Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 59.djvu/260

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Walter
Walter
254

Times' as the world has known it for well-nigh the whole of the present century. He differentiated the paper at once from the party prints of the day. He instituted the novel principle in journalism of judging men and measures solely on their merits. He invented 'the special correspondent,' and practically introduced the 'leading article.' By the one agency he laid before his readers prompt and authentic intelligence on all matters of public interest; by the other he strove to focus public opinion, to inspire himself with the mind of his countrymen, and to give to its deliverances articulate utterance and cogent expression. A pioneer in the creation of the modern newspaper, he had to determine for himself and to impose on others the conditions which governed its being and sustained its influence. Resolved to maintain its independence 'at all hazards,' as he said himself, he had to reconcile the requirements of individual management and control with the personal idiosyncrasies of a staff of singularly able contributors. In the solution of this problem he gave to the organisation he created many of the characteristics of a secret society, together with something of the nature of a cabinet council. Secrecy was its mainspring; solidarity and self-suppression were its indefeasible conditions. The views propounded on any given subject were those of 'The Times,' and the personality of the individual writer was absorbed in the corporate unity of the paper. Of what forces the policy of the paper at this period or that was the resultant was never disclosed to the world at large, except so far as the world at large saw its own opinions skilfully and faithfully reflected. This inscrutable secrecy, this honourable solidarity of confidence, was Walter's arcanum imperil. If two contributors who happened to be personal friends chanced to meet within the precincts of the office, he would expect them to pass without recognition. One contributor at least was never known either by name or by sight to the editor. His copy was brought to the office by Walter himself, who corrected and revised the proofs. This contributor once heard a fellow-guest at a dinner party openly claim the authorship of an article which he himself had written—a proceeding which might have satisfied anyone who knew the ways of 'The Times' that a babbler who thus betrayed the confidence of the paper either never had been a contributor to its columns or would very soon cease to be so. It is well known that Sir Robert Peel, writing in 1835 to 'the editor of "The Times"' to thank him for the powerful support which his government had received from the paper, declared that he was 'addressing one whose person even was unknown to him' (Carlyle, Life of John Sterling).

Walter was at first his own editor. He so describes himself in the remarkable manifesto alreadly quoted from 'The Times' of 11 Feb. 1810. But shortly after this date he handed over some portion of his editorial functions to (Sir) John Stoddart [q. v.], a vigorous writer of strong tory prejudices— satirised by Moore as 'Dr. Slop'—who afterwards became chief justice of Malta. Stoddart and Walter did not long agree, and Walter, who meant to be master, invited his refractory editor to retire, and offered to grant him a pension. But Stoddart, preferring his independence, seceded from 'The Times' and started a journal called 'The New Times,' which, though liberally financed by his friends and supported by an able staff of contributors, survived for only a few years. Stoddart's secession occurred in 1815 or early in 1816 (Grant, The Newspaper Press), and Walter then appointed as editor the famous Thomas Barnes [q. v.], whose name is so well known to readers of the 'Greville Memoirs' and other political literature of the time. Barnes remained editor until his death in 1841 (though during the long illness which preceded his death many of his duties must have been discharged by deputy), and was succeeded by John Thaddeus Delane [q. v.], another famous name in the history of modern journalism. The language of Carlyle in his 'Life of John Sterling' would seem to imply, though it does not explicitly affirm, that Edward Sterling [q. v.], the father of Carlyle's friend, was at one time editor of 'The Times.' This is a misapprehension. For the rest, Carlyle's account of the elder Sterling's relation to the paper, which acquired through him the sobriquet of 'The Thunderer,' is probably accurate as far as it goes, though it serves to illustrate the difficulty of defining relations which the conductors of 'The Times' have always regarded as strictly confidential.

Walter's early difficulties were not a little enhanced by occasional trouble with his printers and compositors. In 1810 a serious crisis occurred. Labour troubles were rife in the printing trade, and a conspiracy was formed among the employes of 'The Times' to stop the publication of the paper by striking without notice. 'The strike took place on a Saturday morning. Mr. Walter had only a few hours' notice of this formidable design. … Having collected a few apprentices from half a dozen different quarters, and a few inferior workmen anxious