« PreviousContinue »
Oh! it was sweet at eventide
To watch her winsome wiles, Our bosoms beating with delight,
Our faces wreathed with smiles;
Over some pictured page,
Beyond her infant age.
But when her sister's fingers touched
The casket of sweet sound,
With an exultant bound,
As if it ne'er could cloy;
A passion and a joy.
And in the summer fields, how. bright
Gr her inquiring eyes !
With gladness and surprise ;
With a diviner grace ; While the quick light of wakening thought
Flashed out upon her face.
It cannot now avail to us
How she appeared on earth;
Since her celestial birth :
Tread the transcendant shore;
One little angel more.
London : FRED. PITMAN, 20, Paternoster Row, E.C.
Printed by J. WARD, Dewsbury.
HERE has been some discussion as to the etymology of
the word “News;" and, with excess of cleverness, ingenious men have assigned to it the most varied origin. We are told that it comes from the French, the German, the Flemish. One fathers it upon the Greek nous, and another upon the English noise. And ever since the year 1640, there have been simple-minded folk conscientiously believing that it was the issue of the union of the initial letters of the compass, thus-
In that year a play appeared called “The Wit's Recreations," and in that play occurs this droll suggestion
“When news doth come, if any would discusse
And comes to us from-NÒRTH, EAST, WEST, and SOUTH.” It is far from my wish to disturb any body's faith in this most cunning etymon, but if they want the real parent of the English “News,” they must be reminded that the early spelling of the word was “Newes," and that it is nothing more than a simple derivative of the common English
work-a-day adjective “New." Love for news is natural. In giving them a common human nature, the Great GOD knit all men together in bonds of brotherhood, which though they be sometimes verbally denied and sometimes practically ignored, can yet never be dissolved. Love for news is an unconscious recognition of this interlinking, universal brotherhood : for news is simply intelligence of others, or of that which is influencing and affecting others; and our interest in it rests in part upon our instinctive interest in them. Given, therefore, human nature as it is, and given also the paper mill and the printing press——the newspaper follows as a thing of course.
It is the inevitable outcome of man's social nature, and his social life.
The idea of the newspaper, therefore, is by no means new. Centuries before CHRIST, there existed in old Rome what in its rudimentary feature not inaptly corresponds to the modern daily press. Every day, in two or three of the most frequented parts of the city, reports of the chief public occurrences of the previous day were posted up for the benefit of the citizens; and gossips might read, how there had been a brawl at the Hog-in-Armour tavern-how that a destructive fire had broken
Mount Cælius-how that Marcus was buried, and Marcus Fuscus disorderly and drunk—and how that the butchers had been fined for selling meat which had not been inspected by the overseers of the market. They even advanced so far as occasionally to contain reports of speeches in the Senate, and of pleadings in the Courts of Law. These daily records were named Acta diurna ; were prepared by official scribes (actuarii); were published by authority of the government'; are believed to have existed as early as B.C. 691, and to have ceased in the sanguinary and tumultuous days of the early Cæsars. But whatever value may attach to these records as precursors of the modern press, it is certain that in or about the year 1536 an actual sheet of news was periodically issued in Venice. It seems to have been written-not printed, and to have risen, in true newspaper fashion, out of a political crisis, to inform the Venetians of the progress of the Turkish war. It was published once a month, and was read aloud to a gathered company, who paid a small fee for the privilege of hearing. The fee was a coin scarce worth a farthing, called Gazetta, whence comes our English word “Gazette."
The Acta diurna of Rome, and the Gazzetta of Venice, are the
first traces that history affords of anything in the least analogous to the modern newspaper.
But though the English cannot claim to be the people amongst whom news was first systematically collected and diffused, they can claim to be the people amongst whom the newspaper press first attained its highest development and its completest power.
With us it has risen until it has become nationally representative, and can take its place beside king, lords, and commons, as one of the estates of the realm. How it grew to this, is the story which in brief I have to tell to-night. As the story is a long one, and as human life and patience are both extremely short, I will, if you please, without more preface, enter upon my work at once, and tell the tale in words as few as possible.
Like all the great institutions of this land, the English press has been of very slow and gradual development. The germ from which it ultimately sprung is smaller than the mustard seed. We find it in certain news letters of the rich, and certain news ballads of the poor. The ballads were wretched doggrel rhymes, retailing the history of notable events, real or rumoured, and for the most part doubtless contained about a peck of truth to a bushel of falsehood. They were printed and circulated, and as often as not perhaps were recited or sung, for the benefit of the poorer folk. In the year 1544, in the reign of “ bluff King Hal,” a proclamation was issued for the calling in and prohibiting of certain books printed of newes of the prosperour successes of the King's majestie's arms in Scotland," which after reciting that certain light persons, not regarding what they reported, had in some parte untruly and amisse reported, straightlie chargeth and commandeth all inanner of persons into whose handes any of the said printed books should come, ymediately after they should hear of this proclamation, to bring the same bookes to the Lord Maior of London, or to the Recorder, or some of the Aldermen of the same, to the intent they might suppresse and burn them, upon pain that every person keeping any. of the said books twenty-four houres after the making of this, be further punished at the King's Majestie's will and pleasure.” This proclamation in all likelihood refers to one of these popular ballads. “Newes out of Kent,” and “Newes out of Heaven and Hell,” which no doubt related some recent case of witchcraft, are the titles of them, as
they stand recorded in the books of the stationers' company; This was the first form of news provided for the general public. The news letter was the exclusive luxury of the rich. About the time when in the great families the office of the jester was growing out of date, a new functionary was added to the household, and the writer of news became almost as essential to the completion of the establishment, as aforetime had been the cracker of jokes. He was retained in London, and in the absence of these same great families from town, he gathered for them all the news he could collect or could invent, into a written letter, which was periodically posted into the country. So that, ultimately, the news letter became quite an institution-news letter writing quite a profession; and, by-and-bye, so did the business flourish, that the news letter writers in some cases opened an office, had paid agents, and an organised plan for the collection of news, and regularly supplied no inconsiderable circle of country clients with the current intelligence. Long after the establishment of printed newspapers, indeed up to the very beginning of the 18th century, the news letter, with more or less success, continued to hold its ground; and a not infrequent later form of it was to print the chief news of the day on one side of a sheet of paper suit:ible for writing on, and leave the reverse side blank, for whatever other communications the purchaser might wish to add.
These news letters more than once played quite a romantic part in the desperate struggles of the Civil War, and can boast of at least one martyr. In the reign of Charles II., a certain Edward Coleman was hung at Tyburn, for writing and circulating news letters containing matter offensive to the government. It is only fair to his memory to say that he was tried at the instance of Titus Oates; that Jeffreys was the prosecuting counsel, and Scroggs the condemning Judge.Close following the news ballad and the news letter, and contemporary with both, came the news pamphlet. When any event of special interest occurred, the public, hungry for intelligence about it, were fed with what to us, who daily feast on fatted calf, would seem no better than the husks which the swine do eat—a few pages of crude, unreliable, sometimes silly, always villanously printed, fragmentary gossip. Many of these are still extant ---embalmed in the British Museum–the earliest bearing