Page images

for that borough; or perhaps the news-agents of Rochdale, in anticipation of a brisk demand, have ordered twice the usual number of papers, because of a church-rate contest in which the vicar has been beaten by an overwhelming majority. But the columns of the Manchester Guardian, though nearly double what they were twenty years ago, are not made of India-rubber; and therefore, much as the editor may wish to give all due latitude to Ashton, Bolton, Bury, Middleton, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, or Wigan news, he is generally forced, by the pressure of advertisements, or some other equally potent cause, to compress everything within the narrowest limits. Whatever interest a piece of district news may possess in its own locality, it must not be allowed to encroach upon the space belonging to the general reader,' who buys nine-tenths of every newspaper, and who does not care a farthing for Rochdale or Ashton news, unless when it happens to be a very horrid murder or an exceedingly destructive fire. Were the stamp duty abolished, the largetown papers would be relieved from all the drudgery and annoyance attendant upon this department of editorial work. There would no longer be any necessity for devoting six or eight closely-printed columns of the paper to local news, which are not read by one-twentieth part of those who purchase it. Each small town in Lancashire and Yorkshire, as well as elsewhere, would have its penny or twopenny newspaper, in which local news, local politics, and local talent, would have fair play; while large papers, like the Manchester Guardian or the Leeds Mercury, would be greatly improved by the change. They would be enabled to substitute good readable matter, literary or political, of which there is always abundance, for the very dull stuff which they are now obliged to give under the head of 'District News. By this improvement in character, and by the reduction of price, in such papers as we have named, from 5d. to 3 d., their circulation would be greatly increased, in spite of the number of penny and twopenny papers which would then supply the demand for news among that numerous portion of the working classes who cannot afford such a luxury at present.

The effect which cheapness has in promoting circulation may be seen by a single glance at the newspaper stamp returns, in the appendix to the Report of the Select Committee. With the exception of the Illustrated London News, which owes its enormous weekly sale of 66,673 copies chiefly to the profusion of wood engravings with which it is embellished, the most widely circulated weekly papers are all low priced. The News of the World, 56,274; Lloyd's Weekly News, 49,211; and the Weckly Times, 39,186 are all threepenny papers, while the older and far more


celebrated, but high-priced Weekly Dispatch, though well adapted to the popular taste, has fallen from 62,000 to 37,500; and Bell's Life in London, another sixpenny paper, in spite of its universal popularity in bar-parlours and tap-rooms as the highest sporting authority in the world,' has fallen from 30,000 to 24,721 since 1845. Among papers of a higher class, we find that even the Spectator and Examiner, after having long stood at the head of the weekly press, have been gradually losing ground during the last few years, under the combined influence of dearness and increased competition. At present the weekly circulation of the Spectator is only 2932, not one-third of what several provincial journals can boast. The number of stamps issued to the Examiner last year gives a weekly average of 4389, a very great decline from what it was six or eight years ago; while the Leader— which in point of boldness, talent, and heterodoxy, appears to occupy pretty much the same advanced position among its contemporaries as the Examiner did some forty years ago, under Leigh Hunt-stands midway between the two respectable journals we have named, having already attained a circulation of 3152.

One very striking fact, ascertained from an examination of the stamp returns for the last fifteen years, is the very limited circulation of Conservative newspapers compared with that of papers which advocate commercial and political reform. Out of London there is only one Tory journal circulating more than 4000 copies weekly, and only two besides it which can boast of a circulation above 3000. On the other hand, there are no less than eighteen Liberal newspapers circulating upwards of 3000 copies each, and of these there are nine with a circulation above 5000 each, six with a circulation above 6000, three above 8000, two above 9000, and one circulating upwards of 11,000 copies weekly. If this comparison of the respective circulation of firstclass Liberal and Conservative newspapers may be taken as a fair criterion of the comparative political intelligence and activity of the two great parties, the facts we have stated are well worth the serious attention of statesmen. From that comparison, it will be seen that the proportion of Liberal to Conservative papers of the class mentioned is as six to one, while the difference becomes still more striking if we take into account the small aggregate consumption of stamps among the Protectionists, compared with the large number required by the friends of progress. It appears, for example, that the number of stamps taken in 1850 by two free-trade journals in Lancashire-the Manchester Guardian and the Manchester Examiner-was equal to the whole of the stamps consumed by the entire Conservative press of the following fifteen counties-Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Cambridge,

[blocks in formation]

Cornwall, Cheshire, Devon, Dorset, Essex, Herts, Kent, Leicester, Lincoln, Wilts, and Warwick. Not less significant is the fact, that, while nearly all the thirty-three Protectionist papers in those fifteen counties have either remained stationary or decreased in circulation, during the last ten years of agitation for and against free-trade, the number of stamps taken by the free-trade newspapers of Manchester and other large towns has nearly doubled within that period. This broad fact, while it shows how strongly the current of public opinion is flowing in one direction, and how worthless the boast of a reaction against free trade, may well encourage ministers to proceed boldly with their proposed measure of parliamentary reform.

[ocr errors]

And now, as regards the Report of the Select Committee, the only fault we have against it, is, its want of decision. After having resolved that the attention of the House of Commons ought to be called to the objections and abuses incident to the 'present system of newspaper stamps, arising from the difficulty of defining and determining the meaning of the term 'news,' 'to the inequalities which exist in the application of the News'paper Stamp Act, and the anomalies and evasions that it occa'sions in postal arrangements: to the unfair competition to which stamped newspapers are exposed with unstamped publi'cations: to the limitation imposed by the stamp upon the 'circulation of the best newspapers, and to the impediments ' which it throws in the way of the diffusion of useful knowledge ' regarding current and recent events among the poorer classes," and having also stated that they do not consider that news is of itself a desirable subject of taxation,' one might have reasonably expected that they would sum up with a strong recommendation in favour of the immediate repeal of the newspaper stamp duty, and the adoption of a moderate postage charge in place of it. În justice to Mr. Milner Gibson, whose services as chairman of the committee deserve the thanks of all earnest reformers, we ought to mention that the draft report drawn up by him distinctly recommended the entire repeal of the tax on news, and the adoption of a low postage-charge on all printed matter to a certain weight, when the post is used for its transmission and distribution.' This would have been a proper conclusion to the Report; but the majority of the committee did not like to overstep the terms of their appointment, and therefore they have left the House of Commons to say what ought to be done. Fortunately, after such evidence as has been adduced, and after the conclusive summary of that evidence by the committee, no one can doubt as to what the decision of Parliament will be. The doom of the newspaper stamp duty is sealed.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ART. VI.-Travels in European Turkey in 1850.
SPENCER, Esq. 2 vols. 8vo. Colburn.



MR. SPENCER has done well in prefixing a carefully prepared map to these volumes. His travels embrace journeys through Bosnia, Servia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Thrace, Albania, and Epirus, with a visit to Greece and the Ionian Isles; together with some account of a homeward tour through Hungary, and the Slavonian provinces of Austria on the lower Danube. Of these countries, to our shame be it spoken, Englishmen know next to nothing, though they constitute the great border land between Europe and Asia. The territory described became, more than four centuries ago, the great battle-field in struggles intended to determine a boundary line for the peoples of two continents and of two religions. Looking upwards from old Greece towards those countries, they are seen to stretch away right and left, somewhat in the form of a triangle, the eastern line being washed, to a considerable distance, by the Archipelago, known to the scholar as the Egean Sea; the western, by the Adriatic. The line diverging from Greece eastward, terminates on Wallachia; the line diverging from the same point westward, terminates on Croatia; the distance between these diverged points being measured by the border soil of Slavonia, Hungary, and Transylvania. The great fact observable, as we look from the eastern line farther east, and as we look from the western line farther west, is, that on the side where the crescent is the symbol, society, for some four centuries past, has been stagnant; while in the west, where the symbol of the Cross has sway, social progress, during the same period, has been general, ceaseless, and so great as to be unrivalled in the history of our species.

In Eastern Europe, accordingly, we must expect to find a people of many admixtures, and a people whose present condition will suggest much concerning their past. Mr. Spencer is not a novice in travel. He published, some time since, Travels in Circassia,' and Travels in the Western Caucasus,' and became, in consequence, a traveller in European Turkey in 1850, with the advantage of a somewhat ripe experience in such service. His style is clear and manly, without any affectation of fine writing; and in directing his attention chiefly to matters affecting the social condition of the people whom he visits, his observations, without making any pretence to the startling or the profound, are uniformly those of a man of sound intelligence, and of humane and liberal sympathies.

Mr. Spencer began his tour of European Turkey by perambulating for a while in Servia, a country whose relation at present to the Turkish power is not such as to affect its substantial independence. To a description of this interesting province, the latest born among the independent states of Europe, our author devotes more than the first hundred pages of his first volume. The close of the first chapter, while giving us some information that may be acceptable to the reader about the facilities afforded to our author in his travels, and his mode of prosecuting his errand, presents an amusing picture of a young Frenchman attempting to do the cosmopolite.

The next day, our friend, Mehmet, introduced us to Selim Bey, the Pacha of Belgrade, whom I recognised as an old travelling companion, the moment I entered the room; and, with the warm feelings of an Englishman, was about renewing our acquaintance, but the cold, withering look he cast upon me, and which an Oriental knows so well how to assume, was absolutely petrifying. In vain I threw out a few hints respecting the late Sultan Mahmoud, and my former travels in Turkey; he still maintained the same imperturbable expression, as if we had never met before.

After partaking of coffee and the tchibouque, the usual entertainment of the traveller in Orient, we rose to take leave, which gave rise to a most amusing and characteristic scene of Turkish manners.

His Highness the Pacha, evidently apprized of our intended visit, had invited the dignitaries of his church, together with the principal civil and military officers of his household, who now, with all the gravity peculiar to this people, were seated in profound silence on an elevated divan around the apartment smoking their highly-ornamented tchibouques-the bowls of which, resting on the carpet in every direction, rendered it a matter of no small difficulty for an unpractised stranger to thread his way across the room without crushing one at every step.

'As an old traveller, having learned caution on former similar occasions, I succeeded in making my retreat without doing any injury; but my friend, this being his début into Oriental society, was somewhat over-anxious to exhibit that politeness for which his nation is justly celebrated-he, therefore, on rising to depart, bowed to the Pacha and the assembly with great ease and elegance, at the same time, stepping backwards, smash went one of the pipe-bowls. With a suppressed sacré at his own awkwardness, and turning quickly round to the owner, he exclaimed: 'Oh! Monsieur, je vous demande mille pardons!' when, alas! the crash of another bowl was echoed by another sacré, and stepping back with still greater alacrity to reiterate the apology-must I confess that another, and another bowl fell a sacrifice. Mortified and confused beyond measure at his maladroit evolutions, our bewildered friend completely lost his self-possession, and reckless of all consequences, made a hasty retreat, crushing bowl after bowl in his passage to the door.

« PreviousContinue »