Imágenes de página

decidedly inferior to the English, but then the local press is superior in much the same proportion. Thus, when the low standard of the New York press is taken, not altogether without reason, as a proof of the absence of high mental culture in the United States, the relatively high standard of the local press ought fairly to be taken as evidence of the extent to which education is diffused.

Before, however, I enter on the general characteristics of the American press, I must speak of the New York press, by which alone America is unfortunately judged abroad. And first, then, on the principle of honour to whom honour is not due, of the New York Herald. I have no doubt myself that the Herald, in spite of many assertions I have heard made to the contrary, has far the largest circulation of any American daily paper. Away from the North, it is the only New York paper that you come across frequently; and I have seen two people reading the Herald for one I have observed reading any other newspaper. Each of its rivals admits it to be the second in circulation. It contains, too, always all that class of advertisements which are intended to catch the eye of the million; and advertisers are pretty sure to know what is the best channel for their advertisements. One week, when there was unusually stirring news, the Herald boasted that their circulation reached 113,000; and therefore I suppose its average sale would be 100,000. What its political influence may be, it is more difficult to ascertain." Every educated American you speak to on the subject rejects indignantly the idea that it has any political influence whatever ; but still, I find they all read it. I saw enough of political life in America to convince me that all public men, to say the least, preferred its friendship to its hostility. I remember on one occasion, which, for obvious reasons, I do not wish to specify, I was invited to a small half-political, half-military reception, given by an officer, with whom I happened to be acquainted. The party was a very select one; but, to my surprise, I met there the correspondent of the New York Herald with his family. The cause of my surprise, I need hardly say, was not at a newspaper correspondent being present-in truth, there is no country where any sort of literary repute is more honoured than in America—but simply, that I knew the gentleman in question was not received into any kind of society at the town where he was stationed ; and that I myself had been cautioned by a resident against being seen in his company. The cause of his presence I discovered afterwards. He had asked for a ticket, and our entertainer being anxious to rise in public favour, was afraid of being attacked by the Herald in case of refusal. This incident I only mention in illustration of a wellknown fact. The Herald is a power in the country; and though it can do little to make or mar established reputations, yet it has great opportunities of pushing a new man forward in public life, or of keeping him back; and such opportunities as it has, it uses unscrupulously. It made its first start in journalistic life by levying black mail on public men, through threats of private exposures, and the old informer spirit still clings to it in the days of its comparative respectability. The real cause, however, of the Herald's permanent success, I believe to be very simple. It gives the most copious, if not the most accurate, news of any American journal. It is conducted with more energy, and probably more capital; and also, on common topics, on which its prejudices or its interests are not concerned, it is written with a rough common sense, which often reminds me of the Times. It has too, to use a French word, the flaire of journalism. Mr. Raymond, the proprietor of the New York Times, once remarked, half laughingly and half in earnest, to a gentleman who told me the story, “It would be worth my while, sir, to give “a million dollars, if the devil would come and tell me “every evening, as he does Bennett, what the people “ of New York would like to read about next morning." The story hints clearly enough at the true cause of the Herald's success. · The politics of the Herald have fluctuated constantly. There are but two principles to which it has always proved faithful; one is to support the existing administration; the other is to attack and insult the country of Mr. Bennett's birth. Wherever Mr. Bennett's character is known, the opinions of the paper carry no

weight whatever; and his character, like that of all public men in America, is known and commented on in New York to a degree which an editor's private character could never be subjected to in England. Still it is impossible that any large proportion of the hundred thousand purchasers of the Herald can know or care much about the character of James Gordon Bennett; and therefore I have no doubt the influence of the Herald, pandering, as it does, not without real ability, to the prejudices and vanity of the American people, is no unimportant element in the political world.

As to Mr. Bennett's social position, all parties are agreed. The Herald is a very valuable property; and its net profits are said to vary from £20,000 to £30,000 annually. With the one virtue, too, that a Scotchman can never get rid of, Mr. Bennett is not personally extravagant, and is reputed to be now a man of very large fortune. Still, in New York society, he is not received, or even tolerated. Not long ago, at a wateringplace, near New York, where he took up his abode, the inmates of the hotel he had honoured with his company told the landlord that he must choose between Mr. Bennett's custom and theirs—and Mr. Bennett left. Probably, just as the devil is painted blacker than nature, so the editor of the Herald may possess some redeeming qualities ; but, as yet, the New York world has not discovered them. The result of Mr. Bennett's social disrepute, whether deserved or not, is that respectable literary men do not like being connected with the Herald; and its .writers are generally men who, for some cause or other, are not on good terms with society; and even they, as far as my observation went, are not proud of the connexion.

Of the utter unscrupulousness of the Herald, I will only quote one example, which happens to have some slight independent interest of its own. Mr. Russell, during his stay in America, was the object of the most rancorous abuse, on the part of the Herald ; partly, because he had given personal offence to the editor, by declining his invitations; still more, because he had given offence to the American public. There happened to be some private theatricals given at the British Embassy, in which Mr. Russell played the part of Bombastes Furioso. The next day, the following account appeared in the Herald :

“ During the representation of Bombastes Furioso, “ one or two amusing incidents are said to have oc- . “curred. After the delivery of the lines by Bombastes, “ (LL. D. Russell), (lies like the deuce, was, by the way, on another occasion the Herald's interpretation of these letters)

" " Whate'er your Majesty shall deign to name

Short cut or long—to us is all the same.' “A wag on the back benches, audibly added :" . So from Bull Run the shortest cut you came.'

« AnteriorContinuar »