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THIRTY YEARS OF THE PERIODICAL PRESS.
A BOOK about himself by a journalist, giving as little prominence as possible to newspapers, is much the same thing as a treatise on strategy avoiding the actual topic of war. If Lord Wolseley were to tell us the story of his life, but studiously to refrain from all mention of such incidents as the Ashantee campaign, the defeat of Arabi Pasha, and the Nile expedition, he would be performing a feat analogous to that accomplished by the veteran publicist, Mr G. A. Sala, in the two volumes he has recently published through Messrs Cassell, under the title 'Things I have Seen, and People I have Known.' If a regard for the etiquette of his calling had caused Mr Sala to draw the veil of anonymity over his long connection with a well-known London newspaper, one might have understood this reserve. But seeing that these volumes are dedicated to the proprietor of the print in question, this hypothesis is inadmissible. Not even as it has affected the appearance of the London streets he knows SO well, has Mr Sala anything to tell us of the extraordinary and sustained development of cheap newspapers which has followed the repeal of the paper duty. The last, and indeed the only, reference to his employment as an active "daily" journalist, is to be found towards the close of the second volume, in a chapter entitled "Under the Stars and Stripes," where he casually mentions that he happened to be in the United States about the period of the great Civil War; but the direct influence of American upon English journalism during Mr Sala's
lifetime, and the lifetime, and the very remarkable products and movements in the English periodical press since his return to his own country after witnessing the struggle between North and South, have no place in these pages. Before he has completed his autobiographical task, Mr Sala will doubtless fill these voids. Meanwhile the present contributor to 'Maga,' having some professional knowledge of the periodical press during a section of the period covered by Mr Sala's wider experience, may offer a few remarks on certain topics not as yet touched by this veritable Ulysses of London journalism. A fair amount of industry, and, thanks to the public's kindness, of modest success, has been condensed into the space of rather more than a quarter of a century, through which it has been my lot to labour in certain departments of the literary calling. This period has coincided with a notable increase in the activity and in the number of those representing English journalism; with the disappearance of not a few old newspaper friends; with the genesis of many crops of fresh newspaper favourites. It has also embraced a considerable and highly practical acquaintance, not exclusively with metropolitan, but provincial journalism, and especially the journalism of Scotland, as well. Some of the fruits thus gathered I may perhaps, by the editorial courtesy, be privileged to place before the readers of the most historic of all our periodicals.
I, at least, have reason to speak well of, and feel grateful to, that "land beyond the Tweed," some slight connection with which, by family descent, the Christian name
of "Hay" suggests that I may claim; for it was a present Scotch professor, my respected and valued friend, Professor John Nichol, of Glasgow, who, then being in the habit of passing a portion of the "" summer term for educational purposes at Oxford, by receiving me as his pupil, helped me towards the "class" assigned to me in the "final" schools in 1865. He it was also who equipped me with the single letter of literary introduction to Professor David Masson, then editor of 'Macmillan's Magazine,' which was absolutely my sole "stock-in-trade when, after having taken my degree, I came to London fresh from Oxford, and began the career that lasted uninterruptedly till a failure of bodily health forced upon me a long season of inactivity, and that now, on the gradual restoration of my energies, is, by the blessing of Providence, being resumed. It would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that, at the time now spoken of, outside the 'Times' office, with which I have never had any professional relations, the dominating spirits and the chief powers of the London press were importations from the other side of the Tweed.
My first editor, although at the time he became such unknown to me even by name, was an Aberdonian, Douglas Cook, who, living in the Albany, conducted the literary business of his journal, and personally instructed his contributors in his chambers near the end of the first corridor. The novels of George Lawrence were at this date in the height of a then not too healthy popularity. The passion of love, so-called, and its course, as presented in the fictions of the Guy Livingstone school, suggested to me my first essayistic theme, under the title of "Broken Hearts"; and
VOL. CLVI.-NO. DCCCCXLVIII.
when, with a trembling hand, I opened the next number of the Saturday Review,' I found my maiden production had its place among the social "middles" of the new number, as I think it was then customary to designate these articles. My personal introduction to this very remarkable man was due less to the composition of my own which he had printed than to the friendly services of the late Rev. W. Scott, of Hoxton, the sometime editor, I believe, of 'The Christian Remembrancer,' himself permanently retained on the 'Saturday' staff, and, as I have heard, a colleague of its chief, in its weekly production. This accomplished clergyman knew of me, not directly, but through the good offices of his son, Mr Clement Scott, with whom I had, and have retained, a friendly acquaintance that began under the roof of the late Tom Hood. Vividly distinct though my memory of Douglas Cook is, he is really better known to me by reputation than by his own personality. I was received at the weekly levées of his writers, held, I think, every Tuesday, and was occasionally directed to send him something about which, as often as not, he expressed himself favourably. self favourably. With a host of others, as nameless as I myself then was, I was invited to the annual 'Saturday' dinner at Greenwich; but I can only recall one of these banquets, at which I chanced to occupy a seat between the late Mr T. Collett Sandars and Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, though of neither of these gentlemen had I then, as I since have enjoyed, private social knowledge. Mr Cook
himself was credited with a full share of the perfervid temperament of the Scot: I saw but little of him, and never became one of his important contributors, but
found him uniformly considerate and kindly in his actions, if occasionally ungracious in his manner. Mr Cook's special friend and confidant was the late rector of Tintagel in Cornwall, where he himself often stayed; and from that gentleman I have heard before now, more than I ever had any opportunity of observing, about the editorial methods, and the minute oversight, exercised not merely from week to week, but from hour to hour, by this memorable combination of the journalist and the Epicurean, who deserves a place in the history of the press by the side of Barnes and Black, among the great editors of the century.
The Daily Telegraph' was, I think, in the year I made my début in London, the best known and, with the exception of the 'Standard,' the only representative of the penny press; for the days of the reduction in price of the paper whose first editor Dickens, and still more of the great organ of Palmerston and fashion, were yet far distant. Even in the case of the 'Standard,' its existence as a penny morning newspaper was imperfectly realised by some of the stoutest adherents in the provinces of the Tory cause. It must have been many years later than this that a Cornish country gentleman, I think Mr Bulteel, asked me, as one who knew the gossip of the town, whether Giffard's newspaper really published a morning edition. The then editor of the 'Standard,' 'Standard,' Mr Thomas Hamber, attached at least as much importance to the 'Morning Herald,' issued at the price of threepence from Shoe Lane, as to the more low-priced champion of the Conservative cause; while I can well recollect a kinsman of my own, the late Mr
Trehawke Kekewich, at that time member for South Devon, mention to me as an instance of the downward tendency of latter-day Conservatism, that side by side with the threepenny 'Herald,' one "could get the 'Standard,' with rather more news in it, for a penny." Among the evening press of London, in the pre-' Pall Mall Gazette' days, the prints which after sundown had the greatest vogue were 'The Evening Star,' the special exponent, like its morning issue, of Mr Bright and the Manchester School, The Evening Standard,' 'The Globe,' and 'The Sun'; while the only post-meridian journal taken in at dining-houses and restaurants, like Simpson's, was the 'Express,' a réchauffé, as to actual intelligence, of the matutinal 'Daily News,' but furnished out with original leading articles. The
Daily Telegraph,' originally issued, some years earlier, on a very humble scale from a little printing - office in the W.C. district, had but recently become domiciled in Peterborough Court, Fleet Street. Here again the prevailing influences that impressed the aspirant, who, equipped with an introductory letter from the aforementioned friend, Tom Hood, sought admission to the editorial sanctum, were Scotch. Very Scotch indeed was the porter, who suspiciously eyed, and reluctantly consented to announce, the new comer after the entrancewicket was passed. Not less Scotch, again, was the representative of the conductor-in-chief, whom on most occasions I saw. The principal vicegerent of Mr, not yet Sir Edward, Lawson, was a son of Leigh Hunt, Mr Thornton Hunt. A greater contrast than this gentleman presented, with his semi-military dress_and
indomitable will, keen insight, and astonishingly prompt judgment on the topics of the day, to the traditional pictures of his father, the "Harold Skimpole" of 'Bleak House,' it is impossible to conceive. The Messrs Lawson had delegated to this most highly qualified gentleman much of the editorial control of their paper. With him, accordingly, as a leader-writer aspirant, I had to deal when Tom Hood's introduction secured me the entrée of Peterborough Court; but the first of the two or three articles ever written by me for that journal was after a consultation with Mr Thornton Hunt's right-hand man, -like Douglas Cook, an Aberdonian, the late James Macdonell, who of several topics submitted by me chose that of the dangers of the London streets, then rendered appropriate by a newly published report of the annual accidents there. Starting with a paraphrase of Juvenal's description of the Roman thoroughfares, I produced something which appeared the next morning in the leading columns of the great Fleet Street newspaper.
James Macdonell, whose knowledge of French politics, letters, and thought probably exceeded that of any other man of his standing, had not at the date now spoken of been long in London; Alexander Russel, of the 'Scotsman,' when, some years later, on Macdonell's commendation, I made his acquaintance, lamented to me that the proprietors of the metropolitan print had got hold of his most brilliant young recruit, and caused him to leave the Edinburgh office, where, or possibly at Newcastle-on-Tyne, his journalistic career began. James Macdonell was not a man to be forgotten by those whose privilege
it was to know him well. The professional connection of the present reviewer with Peterborough Court did not last long, though his friendly relations with Mr Thornton Hunt's assistant, and even with the recipient of Mr G. A. Sala's dedication,
who, together with the late W.H. Pater, as also my revered and beloved friend A. W. Kinglake, was one of the foremost to call upon me the first day after my illness, some years ago, that I was able to leave my room, and to congratulate me on the slow beginnings of recovery,-survived the incident of this relationship. The morning newspaper means all-night work for those engaged on its production. My domesticated existence was just beginning, and I was, consequently, not prepared to accept a professional offer, which would not have left much of my society for the young bride, as she then was, to whose combined good sense and high courage the writer of these lines has since been so deeply indebted. During several parliamentary sessions in earlier seventies, especially while the debates on the Public Worship Bill were going forward, it was my lot, long of course after this, to occupy a seat in that portion of the "press gallery" reserved for commentators on political events, close to the reserved and thoughtful, yet ever bright and amiable, presence of James Macdonell, who had not then joined, as later in his life he did, the editorial staff of the 'Times,' and by whose premature death the English press sustained the greatest loss that has befallen it within my recollection.
In these days Mr Sala himself, though an assiduous contributor to the famous broadsheet, where his genius has found such justly appreciated exercise, was to me
only a name, though a very mighty one; but at the little house in South Street, Brompton, where the younger Hood, on leaving the War Office, and assuming the editorship of Fun,' then lived, I met weekly, in addition to the late T. W. Robertson, and the vigorously surviving Mr W. S. Gilbert -whose presence and conversation showed in these days all that possession of sheer intellectual power of which since then the public has seen so many sustained illustrations-some of the most valued members of Mr LevyLawson's staff, especially the writer of the burlesque sporting sketches then appearing in 'Fun' as from "Nicholas," W. J. Prowse, who, in his vivid presentment of that broken-down old Cockney reprobate, created a character and a type of which Thackeray need not have been ashamed, in addition to being a consummately versatile, varied, and ready leaderwriter. Prowse was also the author of many really exquisite occasional verses in the manner of Praed. One of these compositions, appearing in 'Fun' not so very long before his premature death, contained a pathetic presentiment of the issue of the disease that secretly had already laid its hand upon him. The lines in question were those beginning
"I am only nine-and-twenty yet, Though young, experience makes me sage;
So how on earth can I forget
The memory of my lost old age?
Of manhood's prime let others boast, It comes too late, or goes too soon; At times the fate I envy most
Is that of slippered pantaloon."
There are probably among the readers of 'Maga' some who will have read, and been struck by,
these lines in a little collection of their author's literary remains, published some years ago. They attracted the attention of many at the time; among others, of so skilled a critic and consummate performer in that department of belles lettres as Mr Arthur Locker, as well as of Prowse's warm personal friend and professional colleague, James Macdonell himself.
Another regular writer for the Daily Telegraph,' constantly visible at this time, was, Godfrey Turner, in every way a first-rate specimen of that "good-all-round" journalist, whom the minute subdivision of labour in newspaper offices threatens to improve off the face of Fleet Street. Independently of the many excellent and amiable qualities of him who bore it, the name of this departed friend is memorable to the present writer for reasons that may not be without a certain special interest to 'Maga's' readers.
In 1866 there came the demand for an inquiry into the alleged conduct of Governor Eyre during the suppression of the Jamaica negro insurrection of the previous year.
Godfrey Turner had been despatched by his newspaper to watch the proceedings; while, by a coincidence that may be briefly glanced at, his colleague from the
Standard' was a gentleman with whom, much subsequently to this period, I was destined to have the most intimate, the most friendly, and the most useful of journalistic relations-Mr W. H. Mudford, the present controller of the Shoe Lane establishment. On his return from the West Indies, Godfrey Turner, after the manner of the period and of the fraternity, was entertained at a dinner of London littérateurs, given in an almost improvised structure under the arches of Ludgate Hill Station,