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ONE A.M. AT THE MORNING MAMMOTH NEWSPAPER OFFICE
WILD horses shall not drag from me the secret of the
whereabouts of the office of the Morning Mammoth newspaper. It may be in Fleet Street; possibly it is in
Whitefriars; peradventure it has its habitat in Wellington Street, Strand; as likely as not, its offices may
be in Shoe Lane; nor will I undertake to say that the
Morning Mammoth does not hang out its sign somewhere
between Ludgate Hill and Puddle Dock. At all events,
it is a wonderful newspaper, it has not the largest circulation in the world, but the largest in the two worlds,
with the planet Mars thrown in a special edition -
printed in red ink on touch - paper-being published
every morning for the benefit of the inhabitants of that
Oddly enough, there are at least half a dozen daily competitors of the Morning Mammoth which all claim, and justly claim, an astoundingly large circulation. The Daily Megatherium sells, we all know, by millions. The circulation of the Morning Plesiosaurus, is pheno-[-257-]menally gigantic, and the same may be said of the Panoeotherium, the Daily Anoplotherium, and the Morning Mastodon. Other lights among these tremendous diurnals are the Iguanodon and the Morning Dipsopoios, which last old-established and estimable journal is the organ of the licensed-victuallers and, if we are to believe journalistic tradition, it once exhibited in the windows of its office a placard bearing the inscription, "Terrible Revelations at Bow Street Police Station Fearful Increase of the Horrible Crime of Pot Stealing."
As for the wealth of the proprietors of these mighty newspapers and the social position which they occupy, words fail me to give anything like an idea of the immensity of the former and the grandeur of the latter. It was the boast of the proprietors of the Paris National, after the Revolution of July 1830, that nearly all their chief contributors had become either Ministers of State or Ambassadors to Foreign Courts; and there were certainly a goodly number of journalists in the Provisional Government of February 1848. But the distinction gained by journalists in the days of Thiers and Guizot, Armand Carrel, Armand Marrast, Louis Blanc, and Emile de Girardin, were as naught compared with the honours which have been showered by a gracious Sovereign on the proprietors of the great London dailies.
I am not quite certain whether the chief owner of the Morning Mammoth is an earl or a viscount, but I am well assured that he is a peer of the realm. The guiding spirit of the Megatherium is only a baronet and a K.C.B., while the conductor of the Morning Dipsopoios [-258-] has just been knighted en attendant mieux; still, seeing that among the members of the Managing Committee of the Dipsopoios there are several brewers and distillers who have deservedly become members of the House of Lords, it is only a matter of time for the genial knight who presides over the Bonifaces' organ to be able to write Bart. after his name. It may be hinted also, that although the members of the editorial staff of the journals at which I am glancing have not yet accepted coronets, several of the leading-article writers are connected with the aristocracy. One has no less than three M.P.'s in its employ, the dramatic critic of another is a count of the Holy Roman Empire, and yet another is a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Rawhead, a dignity conferred upon him by the late Hokey-Pokey Wankifum, the lamented King of the Cannibal Islands.
It is 1 in the morning, and things are in the fullest of full swings and at the fullest of full blast at the offices of the Morning Mammoth. I will assume for the nonce that you yourself are a journalist - you may be one in truth some of these days; we never know to what we may come, as the gentleman remarked on his way to Tyburn - and that you have business to transact at the office of the newspaper, the proprietors of which pay you a salary, ranging between eleven and fifty guineas a week, exclusive of an annual holiday of seven weeks, a superb turkey and a pound of Lipton's tea at Christmas, and a neat present of jewellery every year on your wife's birthday. Now what kind of journalist shall [-259-] I elect that you shall be throughout three or four pages of printed matter?
"Sir," wrote to me recently a young gentleman who told me that he had determined to become a gentleman of the press, "what particular line in the newspaper vocation would you advise me to take up; or shall I start as an all-round journalist?" I told him, in reply, that so far as taking up a special line in the newspaper craft was concerned, he might try to write the daily Auction Summary, or essay to put a little fun into the Police Reports and Coroner's inquests, or exercise his hand at brief paragraphs describing an outbreak of measles in the Second Life Guards, or the rumoured apparition of a ghost in Little Turnstile, Lincoln's Inn Fields; to say nothing of giving up three parts of his life to learning shorthand; while, if his ambition extended to becoming an all-round contributor to the columns of a great daily paper, the best thing he could do would be to turn his attention forthwith to the acquisition of at least nine languages, ancient and modern; travel repeatedly all over the world; consort with all classes of the community from dukes to dustmen, and from bishops to burglars; thoroughly ground himself in land surveying, modelling in clay, the history of the British drama, political economy, Chinese metaphysics, Ruffs Guide to the Turf, theosophy, domestic hygiene and massage, and then see what came of it. Altogether, perhaps, it might be best if I resolve to make my imaginary visitor to the Morning Mammoth office an all-round journalist.
[-260-] Your able editor sent you this evening to the Royal Brocoli Theatre, Strand, to witness the first performance of Sir Amati Stradivarius's new light opera of Robin Hood up to Date; or Maid Marian and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Of course the opera, the libretto of which was written by that delightful playwright, Mr. Woodhouse Spoon, C.B., was a brilliant, amazing, and unprecedented success. You wrote all that down, you remember, in the afternoon in the smoking-room of the Broad Grins Club, Northumberland Avenue, where you had been lunching; Woodhouse Spoon, who is also a member of the Broad Grins, having presented you with an advance copy of his sparkling libretto. After that, you glanced over a few pages of Sir George Grove's Dictionary of Music. It is always as well to rub up now and again one's acquaintance with musical terms. So you found yourself well primed for the performance of your critical task when you ensconced yourself in your snug stall at the Brocoli when the first act of Robin Rood was about half over. An enchanting opera, truly ; never was Sir Amati in better vein; the music, on the whole, you considered as melodious as Mozart, and as learned as Wagner's. As for Woodhouse Spoon's dialogue and patter-songs, they excelled in crisp, sparkling wit and humour all that the distinguished writer had previously achieved.
The opera was not over until nearly midnight, and then you looked in at the Sweetbread Club to have a little supper - say, a cold grouse and bread sauce, or some sausages and mashed potatoes, and a pint of very [-261-] dry Ayala, and a quiet cup of coffee, and a mild cigar afterwards. These refreshments being dispatched, you thought it might be as well if you finished your article. To be sure, there was not much left to write, and your able editor had emphatically told you that he did not want more than three-quarters of a column. However, you have got through your work comfortably by a quarter to 1. You emerge from the gorgeous portals of the Sweetbread Club, and one of the many-buttoned pages obsequiously opens for you the door of your brougham-musical critics only keep broughams and pair, dramatists ride in coaches and six, and Mr. G. R. Sims, I am informed, always buys the reversion of the State chariots of the Sheriffs of London.
You drive down to the office of the Morning Mammoth, but where that office is situated, I repeat that unbroken Australian buck-jumpers, backed by a hydraulic screw and an indefinite number of steam rams, would not force me to divulge. You arrive at the office and hand in your copy to one of the many commissionaires in full uniform in waiting at the lodge of the paper, and then you ascend a grand staircase of pure Pentelican marble with gilt bronze railings and a river of rich Persian carpet running down the middle, and so repair to the room specially appointed for your use. It more resembles a boudoir in Belgravia than the room of a working journalist in a street the name of which shall never be mentioned by me. Admire the costly furniture, the priceless works of art which embellish the mantelpiece, and the framed [-262-] and glazed engraved portraits, after eminent R.A.'s, of the Marquis of Salisbury, Mr. Arthur Balfour, Mr. Gladstone, Mr. John Morley, and especially Mr. Henry Labouchere! For the Morning Mammoth is an all-round journal, even as you yourself are an all-round journalist; which holds the candle on occasion to all kinds of politicians, and may have to hold one some day, perchance, to the wicked "Labby."
You extend your sable-clad, and not too-wearied limbs on the cushions of a luxurious divan, light another cigar, and, perhaps, if you feel thirsty, you touch an electric bell, and instruct a powdered footman to bring you a tumbler of Capillaire and water, or a lemon squash. Then you patiently wait till the proofs of your article on Robin Hood are ready.
Grump, the art critic of the paper, is in the next room to you; he has been to the private view of the exhibition of the works of Middle-aged Masters at the Royal Academy. He has received his proofs of an article, two columns and a half long, and naturally he is swearing. The British army, so Corporal Trim in Tristram Shandy told us long ago, swore terribly in Flanders; but I cannot help fancying that the language of Marlborough's Grenadiers and Dragoons was mild in comparison with the habitual parlance of Grump. Wolfe Grump is his name, and he is one of the last of the old race of hard-swearing journalists. You will be told also that Grump's room is not by any means a luxuriously furnished or artistically decorated apartment. Indeed, you will learn that it is on the whole [-263-] rather bare and squalid in appearance, and that Grump, whose tastes are very simple, prefers to sit on a rush- bottomed chair and write at a deal table, and that when he does partake of any nocturnal refreshment, his supper is usually composed of three penny-worth of fried fish, a penny loaf, and a pint of porter.
The object of his objurgations to-night are the compositors, or rather the printer's readers, who have made, as you hear him hoarsely growl, ducks and drakes of his article. "Idiot!" "Fool!" "Blockhead!" "Dullard!" "Ignorant rascal!" "Dunce!" "Pig!" "Ass!" "Beast!" are the flowers of rhetoric which Wolfe Grump throws around him as he fags through a critique in which, perhaps, the name of Raffaele has been printed Raphael, or in which Van Dyck has been called Van Dyke, or Gerard Douw, Gerald Dow. A worthy man, Grump, although they say his guns are getting a little rusty. He was originally, you are informed, captain of a penny steamboat on the Thames, then he drove an omnibus, subsequently he went out to the Australian colonies to dig for gold, and came back penniless, with the rheumatism and a choice addition to his stock of execrations and anathemas, acquired while seeking for nuggets at Ballarat and driving a bullock dray on the Darling Downs. Grump's early training, as you will see, admirably fits him for his calling as an all-round journalist. At one time he edited the Cobbler's Last, that well-known organ of the boot and shoe "translating" trade. He was also at different periods of his career a Papal zouave, an under-[-264-]taker's man, a schoolmaster, an insurance agent, and a lecturer on hypnotism. Then he was the special correspondent of the Morning Dipsopoios in the Berring Straits, and was war correspondent for the Megatherium in the Franco-German war of 1870. He has a fine Roman hand at describing naval reviews, ship launches, and the laying of first stones by royalty, and in dashing off the humours of a prize fight or a Derby day. There are few all-round journalists who can equal Grump, who has been also frequently thanked by his able editor for the dramatic power with which he has treated such miscellaneous themes as an Exeter Hall May meeting, a private execution in Newgate, and the enthronisation of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
There is one thing, however, which you will be warned that Grump is quite unable to do. He was sent to report a fashionable wedding once, and made a sad hash of it. He did not know the difference in fabrics between nun's veiling and poult de soie, and in colours, he confounded "eau de nil" with "apricot"; and at last, getting desperate, he wrote that "the bride wore something sleezy on her head like a drawing-room window curtain, and that the bridesmaids carried bouquets of polyanthuses and sunflowers." Wretched man! he should have said tea-roses and white geraniums. The appearance of this article caused a sad commotion among the lady readers of the Morning Mammoth, and you may depend upon it that Wolfe Grump was never sent to write about fashionable weddings again.
[-265-] But hark! hush! even as Grump, having reached the end of his proofs, has ceased to use strong language, and is presumably soothing his perturbed soul by lighting up that old briarwood pipe, which he invariably carries, with an india-rubber bagful of bird's-eye tobacco, in the breast-pocket of his shabby old shooting-jacket, you hear outside your door the frou-frou of a lady's silk dress. Silence! be discreet! essay not to open that door. If you did you might catch a glance of a sylph-like form elegantly robed, flitting up the staircase towards the sub-editor's room; but I, who for the moment am Asmodeus, and am opening all the doors of the Morning Mammoth for your inspection, even as the Lame Devil in Le Sage's novel unroofed the houses in Madrid for the benefit of the Spanish student, may follow the lady with the silken dress into the sub-editor's room, with which I intend that you shall make minute acquaintance later on. For the present be satisfied with the knowledge that the lady of the frou-frou is none other than that bright star of aristocratic society, the Honourable Miss Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs, the eldest daughter of Viscount Fitz-Jeames of Plushington, County Eider-Down, that well-known but chronically embarrassed Irish peer.
It would be unpardonably impertinent to inquire into the age of the Hon. Carolina, but there will be no harm in hinting that on the last occasion of Atlas, in the World, wishing her many happy returns of the day, the charming creature was celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of her thirtieth birthday. To her graceful [-266-] and polished pen the world (not Edmund's) owes all those fascinating descriptions of female dress, not only at weddings, but at garden parties, Henley regattas, Oxford and Cambridge boat races and cricket matches, for which the Morning Mammoth is so justly celebrated. The Hon. Miss Skeggs is equally at home on the Ladies' Lawn at Goodwood, and in the Royal enclosure on the Cup Day at Ascot. She is somewhat of a Protean lady journalist. I fancy that if I were to take you a little later to-night, or, rather, this morning, to the office of the Megatheriunm, you would hear the frou -frou of a lady's dress; but you would find that the Hon. Carolina Wilhelmina Skeggs had been transformed into a stout and comely lady, say Mrs. Backbone, who is on intimate terms with all the great Court dressmakers and smart milliners in London, and who, in addition to writing descriptions of the dresses worn at smart functions, runs over to Paris now and again to see the newest gowns and fal-lals, and indites columns thereon in the journal of which she is the pride and ornament.
ONE A.M. AT THE MORNING MAMMOTH NEWSPAPER OFFICE
JUST so. You have corrected your proofs, and the
printer was kind enough to send you a remarkably
"clean" revise; the absence of blunders from which
may be partially due to the fact of your writing such an
execrably bad hand that special compositors and readers
of long experience in deciphering the most illegible
cacography are usually told off to set up and correct
your article. You are free to depart. There is no
need for you to wish your able editor good-night. You
have no very burning ambition to see him, and you are
quite confident that he has not the slightest wish to see
you. So you don your overcoat and hesitate a little, as
you descend the grand marble staircase, as to whether
you will look in at the Junior Penwipers' Club in Park
Lane, or go straight home to your lodgings in Great
St. Andrew's Street, Seven Dials, W.C.-stay, stay !-I
mean your luxurious chambers in the Albany, or your
elegant little maisonette at Kensington Gore.
Courteously returning the salute of the commission-[-268-]aire at the outer gate of the Morning Mammoth - a fine specimen of wrought iron-work, gilt, from the Place Stanislas, Nancy - you see standing in front thereof the dainty little coups of the Hon. Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs. Her coachman, you notice, wears a cockade in his hat; a distinction which Miss Skeggs's close connection with the Court really entitles him to assume. But just as you are entering your own equipage - your man does not wear a cockade, and you do not even have a crest on your carriage panels, as you have no wish to pay the duty on armorial bearings - you behold, driving up to the portals of the M.M. office, the rapidest of hansoms; and from this vehicle there leaps a tall, spare, middle-aged, prematurely grizzled gentleman, attired in weather-stained travelling costume, and bearing in one hand a small and much battered and frayed Russia leather valise. He airily tosses the driver half-a-crown; and when the man grumblingly demands an additional shilling, the tall gentleman declines to pay any more, but blithely offers to fight cabby for the difference. So No. 8006 grimly drives away, muttering to himself that "there s no gettin' forrarder with the capting nohow."
The tall spare gentleman is not a captain; nor, indeed, does he at present hold any naval or military rank whatsoever. You recognise him at once as your old friend Rupert Swanquill, special war correspondent - and for the matter of that, peace correspondent to boot - of the Morning Mammoth. Scan him narrowly. Mark his face well; "it is worth looking at," as Danton [-269-] said on the scaffold to the executioner when he bade him show his severed head to the rabble. He may be fifty or only forty-five, or he may be close upon the sixties; but he has been practically an old man for many many years. Now he seems to have got over his age and to have become practically quite young again. When I say that Rupert Swanquill has never borne Her Majesty's commission, I ought to have added that he has seen in the bygones a good deal of active military service. In fact, if I remember aright, he was once a trooper in the 90th Dragoon Guards, and was very possibly polishing stirrup-irons at the period when you had just completed your studies at the University of Oxbridge, or at St. Wapshot's Charity School, London Wall, E.C. It does not much matter which.
Rupert Swanquill succeeded Wolfe Grump as a war correspondent about the time when that capable but hard-swearing journalist was induced, in consequence of his increasing infirmities, to relinquish foreign service and to become an art critic. Swanquill as a war correspondent dates from the epoch of the Franco-German war. He was at all the great battles, and personally witnessed the Imperial surrender at Sedan. If I were asked where he has been and what he has done since the collapse of the Second Empire, I might inquire in reply whither he has not travelled and what he has not achieved in the service of the great journal to which he has been for more than twenty years accredited.
[-270-] He has carried his life in his hand through India, through South-Eastern Europe, and through South Africa. He was in the Servian war and at the Shipka Pass. He is as well known at Constantinople as at Madrid, at Cape Town as at Calcutta, at Pietermaritzburg as at Moscow. He has looked at Fire, Famine, and Slaughter between the eyes; he has confronted Death in fifty forms, and pushed away Disease as blithely as just now he repulsed the extortionate cabman. The innumerable readers of the Mammoth have revelled in Rupert Swanquill's inimitably vigorous and graphic descriptions of the numerous campaigns of which he has been the spectator; but possibly they have not been aware of the fact that many of these stirring narratives have been penned by a special correspondent who, although he has always had on foreign service a pocketful of money, has not unfrequently been compelled by the force of circumstances to write column after column of "copy with a drum, or a saddle, or a three-legged stool as a writing-desk; or to pen his effusions in some filthy Oriental hovel, surrounded by Turks, Jews, Gipsies, and heretics; to write with rags upon his back, fever in his limbs, and starvation in his belly; and then to ride twenty or thirty miles to the nearest telegraph station, thence to dispatch a message, costing perhaps three hundred pounds sterling for its transmission, to London, where, when his superb article is published, it will meet with the enthusiastic admiration of the public at large and the valuable approval of his able editor; while, at the same time, it is not at all unlikely that he [-271-] will be abused like a pickpocket in the next number of the Saturday Review because, in the course of a letter of perhaps five thousand words, he has made a mistake about the date of the Battle of Marathon, or spelt the name of Marshal Davout as Davoust.
Rupert has plenty of foreign decorations at home, given to him for his courage and fidelity in the field, but he is not allowed to wear his crosses and medals when he goes to court; and no kind of honorific recognition or reward has ever been bestowed on him by the Government of his native country. There is no promotion in the special department of journalism in which he has won for himself a European celebrity. He never goes campaigning without running the risk of being killed in the field or captured and hanged for a spy; but he is quite content to risk his life to do his duty to his employers and the public, and altogether to "grin and bear it,2 as the saying is. Rupert Swanquill has, it must be owned, his little faults and eccentricities. His temper is rather a lively one, and on occasion he will smite. I remember some years since, when I was in the city of the Suttan Pera, asking the war correspondent of a French daily paper whether he had ever met Rupert. "Oh yes," replied the Gallic journalist, "I know Monsieur Swanquill very well. A difficult person to deal with. If there be anything to eat, M. Swanquill eats it; if there be anything to drink, M. Swanquill drinks it; if there be a bed to spare, he sleeps in it, and if you remonstrate with him he beats you."
Rupert can spare you scarcely a minute's talk. He [-272-] has just come from Crim Tartary, or Trebizonde, or the Straits of Malacca, or Vladivostok, and is off to-morrow to the Desert of Gob?, the Black Mountain, or the North Pole. He only wishes to exchange a few words with the editor, and then England will know him no more for many months. You bid him a cordial "farewell;" but dear, dear me, what a world of metamorphoses this is!
Being Asmodeus, I am entitled to tell you that when Rupert Swanquill calls another hansom and directs the driver to convey him to the Hotel Windsor, Victoria Street, S.W., he undergoes an instantaneous and marvellous transformation. It is no spare, middle-aged, prematurely grizzled individual who emerges from the hansom and rings the bell at the hotel. I, Asmodeus, disguised as a police constable on night duty, take stock in the glare of the gas lamp of the gentleman who alights from the hansom. He is decidedly elderly, and he has a handsome and dignified mien, and he is in evening dress, having probably come from some great house where he has been dining, and where the festivities have been prolonged to a somewhat late hour; or perhaps he has come from the Kemble Club, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, of the renowned smoking-room of which palatial establishment he has long since been the pride and delight.
This is William Bohun Bayard, LLD., the oldest and the most famous of English war correspondents, and the noblest Roman of them all. His intimate friends, to say nothing of a good many outsiders who are not by [-273-] any means intimate with him, are accustomed to call him "Billy" Bayard. He has seen war in all its occasionally glorious episodes, and in all its normally hideous dirt, desolation, and despair, all over the world. When our gallant soldiers in the Crimea were wasting away with famine and sickness, the voice of William Bohun Bayard spoke morning after morning, trumpet-tongued, in the columns of the great London newspaper of which he was then the correspondent, in denunciation of the neglect and mismanagement from which the army before Sebastopol was suffering; and materially did his undaunted onslaughts on red tape and pipeclay help the national movement for relief and rescue from misery worse than death to which the noble-hearted Florence Nightingale devoted herself, with results that will not be forgotten while any history of our land endures.
But I must leave the transformed special war correspondent at his hotel, and, strange to relate, it is now my Asmodean duty to look you up at your own apartments, wheresoever they may be situated, and take you right back to the office of the Morning Mammoth. Never mind waiting for a brougham or hailing a cab. It is getting dangerously near 2 in the morning and we must make hot haste. Besides, although I am only a Devil on Two Sticks and lame, I can hop along pretty quickly, and carry you, if need be, on my shoulders.
Here we are! We have come, not quite straight as an arrow from a Tartar's bow, but by Asmodean leaps and bounds, from the west to the east central end. I am invisible of course, but I waft you once more up the [-274-] marble staircase, and to an upper storey of the vast edifice in which the Morning Mammoth is printed and published. I have transformed you into Mr. Erasmus Polyglot. See, your name is painted in full on the door of the comfortable little chamber dedicated to your use. You have been there, entre nous, although you are not aware of the fact, since early in the evening. You only stepped out shortly after midnight to have some supper, and now you have another half-hour's toil before you. You do not grumble at the late hours. Nobody on the staff grumbles at them. He would be unworthy of his salt if he did complain; and quite as resigned to his fate as you dutifully are, is your able editor in his mysterious sanctum in some part of the establishment to which at present I do not intend particularly to refer.
It is a warm night, and you prefer to take off your coat and to fag in your shirt sleeves. That has been your custom for six nights every week for a great many years past. You are the foreign editor of the Morning Mammoth. To you have come and will continue to come almost incessantly-arriving envelopes containing foreign telegrams, now short, now lengthy; now consisting of only half a dozen lines, and now filling a couple of columns, of correspondence brimful of momentous intelligence from all parts of the globe. Some of the messages emanate from the great telegraphic agencies; others are from the Mammoth's resident correspondents in foreign capitals - wars and rumours of wars, the price of gold at San Francisco, the depreciation of the rupee at Calcutta, "corners" in pork and grain at Chicago and [-275-] in Erie Railroad shares at New York, coal miners' and ironworkers' strikes, a famine in Russia, a beer riot at Munich, a balloon accident at Rangoon, a kidnapping by brigands in Sicily, an anti-clerical demonstration at Rome, a horrible murder at Toowoomba, an attack on missionaries at Shanghai, a diplomatic ball at Pekin, with a full explanation of the political motives which prompted the Russian Minister at the Chinese Court to have an attack of the measles on the very evening previous to the British Plenipotentiary's dance.
Mi these and five hundred other items of news from every corner of the civilised or savage world pass before you. You have on your table an immense pottle of hay, or rather of tissue paper scribbled all over with half-illegible characters, and the paper, to tell the truth, does not smell very sweetly. You have grown accustomed to the odour of telegrams long ago, and your skill and tried experience will enable you to extract the requisite amount of needles from the pottle aforesaid. You are an old hand at this kind of work. Before you elected to remain at home as foreign editor, you represented the Mammoth at Berlin, at Vienna, at Constantinople, at Madrid, at Rome, and in many other great Continental cities. You have been hand-in-hand with half the diplomatic corps and half the statesmen in twenty foreign centres, you speak half a dozen foreign languages, and you are, besides, an accomplished musician and have written two or three highly successful novels, to say nothing of a comic opera and a burlesque at the Gaiety.
Possibly a young gentleman with a handsome inde-[-276-]pendence and nothing to do would think your existence a terribly toilsome and not over-paid one, but somehow or another, you like the work, laborious as it is. Newspaper work has a strange fascination for those who give themselves up to it heart and soul, as a man should do to any work to which he intends definitely to set his hand. The career does not lead to much it offers indeed very few recompenses, either pecuniary or honorific, and although in these days journalists of the higher grade go into society and belong to Pall Mall Clubs, they can never be certain that the Duchess of Newington Butts is not pointing them out at the Conversazione to her friend, the Marchioness of Monmouth Street, as the "people who write"; while old General Groggy (retired) is anathematising the editor of the Mastodon as a "confounded cad" for not having inserted his one-and-a-half-columned letter complaining of the condition of the Cavalry Barracks at Walton-on-the-Naze, or stigmatising the author of the scathing leading article in the Plesiosaurus on Tommy Atkins's rations, as "a d-d penny-a-liner."
Those are the little rebuffs which journalists must be always prepared to encounter; as a rule, they laugh at them. Although they write for the most part anonymously, they are sustained and stimulated in their exertions by the possession of a certain influence much prized by the majority of mankind. "What do you sell here?" asked the Russian Prince Potemkin, when Matthew Boulton ushered the illustrious Muscovite through the great engine-shop at Soho, near Birmingham.
[-277-] "We make and sell here," quoth the doughty partner of Watt, "that which all the world wants - POWER." It is the knowledge and the feeling that he is part of a gigantic engine, moving incessantly for the betterment of the world - that he wields a power to be exercised for good and not for evil - that not only give to the earnest journalist strength and resolution to accomplish his onerous task, but will make those duties positively delightful to him.
ONE A.M. AT THE MORNING MAMMOTH NEWSPAPER OFFICE
SIR ISAAC NEWTON, when he was congratulated on the
imperishable service which he had rendered to science,
modestly likened himself to a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting himself in now and then finding a
smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while
the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before him.
I have not the slightest pretensions to scientific knowledge of any kind, nor am I aware of having rendered
any appreciable service to anybody. Still - at an
immensity of interval - I have so far followed Sir
Isaac, in playing on the shore and diverting myself
with a few smooth pebbles and pretty shells while the
great ocean of Daily Journalism lay all undiscovered
How is it all done? Who does it? You may open your eyes in genuine or feigned astonishment, or you may indulge in an incredulous sneer when you read these queries. If anybody should know all about the organisation of a great daily newspaper, it should surely [-279-] be the humble individual who addresses you. I have been toiling in the Philistine's mills and fighting wild beasts at Ephesus, journalistically speaking, for forty years; yet I have little more practical knowledge of how a great daily paper is carried on, than perhaps has the Honourable Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs, who receives her comfortable little cheque so punctually for recording the doings of patrician society.
The Hon. Miss Skeggs brings or sends her manuscript - penned in a symmetrical Italian hand - to the newspaper-office, and in process of time she obtains handsome remuneration for her work. That is precisely my own case. I write a leading article and send it down to the office; and in due time, the labourer being deemed worthy of his hire, that hire I receive. In years gone by, when wars or rumours of wars were in the air, or when emperors and kings happened to get crowned, or married, or assassinated, or when there were International Exhibitions in foreign capitals, I used to make journeys abroad sometimes to a distance of many thousands of miles, and record my impressions of what I had seen. When the Royal Academy and the New Gallery open their doors for summer or winter exhibitions, I go to the private views; and occasionally I look in at the galleries of the Water-Colour Societies; while every Boxing night, when I am in England, I occupy a stall at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, to witness the performance of the grand Christmas pantomime; slip out of the theatre just after the "comic business" has [-280-] begun; write a column and a half not of criticism but of simple description, and go home tranquilly to bed.
That is what my own "connection with the press" amounts to. In my very early life that connection entailed the performance of somewhat more miscellaneous duties. I preserve the record of one working day, many years ago, when I was attached to a daily journal now defunct, which we may call the Colossus of Rhodes. Let me see, how much toil did I get through that far-off day between noon and 10 P.M.? I was living in an ancient mansion called Upton Court, near Slough. I used to come up every morning by the ten o'clock express. From Paddington to St. Clement's Church Yard, in a rapid hansom, took twenty-two minutes. I got into harness at once, and on the day cited I wrote two leaders, reviewed one of the late Laureate's poems, wrote half a column about a Talking Fish exhibited at the Egyptian Hall, and went to a public dinner in the evening; H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge in the chair. I never learned shorthand, I was never able even to take longhand notes of a speech: thus it was to my memory that I had to trust when I imparted to the readers next morning of the Colossus of Rhodes my impressions of the eloquence of the speakers on the previous evening, say, at Willis's Rooms, or at the Freemasons' Tavern.
It is precisely the circumstance of my knowledge of newspaper organisation being so extremely limited that has led me to dally with and dwell long on perhaps [-281-] half a dozen types of journalistic character, while so vast a field of newspaper economics lay all unobserved in the distance. Let my case serve as a warning to those sometimes too pretentious persons who publish books purporting to teach the rising journalist all the secrets of his craft. My own belief, from somewhat lengthened experience, is that there is not one living pressman who could completely and exhaustively enumerate and describe the attributes and functions of every department in an important newspaper; and that we who contribute to its columns, and have continued to contribute thereto for perhaps the best part of our lives, are so many wheels, or cogs, or pinions, or endless bands in a vast and complex machine, working, it is true, by our own zealous cooperations, but set in motion, guided, and controlled by influences and powers far beyond our sphere of observation, and very often wholly beyond our ken.
How, again I ask, is it all done? I have only been able to sketch, dimly and imperfectly, the aspects of the dramatic and operatic critics, the art critic, the foreign editor and the special war correspondent of the Morning Mammoth. That little portrait of the Hon. Miss Skeggs is, believe me, a wholly imaginary one. For aught I can tell, the contributor of the graphic paragraphs chronicling the latest fashionable weddings at St. George's, Hanover Square, the latest garden-party at Sennacherib House, or the lovely dresses worn at the Duchess of Dandlecourt's reception, may have proceeded from the pen of Captain Hugious of the [-282-] Heavy Cavalry, unattached, or the Rev. Ebban Flow, one of the curates of St. Pogis-Underpump, E.C.
Why not? I have myself known in the flesh a cleric who was the editor of a monthly Fashion Magazine, and an ex-coal merchant who directed a bonnet-building establishment. In all kinds of press-work there is something of the mysterious; and the more or less rigid adoption of the anonymous tends to surround daily journalism especially with a mist or haze not very easy to penetrate. I have candidly told you that I live, myself, in a fog, touching many matters pertaining to my trade, and it is for that reason that I beg you, my readers, to beware of and to repose but a very slight measure of faith in the assertions of the pert young ladies and gentlemen who are so ready to inform you, at five-o'clock tea, that they write all the "padding leaders" in the Griffinhoof Review, that they are responsible for the musical critiques in the Weekly Flyflapper, and for the art notices in the Ladies' Mile, or that they are about to proceed to Sturm-und-Drangbad to describe the festivities to be held in honour of the golden wedding of the Grand Duke and Duchess of the interesting German principality in question.
Take, for example, that most capable and interesting body of gentlemen, the parliamentary reporters. What do I know about them? Scarcely anything. I was never in the reporters' gallery of either of the Houses in my life; and I have paid only a solitary visit to the Commons while sitting. On that occasion, owing to the courtesy of a distinguished member of the late Govern-[-283-]ment, I was allowed to take a seat under a gallery; and there I sat for about half an hour in mortal fear of being at any moment hauled off my bench by the Sergeant-at-Arms, and handed over to the Metropolitan Police, for perpetual incarceration in the basement of the Clock Tower, for having inadvertently transgressed some rule or regulation of the Honourable House.
Yet, during that delightful but uneasy thirty minutes, my thoughts were much more absorbed by that reporters' gallery which I could discern far away in front than by the perfervid eloquence of an honourable gentleman with a voice like the sound of a coffee- mill in full action, who was grinding out a long series of observations about the Scotch law of Hypothec, or the woes of the crofters in the Isle of Wig, or the heraldic grievances of the Scottish Lion, or something entrancingly interesting of that kind. My thoughts were with the gentlemen in the high-up gallery, replacing each other at intervals, fagging at what must be practically both an intellectual and a physical treadmill. Is the reporters' gallery still that which it once was-a nursery for future chancellors, judges, statesmen, historians, and diplomatists?
Are there any budding Campbells, Hazlitts, Payne Colliers, Charles Russells, William Howard Russells, Edward Clarkes, ascending or descending the steps leading to that tribune? I am given to understand that nowadays the comfort of the scribes in the gallery is sedulously attended to by the authorities of the House, that they are treated with every possible [-284-] kindness and courtesy, and that altogether their lines are cast in pleasanter places than they were in the days when there was only scant and wretched accommodation in the gallery of the Commons for the reporters to transcribe their shorthand notes; while in the House of Lords the wretched reporters of the debates had to perform their duties kneeling on the floor at the verge of the House, with their note-books on their knees, which note-books ill-conditioned officials occasionally took a malicious pleasure in kicking over as they passed-accidentally of course.
And how, I should like to know, do the reporters occupy themselves during the Parliamentary vacation? Are they all engaged by the year, and devote their talents during the recess to writing reviews of books for the great organs of public opinion to which they are attached; or are they only sessional reporters who, when the halls of St. Stephen are as desolate for nearly half the year as the walls of Balclutha, are free to utilise their great capacity by the delivery of lectures at suburban polytechnics, by stumping the provinces in a Conservative or a Liberal van, or by breaking-in Mexican mustangs or Australian buck-jumpers at Buffalo Bill's Wild West entertainment?
Be it as it may, the Parliamentary reporters fulfil highly important duties, and their position in their profession is a distinctly recognised and honourable one. The members of the gallery, together with the general reporters of the provincial press, must constitute, I should say, the great bulk of that Institute of [-285-] Journalists which, thanks to the energy of Sir H. Gilzean Reid, is making such rapid strides, not only in professional, but in public, recognition and acceptance. There are also a large number of general reporters who have been in and out the offices of the Morning Mammoth all through this evening and night. The police-court chroniclers must have brought in their accounts, now terse and now formidably prolonged, of the cases heard at Bow Street and elsewhere. Who puts the lively, and sometimes comic, headings to the police reports? At Chicago, U.S.A., I was once told of a great local daily which retained on its staff a gentleman with the handsome remuneration of six thousand dollars a year, whose sole duty it was to affix headings, now humorous, now pathetic, now bloodcurdling, not only to the police reports, but to articles of general information.
One exceptionally typical example of his skill in this particular direction was brought under my notice. It was a heading to a report of the examination of an individual who was in trouble with Justice for having entered no less than four times into the matrimonial state, without being a widower or having been divorced from any of his three preceding partners. Thus ran the remarkable epigraph: "The Bigamist Lies In His Lonely Cell, and His Four Poor Wives are Doing Quite Well." Now, I call that "fetching"; although, to be sure, to have been technically correct, the culprit with the four wives ought to have been called a "tetragamist."
[-286-] Then there are the gentlemen who have looked in during the afternoon, and who have brought their voluminous or summary reports of a meeting of the Ladies' Guild for Advocating the Punishment of Penal Servitude for Criminals convicted of the Atrocious Crime of Breach of Promise of Marriage. Other reporters have sat at the feet of General Booth, while he was making his latest announcement that unless he received the sum of one hundred and eight thousand, four hundred and seven pounds, fifteen shillings and three farthings, by ten o'clock next Monday morning, the Submerged Tenth would go under for good. Others who arrive much later have attended the Annual Festival of the Home for Penitent Washer- women; the Right Hon. the Earl of Soapsuds in the chair. Numerous noblemen, officers of high rank in the army and navy, judges and divines favoured the company with stirring specimens of their attainments as after-dinner speakers; but Admiral Gangway, K.C.B., will feel rather bad to-morrow; and General Halberts might be inclined to tear his hair - only he is quite bald - when they find that their lengthy prolusions on the grievances of the Services have been remorselessly cut down to half a dozen lines, or have been contemptuously snuffed out in the curt statement at the end of the report- other toasts followed. And even in the instance of a distinguished speaker being reported at length, he is rarely satisfied when he reads his oration in the papers next morning. Those pestilent reporters may have changed the word " involved" into "evolved," [-287-] or may have omitted to sprinkle one exceptionally well-received passage with "cheers," "loud cheers," or, if the speech has been a humorous one, "laughter."
Finally, I am wholly unable to make up mind as to whether a personage, once very familiar to me, is extant in these days of "New Journalism"; or whether he has vanished from the press-world. I mean the penny-a-liner. Strictly, the term itself is a misnomer, as the occasional reporter of all kinds of scraps and snippets of information was paid at the rate of one penny halfpenny per printed line; but does the individual himself exist and retain his original status, or has he, like the so-called Bohemian of the present decade, become a masher, arrayed in the proper sable garb, with the due white cravat and the indispensable floweret at the buttonhole?
When I was young, the penny-a-liner, indefatigably industrious as he was, rarely represented the appearance of one who was a favourite of Fortune. He was, in truth, usually a seedy, grubby person, who for all his laboriousness seldom seemed to obtain any advancement in his calling. It is true, that a first-rate murder and plenty of additional "particulars" turning up morning after morning sometimes obtained for him a brief spell of worldly prosperity. I remember at the time of the murder of an Irish exciseman by that choice pair of rascals, George Frederick and Maria Manning - both of whom, by the way, I saw hanged over the gate of Horsemonger Lane Gaol - a penny-a-liner whose real name I have long since forgotten, but whom we used [-288-] to call "Ada the Betrayed," for the reason that he had once written a "penny dreadful" with the title just given, but which, after running through four successful numbers of the Weekly Ghoul, came to a sudden termination. The proprietor of the Ghoul eloped unawares to Texas, and "Ada the Betrayed," like Lord Ullin in the ballad, was "left lamenting."
The crime of the Mannings brought for a while splendid grist to "Ada's" mill. Prior to the discovery of the exciseman's corpse under the stones of the kitchen in Bermondsey, he had been a man all tattered and torn, but so soon as the remains of poor Patrick O'Connor had been identified through the dentist's number on the gold of the false teeth which he wore, the lucky reporter blossomed into a brand-new coat of Newmarket cut. New plaid pantaloons followed, a glossy silk hat shone upon his head, Wellington boots adorned his lower extremities, and the bows of a satin necktie floated on his chest. The only thing he lacked was a waistcoat; but alas! the Mannings were hanged ere "Ada the Betrayed! had secured that much-coveted vest, and afterwards, murders being rare, he drifted gradually into his old and normal condition of dismal seediness.
ONE A.M. AT THE MORNING MAMMOTH NEWSPAPER OFFICE
POSSIBLY you would like to know something, patient
reader, of the gentlemen who write the leading articles
in the half-dozen great daily newspapers of which the
Morning Mammoth is one. But ere I venture to skate
as gingerly as I can on that which may prove to be
very thin ice, I should wish you to take a glimpse at a
very old journalist, probably the first writer of what
we call "racy," or "lively," or "spicy," or
Behold a personage with long hair, curled moustaches, and short peaked beard. He wears a broad-brimmed slouched hat with a red plume in it, a stout doublet with a falling collar of old Mechlin lace, a broad embroidered belt crossing his breast and holding a very long rapier with a basket hilt, baggy nether garments, and boots of buff leather with very capacious bucket tops. This is Captain Marchant Needham, a most popular journalistic scribe in the reign of Charles I. Isaac Disraeli calls the Captain "the great patriarch of newspaper writers, [-290-] a man of versatile politics, a bold adventurer, and most successful, because the most profligate, of his tribe." From the university he came to London; was an usher at Merchant Taylors' School ; then a clerk in the steward's office at Gray's Inn; studied physic and practised chemistry, and finally became a captain unattached; and, in the words of Anthony ? Wood, "siding with the rout and scum of the people, made them weekly sport by railing at all that was noble in his Intelligencer called Mercurius Britannicus." The captain broke with his first friends, the Presbyterians; had an audience on his knees with the king, was reconciled to His Majesty, and showed himself a violent Royalist in a newspaper called the Mercurius Pragmaticus, in which he daily mauled the Roundheads with his quips and quirks.
But some time afterwards, when the popular party prevailed, the mercurial captain again changed his views, and, being "got at" by President Bradshaw, became once more a virulent Presbyterian and lashed the Cavaliers outrageously in his Mercurius Politicus. At length, at the Restoration, the captain, becoming conscious of the existence of such a place as Tyburn and such a timing as a halter, judiciously removed himself to Holland. But having scraped together some money, he paid it to a hungry courtier, and obtained a pardon under the Great Seal. He ended his days as a physician, and it is to be hoped that he did not slay so many patients with his prescriptions as he had slain political opponents with his goose-quill.
[-291-] Here you have a terse, but, I should say, veracious portrait, of the thoroughly unscrupulous, personally disreputable, but altogether capable, all-round journalist of the past. We have glimpses of Captain Marchant Needham throughout the eighteenth century. Sometimes he was a captain unattached, sometimes a doctor of physic, and occasionally a doctor of divinity. He wrote fluently, indefatigably, vehemently, for the party which paid him best; and, on the whole, although from time to time he suffered for his outspokenness by standing in the pillory, his life was not a much more chequered one than that led by the majority of hack-writers of the period.
It is sufficiently curious, however, to find that Oliver Goldsmith, who, for all his genius and his accomplishments, never entirely passed out of the hack stage, once apologised to the public for having degraded himself by writing in the columns of a newspaper. While, still more edifying to relate, that exemplary character, the Rev. Laurence Sterne, the author of two imperishable contributions to English literature, the Sentimental Journey and Tristram Shandy, who was besides about as arrant a rascal as ever cheated the gallows, tells us in the fragment of his autobiography that his uncle, James Sterne , Prebendary of York, was once on very good terms with him, but he quarrelled with him afterwards because he would not write paragraphs in the newspapers. "He was a party man," adds Laurence loftily; "I was not, and detested such dirty work, thinking it beneath me."
[-292-] In any case, it is tolerably certain that the discreditable and unscrupulous leading-article writer of the Marchant Needham type has almost entirely disappeared from the world of modern journalism, and it is worth curious observation that what I may call the elevation and purification of the leading columns of the London press have been due in a very great measure to the influence of English poets of high standing. Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Moore were for a lengthened period contributors, the first to the Morning Post, and the second to the Morning Chronicle, and occasionally to the Times. Leigh Hunt, harmonious versifier and even more melodious writer of prose, was the editor and the chief leader-writer of the weekly journal called the Examiner, founded by him in conjunction with his brother John.
In that remarkable paper, the author of the Legend of Florence, who was one of the earliest writers in advocacy of Parliamentary reform, and who yet was personally unacquainted with such leaders of the Reform party as Sir Francis Burdett, Major Cartwright, and Thomas Francis Place, and who hated Cobbett, gathered around him a band of admirable prose writers - Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, with Benjamin Robert Haydon, the painter, who could write most vigorous prose, to say nothing of such poetical allies as Byron and Shelley. It is well known, moreover, that the author of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage was once on the verge of starting a daily newspaper of which Leigh Hunt was to be the editor. The noble Childe, however, [-293-] to judge from his letters on the subject, seemed to be of the opinion that a newspaper editor should be a kind of Olympian Jove, who should look upon his staff pretty much as Zeus might be expected to look upon a small congregation of black beetles. Ultimately the project of the Byronic daily was relinquished, but, as a compromise, a monthly magazine entitled the Liberal was started. It was edited in Italy, and being found somewhat unsuitable to the latitude of Fleet Street, was soon abandoned. I picked up the first number of the Liberal once in a twopenny box at a book-stall.
The poets, I am glad to say, have not by any means severed their connection with the daily and weekly London press. If you had been here at 1 o'clock this afternoon, you would have found in the Council Chamber of the Morning Mammoth newspaper a brace of very eminent poets indeed. You would have seen a middle-aged, middle-sized gentleman, somewhat resembling the late Anthony Trollope in appearance, with a beard almost as ample as that of Earl Spencer, and with blue spectacles. He has been writing leading articles in the Mammoth for at least thirty years-leaders on almost every conceivable subject - home and foreign politics, Indian finance, literature, art, archaeology, Oriental languages, breach of promise of marriage, intemperance, the fashions, the drama, Church congresses, bi-metallism, electro-biology, horticulture, yachting, and the price of salmon in Billingsgate market. It is one of the peculiarities of modern journalism that subjects which two generations since were only dealt with in weekly and monthly [-294-] magazines, or in the Quarterly and Edinburgh Reviews, are now habitually treated in the columns of the daily press, and among the all-round leader-writers who can be asked at five minutes' notice to pen a column and a quarter on any one of the topics which I have mentioned, and on five hundred topics besides, the middle-aged gentleman with the flowing beard and blue spectacles can at once be confidently reckoned upon to respond to the appeal.
How he does it passes my comprehension. I have peeped into his room at the Morning Mammoth office - a very plainly furnished apartment, and with no more extensive library of reference than a dog's-eared copy of Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, Liddell and Scott's great Greek Lexicon, Whitaker's Almanack, and the Child's Guide to Knowledge. Stay, I think in a corner there is a copy of the Koran, in Arabic, and Magnall's Questions. This Caliph of leading-article writers is Sir Charles Launcelot Greaves Grandison, M.A., K.B.U.C., L.P.P., X.Y.Z. Notwithstanding the many thousands of leaders which have rippled from his pen, he has found leisure enough to compose those wondrous epic poems Buddha's Tooth, The Rape of Bramah's Lock, the Courtship of Confucius, the Mystery of Mungo Jumbo, and the Sacred Blade Bone, the last immortal poem having for its basis that marvellous bone of a shoulder of mutton on which, as is well known, the prophet Mahomet wrote many chapters of the Koran as dictated to him by the Superior Authorities.
And, again, wonderful to record, Sir Charles Launcelot [-295-] Greaves Grandison has had time to travel repeatedly to the uttermost ends of the earth. He is on terms of familiar friendship with the Great Mogul, the Emperor Prester John, the Mikado, the President of the United States, the Grand Llama of Thibet, and the King of the Cannibal Islands, and wheresoever he journeys the affability of Sir Charles's manner, and the charm of his conversation, make him a general favourite.
But you are not to imagine - oh dear no! - that Sir Charles is the only poet of whom the Morning Mammoth can boast. At the council of the editorial staff at 1 P.M. there was present that well-known writer of satirical poems, eloquent essayist, and, it is to be hoped, English historian of the future, Hercules Demetrius Tetraglotton, D.C.L., who, although he bears in face and even garb a striking resemblance to a Lazarist missionary, is the most jovial soul imaginable, full in his unoccupied moments of mirth and glee. He sings a very good song too, and, I have heard, surpasses many mashers in the difficult art of leading the cotillon.
Round the corner is the Daily Megatherium office. They also have a poet who is as accomplished in prose as lie is in verse. This gifted creature is Roderick Dhu Ironshanks. At once I must indignantly denounce, as malevolently apocryphal, the insinuation which I have more than once seen in print that Roderick never sits down to write a leader without arraying himself in the garb of old Gaul, and that his brightest essays are composed when he has his dirk between his teeth. As stupidly mendacious is the rumour that when he has [-296-] concluded the peroration of his article he indulges in a right good Highland fling, accompanied by cries of "Heugh!" At any rate, there are few leading-article writers who have so many varied accomplishments, and such indefatigable industry, as Roderick Dhu Ironshanks.
It is difficult to tell at which topic he is best. Some prefer him as a critic on Ossian, others think that he is most impressive when dealing with Norse mythology, but personally I admire him most when, in the course of a column and one-eighth, he has contrived to hold forth, always wittily and always wisely, say, on Columella's Husbandry, the Institutes of Gaius, the Pandects of Justinian, the Lost Odes of Sappho, the Satires of Saronides, and the Fairy Tales of Mother Goose. Yet another writer of leading articles who in his spare moments cultivates the Muse, and cultivates her, too, with brilliant success, is attached to the staff of the Morning Mastodon. Runymede Orson is the sternest of political writers. Controversial theology is another of his strong points, and there are few living journalists so well versed as he is in the differential and integral calculus and the theory of fluxions. He is a member of the Psychical Society, and plays sweetly on the banjo.
It must be owned that, among the contributors of leaders to the daily press, the poets of the first rank do not number more than a dozen. On the other hand, I think I can point out to you at least a score who are profound classical and Oriental scholars; others who have seen service in the Army and Navy, and a few [-297-] who have taken clerical orders. The sporting leading-article writer is another type who, when occasion serves, might be described in detail I could write a whole column, for example, about the Hon. Plantagenet Beaulieu, Lord Boscoville's younger brother. Does the Hon. Plantagenet know anything practical about the turf? I should say that most assuredly he knows a great deal about it, seeing that, about thirty years ago, he lost ninety thousand pounds sterling in horse racing, mainly in connection with an animal called "Hand-in-your-Pocket," which was first favourite at some Derby, the date of which I have forgotten, but which failed to win the race, the blue ribbon of the turf being won on the occasion in question by an entirely "dark horse" called "Smouche."
The Hon. Plantagenet "paid up" and looked pretty. He subsequently, I have been told, held high military rank in the service of the Gaikwar of Jagurratb, the popular potentate Ash Lungara Chasleeda, who habitually sits on a crystal throne, specially manufactured for His Highness by Messrs. Mortlock, and who is said to be exceedingly fond of Bass's bottled beers. Leaving the Rajah's service, in which he had attained the grade of Grand Serang, the Hon. Plantagenet, like Prince Rupert of yore, devoted himself to the exciting pursuit of naval warfare, and was appointed by the South American Republic of Sanquebrado to command the armoured cruiser, Buscapies, in which he bombarded and almost entirely destroyed the capital of the Republic of Sanvaquero. After that I [-298-] think he was a blockade-runner during the American Civil War, but he turned up smiling at the office of the Morning Mammoth some twenty-five years ago, and has since achieved immense, although anonymous, popularity as a writer on sporting subjects, not only as regards the present, but in relation to the past history of racing. He has known Admiral Rous, Lord George Bentinck, the Earl of Winchelsea, Sir Joseph Hawley, and many other patriarchs of the turf, intimately. He can enumerate without book the names of all the winners of the Derby and the St. Leger since the beginning of the century, and can minutely trace the pedigree of the Coffin Mare, the Godolphin Arabian, and Eclipse. More than all this, he possesses an exact knowledge of all the Arab chargers ridden by Napoleon the Great; and he treasures at home one of the hoofs of the Duke of Wellington's horse Copenhagen, richly mounted in gold, as a snuff-box.
Some years ago, my very old and esteemed friend, the late Mr. Edmund Yates, in the prospectus for an evening paper called the Cuckoo which he was about to start, expressed the opinion that English newspaper readers had had quite enough and to spare of the old-fashioned leading article, which he elegantly likened to a broad-wheeled wagon lumberingly sticking in the ruts of a highway too often traversed. According to Edmund, satiety had set in with regard to the leading articles of a column and a quarter long, and its surcease had become a matter of public expediency. In setting forth these views, the astute founder of the Cuckoo [-299-] - which did not, by the way, have a very protracted existence - practically sounded the first trumpet-blast of what is now called "the New Journalism." His idea of a leader was a lively, sparkling, fetching paragraph, all fruit and no rind, and not exceeding, at the very utmost, twenty lines in length; and with such paragraphs he proposed to fill the space then occupied by three or four column and a quarter leaders which the great diurnals then almost invariably submitted to their noble armies of readers. When Mr. Yates tried himself the experiment of lively leaderettes instead of lengthy leaders the results in the Cuckoo were hardly successful, but the paragraph leader has since obtained almost universal acceptance in daily and evening journalism, while as regards the morning papers, the old-fashioned lengthy leaders still hold their own side by side with the spicy paragraphs, and show no signs of fading into extinction.
[-nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.-]