February, 1770, the King's Printing House was removed to New-street, near Gough-square, in Fleet-street, where it now is. The place still continues to deserve its name of Printing-House-square, for here every day in the week (Sunday excepted) the Times newspaper is printed and published, and from hence distributed over the whole civilized world. This celebrated paper, finding daily employment on the premises for between 200 and 300 people, was established in 1788,-the first number appearing on the 1st of January in that year. The Times of Tuesday, Nov. 29th, 1814, was the first work ever printed by a mechanical apparatus, and the first newspaper printed by steam. A machine erected in 1846 threw off the then almost incredible number of 6000 sheets of eight pages per hour (*Times, Aug.21st, 1846);  but another, by Mr. Applegarth, of Dartford, has since been erected which throws off 10,000 an hour. A newspaper and double supplement of June 23rd, 1845, contained 1706 advertisements. A column of advertisements is worth about 18l.; a page containing six columns is therefore worth 108l. Of the Times of Jan. 28th, 1846, containing Sir R. Peel's speech on the Corn Laws and Tariff, 54,000 copies were printed. (*Times, Jan. 30th, 1846) The usual daily circulation is said to be about 30,000. The taxes on the Times amount to rather more than 16,000l. a year for the paper; 60,000l. a year for the stamps, and 19,000l. a year for the advertisements, total 95,000l. a year. (*Times, Feb.13th 1850)  The best period of the day for seeing the Times at work is about 11 in the morning, when the second edition is being printed. The Times has taken the lead of all the London papers for very many years, and deservedly so, for the proprietors have spared no money to render it accurate and early in its intelligence. It was solely owing to the exertions used by the proprietors of this paper, and the immense outlay which they went to, that the notorious conspiracy of Bogle and his associates was (1841) detected and laid bare. The trial of Bogle v. Lawson (the printer of the paper) will occupy a place in the history of the commerce of this country, whenever such a work shall be again undertaken. A Times Testimonial was subsequently raised by the merchants and bankers of London, a tablet to commemorate the trial and exposure erected in the Royal Exchange, and the bulk of the money raised (the proprietors refusing to take any pecuniary recompense) invested in the funds for certain scholarships-Times Scholarships, as they are called-at Christ's Hospital and the City of London School. Mr. John Walter, under whose superintendence the Times was made what it now is, died in 1847.-William Faithorne, the engraver, died (1691) in this square, and was buried in the burial-ground of St. Anne's, Blackfriars.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

see also David Bartlett in London by Day and Night - click here

    We may now go on. Halfway up Ludgate-hill, where the shops are largest and their silks and Indian shawls most precious and tempting to female eyes, is a small gateway, through which we pass on our road to the Times office. It leads us into a labyrinth of the narrowest, the most wretched, ill-paved, and unsavoury streets of London.We stumble over a couple of surly curs, that would gladly bask in the sun if sun there were to bask in. and over a troop of dirty boys that are trundling their hoops, and twice we stumble over orange-peel, lying on the pavement conspicuously as if this were Naples. At length we turn to the left, into a narrow street, and reach a small square of the exact dimensions and appearance of a German back-yard. There are two trees quite lonely behind an iron railing, and a door with the words “THE TIMES” on it.
    A porter takes our cards; a messenger leads the way into the interior of the building. Glad as we are to see the kind old gentleman who does the honours of the house, and acts as cicerone on such occasions, we can do without him. We propose trying the trick of the diable boiteux, and for the term of a day and a night to watch the proceedings of the editorial department of the Times for the benefit of foreign journalists generally, whose introductions procure them admission to the printing-office only.
    It is ten minutes past eleven o’clock. Mr. M. M.—the manager, the factotum, the soul, and, at the same time, the sovereign of the Times— has been in his office these ten minutes. We were detained by that wretched wheeler.
    The soul, then, of the Times has taken his place in the editorial body. Who is this “manager,” and what are his functions?Mr. Walter founded the Times ; he reared it, fostered and organised it, and gave it the stamina by means of which it has reached its height of power. It was he who first attempted the use of machinery; he invented a new system of composing the type ; he was a writer on the paper, and, in extreme cases, he has been known to act as compositor. His was a universal genius, and one of no mean order. He died in 1847, and bequeathed the Times to his family.
    The present Mr. Walter, the chief proprietor of the Times, is a member of Parliament, and, as such, his time and energies are devoted to public business. The care and the responsibility of conducting the business of the Times has devolved on a manager, Mr. M. M. This gentleman is neither what we in Germany call a redacteur, nor is he what we would call an expeditor or accountant. He is just all in all, being the sovereign lord and master within the precincts of Printing-house Square.
    A heap of papers lies on his desk. At his side sits the editor du jour. What his functions are will be seen in the following lines:-
    The editorial functions of the Times are in the hands of several individuals, exactly as in the case of the great German journals. But, in Germany, each editor has his own separate department, for instance, home politics and foreign politics, or the literary and critical departments. They come to an understanding on the most important points, and then act altogether independently of one another. Besides, they meet frequently, and have plenty of opportunities to exchange their views and defend their opinions. Hence they very often quarrel, and their quarrels lead to frequent editorial crises. Far different is the case with the Times, where, besides the manager, there are two editors — Mr. John D and Mr. George D , with a third gentleman as sub-editor. The two editors take the service by turns, but they do not confine themselves to separate departments. Each of them. has, at the time he conducts the paper, to see that it has that tone which has been decided upon in council. However, we will not anticipate. Having here hinted at the many merits of the editorial department, we continue to act as invisible spectators in the Times office.
    We mentioned before, that a large heap of papers was lying on the desk of Mr. M. M., and that the editor du jour was sitting by his side. What are these two gentlemen doing? They read the most important journals of the day, take notes of their leading features, they talk over the topics of the leading articles for the next day’s paper ; but this is not enough. The material for the leaders having been selected, they are discussed in detail; notes are taken of some of the more leading features of the subject, and, if need be, the tendency is marked out. In many cases there is no need of this, but on some occasions the last measure is indispensable. The extraordinary and quick transitions of the Times are sufficiently known in Germany. The politics of the Times are an inscrutable mystery to most men, even to the majority of Englishmen; but the simple solution of the mystery is, that the Times either follows the lead of public opinion, or that it contradicts public opinion only when—more far-sighted than its contemporaries—it foresees a change; that under all circumstances, and at all times, it aims at a special critical interest ; and with an iron consistency, and in an astonishing sobriety, it advocates this critical interest unsparingly, to the sacrifice of every other interest. That is the whole enigma of. its seemingly changeable politics. It seizes with an unerring grasp that which is profitable for England, no matter how pernicious it may be for the outside barbarians. It is humane, constitutional, liberal, and even sentimental in its views of foreign countries, if England finds her advantage thereby; but it is also capable of imagining an eternal spring in the icy plains of Siberia, if an alliance with Russia should happen to advance English interests. It would even defend the slave trade, if it could be convinced that the cessation of that traffic would ruin the Lancashire cotton manufacturers.
    The Times has often been reproached with its sudden and unaccountable changes of policy, and these reproaches have been made in England and out of England; but surely there is a rigid political consistency, one which sometimes becomes demoniacal, in this Times’ policy. It may here be said, that the Times has now and then advocated views which certainly were not very advantageous to the interests of Great Britain. Such cases there may have been; but then we have never said that the Times is infallible. With all its prescience and circumspection, the Times has sometimes been wrong in its views; but we ought to remember that the very best editors are not omniscient, and that the strongest of us are occasionally influenced by human sympathies and antipathies, which stand in the way of an impartial decision. What we have said is of general application, namely, that the leading idea of the Times policy, which is carried out with an iron consistency, is the promotion of British interests ; that for the sake of this consistency, it is not afraid of committing the most flagrant apparent inconsistencies, and that this is the simple explanation of its mysterious character. At no one time has the Times been the organ of the Government. or of the opposition: it was always independent. On certain questions it supported the ministers of the day, on others it opposed them ; but it never made opposition for the sake of opposition, and was unbending only in those questions which really affected the existence of the nation, for instance, in the contest between Free Trade and Protection. It may well be said of the Time’s, that it adheres to no one principle, merely on account of the excellence of its theory. Tried practical usefulness is the faith to which it adheres under all circumstances.
    In England, the Times is the champion of gradual and reasonable progress; while, in its foreign policy, it clings to old allies and time-honoured systems of government; and the very Times which the English justly consider as a moderately liberal paper, is abused among the liberals of the Continent as a moderately reactionary organ. While Protectionist papers have, for years past, accused the Times of having given itself up to the evil genius of democracy and the demons of Manchester: the Radicals of all countries, are fully persuaded that the same Times is in the pay of Austria, Russia, and of all the devils generally. But the fact is, that the Times is as little democratic as it is Russian ; it is as little paid by Willich as by Rothschild ; and, under all circumstances, and for very good reasons, it will always be found to be rather Russian than Austrian; and rather Austrian than French; and always, above all things, it will be found to the English, egotistical; that is to say, political. To ask the Times, or any other reasonable political paper, to take a general purely humanistic standing point, and to ground its verdicts on the politics of the day, on the eternal laws of the history of civilization, and of moral philosophy; to ask it, in short, to write morals instead of politics, is absurd; and he who can make such a demand, knows nothing whatever of the position or the duties of a political journal. As well might he desire that diplomatists should always scrupulously adhere to the truth, or that a political paper, renouncing the interests of its own country, should devote itself to moral philosophy; in which case, we would advise it to establish its office in the most lonely island of all the lonely islands in the Pacific. But to what regions have our thoughts taken flight We ask the reader’s pardon for this monstrous digression; the temptation was too great, and we naturally thought of the tendencies of the Times while the manager and editor consulted about to-morrow morning’s leaders.
    The consultation is over. A few short notes have been taken of its results, and a sort of programme been made for every leader. Documents, letters from correspondents, and other papers are added to each programme, which is put into an envelope, and sent by messenger to a certain leading article writer, who, a few hours afterwards, sends in his article ready written. These leading article writers of the Times are altogether in an exceptional position. At the German newspapers, the leader-writing is generally done by the editor; now at the Times, the principle is generally acted upon, that the editor should rather edit the paper, than write it. The arrangement is thoroughly reasonable in theory, as well as in practice. Everyone is naturally partial to his own productions. Who would quarrel with an editor if he prefers his own article to other essays, when he has the selection among various papers on the same subject. To save the editors from this temptation, and to give them full leisure to edit attentively and impartially, they have been mostly relieved from writing. There are, however, exceptions to this salutary rule ; and we understand that the witty and humouristic leaders on local affairs, which, vie with the best of the French feuilletons, are from the pen of Mr. M. M.
    The leading article writers have the programme of their articles sent to their respective domiciles. None but the editors know who these gentlemen are, and what their position in life is. They never, except on extraordinary occasions, come to the Times office. They have pledged their words to lay no claim to the authorship of their own articles, or to reveal their connection with the Times. They have renounced all hopes of literary fame ; whatever credit is due to their productions belongs to the Times, which monopolises all the honor, and bears all the responsibility. Such an author has nothing but his pay; he has sold his work to the journal; and with it, he has sold the right to change it, to alter expressions, to remodel parts of it, or to condemn the article altogether. The article is a piece of merchandize with which the purchaser may do what he likes. If the writer ceases to agree with the tendencies of the Times, he is always at liberty to break off the connection; but so long as that connection continues, he is compelled to submit the form of his articles to the critical verdict of the editors.
    The editorial department of the Times really edits the paper, while our German editors only write and select. The former method is evidently for the benefit of the journal, while the latter is more agreeable and profitable to the writers. The system of the Times requires what it would be impossible to find in Germany—the power of enormous capital, a gigantic city such as London is, and English characters, that is to say, men, authors of first-rate talent, who will sacrifice praise and notoriety, and take money in their stead. Is this self-denial created by the mere desire of making money? Do the leading-article writers of the Times rather care for the effect which is produced by their anonymity? Do they rather care for the cause which they advocate than for their own celebrity? Are they perhaps more disinterested, and our German literary men more selfish? Is the greater moral excellence to be found here or on the other side of the channel? These are delicate questions, which we will not here discuss. It will be seen, from what we have said, that the rule of the Times’ office is more despotic than the journalistic government in Germany. We shall return to the subject on another occasion; but for the present we turn again to the desk at which the manager is sitting.
    Besides the newspapers, he has a large heap of manuscript before him, letters to the Editor, a selection of which always appears in the Times. Their number is legion. The editors have received these letters and opened them. They have condemned those which are clearly unfit for the use of the paper~ but the more important letters, some of which may affect the policy of the journal, have been reserved, and are now submitted to the manager’s consideration. Old Mr. Walter was not indeed the man who first introduced these letters into the English press, but he certainly did much to favour this participation of the public in the labours of journalism. In Germany, too, the idea has been adopted, but, as is usually the case with excellent English customs, it has been spoiled in the adoption. In England these letters form the most important polemical part of the journal; in Germany they are on the level with the advertisements. Their insertion is paid for in Germany; in England a journal acknowledges its obligations to its correspondents. The public take a peculiar interest in the press to which they contribute, and a man whose letter is inserted in the Times considers himself in a certain degree as connected with the establishment; he becomes its champion, and reads it with great assiduity and interest. The authors of rejected letters, on the other hand, are offended; they get angry with the Times, they abuse it, and from sheer hatred and spite, they read it all the more eagerly. A journal can exist only by means of half a world of friends and u u-hole world of enemies, if indeed such an unalgebraic expression is admissible. It can survive anything but indifference.
    But, besides the material interest which public letters have for the English newspapers, there is also a higher and more general interest. Public affairs are more effectually discussed in this manner; public opinion, uttered by private persons or corporations, finds a ready expression ; abuses are exposed; matters of minor importance to the community, but of paramount importance to every individual citizen, are brought forward examined and canvassed; and events which happen in outlying parts of the country, in small towns on the coast and villages on the mountains, where no paid correspondent ever lived, and whither the foot of a regular reporter has never strayed, are expeditiously forwarded to the great organs of public opinion. So long as the insertion of such communications must be paid for, it is impossible that they can be of any mentionable advantage either to the journal or to the public. Of course, the introduction of this English system requires the gigantic size of the English papers, but even in smaller papers the editors may always make a suitable selection.
    We believe that a favourable result would soon become apparent ; for local affairs, the events of the province, or city, in which the paper is published, will always be most interesting to The public, because they affect it most. Call it John Bullish, if you please; abuse it as a grovelling matter-of-fact feeling, but you cannot deny that the greater number of readers care much more for a letter on hackney coaches, than for the most excellent article on the international relations between Russia and Persia. But, for charity’s sake, we trust our readers will not misunderstand us Heaven preserve us from the misfortune that our German journals should become unmindful of Russia, while they discuss their local affairs! But surely a way might be found of doing the one without neglecting the other. Even its worst enemies cannot accuse the Times of a want of attention to European interests, and of “haute politique” ; but the Times is, nevertheless, the most conscientious and indefatigable local journal of London. Nor is it ashamed to follow up an article on the French empire, with anther article, and one which displays as much genius, on the overgrown bulk of the Aldermen, or the sewers of Houndsditch.
    This letter, then, and this, and this, and those two, will go in to-morrow; the rest find a temporary asylum on the floor. A few are reserved for further consideration. The manager casts a glance at the foreign letters, which have come by the morning mails. This done, the editor leaves him, and devotes himself to the details of his particular department. The consultation, and the perusal of so many papers, have taken a couple of hours. The editor may, by this time, leave the office, but the manager has a great many things to do before his day’s work is over. To him belongs the correspondence with the foreign agents and correspondents of the journal, and with the leader-writers, whose accounts he settles. He has to see the sub-editor, who super-intends the technical department of the management, and he has to listen to that gentleman’s report. He sees the printer, who gives a general account of the sale of the Times on that particular day. The cashier makes his appearance, with the totals of yesterday’s accounts, and the sums realised from the sale of the paper, the insertion of advertisements, and the exact amount of the duty on stamps and advertisements, which has been paid to the state. The manager has to take notes of the net results of all these accounts. By this time, it is five o’clock, and another editor makes his appearance. There is always some topic to be discussed; some event on which it is necessary to come to an understanding ; some motion before the House, and some debate coming off in the course of the evening, on which it is necessary to say a few words. The manager’s labours are ended with this consultation ; he leaves the office. From five to nine o’clock, the current business is discharged by one of the editors. He reads the leaders and reports which have been sent in ; he transmits them to the printing-office, and receives all letters, parcels, and messages that arrive. There is always plenty of work to -be got through—quite enough, and sometimes too much for one maim. The editor who transacted the current business of time morning arrives at nine o’clock to share the labours of his colleague, and remains a longer or shorter period, according to the heaviness of the night. But one of the two gentlemen never leaves the office until the journal is ready for press, when he gives it the Imprimatur. Besides, he issues instructions as to the number of copies to be struck off. There is no fixed number, and the impression varies according to the greater or less interest of the contents of such day’s Times.
But what business—so will German readers ask—can detain an editor until late at night? The German redacteurs work scarcely ever up to midnight; the French redacteurs get through their labours by eight or nine o’clock in the evening. Why should English editors be at their post until three or four o’clock in the morning?
    Besides the arrival of telegraphic despatches at almost any hour in the course of the night, the English editors are detained by parliamentary business. The reports from the House of Commons come in in batches sometimes as late as two or three o’clock in the morning. The parcels from the provinces and from Ireland arrive with the last trains by ten or eleven o’clock. The provincial reports are usually shortened; this duty devolves upon some decrepit reporter, the results of whose labours are submitted to the approval of the editors. They have moreover to receive persons who call on urgent business, members of Parliament, who wish to correct the proofs of their speeches, or who desire still further to: expound their views to the editor to prevent the possibility of misunderstanding; schemers who rush in with some patent invention which will remove all the evils that flesh is heir to, and a host of strange customers of every country and of every degree. In short, an editor of the Times is not tempted to imitate Lord Byron, and to publish “Hours of Idleness?’ It is very often four o’clock before the last of them hails a cab and hurries off to his house in the far west.
    We cannot allow our readers to follow his example. We detain them in the Times’ office, and propose taking them to Westminster, on a tour of enquiry into the manners and customs of the English reporters.
    And here it maybe as well to remark, that an English reporter has an important position in literary circles, as well as in the estimation of his own journal; that the name of reporter applies strictly to the gentlemen who report the Parliamentary debates; and that, for the proper discharge of these functions, it requires journalistic abilities of no common order, great versatility, and an intimate knowledge of public affairs and public men.
    Let us make an excursion to Westminster; a Hansom cab will take us in a quarter of an hour. We get out at a provisional boarded gate, which leads to the reporters’ gallery, walk through a court-yard, which is full of bricks and mortar, enter a gothic door to the left, mount a couple of flights of stairs, open a glass door, and enter a small room, in which there is a very large fire. This room, and the stairs and corridors, are lighted with gas, even at mid-day; for it is one among the practical beauties of Westminster Palace, that the working-rooms of the reporters have scarcely any daylight. The architect, however, has done all in his power to indemnify them for the faults of his design. Their rooms are as comfortable as can be; and no where, either in Germany or France, is so much careful attention bestowed on the convenience of the press. There is a good reason why there is so large a fire in the little room we have entered. It is the ante-chamber, and also the refectory of the reporters. It contains a table, on which are sundry dishes of meat and pastry—not at all a Lucullian supper, but quite enough for a frugal journalist, who has no ambition to dine at the table of the Parliamentary Restaurant. Some pots and kettles are on the bob by the fire, in which the water simmers and seethes most comfortably, inviting all hearers to a cup of tea or coffee. On a wooden bench by the door sit two very sleepy boys, half roasted by the fire, and waiting for manuscript. Two gentlemen, with their hats on, are seated at the table; they converse in a low voice, and drink tea from very large caps; they are reporters, just off their turn. Other reporters come in and go out ; the little glass door is continually opening and shutting; and the servant, too, who presides over these localities, and makes politics and coffee, is never idle, for he has many masters. In spite of all this going and coming, the little room is comfortable, and it is very pheasant to sit and chat in it. These English reporters are altogether stately and serious men; in many instances, their whiskers are grey with age and their heads bald. No green-horns are they; no young fellows, who practise writing in the gallery. Such an Englishman, with his long legs and his smooth-shaved face, has always a solid appearance, no matter whether he be a journalist or a drayman. I believe that kind of thing is the result of race, of blood, and of education.
    A narrow corridor leads from the ante-chamber to a set of two rooms, which communicate with the gallery of the House by means of another corridor. All these rooms and corridors are covered with thick carpets; green morocco-covered sofas are drawn up against the oak-panelled walls; writing-tables are placed in the window niches; large fires burn in marble chimneys; an air of substantial comfort pervades the whole. In the panelled walls there are, moreover, closets, for the reporters to put their great coats and papers in; and a small apartment at the side of the large rooms is devoted to a washing apparatus—large marble basins, with a plentiful supply of hot and cold water. The English love to have numbers of these in their public and private buildings; on the Continent they are painfully struck with the absence of these helps to cleanliness; and they mention the carelessness or indifference of our countrymen in this respect in terms of the moat unqualified reprobation.
    There is not much to be said of the reporters’ gallery. It fills the narrow side of the house, and is just below the ladies’ gallery and above the Speaker’s chair. It has two rows of seats, scarcely more than four-and-twenty, and attached to each seat is a comfortable desk.
    None but the reporters of the great. London papers are admitted to this gallery. Not only the public generally but also the reporters of provincial journals are excluded, solely from the want of space to accommodate them. The admission of Foreign journalists is therefore quite out of the question. Demands to this effect when made have been met with a determined, though polite, refusal. If it be considered that there are four-and-twenty seats in this gallery, that each of the great London journals has, on an average, about twelve reporters, and that the aggregate number of reporters amounts to above eighty, it will be admitted that the complaints about want of space are well founded. The functions of the staff of reporters, the division of their labours, and the manner in which they discharge their duties, may best be learned from an inquiry into the organisation of the Times staff of reporters; for the Parliamentary corps of the other papers are fashioned after its model.
    The Times keeps a staff of from twelve to sixteen reporters to record the proceedings of the two houses. Some of them are engaged for the Parliamentary session only. The majority of them are young barristers, whom the connexion with the great journal enables to follow up their legal career, and who have, moreover, the advantage of that thorough training which young lawyers obtain in the gallery. Others have annual engagements, they are the “Old Guard” of the Times, on whose efficiency it can rely as on the working of its printing machines. After the session the corps is scattered to all the four corners of the globe; the barristers repair to their chambers in the Inns of Court and live upon the gains of their summer’s labours. A few of the old guard remain in London at the disposal of the journal, which requires their services to attend large meetings, or the progress of the Queen through Scotland. The rest take their ease in the provinces, the public libraries, in their families, or on the continents of Europe, Africa, Asia, or America. A true John Bull, say all the English, has always some reasonable object in view, however mad his proceedings may appear to the outside barbarians.
    An elderly, grey-haired gentleman—the summary man—forms an important addition to the Parliamentary staff. It is his duty to prepare those condensed reports of the sitting, which may be found in every English journal. He ought to attend in his place from first to last, that the summary may come into the printer’s hands immediately after the house is up. His relative position to the other reporters is that of a corporal to the privates. And since we have alluded to military grades and dignities, we propose at once to introduce our readers to the captain of the corps, Mr. Charles Dod, editor of the famous Parliamentary Companion, who commands the Parliamentary corps of the Times, and whose authority is acknowledged by all the reporters of the London journals generally.
    Mr. Dod must excuse the curiosity of foreigners, and permit us to inspect him and the corps under his command. Mr. Dod then is an amiable gentleman, who has the whole of the Parliamentary history of Great Britain at his fingers’ ends, and whom many honourable members, young and old, might consult with the greatest advantage.
    To the Times, Mr. Dod is in the house what the manager is in the office; he manages every thing connected with Parliamentary matters; he publishes to his corps the day and hour of the next sitting. At one time he may be seen in the gallery, helping and instructing the less experienced among his corps; on other occasions, he finds his way into the House to procure some document or statistical return from the members or the clerks. Anon he hurries to the Times’ office to read, shorten, and edit the copy sent in by the reporters, in short, on a heavy Parliamentary night, Mr. Charles Dod is everywhere and nowhere, that is to say, he is always rushing from Westminster to the Times’ office and back again.
    He generally divides his corps into two detachments. The young reporters take the upper house, the old guard do duty in the House of Commons, whose sittings are longer, while its motions and speeches are of greater importance, and its debates more intricate. In either house it is a rule that reporters relieve one another by turns, from half-hour to half-hour. Mr. H., for instance, takes his seat at the commencement of the sitting with Mr. C. who comes next by his side. The first thirty minutes over, Mr. H. retires; Mr. C. takes his seat, and Mr. Ft. takes the place which has just been vacated by Mr. C. The summary-man takes a position in the rear. To-morrow evening the turn commences where it left off this night, so that each reporter has an equal share of the work.
    But how does Mr. H. employ his time after his half-hour’s turn in the gallery? He has about two hours until his next turn, but a few minutes only of these two hours can he devote to relaxation. A cab stands ready for the use of the reporters. He proceeds to the city and his desk in the reporter’s room of the Times’ office, where he converts his “notes” into “copy.” This process takes about an hour or an hour and a quarter for every turn of half-an-hour. If his report be a verbatim report —and such must be made should an important man speak on an important question—the writing it out takes more time. Every thing depends on the character of the sitting, but if the labour threatens to become overwhelming Mr. Dod interferes, and sends for reinforcements from the gallery of the House of Lords.
    The “copy” having been prepared by the reporter, and put in type in the printing-rooms, proofs, struck off on long, narrow slips of paper, are sent into the editorial sanctum, where the matter, already condensed by the reporters, is frequently subjected to further condensation; and Mr. Dad, who makes his appearance from time to time, assists in this process. The proofs thus edited are corrected, struck off again and submitted to the writer of Parliamentary leaders, who, on all important occasions, attends in the House itself, and who in the dawn of morning commences his article on the debate which has just been closed. A few hours later that article is in the hands of the London public, while express trains hurry it to the most distant parts of the empire.
    If the house sits until two o’clock in the morning, the labours of the last reporter, of the Parliamentary leader-writer, and of one of the editors, are protracted until three and sometimes four o’clock. This is hard work, harder than continental journalists ever dream of. But it is the same in all professions! An Englishman, no matter whether he be a tradesman, or a merchant, or a journalist, never thinks of doing things by halves, because in this country things cannot and must not be done by halves. No country in the world offers so wide a sphere for a man’s talents and activity as England does, provided he has energy, perseverance, and resignation. An English reporter in his holidays, stretching his long legs on the banks of the lake of Zurich, is an enviable personage in the eyes of a German journalist. Of course, no one can tell how hard he has been at work these nine months.
    It is four o’clock, AM. We have passed fourteen hours at the Times’ office. ‘The labour is now left to the printers; and the two large machines which finish 10,000 copies per hour. But weary though our readers may be, we cannot allow them to depart, for there are many matters which require mentioning.
    Hitherto we have spoken of the Parliamentary corps only. But there are other reporters in the service of the Times and of other great journals, to whom we must devote a couple of pages.
    Among these are the standing reporters in London, who are occasionally employed as “outsiders,” but who generally work in the office. They make extracts from English and Foreign journals, and write reports on colonial affairs. There are also reporters on music and the drama, while the reviewing of books claims the services of a third critic. There are few special reporters for the proceedings of the law courts. These reports are generally sent in by barristers who practise in these courts.
    The police-reports, too, are not furnished by special reporters; but the Times and the other London journals take them from a man who keeps his own police-court corps, and who, in his relations with the papers which employ him, is personally responsible for the correctness of the reports.
    The records of local events and accidents are furnished by the so—called penny-a-liners, those vagrant journalists, who are up by day and by night, and who are present at all the police-stations, who always come in time to witness the perpetration of some “Horrible Murder,” and who hasten along with the fire-engines to the scene of every “Extensive Conflagration,” taking notes, which they make as long and as interesting as they possibly can, and selling them to the various journals. They are strange persons, active, acute, and seasoned. They flourish during the recess; for at that time the London journals are not too choice in their selection of matter; and at that time they make large sums of money from the sale of their “ Atrocious Murders,” “Extensive Conflagrations,” and “Extraordinary Friendships” between “dogs, rabbits, and water-rats,” or from their chance reports of the proceedings and public addresses of some successful French philanthropist. If the editors did not most ruthlessly cut down their lengthy contributions, the business of the penny-a-liners would certainly be most lucrative. As it is, many of them manage to live, and to live well.
    The last-named three classes of English journalists serve several or all the papers at the same time. Their honesty is guaranteed by their own interest; for they would soon lose their customers if they dared to send in incorrect reports. In this conviction lies their organisation. It is based, as every other profession or trade is in England, on the two-fold system of material advantage and unlimited competition.
    As to the organisation of the staff of reporters and collaborators, especially at the Times, a great deal might be said that would appear altogether fabulous to our German journalists. We allude to the strict subordination in matters of the daily duties of the paper. We cannot, however, enter into details which might possibly lead us away from the subject-matter. Suffice it to say, that every Times reporter should at all times be fully prepared to undertake a mission to any part of England or of the continent, and that he should not leave his home for any length of time without leaving directions where he may be found, in case his presence were unexpectedly required at the office.
    We mention these matters only to show how strict is the business-character which pervades even journalism in England. Besides the business connection, there is but little of social intercourse between the various employes on a journal. The very reporters of the Times hardly see one another except in the office or in the House. Their intercourse with the editors is strictly limited to the service of the journal. They have to send in their “copy.” What the editors may please to do with that “copy” concerns them as little as the shoemaker who sends in a pair of boots and is duly paid for them. He, too, has no control over the use which his customer may make of them. The reporters on an English journal sacrifice their individuality to the “Office” in order to remain in that position to an advanced age, or, if they are men of real talent, to create for themselves a free and independent position in literature. They all, from the leader-writer to the foreign correspondent, and from the foreign correspondent down to the penny-a-line; submit unconditionally to the authority of the editorial body. They write in their various departments what they have undertaken to write, and they send it in. Whether or not it be printed, whether it be shortened, altered, or put aside as waste paper, is no affair of theirs. What German journalist, even the greenest among the green, would submit to such a “desecration of his talents,” as our poor dear Germans would call it.
   And now farewell, O Times’ office, with all thy leader-writers, editors, parliamentary reporters, collaborators, compositors, and printers! Thy colossal machines move with a stunning noise until six o’clock, when the press is stopped for a few moments for the insertion of some late continental despatch. The steam is then put on again; the hundreds and hundreds of curiously— shaped wheels turn faster and faster, with bewildering regularity, and large broad sheets of printed paper are heaped upon the board. The printing and publishing is scarcely over when the editors make their appearance. With the sole exception of Saturday nights, the door of the Times’ Office is never closed.

Max Schlesinger, Saunterings in and about London, 1853

Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - Twice Round the Clock, or The Hours of the Day and Night in London, by George Augustus Sala, 1859

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   “There she is—the great engine—she never sleeps. She has her ambassadors in every quarter of the world—her couriers upon every road. Her officers march along with armies, and her envoys walk into statesmen’s cabinets. They are ubiquitous. Yonder Journal has an agent at this minute giving bribes at Madrid; and another inspecting the price of potatoes at Covent Garden.”

   IF you have no objection to the statement of the fact, I would beg to observe that our present station on the clock face, twice round which we have to go, is now five in the morning; and that at five a.m. the publication of the “Times” newspaper is, to use a north-country mining expression, in “full blast.” You abhor the politics of the journal in question, you say: you consider the “Times” and “Evening Mail” to be the organ of a company, with limited liability composed of the Emperor Alexander, Cardinal Wiseman, Baron Rothschild, Prince Aali Pacha, Metternich, Doctor Cumming, Baring Brothers, Lord Palmerston, Mr. Disraeli, Mr. W. J. Fox, and Miss Martineau. You are offended with the “Times” because the editor declined to insert that last six-paged letter from you against organ grinding. Never mind, you must come all the same to see the paper published. For the publication of the “Times” is a great, an enormous, a marvellous fact: none the less wonderful for being repeated three hundred and thirteen times a-year. It is a pulsation of London’s mighty heart, that should not be neglected. It is the daily booming of a tocsin, which, year after year, proclaims progress, and still progress to the nations; which is the joy bell to the good, the passing bell to the bad, the world is blessed or cursed with; which rings out ignorance and prejudice and superstition, and rings in know ledge and enlightenment and truth. The “Times” is not alone in the possession of a peal of bells of this kind; and many daily, more weekly, papers ring out, loud and clear, to eager listeners; were you vassal not one of the modestest of men, he would hint that for the last dozen years he has been agitating daily and weekly a little tintin-nabulum with what lustiness his nerveless arm will let him. But hard by St. Paul’s, the cathedral of Anglicanism, is Printing House Square, the cathedral of Journalism, and in it hangs a bell to which Great [-26-] Tom of Lincoln, Peter of York, the Kolokol of Moscow, and our own defunct “Big Ben,” are but as tinkling muffineers. For though the sides of the bell are only paper, the clapper is the great public tongue; the booming sound that fills the city every morning, and, to use the words of Mr. Walter Whitman, “utters its barbaric youp over the house-tops of creation,” is the great Public Voice. Bottle up your animosities, then, stifle your prejudices, and come and hear the voice’s first faint murmur at five o’clock in the morning.
   The office of the ‘‘ Times ‘‘ and “ Evening Mail “ is, as all civilised men should know, situated in Printing House Square and Playhouse Yard, in the parish of St. Ann’s, Blackfriars, in the city of London. Now this is very pleasant and comfortable information, and is fit matter for a studious man to lay to heart; and there exists but one little drawback to mar the felicity which one must naturally feel at having the style and title of the press’s great champions’ habitat so patly at one’s fingers’ ends. The drawback—the kink in the cable, the hyssop in the wine-cup, the thorn to the rose—is that, with the exception of Honey Lane market and Little Chester Street, Pimlico, Printing House Square is the most difficult locality to find in all London. It is not much use asking your way to it; a map of London, however elaborate, would not be of the slightest assistance to you in discovering it: it will avail you little even to be told that it is close to Apothecaries’ Hail, for where, I should like to know, is that huge musty caravanserai of drugs, and who is to find it at a short notice And the intimation that Printing House Square is not far from Puddle Dock, would not, I opine, render you great service, intimate as might be your acquaintance with the shores of the river, both above and below bridge, and would be scarcely more lucid a direction than the intimation that the London terminus of the South-Western Railway was close to Pedlars’ Acre. The “Times” newspaper is somewhere near all these places ; and it is likewise within a stone’s throw from Ludgate Hill, and not far from St. Paul’s, and within a minute’s walk of Fleet Street, and contiguous to Blackfriars Bridge, close handy to Earl Street, and no great distance from Chatham Place. Yet, for all this, the “Times” office might be, to the uninitiated, just as well placed in the centre of the Cretan labyrinth, or the maze at Hampton Court, or the budget of a Chancellor of the Exchequer. The best way to reach the office is to take any turning to the south side of London Bridge, or the east of Bridge Street, Blackfriars, and then trust to chance. The probabilities are varied. Very likely you will find yourself [-27-] entangled in a seemingly hopeless net-work of narrow streets; you will be jostled into chandlers’ shops, vilified by boys unctuous, black, and reeking from the printing-machine; pursued by costermongers importuning you to purchase small parcels of vegetables; and, particularly after sundown, your life will be placed in jeopardy by a Hansom cab bouncing up or down the narrow thoroughfare, of course on its way to the “Times” office, and on an errand of life and death; the excited politician inside, frantically offering the cabman (he, even, doesn’t know the way to the “Times,” and has just asked it of a grimy cynic, smoking a pipe in front of a coal and potato shed) extra shillings for speed. The grimy cynic, perhaps from sheer malevolence of disposition, perhaps from the ruffling of his temper naturally incidental to his being asked the same question about five hundred times every day, answers morosely that he believes the Hoffice is in Bummondsey, but he’s blest if he knows hanything more about it. He will have bad times of it, that grimy cynic, I perpend, for telling such fibs. Still struggle on manfully, always like the nautical gentleman in the blue pilot jacket who had had so many domestic afflictions, and exhorted the passenger to “go down, go down.” Never mind the regiments of gallinacea that board in the gutter and lodge in the adjacent coal-cellars, and peck at your feet as though they could relish your corns. Never mind the infants of tender years who come tumbling between your legs, sprawl, howling, at your feet, and cast around appealing glances, which draw cries of “shame!” from vengeful family-men who have never set eyes on you before, but who evidently regard you as a peripatetic ogre, going about, of malice prepense, to trip up children. Never mind the suffocating odour of second-hand fish, vegetables, fruit, coal-dust, potato sacks, the adjacent gasworks, gum-benzoin, hartshorn, opium, and other medicaments from Apothecaries’ Hall. Never mind the noises of dogs barking, of children that are smacked by their parents or guardians for crying, and then, of course, roar louder; of boys yelling the insufferable “Old Dog Tray,” the abominable “Keemo Kimo,” the hideous “Hoomtoomdoodendoo,” and rattling those abhorrent instruments of discord, the “bones”; of women scolding, quarrelling, or shrieking domestic calumnies of Mrs. Armstrong in connection with Bill Boosker, nicknamed the “Lively Flea,” from garret-windows across the street; of men growling, and wagon-wheels rumbling, and from distant forges the yell of the indignant anvil as the ruthless hammer smites it, and the great bar of iron is beaten flat, the sparks flying up, rejoicing in [-28-] a red “ha-ha !“ at the ferruginous defeat. Never mind the dangers of hoop, “hopscotch,” “fly-the-garter,” “thread-the-needle,” “trip-the-baker,” “tipcat,” and “shove-halfpenny,” for the carrying out of which exciting and amusing games the juvenile population entirely monopolise what spare strips of pavement there are. Trust on, be not afraid, keep struggling; and it is five hundred to one that you will eventually turn up Printing House Square, over against the “Times” office. How ever the leviathan of the press manages to breathe in this close, stifling, elbow-hampering neighbourhood, has always puzzled me, and has puzzled, I daresay, a great many wiser than I. How do the archbishops in their coaches and six (it is well known that those gorgeous prelates write the leading articles, carrying the necessary stationery in their mitres, and wiping their pens on their black silk aprons—the B—p of O—x—d, however, always writes with a pastoral crozier, dipped in milk and honey, or a lamb’s fleece—and come down to the office at a quarter past nine every evening to correct their proofs) contrive to squeeze their broad-shouldered equipages through these bye-lanes? How can the sub-editor’s four-in-hand pass, the city correspondent’s comfortable yellow chariot, nay, even the modest broughams of the compositors? Why does not the “Times” burst forth from the shell it has grown too large for, and plant its standard on the hill of Ludgate, or by the side of Cheap,— if it must needs be in the city? The area of Lincoln’s Inn Fields would be perhaps the most suitable locality for a new office; but it is indubitable that unless the “leading journal” retrogress and contract its operation, they will have, some day, to pull down the choking little nests of back-streets which surround and hem it in, even as they had to pull down the wall of the dock, bodily, in order to let the Great Britain steam-ship out.
   What a contrast sequestered Printing House Square, with its old-fashioned aspect, its quiet, dingy-looking houses, its clump of green trees within a railing to the left, presents to the gurgling, gasping neighbourhood which stands in such close propinquity to it! Here is the great brainpan of journalism; the centre of newspaper activity, the prefecture of police of the public press. Absolutely necessary is it that it should be entirely a secret police, the “awful, shadowy, irresponsible, and yet puissant we” should dominate over the columns of the daily journal. Will a time ever come, I wonder, when a man will sign his own articles in a newspaper; receive his reward for honesty, his censure for tergiversation, from the public? Will a [-29-] strange day of revolution ever arrive, when the mystic “we” shall be merged into the responsible, tax-paying, tangible, palpable, shootable, suicidable, and kickable “I”? Perhaps never; perhaps such a consummation would be disastrous. Old Cobbett, in one of his sereeds of passionate contempt in his “gridiron” paper the “Register,” once said that he should like to have all the newspaper editors and correspondents in London assembled in Hyde Park, in order that from their personal appearance the public might judge by what a disreputable-looking set of fellows they were hoodwinked and nose-led. There would be no need to hold such a gathering in this scene-painting age. Walk but into any fashionable photographic studio, and you shall find all the “sommités” of the press neatly collectionised, and stuck on pasteboard in the show-room portfolio; and if you entreat the photographer’s pretty wife civilly, she will point out to you Doctor Copperbolt of the “Thunderer,” and Bill Hornblower of the “Penny Trumpet,” in their habit as they live.
   Printing House Square is to me interesting at all times of the day and night. In the afternoon, the dullest period of its existence, when the compositors are gone away, the editors not come, the last number of the last edition of the day’s sheet printed, and the mighty steam-engine for a time hushed, I wander into its precincts often; make some small pretexts of taking out a sup of paper, and wending my way towards the advertising department; but soon retrace my steps, and, to tell the truth, moon about the square in such a suspicious and prowling manner, that if they kept any spoons on the premises, I should most probably be ordered off by the compositor on duty. This was Playhouse Yard too, once, was it—nay, is still; but where is the old playhouse—the Globe Theatre, Blackfriars, if I mistake not? Not a vestige, not a particle remains. The fourth estate has swallowed it all up. The Press Dragon of Wantley has devoured everything; and the “Times” seems omnipotent in its home by Puddle Dock. Look over the door of the advertisement office. Above that portal is a handsome marble slab, a votive tablet, in commemoration of a great victory the “Times” once gained, not a legal victory, but one of power and influence with the people, and especially with the commercial community, by its exposure, anent the trial of Bogle v. Lawson, of the most extensive and remarkable fraudulent conspiracy ever brought to light in the mercantile world. The “Times” refused to be reimbursed for the heavy costs with which its proprietors had been saddled in defending the action brought by Mr. Bogle, a banker at [-30-] Florence, against the publisher of the “Times,” Mr. Lawson. But a subscription, amounting to £2,700, had been raised, and this handsome sum, which the “Times” proprietors refused to accept, was at last laid out in the foundation of two scholarships at Christ’s Hospital and the City of London School, for the benefit of pupils of those institutions proceeding to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Do you remember—are you old enough to remember—the famous case of Bogle versus Lawson, reader? It would take me five times the space I can spare for this paper to give you even the outline of the history of the monstrous fraud from which that action grew. Suffice it now to say, that Mr. Bogle had been mixed up—it has been since established innocently—in the great continental letter of credit forging system, invented, carried out, and pursued with consummate success by an accomplished scoundrel, the Marquis dc Bourbel, who, when the felonious bubble at length burst, and the fraud was detected, was in nowise cast down or abashed by that discovery that had come, and the punishment that seemed imminent, but with admirable strategy called in his outlying pickets of countesses, actresses—demi-monde adventuresses—couriers, and sham English milords, who had been scouring the Continent changing his forged letters of credit, and, after the unutterable impudence of an appearance in court during the “Times” trial, gracefully retired into private life. I, the scribe, moi qui vous parle, have lived in the same house with this great man. It was at a hairdresser’s shop in the Regent’s Quadrant, and in an upper chamber of the house in question did the gallant marquis, assisted by a distinguished countess, who had formerly danced on stilts, and an English copper-plate engraver, work off the proofs of his wicked paper money from the counterfeited plates. I should like to know what became eventually of the Marquis de Bourbel: whether his lordship was, in the ripeness of his time, guillotined, garotted, hanged, or knouted. I go for Siberia and the knout, for, from the peculiar conformation of his lordship’s character, I don’t think it possible that he could have refrained for long from forgery. We should have heard of him, I think, had he come to grief in Western Europe; but Russian bank-notes are very easy to forge, and Russian prisons and prisoners are seldom brought before the public eye. They manage those little things better, and keep them nice and cozy and quiet; and so I go for Siberia and the knout.
   It is, however, as the shades of evening gather round the Cour des Miracles which encompasses the “Times” office, that the scene [-31-] which it and the Square present becomes more interesting. For early in the evening that giant steam-engine begins to throb, and, as the hour advances, the monster is fed with reams on reams of stout white paper, which he devours as though they were so many wafers* (* A post-prandial paper, called the “Evening Mail,” rarely seen in the metropolis, but extensively circulated in the provinces, and especially in the colonies, and in the United States, is published as a species of vesper thunderer at the “Times” office.). It gets late at Printing House Square; the sub-editors have been for some time in their rooms; the ineffable mysteries of the “Times —editors, proprietors, cabinet ministers, lord chancellors, generals of the Jesuits, for aught I know, have arrived from their clubs in broughams and in cabs. Who shall tell? That stout good-humoured looking gentleman with the umbrella and the ecclesiastical neckcloth, may be the writer of the comic leading articles, just arrived with his copy. No; he has vainly tried the door of the advertisement office, which is closed. Perhaps he is only X. Y. Z., who, in the second column, entreats P. Q. R. to return to his disconsolate parents; or the inventor of some new tooth-powder with a Greek name, or the discoverer of the “fourteen shilling trousers.” It is getting later, and the windows of the great office are all blazing with gas. The steam-engine not only throbs; it pants, it groans, it puffs, it snorts, it bursts into a wild, clanging paean of printing. Sub-editors are now hard at work cutting down “flimsy,” ramming sheets of “copy” on files, endlessly conferring with perspiring foremen. Ineffable mysteries (I presume) are writing terribly slaughtering articles in carpeted rooms, by the light of Argand lamps. Do they have cake and wine, I wonder, in those rooms? Sherry and sandwiches, perhaps, and on field-nights lobsters. It is getting later, but there is no sign of diminution yet in the stream of cabs that drive into the Square. Every one who is in debt, and every one who is in difficulties, and everybody who fancies that he, or any friend, relation, or connection of his, has a grievance, and can put pen to paper, four letters together in orthography and four words in syntax, must needs write a letter to the “Times;” and of the metropolitan correspondents of that journal, the immense majority themselves bring their letters down to the office, thinking, haply, that they might meet the editor standing “promiscuous” on the door-step, and after some five minutes’ button-holding, secure, irrevocably, the insertion of their communications. I don’t at all envy the gentleman whose duty it is to open and read (do they read them all?) the letters addressed to the editor of the “Times."[-32-]




    [-34-] What quires of insane complaints, on matters running from the mis-delivery of a letter to the misgovernment of India, from the iniquities of the income-tax to an overcharge for a sandwich in a country inn, that editor must have to wade through; what reams of silly compliments about “your influential journal,” and “your world-known paper,” he must have to read, and grin in his sleeve at! What a multitudinous army, what a Persian host, these correspondents must be! Who are they ?—the anonymous ones—what are they like? Who is “Verax?” who “Paterfamilias?” who “Indophilus?” who “The London Scoundrel?” who “A Thirsty Soul?” When will Mr. Herbert Watkins photograph me a collection of portraits of “Constant Readers,” “Englishmen,” and “Hertfordshire Incumbents ?“ Where is the incumbency of that brilliant writer? Who is “Habitans in Sicco,” and how came he first to date from the “Broad Phylactery ?“ and where does “Jacob Omnium” live when he is at home? I should like to study the physiognomy of these inveterate letter writers; to be acquainted with the circumstances which first led them to put pen to paper in correspondence with the “Times ;“ to know how they like to see themselves in print, and also how they feel, when, as happens with lamentable frequency, their lucubrations don’t get printed at all.
   It is getting later and later, oh! anxious waiters for to-morrow’s news. The “Times” has its secrets by this time. State secrets, literary secrets, secrets artistic and dramatic; secrets of robbery, and fire, and murder—it holds them all fast now, admitting none to its confidence but the Ineffables, the printers, and the ever-throbbing steam-engine; but it will divulge its secrets to millions at five o’clock to-morrow morning. Later and later still. The last report from the late debate in the Commons has come in; the last paragraph of interesting news, dropped into the box by a stealthy penny-a-liner, has been eliminated from a mass of flimsy on its probation, and for the most part rejected; the foreign telegrams are in type; the slaughtering leaders glare in their “chases,” presaging woe and disaster to ministers to-morrow; the last critic, in a white neckcloth, has hurried down with his column and a-half on the last new spectacle at the Princess’s; or has, which very frequently happens, despatched that manuscript from the box at the “Albion,” where he has been snugly supping, bidding the messenger hasten, and giving him to procure a cab the sum of one extra shilling, which that messenger never by any chance expends in vehicular conveyance, but runs instead with the [-35-] art-criticism, swift as the timid roe, so swift indeed, that policemen are only deterred through chronic laziness from pursuing and asking whether he hasn’t been stealing anything. By this time the “Times” has become tight and replete with matter, as one who has dined well and copiously. Nothing is wanting: city correspondence, sporting intelligence, markets, state of the weather, prices of stocks and railway shares, parliamentary summary, law and police reports, mysterious advertisements, and births, deaths, and marriages. Now let the nations wonder, and the conductors of the mangy little continental fly-sheets of newspapers hide their heads in shame, for the “Times “—the mighty “Times” —has “gone to bed.” The “forms,” or iron-framed and wedged-up masses of type, are, in other words, on the machine; and, at the rate of twelve thousand an hour, the damp broad sheets roll from the grim iron instrument of the dissemination of light throughout the world.
   At five o’clock a.m., the first phase of the publication of the “Times” newspaper commences. In a large bare room—something like the receiving ward of an hospital—with a pay counter at one end, and lined throughout with parallel rows of bare deal tables, the “leading journal” first sees the light of publicity. The tables are covered with huge piles of newspapers spread out the full size of the sheet. These are, with dazzling celerity, folded by legions of stout porters, and straightway carried to the door, where cabs, and carts, and light express phaeton-like vehicles, are in readiness to convey them to the railway stations. The quantity of papers borne to the carriages outside by the stout porters seems, and truly is, prodigious; but your astonishment will be increased when I tell you that this only forms the stock purchased every morning by those gigantic newsagents, Messrs. Smith and Son, of the Strand. As the largest consumers, the “Times” naturally allows them a priority of supply, and it is not for a considerable period after they have received their orders that the great body of newsagents and newsvenders—the “trade,” as they are generically termed—are admitted, grumbling intensely, to buy the number of quires or copies which they expect to sell or lend that day. The scene outside then becomes one of baffling noise amid confusion. There is a cobweb of wheeled vehicles of all sorts, from a cab to a hybrid construction something between a wheelbarrow and a costermonger’s shallow. There is much bawling and flinging, shoving, hoisting. pulling and dragging of parcels; all the horses’ heads seem to be turned the wrong way; everybody’s off-wheel seems locked in somebody else’s; but the proceedings on the whole are characterised by much good-[-36-]humour and some fun. The mob of boys—all engaged in the news-trade—is something wonderful: fat boys, lean boys, sandy-haired and red-haired boys, tall boys and short boys, boys with red comforters (though it is summer), and boys with sacks on their backs and money-bags in their hands; boys with turn-down collars; and boys whose extreme buttonedupness renders the fact of their having any . shirts to put collars to, turn-down or stuck-up, grievously problematical. Hard-working boys are these juvenile Bashi-Bazouks of the newspaper trade. And I am glad to observe, for the edification of social economists, with scarcely an exception, very honest boys. I don’t exactly say that they are trusted with untold gold, but of the gold that is told, to say nothing of the silver and copper, they give a generally entirely satisfactory account. At about half-past seven the cohorts of newsvenders, infantry and cavalry, gradually disperse, and the “Times” is left to the agonies of its second edition.
   As you walk away from Printing House Square in the cool of the morning, and reflect, I hope with salutary results, upon the busy scene you have witnessed, just bestow one thought, and mingle with it a large meed of admiration, for the man who, in his generation, truly made the “Times” what it is now—John Walter, of Bearwood, Member of Parliament. Foul-mouthed old Cobbett called him “Jack Walters,” and him and his newspaper many ungenteel names, predicting that he should live to see him “earthed,” and to “spit upon his grave;” but he survived the vituperative old man’s coarse epithets. He put flesh on the dry bones of an almost moribund newspaper. He, by untiring and indomitable energy and perseverance, raised the circulation of the “Times” twenty-fold, and put it in the way of attaining the gigantic publicity and popularity which it has now achieved. It is true that Mr. Walter realised a princely fortune by his connection with the “Times,” and left to his son, the present Mr. John Walter, —a lion’s share in the magnificent inheritance he had created. But he did much solid good to others besides himself. This brave old pressman, who, when an express came in from Paris—the French king’s speech to the Chambers in 1835—and when there were neither contributors nor compositors to be found at hand, bravely took off his coat, and in his shirt-sleeves first translated, and then, taking “a turn at case,” proceeded to set up in type his own manuscript. Mr. Walter was one of the pioneers of liberal knowledge; and men like him do more to clear the atmosphere of ignorance and prejudice, than whole colleges full of scholiasts and dialecticians.

[nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.]

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - The Times office, and western end of Queen Victoria Street

The Times office, and western end of Queen Victoria
Street - photograph


 The office of the Times newspaper, near the west end of Queen Victoria Street, is a plain red-brick building, with a tympanum decorated with oak leaves and acorns. The actual printing of the chief daily paper is done behind, in Printing House Square, and the public are admitted on written application, accompanied by a note of introduction or a reference, to watch the process and inspect the famous Waiter press. Further east, still on the north side of Queen Victoria Street, is the church of St. Andrew by the Wardrobe, and immediately behind are the stately headquarters of the British and Foreign Bible Society, erected in 1868, The loftier building adjoining is the Post Office Savings Bank.