Studies of a Biographer/The Evolution of Editors

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1311161Studies of a Biographer — The Evolution of EditorsLeslie Stephen


What is an editor? If we turn, as our fathers would have turned, to Johnson's Dictionary, we shall find in the last edition published during his life that the word in 1785 meant either 'publisher' simply, or editor in the sense in which the name describes Bentley's relation to Horace or Warburton's to Pope. The editor, that is as implying the commander of a periodical, is not yet recognised, and Johnson, if any one, would not have overlooked him. Dr. Murray's great dictionary gives 1802 as the date of the earliest recorded use of the word in the now familiar sense. The editor is regarded by most authors as a person whose mission is the suppression of rising genius, or as a traitor who has left their ranks to help their natural enemy, the publisher. Hateful as he may be in himself, he is an interesting figure in the annals of literature. The main facts are familiar enough, and are given in various histories of the Press.[1] Yet I have found even in such books phrases which seem to imply a misconception allusions, for example, to the 'editor and staff' of a newspaper in the days of Queen Anne. Such a slip occurs in the most perfect presentment of the spirit of that period, Thackeray's Esmond. Esmond goes to see the printer of The Postboy, and in the house encounters Swift. 'I presume you are the editor of The Postboy, sir?' says Swift. 'I am but a contributor,' replies Esmond. The scene is otherwise quite accurate, but Esmond, in his anxiety to be smart upon Swift, makes an anachronism. I do not know who wrote The Postboy at this period (1712), but it was shortly before written by Abel Boyer. Boyer was a French refugee who had to toil in Grub Street for his living. Some of his painful compilations are still known to antiquarians, and his French dictionary, or a dictionary which continued to pass under his name, survived till quite recently, if it be not still extant. He was employed by one Roper[2] to write The Postboy, but was turned off in 1709. He then published a pathetic appeal to the public, pointing out that the wicked Roper had made money by his paper, and was dismissing him without just cause. He tried, like other men in the same position, to carry on a 'true' Postboy, which, if ever fairly started, has vanished from the world. What kind of interviews Boyer was likely to have with Swift may be guessed from The Journal to Stella. Swift calls him a 'French dog who has abused me in a pamphlet'; orders a messenger to take him in charge, and requests St. John to 'swinge him.' Whoever wrote it afterwards, The Postboy itself was a 'tri-weekly' sheet which would go comfortably into a column of The Times. Its speciality, due probably to Boyer's French origin, was its foreign correspondence, and it had little else. The whole, as a rule, seems to have been made up of little paragraphs extracted from letters giving remarks about the war, and the remaining space was eked out by half a dozen advertisements. Boyer's 'editing' was all done with a pair of scissors. He was hardly more than a clerk employed by Roper to select bits of news, and probably to arrange for a supply of the necessary material.

We can make a tolerably distinct picture of the Grub Street of this period. The street, which not long ago exchanged its ill-omened name for Milton Street, had become famous in the days of the Civil War, when the abolition of the Star Chamber gave a chance to unlicensed printers, and the appetite for news was naturally at its keenest. When order was restored it was put under restraint, and languished dismally through the Restoration period. Roger Lestrange was intrusted, not only with the superintending of the one official organ, but with power of suppressing every rival. He acted as a kind of detective, and he declares that he spent £500 a year in maintaining 'spies for information.' One night in 1663 he showed his zeal by arresting a wretched printer called Twyn. Twyn, whose only excuse was that he was the father of three poor children, was caught in the act of printing what he called 'some mettlesome stuff.' Though the stuff was too outrageous to be fully quoted even in the reports of his trial, it appears to have asserted that even kings should be responsible to their people, a doctrine which might be taken to hint at a popular rising. Twyn was sent to the gallows to clear his views of the law of libel. That law, so Scroggs declared in 1680, was that to 'publish any newspaper whatsoever was illegal, and showed a manifest intent to the breach of the peace.' Although this doctrine and the practice which it sanctioned are startling enough to us, they suggest one significant remark. The accounts of Twyn's and other trials at the time prove the infamy of Scroggs and his like, but they indirectly prove also the advent of a change. The reporter had come into existence, and was doing his work admirably. The proceedings are taken down word for word, and the scenes are often so vividly described that they are more amusing, because less long-winded, than accounts of modern trials. Macaulay remarks that Jeffreys was awed at the trial of the seven bishops by the 'thick rows of earls and barons.' The reporter contributed equally to the remarkable change in fairness of trials which took place at the Revolution. It was to be a long time before he could force his way into the gallery of the House of Commons; but his influence in the law-courts was perceptible.[3] The Grub Street of Boyer's time contained many of the waifs and strays from this period of persecution. In wandering through that dismal region we get the most distinct of our few glimpses of light as from a tallow-candle held by the crazy scribbler John Dunton. Dunton, a descendant of clergymen, had become a bookseller, and got into various intricate troubles, till, as he tells us, he 'stooped so low as to become an author,' and sank in time to be a 'willing and everlasting drudge to the quill'! In 1705 he published his Life and Errors, a book which makes one long to ask him a few questions. He had seen many people of whom he could have given interesting 'reminiscences.' Unluckily he did not know in what posterity would be interested. We do not much care to know at the present day that Richard Sault was in all probability the true author of the Second Spira, a book of which Dunton sold 30,000 copies in six weeks, and which he now requests his readers to burn if they meet it. I have never had the chance of burning it, and cannot account for his remorse, though I hope that the sale was some consolation. But, besides this, Dunton had published the Athenian Mercury, a sort of anticipatory Notes and Queries, and to it not only this famous Sault, but John Wesley's father and Sir William Temple and Swift had sent contributions. He had known, too, all the booksellers, printers, binders, engravers, and hackney authors of the time, and gives us tantalising glimpses of some familiar names. He has short descriptions of considerably over a hundred booksellers, and from his account we are glad to observe that they already showed their main characteristic—the possession, namely, of all the cardinal virtues. He enumerates and compliments all the writers of weekly sheets. Among them is Boyer, whom he praises for the 'matchless beauties of his style'; Defoe, with whom he had unluckily a running quarrel, and who is therefore mentioned with less warmth than inferior rivals; and Tutchin, whose Observator is 'noways inferior' to Defoe's Review. Tutchin was the famous person who was sentenced by Jeffreys, for his share in Monmouth's revolt, to a punishment of such severity that he petitioned the king to be hanged instead. His petition is supposed to be unique, and his prayer was not granted. Tutchin escaped to see Jeffreys in the Tower, and was reported to have sent him a halter concealed in a barrel of oysters. Tutchin was tried in 1704 for some of his Observators, in which he seems to have obscurely hinted that there might be some corruption in the navy. He escaped in consequence of a technical blunder in the indictment unintelligible to the lay reader, but, we are told, was afterwards assaulted in consequence of some of his writings, and so cruelly beaten that he died of his wounds. The evidence on his trial shows clearly what a leading newspaper was in those days. Tutchin had agreed with the printer to write a weekly paper for which he was to receive 10 s. 6 d. a time. The number printed was 266, and we are glad to hear that the printer raised the price in time to 20 s. The printer incidentally admits that he had himself done such 'editing' as was necessary; that is, had struck out phrases which seemed to be libellous.

Defoe and his rival Tutchin differed from Boyer in this, that their papers were in reality weekly pamphlets, or consisted mainly of the matter which would now be made into leading articles. Tutchin and Defoe were sound Whigs, though Defoe's Whiggism had to make awkward compromises with his interests. Their chief opponent was the vigorous nonjuror and voluminous controversialist Charles Leslie, a martyr to High Church principles, who had to live partly by his pen, and from 1706 to 1709 published The Rehearsal on the side of unflinching Jacobitism. He escaped a trial for treason by retiring to St. Germains. The author had always to keep one eye upon the Attorney-General, and Grub Street was a Cave of Adullam for broken men, ruined in trade or political troubles, who could just keep body and soul together by these productions. They were 'authors,' not 'editors' of their papers, and The Review, or Observator, or Rehearsal were simply the personal utterances of Defoe, Tutchin, and Leslie. Whether Defoe, like Tutchin, was paid by his printer, or whether, as seems more probable in so keen a man of business, he employed the printer, is more than I know. In the later years of his troublesome life, he was at one time in a position of respectability, with a comfortable house and garden, and able to provide a portion for his daughter. But Defoe was exceptional. Meanwhile the plan had been adopted in a higher sphere. Steele is distinguished in one of the lists of authors as a 'gentleman born.' The official Gazette had been intrusted to him with a liberal salary of £300 a year, and, as we all know, in 1709 he started The Tatler, which became the lineal ancestor of The Spectator and the long series of British Essayists. All the best-known authors of the eighteenth century tried their hands at this form of composition, as our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had good cause to know. The essays were lay sermons, whose authors condescended, it was supposed, to turn from grave studies of philosophy or politics to topics at once edifying and intelligible to the weaker sex. Many of these series implied joint-stock authorship, and therefore some kind of editing. We know, for example, how Steele was ill-advised enough to insert in The Guardian a paper by his young admirer Pope, which ostensibly puffed their common friend Philips's Pastorals, but under a thin cover of irony contrived to compare them very unfavourably with his own rival performances. Pope and Philips lived afterwards, as Johnson puts it, in a perpetual 'reciprocation of malevolence'; and the editor no doubt had already discovered that there might be thorns in his pillow. In those happy days, too, when the 'Rev. Mr, Grove' could win immortality on the strength of three or four papers in The Spectator, Steele must no doubt have had to deal in some of the diplomacy which is a modern editor's defence against unwelcome volunteers. But he held no recognised office. When he got Addison to help him in The Tatler, he resembled, according to his familiar phrase, the 'distressed prince who calls in a powerful neighbour to his aid.' To use a humbler comparison, he was more like the preacher who asks a friend to occupy his pulpit for a Sunday or two, and finds his assistant's sermons more popular than his own. Addison and Steele appear to have started The Spectator in alliance, and they sold the right of publication when it was collected in a new form. The precedent was often followed by little knots of friends, and some one, of course, would have to do such editing as was wanted. One result is characteristic. There was as yet no 'We.' The writer of an essay had therefore to speak of himself in the first person; and as the first person was not the individual writer, but the writer in his capacity as essayist, an imaginary author was invented. Hence arose the Spectator himself, and Nestor Ironside and Caleb Danvers and their like. The last representatives of the fashion were Sylvanus Urban of The Gentleman's Magazine and Oliver Yorke of Fraser's, if indeed 'Mr. Punch' is not a legitimate descendant. The fictitious author was a kind of mask to be worn by each actor in turn. But of course periodicals of this kind, which consisted of nothing but an essay supplied by some author with occasional help from his friends, required no definite editor. Afterwards they frequently appeared as a series of articles in one of the magazines, and had less of an independent existence. For the main origin of the editor we must, then, go back to Grub Street. One point must be noticed. Between Grub Street and these higher circles of elegant authorship there was little communication, and certainly no love lost. The modern author has sometimes looked fondly back to the period of Queen Anne as a golden epoch when literature received its proper reward. Macaulay speaks of the next years as a time when the author fell, as it were, between two stools—when he had lost the patron and not been taken up by the public. This, I think, suggests an inaccurate view. Grub Street had never basked in the sunshine of patronage. Its denizens had few interviews with great men, unless they were such as Boyer had with Swift or Twyn with Lestrange. The 'hackney author,' as Dunton already calls him, was simply a nuisance to be suppressed unless he could be used as a spy. A few men of education drifted into the miserable street; royalist divines (like Fuller) under the Commonwealth, and ejected ministers such as Baxter under Charles ii. Baxter tells us that he managed by ceaseless writing to make £70 a year, and, now and then, such men were helped by some sympathetic friend in power. But patronage, beyond an occasional bribe, or possibly a payment of hush-money, generally descended, if it descended at all, upon others than the true Grub Street author. The great men of the seventeenth century now and then acted as patrons; the two greatest English thinkers of the time, Hobbes and Locke, were supported by the Earls of Devonshire and Shaftesbury. Some patronage was bestowed upon Dryden and the poets, though they do not seem to have considered it over-liberal. Butler and Otway are the typical examples of their fate. Still, a nobleman often felt bound to send his twenty guineas in return for a dedication. Learned men, too, in the Church might of course hope for professional preferment. But all this was no comfort to the bookseller's drudge, and he got no benefits of this kind from the Revolution. What then happened was, I take it, very simple. The great man, thanks to the growth of parliamentary power, suddenly found himself enabled to be a patron at the public expense. Naturally he was suddenly seized with a fit of liberality. The famous writers of Queen Anne's day—Addison, and Congreve, and Prior, and their friends—became commissioners of excise, of hackney coaches, and so forth, or found shelter in other pleasant little offices, then newly created, of which Ministers could dispose. Such patronage was, of course, not given for abstruse learning; scholars and antiquaries were not sought out in their studies or college lecture-rooms, or enabled to pursue recondite researches. Still less did it come to Grub Street. The recipients of the golden shower were 'wits,' or men known in 'the town,' which was no longer overshadowed by the Court. They were selected from the agreeable companions at one of the newly invented clubs, where statesmen could relax over their claret and brush up their schoolboy recollections of Horace and Homer. Halifax, Harley, and St. John could give a few crumbs from their table to the men whom they met at the Kitcat or the Brothers' Club. Swift hoped to be the founder of an academy which should direct patronage to men of letters, and the anecdotes of his attempts to help his poorer brethren show the most creditable side of his character. The pleasant time disappeared for an obvious reason. In the reign of Queen Anne the system of Party Government was substantially got into working order. That meant that offices were no longer to be given away for ornamental purposes, but used for practical business. Swift called Walpole 'Bob, the poet's foe,' for his indifference to literary merit; but Walpole was the name of a system. Places were wanted to exchange for votes, and a writer of plays and essays was not worth buying unless he were proprietor or hanger-on of the proprietor of a borough. As soon as this was clearly understood, the patronage of men of letters went out of fashion, and I greatly doubt whether literature was any the worse for the change.

Grub Street, at any rate, had been little affected by the gleam of good fortune which came to the upper circles, and was not hurt by its disappearance. The prizes bestowed upon the gentlemen and scholars who could write 'Spectator' were above the reach of Tutchin or Defoe. They had, indeed, reaped some rather questionable advantages from the political change besides the abolition of licensing. Harley was the first English statesman to use the Press systematically. Under his management the Grub Street authors ceased to be simply vermin to be hunted down; they might be themselves used in the chase. Harley's name constantly turns up in this dismal region; he saved Boyer from Swift's wrath; he appears in the background of other obscure careers, such as that of the deist Toland; and he is specially memorable for his connection with two of the greatest of English journalists, Swift and Defoe. Swift, of course, was petted as an equal, and flattered by hopes of a bishopric; while Defoe was treated as an 'underspurleather,' a mere agent who could be handed over by Whig to Tory and Tory to Whig as the Ministry changed. Each of them, however, wrote what passed for his own individual utterance, The Examiner, while Swift wrote it, represented Swift, as The Review represented Defoe. The papers were not like modern party newspapers, complex organisms with editors and proprietors and contributors, but simply periodical pamphlets by a single author, though their utterances might be more or less inspired by the Government. The system was carried on through the Walpole period, but a change soon begins dimly to show itself. A new race is arising, called by Ralph, one of themselves, 'authors by profession,' most of whose names are familiar only to profound commentators upon the Dunciad. The notes to that work were, as was said, the regular place of execution for the victims of Pope and the blustering Warburton. Ralph, says Warburton in one of them, 'ended in the common sink of all such writers, a political newspaper.' Although that represented the lowest stage of human existence, there were some pickings to be had even there. The statement made by a Committee of the House of Commons is often quoted, that in ten years Walpole spent over £50,000 upon the Press; over £10,000 going to one Arnall, probably in part to be transmitted to others. That, as we are told, was the flourishing period of corruption, and if authors got their share of it their morals doubtless suffered. And yet we may say, if we will not be too puritanical, that even a capacity for receiving bribes may imply a relative improvement. A man who can be bribed can generally make a bargain; he is something more than a simple spy. Defoe was a slave to Ministers, who kept his conviction hanging over his head, and just gave him scraps enough to support him in the dirty work which he tried, very hard it seems, but not quite successfully, to reconcile to his conscience. Ralph was evidently treated with relative respect. His moral standard is defined by Bubb Dodington. Ralph, says that type of political jobbery, was 'a very honest man.' This, as Dodington's account of him shows—with no sense of incongruity was—quite compatible with a readiness to sell himself to any party. It only meant that he kept the bargain for the time. Honesty, that is, did not imply so quixotic a principle as adherence to political principles, but adherence for the time being to the man who had bought you; and even that naturally appeared an exceptionally lofty strain to Dodington. Ralph himself complains bitterly of the niggardly patronage of literature, but he ended with a pension of £600 a year. Among his allies and enemies were men like Amhurst and Arnall and Concanen and others, who, chiefly again through references in the Dunciad, have got their names into biographical dictionaries. Some of them gained humble rewards. Amhurst, a clever writer, who began, like Shelley, by expulsion from Oxford, seems to represent the nearest approach to the modern editor. As 'Caleb Danvers,' imaginary author of The Craftsman, he received the most brilliant political writing of the day from Bolingbroke, Pulteney, and the 'patriots'; and Ralph declares that he died of a broken heart when, upon Walpole's fall, his services met with no reward from his friends. The Craftsman was itself on The Spectator or Examiner model; but, as a party organ, inspired and partly written by the leaders of the Opposition, it had something of the position of a modern newspaper; and Amhurst, no doubt, though in a very dependent position, may be regarded as a humble forerunner of the full-blown editor of later days.

Meanwhile, however, the comparative calm of the political atmosphere under Walpole was favourable to another direction of literary development. Defoe found time for the multitudinous activities which entitle him to be a great-grandfather of all modern journalism. He helped to start newspapers; he published secret documents; he interviewed Jack Sheppard at the foot of the gallows; he collected ghost stories; he wrote accounts of worthy dissenting divines recently deceased; he wrote edifying essays upon the devil and things in general; he described tours in the country; he passed Robinson Crusoe through a journal like a modern feuilleton, and, in short, he opened almost every vein of periodical literature that has been worked by his successors. As the time goes on we find authors who really make a decent living by their pens. There is John Campbell, for example, the richest author, according to Johnson, 'who ever grazed the common of literature'; the 'pious' gentleman on the same authority, who, though he never entered a church, never passed one without taking off his hat. And to speak of still living names, we have Richardson, who had the good luck to be printer as well as author, and Fielding, forced to choose between being a hackney author or a hackney coachman, and Johnson, who was presently to proclaim, as Carlyle puts it, the 'blast of doom' of patronage. The profession, or at least the trade, is beginning to be established, and there will naturally be a demand for editing. The author of the loftier sphere still laboured under the delusion that it was unworthy of him to take money for his works. Swift, as he tells us, never made anything, till the judicious advice of Pope brought something for his Miscellanies. Pope himself, though he made his fortune by his Homer, is hardly an exception. The sums which he received, indeed, enabled him to live at his ease, but they were the product of a subscription, and, I fancy, of such a subscription as has never been surpassed. The good society of those days held, and deserves credit for holding, that it would do well to give a kind of national commission to the most rising young poet of the day to produce a worthy translation of the accepted masterpiece of poetry. It was a piece of joint-stock patronage, and not a successful publishing speculation—though it succeeded in that sense also—by which Pope made his fortune. Grub Street, therefore, would rejoice little in a success which scarcely suggested even a precedent for imitation, and which fell to the man who was its deadliest enemy. Pope, with his excessive sensibility, was stung by its taunts to that war with the dunces which led to his most elaborate and least creditable piece of work. Though the bulk of his adversaries was obscure enough, the body collectively is beginning to raise its head a little. The booksellers, from Lintot to Tonson down to the disreputable Curll, are indulging in a variety of speculations from which the form of modern periodical literature begins to emerge distinctly. One symptom is remarkable. At the beginning or 1731 the ingenious Cave, having bought a small printing-office, started The Gentleman's Magazine, destined to have a long life and to be followed by many imitators. It had various obscure precursors, such as The Historical Register, and at first was a humble affair enough. Most of its pages were filled with reproductions of articles from the weekly journals; but it included brief notices of books, and occasional poems and records of events and miscellaneous literature; and, in short, was complex enough to require a judicious editor. Johnson tells how Cave, when he had heard that one subscriber out of the 10,000 whom he speedily attracted was likely to drop the magazine, would say, 'Let us have something good in the next number.' Nothing more could be required to prove that Cave had the true editorial spirit. Still, however, the editor was not, and for a long time he was not to be, differentiated from the proprietor. Cave himself looked after every detail. He arranged for the parliamentary reports (a plan in which his first predecessor appears to have been our old friend Boyer in his monthly Political State), and employed the famous reporter who clothed the utterances of every orator of those days in sonorous Johnsonese. The success of The Gentleman's Magazine probably led to The Monthly Review, started by Ralph Griffiths in 1749, and as this was of a Whiggish turn, it was opposed by The Critical Review, started by Archibald Hamilton in 1756, and supported by Smollett; a sequence like that of The Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews. These two were the first, and till The Edinburgh Review, the leading representatives of literary criticism. Both of them were edited by the publishers. Griffiths, in particular, is famous as the taskmaster of Goldsmith. When a publisher has to do with a man of genius, especially with a man of genius over whom it is proper to be sentimental, he may be pretty certain of contemptuous treatment by the biographers of his client. Yet it is possible than even Griffiths had something to say for himself, and that if he was a hard master, Goldsmith may not have been a very business-like subordinate. Still, as Griffiths is said to have made £2000 a year by a venture to which Goldsmith only owed a bare escape from starvation, the printer may have been of opinion that the immediate profit was worth a good deal of posthumous abuse. However this may be, it is noticeable that the men of letters who appear in Boswell's great portrait gallery had no haven of editorship to drift into. They might be employed by the publisher of a magazine, and no doubt their drudgery would involve some of the work of a modern editor. But there was no such pillow for the wearied author as a regular office with a fixed income and the occupation of trimming other people's works instead of painfully straining matter from your own brain. Good service to a political patron, or very rarely some other merit, might be paid by a pension; but, without one, even Johnson, the acknowledged dictator of letters in his time, would apparently have never escaped from the writer's treadmill. He was never, it would seem, more than a month or two ahead of the friends who have become types of the Grub Street author: Smart, who let himself for ninety-nine years to a bookseller, or Boyse, whose only clothing was a blanket with holes in it through which his hands protruded to manufacture verses. Perhaps the Secretary of the Literary Fund could produce parallels even at the present day, and the increase in the prizes has certainly not diminished the number of blanks. Meanwhile, political journalism was coming to fresh life with the agitation of the early days of George III. The North Briton, in which Wilkes began his warfare, was a weekly periodical pamphlet after The Craftsman fashion, started at a week's notice to meet Smollett's Briton, and written chiefly by Wilkes with help from Churchill. It had a short and stormy life, and was not properly a newspaper. But when Wilkes fought his later campaign, and was backed by Junius, we have at last a genuine example of a newspaper warfare of the modern kind. The Public Advertiser had a significant history. It was the new form of The Daily Post started in 1719 by (or with the help of) Defoe. The Woodfall family, well known till the end of the century, came to have the chief share in it; and in 1752 gave it a new name and form, when Fielding seems to have acted more or less as sponsor. Upon dropping a periodical of his own, he advised his subscribers to transfer their favours to this paper, to which, moreover, he sent all his own advertisements, one as Justice of the Peace. Probably the recommendation means that it had somehow been made worth Fielding's while to let the paper have a monopoly of these notices. It seems that fifteen years previously, the value of the paper was about £840. By the Junius period, twenty years later, this had considerably increased. The property was held in shares, chiefly by wellknown booksellers and printers. A tenth belonged to Henry Sampson Woodfall, who took the management from 1758, when his father died, and acted as editor for thirty-five years. The circulation in the Junius period was about 3000 daily, and in 1774 (just after Junius had ceased) the profits were £1740. The accounts which have been preserved show the general nature of the business. The expenses, other than printing, included £200 paid to the theatres for advertisements of plays, an item which has long got to the other side of the account; £280 for home news; and smaller sums for foreign intelligence, and so forth. Nothing is set down for editor or contributors, and the obvious reason is that neither class existed. The contributors were some of the poor scribblers of Grub Street who collected material for paragraphs, or at times indulged in small political squibs. Contemporary portraits of the professional journalists of those days may be found in Foote's farces.[4] They are poor wretches, dependent upon 'Vamp' the bookseller, or 'Index' the printer; living in garrets, employed as hawkers of scandal, domestic and official, rising during the parliamentary session to political abuse, and in the recess picking up accounts of 'remarkable effects of thunder and lightning.' 'All is filth that comes to their net,' observes one of the characters, and, in any case, they represent the class of labour which now fills up the interstices of more serious writing. The Public Advertiser, however, was by no means composed of such matter. If Woodfall had to pay the theatres instead of being paid by them, he got his contributors for nothing. The volunteer correspondent was apparently as abundant then as now, and the paper is chiefly filled by his lucubrations. Woodfall, who seems to have been a worthy man, prided himself especially upon his impartiality. He accepted letters from all sides, and the paper, though without leading articles, was full of lively controversy upon all the leading topics of the day; Junius, of course, during his short career, being the most effective writer. Naturally, the paper required editing, and in a very serious sense. Woodfall was responsible when Junius assailed George III., and had to keep a very sharp eye upon the performances of his anonymous contributors. Still, however, though in point of fact an editor, he was primarily the managing partner of a business. Probably, he would receive some extra share of the profits in that capacity, and would come very near to being an editor in the modern sense.[5] We are told about this time that William Dodd, the popular preacher who was hanged for forgery in 1777, had 'descended so low as to become editor of a newspaper'—a degrading position which would account for a clergyman reaching the gallows. Still the genuine editor has not as yet become a distinct personage. Between this time and the revolutionary period several of the papers were started which were to be the main organs of public opinion down to our own day. On November 13th, 1776, Horace Walpole looked out of his window and saw a body of men marching down Piccadilly—volunteers, he guessed, for service in the American troubles. He was more astonished than we should be on discovering that they were simply 'sandwich men,' or at least men with papers in their caps or bills in their hands, advertising a newspaper. Henry Bate Dudley, the 'fighting parson,' who lived to become a baronet and a canon of Ely, was at this time chaplain to Lord Lyttelton and employing his leisure in writing plays, fighting duels, or carrying on The Morning Post. It had begun four years earlier, and Bate was now appealing for support against a rival who was starting a new Morning Post. Bate, as Walpole says, is 'author' (still not editor) of the old Morning Post; and in 1780 he left it to set up The Morning Herald in opposition. A duel or two and a confinement for a year in the King's Bench prison varied his amusements. Walpole moralises after his fashion upon the 'expensive masquerade exhibited by a clergyman in defence of daily scandal against women of the highest rank, in the midst of a civil war'! I do not know how far The Morning Post deserved this imputation; but its history shortly afterwards brings us within reach of the modern system. Three men in particular played a great part in the transformation of the newspaper; two of them, as might be anticipated, were energetic young Scots, and one of these came from Aberdeen, the centre, as many of its inhabitants have told me, whence spread all good things. Perry, Stuart, and Walter were these creators of the modern newspaper, and their history shows how the 'able editor' finally came to life. The first Walter was a bookseller, who thought that he could turn to account an invention called 'logography' (the types were to be whole words instead of letters) by printing a newspaper. Though the invention failed, the newspaper lived for a short time as The Universal Register, and became The Times on January 1, 1788. Walter's first declarations show how accurately he had devised the conditions of success. His ideal paper was to give something for all tastes; it was not to be merely commercial nor merely political, it was to represent public opinion generally, not any particular party, and it was never 'to offend the ear of delicacy.' When it had survived logography and obtained its incomparable monosyllabic name, it was fitted for a successful career. The war was an ill wind enough, but it blew prosperity to newspapers as the wars of the Great Rebellion and of Queen Anne's day had given fresh impulse to its infancy and boyhood. Walter, too, and his son, who took the helm in 1802, were keen in applying mechanical improvements and organising the new machinery. The Times seems to have invented the foreign correspondent, its representative, Henry Crabb Robinson, being probably the first specimen of the genus: it beat the Government in getting the first news of battles, and defeated a strike of the printers in order to introduce a new method of printing. The younger Walter, however, seems still to have combined the functions of editor and proprietor until 1810, when Sir John Stoddart became editor. Stoddart was succeeded by Barnes in 1817, and Barnes in 1841 by Delane, when editorship had become not only a separate function, but a position of high political importance. James Perry, meanwhile, had come into the profession from a different side. He had been early thrown upon his own resources, and about 1777 sent some articles to a newspaper which gained him employment at the rate of a guinea and a half a week. He soon rose to a better position. The Morning Chronicle had been started in 1769 by William Woodfall (younger brother of Henry Sampson), who gained the nickname 'Memory Woodfall' from his powers of bringing back debates in his head. His reports became the great feature of The Chronicle; but Perry, who was getting four guineas a week for editing The Gazetteer, succeeded in beating Woodfall by employing a staff of reporters. The Chronicle began to decline. Perry, managing with the help of a friend to scrape together about £1000, bought the paper and made it the accepted organ of the Whig Party. It soon became a leading paper, and was for a time at the head of the London Press. It was ultimately sold after Perry's death in 1821 for £42,000. Perry appears to have edited it himself until 1817, when his mantle fell upon another vigorous Scot, John Black, who had joined it as a reporter. Black and Barnes thus started simultaneously, Black representing the opinions of the 'philosophical Radicals,' and being steadily inspired by James Mill. Thus Perry, like Walter, marks the end of the period in which the proprietor still habitually acted as editor.

Perry at various times received contributions from many of the most eminent writers of the time. Coleridge got a guinea out of him at a critical moment. Thomas Campbell published Ye Mariners of England in The Chronicle Charles Lamb sent him paragraphs; Sheridan, Mackintosh, Hazlitt, Tom Moore were among his contributors; and Lord Campbell, better known as The Chancellor, was for a time both law reporter and theatrical critic. The last of the three rulers of the Press, Daniel Stuart, is still often mentioned for a similar reason. Stuart, like Perry, a vigorous Scot, had joined his brothers, who were settled as printers in London. They printed The Morning Post, which had fallen into difficulties; and in 1795, when its circulation was only 350 copies daily, Daniel Stuart bought the paper, land, and plant for £600. He raised the circulation to 4500 in 1803, when it was surpassed in popularity by The Chronicle alone. He soon afterwards became the owner of The Courier in partnership with one Street, gave up The Post, and in 1822 retired, having made a fortune. Stuart was specially connected with Mackintosh, who married his sister when they were both struggling young men. His fame, however, rests more upon his connection with Coleridge, and he incurred the danger which comes to all publishers of works of men of genius. Certain phrases in Coleridge's Biographia Libraria and Table Talk gave rise to the impression that Stuart was one of the conventional bloodsuckers, who make their money out of rising genius and repay them with the scantiest pittance. Stuart defended himself effectively; and any doubts which might remain have been dispersed by the (privately printed) Letters from the Lake Poets. Stuart, in fact, was one of the most helpful of Coleridge's many friends, and Coleridge to the end of his life spoke of him and to him with warm and generous gratitude. Coleridge, it is clear enough, and certainly very natural, took at times an exaggerated view of his services to The Morning Chronicle. His surprising statement that Stuart in 1800 offered him £2000 a year if he would devote himself to journalism, that he declined on the ground that he would not give up 'the reading of old folios' for twenty times £2000, and that he considered any pay beyond £350 as a real evil, is obviously impossible. Stuart had probably tried to spur his indolent contributor by saying that his services would be worth some such sum if they could be made regular. But the statement is only worth notice here in illustration of the state of the literary market at the time. Southey acknowledges his gratitude for the guinea a week which he received as Stuart's 'laureate.' Poetry, by the way, appears to have been more in demand then than at the present day. Both Perry and Stuart's elder brother offered to employ Burns; and Coleridge, Southey, Campbell, and Moore all published poems in the newspapers. Lamb tried his hand at 'jokes.' 'Sixpence a joke,' he says, 'and it was thought pretty high, too, was Dan Stuart's settled remuneration in these cases' (Newspapers Thirty-five Years Ago), and no paragraph was to exceed seven lines. In a letter of 1803, Lamb says that he has given up his 'two guineas a week' from The Post. The high-water mark of a journalist's earnings at the end of the last century is probably marked by the achievement of Mackintosh, who earned ten guineas in a week. 'No paper could stand it!' exclaimed the proprietor, and the bargain had to be revised. A few years later, however, we are told that Sterling, the father of Carlyle's friend, was receiving the sum which Coleridge supposed himself to have refused, namely, £2000 a year for writing leading articles in The Times. Stuart, it would seem, in the earlier period was paying the fair value of their wares to Coleridge, Southey, and their like; but in the days of Scott and Byron the price of popular writing was going up by leaps and bounds.

The normal process of the evolution of editors was what I have tried to sketch, simply, that is, the gradual delegation of powers by the printer or bookseller who had first employed some inhabitant of Grub Street as a drudge, and when the work became too complex and delicate, had handed over the duties to men of special literary training. Two very important periodicals, however, of this period show a certain reversion to the older type. The Edinburgh Review owed part of its success to its independence of publishers. It was started, not by a speculator who might wish to puff his own wares, but by a little knot of audacious youths, who combined as Steele and Addison combined in The Spectator. It seems that at first they scarcely even contemplated the necessity of an editor, and Sydney Smith was less editor than president of the little committee of authors at the start. When Jeffrey took up the duty, he was careful to make it understood that his work was to be strictly subordinate to his professional labours, and had no inkling that his fame would come to depend upon his editorship. The Edinburgh, however, soon became a review of the normal kind. Cobbett, on the other hand, started his Political Register as a kind of rival to The Annual Register. It was to be mainly a collection of State papers and official documents; but it soon changed in his hands into the likeness of Defoe's old Review. It became a personal manifesto of Cobbett himself, and, as such, held a most important place in the journalism of the time. But Cobbett was, and in some ways remains, unique, and, as the newspaper has developed, the 'we' has superseded the 'I,' and the organism become too complex to represent any single person. The history, indeed, would help to explain various peculiarities characteristic of English newspapers, especially the bad odour which long adhered to the profession, and made even Warrington ashamed to confess to Pendennis that he was a contributor to a leading newspaper. The author by profession of the time of Ralph had excellent reasons for concealing his name, and the desire for anonymity long survived the old justification. But I have said enough to leave that and other considerations untouched for the present.

  1. I may especially refer to the last of these, Mr. Fox Bourne's History of Newspapers, from which I have appropriated some facts.
  2. In Esmond, the printer of The Postboy is Leach, who really printed The Postman. Whether Kemp, the writer mentioned by Thackeray, was a real person, I do not know.
  3. In 1764 the reporters were liable to be turned out of court. See xiv. State Trials, p. 35.
  4. See The Author (1757), and The Bankrupt (1776).
  5. A ledger of The Public Advertiser, from 1766 to 1771, is now in the Free Library at Chelsea, to which it was presented by Sir C. Dilke.