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of the press.
But the minds of men had been too deeply stirred to
submit to ignorance and lethargy. They thirsted Tracts, flying sheets, and after knowledge; and it reached them through the agency
The theological controversies of the sixteenth century, and the political conflicts of the seventeenth, gave birth to new forms of literature. The heavy folio, written for the learned, was succeeded by the tract and flying sheet, - to be read by the multitude. At length, the printed sheet, continued periodically, assumed the shape of a news-letter or newspaper. The first example of a newspaper is to be found late in the
reign of James I., a period most inauspicious for the press. Political discussion was silenced by the
licenser, the Star Chamber, the dungeon, the pillory, mutilation, and branding. Nothing marked more deeply the tyrannical spirit of the two first Stuarts than their barbarous persecutions of authors, printers, and the importers of prohibited books: nothing illustrated more signally the love of freedom, than the heroic courage and constancy with which those persecutions were borne.
The fall of the Star Chambero augured well for the liberty The common
of the press; and the great struggle which en
sued, let loose the fervid thoughts and passions of society in political discussion. Tracts and newspapers entered hotly into the contest between the Court and Parliament. The Parliament, however, while it used the press
under the Stuarts.
1 The Weekly Newes, May 23d, 1622, printed for Nicholas Bourne and Thomas Archer. The English Mercurie, 1588, in the British Museum, once believed to be the first English newspaper, has since been proved a fabrication. — Letter to Mr. Panizzi by T. Watts, of the British Museum, 1839; Disraeli's Curiosities of Literature, 14th Ed., i. 173; Hunt's Fourth Estate, i. 3.3.
2 February 1641.
: Upwards of 30,000 political pamphlets and newspapers were issued from the press between 1640 and the restoration. They were collected by Jir. Thomasson, and are now in the British Museum, bound up in 2000 vil. ames. - Knight's Old Printer and Modern Press, 199; Disrueli's Cur.if Literature i. 175.
narrow after the
as an instrument of party, did not affect a spirit of toleration. It passed severe orders and ordinances in restraint of printing;+ and would have silenced all royalist and prelatical writers. In war none of the enemy's weapons were likely to be respected; yet John Milton, looking beyond the narrow bounds of party to the great interests of truth, ventured to brand its suppression by the licenser, as the slaying of “an immortality rather than a life." I
The restoration brought renewed trials upon the press. The Licensing Act placed the entire control of printing in the government. In the spirit of Elizabeth, printing was confined to London, York, and the Universities, and the number of masterprinters limited to twenty. The severe provisions of this act were used with terrible vindictiveness. Authors and printers of obnoxious works were hung, quartered and mutilated, exposed in the pillory and flogged, or fined and imprisoned, according to the temper of their judges :* their productions were burned by the common hangman. Freedom of opinion was under interdict: even news could not be published without license. Nay, when the Licensing Act had been suffered to expire for a while, the twelve judges, under Chief Justice Scroggs, declared it to be criminal, at common law, to publish any public news, whether true or false, without the king's license. S Nor was this monstrous opinion judicially condemned, until the better times
1 Orders June 14th, 1642; Aug. 26th, 1642; Husband's Ord., 591; Orlinance, June, 1643; Parl. Hist., iii. 131; Ordinance, Sept. 30th, 1647;
arl. Hist., iii. 780; Rushworth, ii. 957, &c.; Further Ordinances, 1649 and 1652; Scobell, i. 44, 134; ii. 88, 230.
2 Areopagetica; a Speech for Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, Works, iv. 400; Ed. 1851.
8 13 & 14 Chas. II. c. 33.
4 St. Tr., vi. 514. The sentence upon John Twyn, a poor printer, war one of revolting brutality; St. Tr., vi. 659; Keach's case, pillory, 16., 710 Cases of Harris, Smith, Curtis, Carr, and Cellier, 16., vii. 926 - 1043, 1111,
& Carr's Case, 1680; State Trials, vii. 929.
of that constitutional judge, Lord Camden." A monopoly in news being created, the public were left to seek intelligence in the official summary of the “ London Gazette." The press, debased and enslaved, took refuge in the licentious ribaldry of that age. James II. and his infamous judges carried the Licensing Act into effect, with barbarous severity. But the revolution brought indulgence even to the Jacobite press; and when the Commons, a few years
later, refused to renew the Licensing Act, a Expiration of Licensing censorship of the press was forever renounced by Act, 1695.
the law of England. Henceforth the freedom of the press was theoretically es
tablished. Every writing could be freely published; Theory of
but at the peril of a rigorous execution of the libel recognized.
laws. The administration of justice was indeed improved. Scroggs and Jeffreys were no more ; but the law of libel was undefined, and the traditions of the Star Chamber had been accepted as the rule of Westminster Hall. To speak ill of the government was a crime. Censure of ministers was a reflection upon the king himself." Hence the first aim and use of free discussion was prohibited by law. But no sooner had the press escaped from the grasp of the licenser, than it began to give promise of its future energies. Newspapers were multiplied: news and gossip freely circulated among the people. With the reign of Anne opened a new era in the history
of the press. Newspapers then assumed their The press in the reign of present form, combining intelligence with political reign was also marked by the higher intellectual character of its periodical literature, which engaged the first talents of that Augustan age,
discussion; and began to be published daily." This 1 Entinck v. Carrington, St. Tr., xix. 1071.
2 See Macaulay's Hist., i. 365, for a good account of the newspapers o. this period.
8 See Macaulay's Hist., iii. 656; iv. 540.
7 Disraeli's Cur. of Literature, i. 178; Nichols' Lit. Anecd., iv. 81. The Daily Courant was the first daily paper, in 1709. – Hunt's Fourth Estate, i. 175.
Addison and Steele, Swift and Bolingbroke. The popular taste for news and political argument was becoming aniversal : all men were politicians, and every party had its chosen writers. The influence of the press was widely extended ; but in becoming an instrument of party, it compromised its character, and long retarded the recognition of its freedom. Party rancor too often betrayed itself in outrageous license and calumny. instrument And the war which rulers had hitherto waged against the press was now taken up by parties. Writers in the service of rival factions had to brave the vengeance of their political foes, whom they stung with sarcasm and lampoon. They could expect no mercy from the courts, or from Parliament. Every one was a libeller who outraged the sentiments of the dominant party. The Commons, far from vindicating public liberty, rivalled the Star Chamber in their zeal against libels. Now they had “a sermon to condemn and a parson to roast : now a member to expel :: now a journalist to punish, or a pamphlet to burn. Society was no less intolerant. In the late reign, Dyer, having been reprimanded by the speaker, was cudgelled by Lord Mohun in a coffee-house; * and in this reign, Tutchin, who had braved the Commons and the attorney-general, was waylaid in the streets, and actually beaten to death. So strong was the feeling against the press, that proposals were even made for reviving the Licensing Act. It was too late to resort to
The press an
1 Dr. Sacheverell, 1709; Bolingbroke, Works, iii. 9; Preface to Bishop of St. Asaph's Four Sermons, burned 1712; Parl. Hist., vi. 1151.
2 Steele, in 1713. See Sir R. Walpole's admirable speech; Parl. Hist., vi. 1268; Coxe's Walpole, i. 72.
3 Dr. Drake and others, 1702; Parl. Hist., vi. 19; Dr. Coward, 1704; Ibid., 331; David Edwards, 1706; Ibid., 512; Swift's Public Speech of the Whigs, 1713 (Lords); Parl. Hist., vi. 1261.
4 1694; Kennet's Hist., iü. 666; Hunt's Fourth Estate, i. 164. 6 1704; Ibid., i. 173.
fhe press in
Geo. I. and II.
such a policy ; but a new restraint was devised in the form of a stamp duty on newspapers and advertisements, avowedly First stamp
for the purpose of repressing libels. This policy, luty, 1712
being found effectual in limiting the circulation of cheap papers, was improved upon in the two following -eigns,' and continued in high esteem until our own time. The press of the two first Georges made no marked ad
vances in influence or character. An age adorned the reigns of
by Pope, Johnson, and Goldsmith, by Hume and
Robertson, by Sterne, Gray, Fielding, and Smollett, claims no mean place in the history of letters. But its political literature had no such pretensions. Falling far below the intellectual standard of the previous reign, it continued to express the passions and malignity of parties. Writers were hired by statesmen to decry the measures and blacken the characters of their rivals; and, instead of seeking to in. struct the people, devoted their talents to the personal service of their employers, and the narrowest interests of faction. Exercising unworthily a mean craft, they brought literature itself into disrepute.
1 10 Anne,
19, 101, 118; Resns. June 2d, 1712; Parl. Hist., vi. 1141; Queen's Speech, April 1713; 16., 1173.
2 “Do you know that Grub Street is dead and buried during the last week.” — Swift's Journ. to Stella, Aug. 7th, 1712.
“ His works were hawked in every street,
But seldom rose above a sheet:
Swift's Poems, iii. 44, Pickering's Edition. 8 11 G. I. c. 8; 30 G. II. c. 19. 4 See infra, p. 213.
6 Speaking in 1740, Mr. Pulteney termed the ministerial writers “a herd of wretches, whom neither information can enlighten, nor affluence elevate." “ If their patrons would read their writings, their salaries would quickly be withdrawn: for a few pages would convince them that they can neither attack nor defend, neither raise any man's reputation by their panegyric, nor destroy it by their defamation." — Parl. Hist., xi. 882. - See also some excellent passages in Forster's Life of Goldsınith, 71; Ed. 18-18.