Imágenes de página


on a bright winter day, when the whole population seemed to be driving out in sleighs to the great skating carnivals at the Central Park, I have seldom seen a brighter or a gayer-looking city than that of New York.


It is from the press of America, or rather from the press of one portion of America, that English opinion on American affairs is principally derived. It is the source, too, from which even English travellers in America draw their observations, largely if not chiefly. I am far from saying that opinions thus formed are necessarily erroneous. In many respects, the press is a fairer exponent of American feelings than the tone of society. However excellent a stranger's letters of introduction may be, they inevitably throw him among one class, and that the wealthy and educated class; and the newspapers are addressed to the great public, of whom he inevitably sees little more than a single section. After all, too, private acquaintanceships, however valuable, only give you individual, and often interested opinions. Now, wherever there is a free and unsubventioned press, you may be sure of one thing, that, on the whole, and in the long run, the newspapers do express the opinions and prejudices of their readers. No trade goes on for long manufacturing goods which don't suit the public taste; and the press is a trade like any other. I have always felt it to be a singularly weak line of argument when I have heard either Americans or Englishmen trying to explain away any offensive remark in the newspaper organs of their respective countries by the common remark, “ It is only the press says so ;” it is only the utterance of the Times, or the New York Herald. It is all very true, but the question still remains—Why is it that the readers of the Times, or the Herald, like such remarks to be made ? You have proved that the elephant stands upon the tortoise, but what does the tortoise stand upon ? Take it all in all, then, I admit freely that the American press, if you judge it correctly, is a tolerably fair-probably, the fairestexponent of American opinion.

That if, however, is a very great one. Supposing a foreigner were to read the Times, and half a dozen other English newspapers, daily for years, his knowledge of English life and politics would still be extremely incomplete and erroneous, unless he had actually lived enough in England to have acquired what may be called the key to the English press. Anyone who, like myself, has lived at times long out of England, must, I think, have been often struck how very soon the tone, as it were, of English papers becomes strange to you. Thus, for example, I was absent from England during the whole of the volunteer, era ; and, though I spent more time than I like to think of in reading through daily every English newspaper I could come across, I was never clearly able to ascertain how much or how little of earnestness and reality there was about the whole invasion panic and its developments. My object in making these remarks is to point out how very liable Americans are to make mistakes in judging of England from our press, and how much more liable, for special reasons, we are to make like mistakes in taking the American press as the standard of America. The Hieroglyphics contain the history of Egypt, but, to understand the history, you must be able to read the characters.

To a great extent, London is England; and to a still greater extent is the London press the press of England. There is nothing of this kind in America.. The capital is a nominal one, and there is no metropolis. Americans, with their wonted love for big phrases, are apt to talk of New York as the metropolitan city; but it is big talk only. New York is the most wealthy, the most powerful, and the most important of the many capital cities which the Union possesses. New York stands to Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago, or New Orleans, much in the same relation as Liverpool does to Hull, Birmingham, and Southampton. She is a more important city than any of them, but in no sense whatever is she their capital. The New York papers have a wider circulation than those of any other town out of their own district, out in no part of the Union, except in New York, are they the newspapers of the place. If a foreigner wished to study the politics of the agricultural counties, I should recommend him to read the Morning Herald, or some other metropolitan organ of bucolic conservatism. I should never think of advising him to take in the Somersetshire Sentinel, or the Suffolk Standard. But if you want to learn the politics of the Eastern, or Western, or Southern States, the last place you would look for them would be in a New York journal. From the facts that New York is the great port of departure for Europe, that the commercial relations of the Old and New Worlds are chiefly carried on through New York, and that the New York papers contain the latest news, its journals are, naturally enough, the only ones which reach Europe. But an Englishman, who reads the New York press alone, knows as much and as little about the sentiments of the other parts of the Union as an American would know about the politics of Kent and Cambridgeshire who read nothing but the Liverpool Albion.

The absence of a metropolis, and of a metropolitan standard of thought and refinement, tells upon the American press much as it tells upon American literature and education and refinement. According to my view, it tells unfavourably on the individual, but favourably upon the average. The New York press, which is the nearest approach to a metropolitan one, is most

« AnteriorContinuar »