« ZurückWeiter »
the Creator, we should expect, consistently with analogy, to find important modification of the cerebral substance, either in form or in some other respect, according to the mental development.
On these points, Sir, I beg leave to refer your readers to the opinions expressed under the head Biologie, in M. Comte's “ Philosophie Positive,” a work full of the most original thought and comprehensive views, though drawn up with a more than necessary fondness for highly abstract expressions. He notices with justice the philosophical character of Dr. Gall's assignment of the affective properties to cerebral structure, rather than to the viscera of the abdomen, which Cabunis and Bichat preferred.
For Gall's “ localisation" of organs, where structure supplies no definite corresponding marks, while he admits its unphilosophical character, M. Comte supplies a candid and liberal excuse, regarding it as at least a convenient hypothesis, from which further inquiry may proceed. If this hypothesis did not sit lightly enough upon its originators, it must be remembered how difficult it often is to part with an old friend; and how dear that hypothesis becomes to us, on which we have prosecuted interesting and successful researches.
The difference in point of value between Gall's hypothesis and his deductions has often struck me, when I have seen phrenological statements drawn up secundum artem ; on one side of the sheet, organs measured with the precision of a Tunbridge-ware manufacturer, — on the other side a masterly view, and often a very just one, of broad features of character. I could scarcely blame the former view, in consideration of the latter, to which it had manifestly been subservient.
6 Rien n'empêche,” says M. Comte, “ en raisonnant ici, à la manière des géométres, sur des siéges indeterminés, ou regardés comme tels, de parvenir à des conclusions effectives, susceptibles d'une utilité très réele;" an opinion in which I most cordially agree.* If, indeed, craniology, modified by these enlightened views, and assisted by that consideration of temperament which the writings of Cabunis and Bichat suggest, were made the basis of an inquiry into mental phenomena in their relation to material structure, and if the light thus obtained were applied to a larger and closer series of direct observations on the phonomena of mind considered as such, we might then indeed hope to see this invaluable branch of philosophy formed into a system, and arriving at definite results.
Allow me to add, that this subject has the claim of long prescription to find a place in the periodical literature of the country, which has largely contributed to keep it alive.
I am, Sir,
THOMAS Mayo. 56. Wimpole Street, December 12. 1839.
* Philosophie Positive, tom. iii. p.816.
THRALDOM OF THE BRITISH PRESS.
The title at the head of this article will startle not a few of our readers. “ The Freedom of the Press” has long been the watchword of the popular party in England; and Englishmen have long boasted, as one of their proudest national distinctions, that in no other country has that freedom been more jealously and more effectually guarded. It shall be our task to undeceive them; and in so doing we believe we shall render a most important service to the public, of whom few, perhaps, are aware of the extent to which their boasted freedom of the press has in late years been curtailed.
In our January number, while casting a few basty glances over the prospects of the coming session, wę slightly touched upon the present condition of the metropolitan daily press. The subject, however, is one of vital importance to the well-being of the country, and as such entitled to something more than a passing notice. Our object is to provoke discussion, for discussion tends to elicit truth; and when the real condition of the press comes to be known to the public, it is scarcely possible that a long period will be allowed to elapse, without some effort to apply a remedy to an existing grievance of a most monstrous and mischiev, ous character. A distinct knowledge of an evil is the first, and perhaps the most important step, towards the redress of it: our humble but wellmeant endeavours will, we hope, go far towards enabling public opinion to effect the first move.
We recollect, about ten years ago, there was a generally prevalent opinion, that a very objectionable monopoly existed in the publication of newspapers; and it was thought that, by the reduction or abolition of the high stamp-duty then charged, the monopoly would to a great extent be overthrown. That the stamp-duty was at that time extravagantly high, and consequently operated as a powerful check to the diffusion of general information, we are perfectly ready to admit. We therefore rejoice that the reduction has taken place, and we sincerely hope that before long a farther reduction will be effected ; but we much doubt whether, in effecting that reduction, the most prudent course was followed. Of one thing we are certain — the then existing monopoly, if indeed at that time any thing like a monopoly did exist, has not been broken up; but a real monopoly, most grievous and tyrannical in its operation, has since then been established - a monopoly that has done more to arrest the progress of Reform and national improvement than any one event that has since occurred — a monopoly to which is mainly to be attributed, not only the very imperfect manner in which the principles of the Reform Act have been worked out, but also the consequent disappointment justly felt by the nation at large with respect to that great measurea monopoly which, unless a speedy remedy be applied to it, must prolong the weakness of a Liberal administration, and must continue to make that which ought to be a great national engine for the diffusion of knowledge, a mere machine for the suppression of truth, for the propagation of error, and for the fostering of all that debasing prejudice and bigotry, to which a really free press would ever be found the best and most effectual antidote.
The daily press of London then, which to a great extent gives the tone to public opinion all over the world, has within the last ten years, we maintain, become a monopoly of a most mischievous nature; and the reduction of the stamp-duty, owing to the mistaken measures by which that reduction was accompanied, has had the effect of making that monopoly more stringent...
The monopoly is created, in the first place, by a coalition which exists among all the daily morning papers, with the view to crush any new rival that may attempt to enter the field; in the second place, by the periodical publication of the stamp returns. It is to the second of these causes that we attach most importance, and shall therefore reserve it for a more searching investigation. But first a few words on the combination among newspaper proprietors.
The public who read the daily vilification bandied about by the papers run away, no doubt, with an idea, that something like personal hostility must prevail between writers whose constant occupation it is to ridicule and abuse one another. Occasionally, we admit, the temper of an individual editor may be ruffled by a more than usually severe dissection of his arguments, or by an unwontedly complete demolition of his sophistries; but such an occurrence is not frequent, and only exposes the sufferer to the ridicule of those of his own craft. In general, on the contrary, an abusive article is rather received as a favour by the abusee, and the personal friendship between the proprietors of two newspapers is often in direct proportion to the violence and frequency of those vilificatory courtesies which form no insignificant portion of the daily reading of the British public. Where it happens that two newspaper offices are situated within a short distance of each other, the proprietors seldom fail to take advantage of the circumstance to diminish their expenditure by carrying on a part of their business conjointly. Two papers, for instance, will agree to send to a public meeting, or to a court of law, only one reporter or one set of reporters; and in the evening, as fast as the copy has been set up at the one office, slips or proofs are sent round to the neighbouring establishment. Let us suppose the Record and the Mail to be two morning papers ; the one a Tory, the other a Radical. Let us next suppose their offices to be situated in the same street, within a few doors of each other, something like the following arrangement will probably take place between them : the Record will agree to send one reporter to the Court of Chancery and another to the Court of Common Pleas; the Mail to send one to the Queen's Bench and another to the Exchequer. In the evening each reporter returns to his respective office, to write out his account of the proceedings in the court to which he has been sent. Then, while the printers at the one office are composing the Chancery and Common Pleas reports, those at the other office are engaged on the Queen's Bench and the Exchequer. Later in the evening an exchange of copy takes place — the Chancery-men become Benchites, and those who were lately busy in the Exchequer transfer their practice to the Common Pleas. To each establishment, in the mean time, the salaries of two reporters have been saved; and as the same system of cooperation is extended to many other departments, both concerns, it is evident, are carried on in a more economical manner than could be the case without something of the friendly understanding of which we have here endeavoured to give some faint idea.
This system of cooperation is nowhere carried so far as in the case of post-office expresses, the expense of which is almost always borne conjointly by all the papers. The same express from Dover, every evening, delivers the Paris correspondence at the offices of the Times, the Herald, the Chronicle, the Post, and the Advertiser; and an expense which would fall most severely upon any one establishment, becomes comparatively light when divided among five. The same plan is generally adopted with respect to expresses from the different parts of the United Kingdom; thus, for instance, the same express brought to each of the morning papers the very elaborate accounts of the proceedings at Monmouth and Newport, with which, during the dead season of 1839 and the commencement of the present year, so large a portion of our daily reading was occupied.
To the advantages of this cooperation, it has now become a settled point, no new morning paper is to be admitted. A new candidate for public favour must, therefore, be prepared to support a much larger expenditure than any of the old establishments. The nightly express from Dover, for instance, costs from 301. to 35l. every week : this one item of expenditure, therefore, would impose on a new morning paper an outlay of about 16001. a year, while the Times or Chronicle secures the same advantage by an annual outlay of 3201. Now it requires only a moment's reflection to feel the immense disadvantage to which a new establishment is subjected, by being obliged to devote yearly 9001. more than any of its competitors to one particular branch of its expenditure.
Immediately after the reduction of the stamp-duty, an attempt was made to establish a new daily morning paper, under the title of the Constitutional. The failure of this undertaking was chiefly caused by its exclusion from the joint expresses. For awhile the proprietors supported the expense of a separate express on their own account; but, in an evil hour, they resolved to economise in this department of their expenditure, and from that moment, as the Constitutional was always twenty-four hours behind its rivals with respect to foreign news, the paper lost all consideration, though confessedly conducted with no ordinary ability, and, after a short and sickly career, died a natural death. On this abortive attempt, we have been assured, no less than sixteen thousand pounds were expended. A paper was afterwards started, under the title of the Morning Gazette ; but as it scarcely lived beyond a week, it requires only a passing notice at our hands.
Since then another attempt has been made to establish a daily morning paper. In consequence of the regular despatch of morning mails which has Jately very properly been adopted, the proprietors of the Sun, an evening paper of very large circulation, resolved to publish a morning edition. They seem to have thought that, as an old concern, they would be dealt with more leniently than the Constitutional ; but they soon discovered their error. They have felt the effects of the same system of exclusion to which the Constitutional fell a victim; and until the proprietors of the Sun resolve to bear the expense of a daily express from Dover on their own account, they must consent to renounce for their morning edition all claims to the character of a news-paper; nor must they hope that public patronage will ever be extended to a paper which contains no foreign intelligence but such as appeared in the columns of all its rivals on the preceding morning.
This tyranny on the part of the old morning papers is a real grievance to the public, and one which the Government ought to lose no time in redressing. The remedy with respect to the French express is simple. On the arrival of the French mail at Dover, it ought immediately to be sent on to London, where it would usually arrive between ten and eleven o'clock in the evening, instead of arriving, as it now does, at about seven on the following morning. The newspaper offices, and those mercantile establishments desirous of the accommodation, might then, on payment of a moderate fee, re
bable then France and cole day womigosed arrangemene now able to the
ceive their letters, via France, the same evening; and as few of the foreign mails leave London before one o'clock in the morning, a most important facility would thus be afforded to merchants to forward information to their foreign correspondents several days sooner than they are now able to do. Even in a fiscal point of view, the proposed arrangement would be found advantageous; for as a whole day would be saved in the transmission of letters between France and Spain and the North of Europe, it is highly probable that in a short time a large proportion of all the correspondence between the southern and northern parts of the Continent would find its way through the British post-office. The over-land mail for instance, from Paris to Hamburg, occupies five days, and did, till lately, occupy six; but if the French mail on its arrival at Dover were immediately sent on to London, where in most cases it would arrive at half-past ten o'clock, and if the letters for Hamburg that arrived on the Tuesday and Friday evening were sent on by that night's mail, they would usually reach their destination in four days instead of five. There is no need of any argument from us to make merchants fully aware of the importance of saving a whole day in the transmission of their correspondence; but setting the mercantile part of the question on one side, the great facility which would be afforded to the establishment of new morning papers in London, by an arrangement something like that we have just suggested, ought to operate with Government as a sufficient inducement to its adoption.
The difficulties, however, which the morning papers are able to throw in the way of any new competitors that may attempt to rival them in public favour, are trifling compared with those which have arisen from the clumsy interference of certain well-meaning but short-sighted members of Parliament, who imagined they were doing a good service to the public press by establishing a court of inquisition for the investigation of all the most secret details connected with the management of each individual newspaper. It was somewhere about the year 1831 that the practice originated of laying before Parliament what were called the newspaper stamp returns, in which the exact number of stamps taken out by each paper is set down. The object of those who originally moved for these returns, was to show the much greater circulation of Liberal as compared with Tory newspapers. At that time the Times, Herald, and Courier supported the Liberal cause, from which they have since apostatised; the Morning Post and Standard were not conducted with the ability that has since distinguished them, and their circulation was much smaller than it has now become. These returns having once been granted, were repeatedly moved for, under an idea of showing the continued increase in the circulation of Liberal newspapers, that increase being looked on as a kind of political barometer, by means of which the real state of public opinion might be ascertained. We have at present before us the returns for the first three years, from which we have prepared the following comparative table. (See Table, next page.)
The information obtained from these returns was exceedingly deceptive. The several owners of newspapers, seriously annoyed at this inquisitorial examination into the state of their affairs, had recourse to a variety of expedients to disguise the real amount of stamps consumed. Of the fallaciousness and incompleteness of these publications some idea may be formed from the following note appended by Mr. Wood, the chairman of the Board of Stamps, to a return of the circulation of country papers: —
“In the instance of the London papers the account may approach to tolerable correctness, as the stamps are usually obtained by the parties directly from this office; but it may be observed, that these papers borrow