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rusal of what occurs in the poet's corner, with the interesting items that appear in the hymeneal or obituary departments, with the strictures, light and graceful, upon the last published novel, or with the laughable anecdotes with which its
page is usually enlivened. The daughters next claim the privilege of glancing an eye over the paper with a view to the on dits of the day or place, the latest fashions, the next concert or assembly, or,
patrons of the stage, the play or opera for the evening entertainment. Thus the important visitant passes from hand to hand, till every member of the family has gratified his periodical curiosity, down to the little children, who ask permission to look at the ships, the houses, or the pictures of wild beasts that are for exhibition in the menagerie. After performing this accustomed circuit at home, some little urchin from a neighbor, who is too poor or too covetous to patronize the press, comes with the modest request, of “ a loan of the morning paper only for a few minutes, as mistress wishes to know at what hour the furniture auction takes place today.” He is scarcely gone, when a messenger from some other neighbor comes running at the top of his speed and all out of breath, with a “pray, sir, father says, as how he will be much obliged to you for a sight of the morning paper, just to look at the ship news half a minute ;” and so it circulates from one to another, till the numerous thumbprints upon the margin bear evidence of as faithful service, as grandmother Cloe's big Bible, which has been in the family for three generations;—a practice of borrowing and lending, which is apt to provoke some severe animadversions from the editor, when the time of paying his compositors and pressmen comes round, but which proves one thing, and that not a little flattering to his vanity,-how very important newspapers are, every where, and to every body. · Newspapers are what the ancients used to call a microcosm,- a little world in miniature, where, without going out of the house or mingling with the mass of his fellow citizens, a man may look on quietly and without interruption, and see whatever of interest is passing or being transacted in the gay, bright and busy world around him, not only at home in his own neighborhood, but abroad in Europe, England, Germany, France, and, in fact, throughout the whole world, wherever any thing of striking and startling interest has occurred that requires to be known and recorded. The lover of the marvellous and horrible may have his taste gratified by an account of the last duel that took place, the latest murder or suicide that has occurred, with perhaps the dying confession of the felon, and a minute account of all that took place at the time of the execution, accompanied probably by some judicious remarks from the editor against the practice of public executions, as having a tendency to increase, rather than prevent, the frequency of crimes, by the pomp and consequence it attaches to the victim of the violated laws;-notwithstanding which sage opinion, he continues to feed the depraved appetite of his readers with all such items of intelligence, seeming to forget, that the publicity which he himself thus gives to crime, renders it more interesting and less odious in the eyes of its perpetrator.
Nor to one who wishes to study human nature in all its varieties, is that department, which is usually thought worthless by the mere newsmonger and politician, the least interesting,—we mean the advertisements, published by men of every rank and calling, merchants, shopmen, lawyers, doctors, dentists, brokers, quacks, lecturers, clerks who write a good hand, gentlemen lately graduated who wish to obtain places as tutors, elderly ladies anxious to accommodate a few genteel lodgers with board, music masters, dancing masters and school masters offering to teach, showmen, magicians and circus-riders,—the most celebrated professors of their respective arts, “ ready to display their wonderful skill this evening, for the entertainment of the good citizens, for the very moderate price of fifty cents;" portrait painters, profile cutters and razor grinders; proprietors of industrious fleas and learned pigs and moving dioramas of the Israelites leaving Egypt and of Bonaparte crossing the Alps. Here we may see what chiefly occupies every man's mind ; the objects to which he wishes most earnestly to direct public attention for his own benefit or fame ; in a word, here are the means of ascertaining, day by day, how the pulse of the world beats ! "I was much struck," says the author of “ The Great Metropolis,” in his remarks on the British press, "with an observation which a pious Baptist minister made some years ago to a friend of mine when on
a visit to the north of Scotland. A newspaper having been brought into the room, he held out his hand to receive it, saying, "Be kind enough to let me have it a few minutes, till I see how the Supreme Being is governing the world;" “a more forcible and felicitous expression," says the writer, " as applied to a newspaper, could not be employed.” To this, -as we are in a colloquial mood --we will add another anecdote, familiar, we presume, to many of our readers, but yet illustrative of the importance of newspapers, in the opinion even of the illiterate, in conveying all kinds of intelligence. A missionary, travelling in the interior of our country, happening to speak of the death of Jesus Christ, a good lady present asked him, when he died, at the same time apologizing for her ignorance of the fact by saying, that her husband did not take the newspaper, although she had frequently insisted upon his doing so.
There is much in a name, says President Tyler, and newspaper editors seem to entertain the same opinion, for they are particularly cautious to select titles for their papers that are imposing and popular, and which are peculiarly fitted, in their judgment, to represent the interests and support the claims of a free and independent press. Every editor, of course, has his own notions of his duty and his responsibilities, and by looking at the top of the page where the title of the paper, in large dimensions, stares the reader full in the face, we may form some conjecture of the secret opinions which the editor entertains on this subject, and, in all cases, may arrive pretty fairly at the conclusion, that he cherishes a high idea of the dignity of his vocation. Thus we have “the Mercury,”—the messenger of the Gods, because the editor, forsooth, occupies a lofty position, and is more than half inspired, even when he treats only of mundane matters; "the Courier," so called, because it makes as much haste in communicating news, as the man does, who runs for a wager; "the Patriot,” because it is above the influence of party considerations and aims only at the good of the country; " the Intelligencer,” a little more modest and unpretending in its title, but yet claiming to be sensible, and confident that its readers have knowledge enough at least to take care of their own interests ; "the Enquirer," which takes it for granted, that the first step towards the attainment of truth, is to look keenly about one, and to set on foot has
a prompt and fearless search as to its whereabouts; "the Standard," which having ascertained principles and settled the law and the Constitution beyond the shadow of a doubt, sets itself up as a kind of universal regulator; “the Sentinel,” so named, because the people are in danger, and it is necessary to keep a constant and close look-out against sudden assaults; "the Bee,” which has sweets in store for its friends and a sting for its enemies; “the Bulletin," charged certainly with important dispatches in which the public a deep interest; "the Picayune,” which goes upon the principle, that pennies added to pennies make pounds, and that pounds added to pounds make fortunes, if they are only suffered to accumulate; "the Federalist,” now grown unpopular,—the advocate of a strong government; “ the Democrat," enlisted on the side of privilege and popular rights. Such are some of the titles of our newspapers, and he who would study character and the spirit and genius of the times, may get glimpses of the truth by reflecting on their meaning, without reading a word of the great sheet whose ample folds are spread out so temptingly before him.
The first newspaper published in England was called "the English Mercury." It was published by order of Queen Elizabeth, in the year 1588, and a copy of one of the 28th of July of that year is still exhibited, as a curiosity, in the British Museum.' The origin of Newspapers in Great Britain, is thus to be traced to a period a little more than a century subsequent to the discovery of the Art of Printing, a fact which goes to prove, how gradually the light of great improvements dawns upon the mind, and how slow mankind have ever been in applying beneficially and to their legitimate ends the greatest discoveries. In 1795, there were thirty-eight newspapers published in London, seventytwo in the country, thirteen in Scotland and thirty-five in Ireland; in all one hundred and thirty-eight papers. In 1809, there were sixty-three published in London, ninetythree in the country, twenty-four in Scotland and thirtyseven in Ireland, making a total of two hundred and seventeen papers in the United Kingdom. In 1837, the number of daily papers published in London, was eleven, and the weekly twenty-seven. The aggregate circulation of daily papers was about forty thousand, and that of the weekly one hundred and twenty thousand, making a total circulation, in round numbers, of one hundred and sixty thousand papers in the city of London alone. If we admit, that to each paper there are eight readers, which is not a large calculation, when it is considered that one newspaper answers for all the members of a family, and that borrowers of newspapers, in large cities, usually exceed the actual patrons, we are struck with the fact, of the vast number of human beings, to whom these periodical journals of intelligence impart light and information, on a great variety of subjects interesting to their race.
How many papers are published in the United States, we have no means of ascertaining. The number, however, is immense,-far greater, we are of opinion, than it ought to be. We are satisfied, that if the same amount of capital, that is now expended in supporting a multitude of indifferent newspapers, were employed in improving the appearance, and in imparting additional value and interest, in a literary, as well as political point of view, to a few leading journals, published in our large cities, it would be much better for the interests of the whole country. This will probably be the case, in the course of a few years, when the States will be every where intersected with rail-roads, and the intercourse between town and country will be more free, rapid and direct than it now is,-a result which has already taken place in England, as is evident from their newspaper statistics during the last quarter of a century, showing a gradual falling off in the number of papers published even in the metropolis, but by no means a diminution in the number of readers, either there or throughout the kingdom. It must obviously be more for the interest of any country, to have a few good newspapers, edited with spirit and ability and extensively patronized, than many poor ones, feebly edited and miserably supported.
It has been asserted for the London newspaper press, that “it gives, on many questions of great magnitude the tone to public feeling and public opinion in America, for a large proportion of the American journals,” it is insisted, "follow, on such questions, in the wake of the London newspapers." If this be true, the fact must be somewhat mortifying to our national vanity. There is,—there can be no higher evidence of a nation's freedom, and of the sovereignty of the individual mind, than a press powerfully conducted, which VOL. 1.-NO. 1.