Copyright
Public Library Cincinnati (Ohio).

The Observer, 1791-1921 [a short record of one hundred & thirty years online

. (page 1 of 3)
Online LibraryPublic Library Cincinnati (Ohio)The Observer, 1791-1921 [a short record of one hundred & thirty years → online text (page 1 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


914
lO/5

YF02552




y-





txwt.



\79\



1921



A SHORT RECORD OF

ONE HU>}DRED SfTHIRTY YEARS




OBSERVER HOUSE, 22^, TUDOR ST., LONDON, EC



GIFT or




9/^






y



S\'



K



#



'•■• ■". •.



'duiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimimiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimuiiiiHiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii^




EL



13



TUDOR STREET THROUGH THE TEMPLE ARCHWAY.

From a pencil drawing by Fred Pegram.



» ' • • « * » J




m ©teetber




1791



1921









' ^* ft" « »



Gift



''ffifrff'iip.. ;






* • a •

• » • * 4




THE EDITORIAL ROOM.

From a pencil drawing by Fred Pegram.



THE verdict lies with the observer, said George Meredith
in another connection. That remark long ago became part
of the humour of an office which we venture to think none the
less efficient for being an exceptionally friendly, happy and
spirited organisation. When we apply the phrase seriously it suggests
to us responsibility rather than pride.

Fortunate from the beginning in its title THE OBSERVER has now
completed a history of one hundred and thirty years. It has watched
and recorded all the larger events of the world and at the same time
the more intimate aspects of life in our own country, from the French
Revolution and Waterloo to Armageddon and after. Gradually it came
to hold the same place on Sunday as The Times held on other days.
From the Regency onwards THE OBSERVER found itself mentioned
in novels and plays as a familiar institution.

More than ever in the last dozen years, and especially since the beginning
of the Great War, it has been read by all classes and parties in our own
country, and as a unique combination of a newspaper and weekly
review, it goes all over the world, even to the strangest of remote places.
No English newspaper is more widely quoted by the foreign press; none,
certainly is more quoted in America.

If we have any secret, it lies in two things. First, though THE
OBSERVER'S editorial opinions are decided, no effort is spared to
make the news uncoloured and impartial. Second, we confess that
though we are never discouraged, we are never satisfied. There is
nothing that we do but makes us desire to do it still better next time.
A newspaper may be unlike other chronicles. A great newspaper both
records history and makes it. It becomes so closely entwined with
its age that the two cannot be dissevered. A retrospect of this journal's
activities during one hundred and thirty years must be necessarily a
survey of the world's affairs in the same time. We hope that THE
OBSERVER may not be thought unworthy of this memento and that
our little book may find its friends.

J. L. GARVIN.



51842^



3 »OJ51 •a*




ST. PAUL'S, FROM ST. MARTIN'S-LE-GRAND.
The Site of the New Post Office, 1815.

Engraved on wood by W . Thomas Smith from a print in the Guildhall Library.



1791-1815

FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE OBSERVER TO THE BATTLE OF

WATERLOO.

THE world into which THE OBSERVER was born in the year 1791
was, like our own, a little uncertain of its bearings and prospects.
Only two years earlier the short Peace had been broken by the fall
of the Bastille. Events in France had pursued a course of which
the landmarks were becoming very ominous. There were still men
who could look back to a time when the Hanoverian Kings had not come to
England. " Bonnie Prince Charlie" was but three years in the grave ; his brother
was to live on in Rome for sixteen years longer. It had been a century of
great growth. Among those who philosophised upon the facts of life and of
government there was a notable balance of complacency.

"Evolution or Revolution ? " The cliche of to-day expressed the hesitating mind
of 1 79 1 still looking upon events across the Channel, in doubt whether their purport
was "to destroy or to fulfil." A new Constitution had just been adopted for France.
On the surface it might shape for that "enlightened Freedom, decent Tolerance,
and universal Benevolence" to which THE OBSERVER, in the best sentiment of
its time, paid devotion in announcing itself to the public of London. True, the
British admirers of French democracy were becoming disturbingly fervent in rheit
language, and the patriotic populace of Birmingham had just burned the great
Dr. Priestley's house and library over his head. Arthur Young denounced the
outrage, but the King, like the majority, condoned. But there was no hint yet of
Revolutionary France bursting her borders or pitting herself in a death-grapple
with this country.

On the contrary, the National Assembly had in this very year handsomely expressed
its thanks to the King of England for relieving the planters of San Domingo from
famine. And, of course, besides either home or foreign politics there was a great
deal for newspapers to write and the public to read about. There were duels on
Blackheath and highwaymen at Hounslow. There were, of course, outrages in
Ireland. There was the increasing popularity of short hair among men of fashion.
Occasional "letters from Botany Bay contained the most favourable account of the
infant colony." Eminent men died then as now — Mozart, for instance, and the
Rev. John Wesley, by whose efforts "a sense of decency, morals, and religion was
introduced into the lowest classes of mankind." And the reviewer's colvmin needed
not be empty with "The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.," by James Boswell, Esq.,
fresh from the press — the "ofl&cial biography" available after seven years to those
who had been compelled to put up with the narratives of less-informed or judicious
recorders.



But the fever raging in France was destined, as the "Annual Register" put it, to
"extend its bloody and convulsive struggles to the opposite sides of the globe."
England, situated so near to the centre of disturbance, became remorselessly absorbed
in the consequences. The ensuing twenty years were to be in many features like
those ushered in for ourselves by the momentous Fourth of August, 1914. It is
true that the former ordeal was longer and, at its heights, more desperate. For us
there was no such terrible year as 1797, when the universal triumph of French arms
upon the Continent was accompanied by the mutiny of our own Navy at the Norc,
and the suspension of cash payments. We did not at any period of the Great War
have to confront a situation so daunting as that in which Pitt, on the morrow of
Austerlitz, bade them "roll up the map of Europe." On the other hand, the struggle
with Revolutionary France and with Napoleon made no such inroad upon tiie
manhood of the race as we have known, nor could it bring the crash of conflict into
the very streets of London as did the German aircraft. Their war did not come so
near to the fireside. But, nevertheless, there is something very familiar in the
strain of those slow years through which our great-grandfathers patiently plodded.
There were the rising Budgets, the loans to Allies, the recurrent Army Service Bills,
the crowds of refugees. There was the same depressing mediocrity of war policy,
the same "Pacifist" minority, the same stretching of imagination to face new portents.
That generation had to accustom itself to the Jacobin as we to the Bolshevik. It
learned by trial the futility of a "patched-up peace," which we had discretion to
avoid. It had a foreshadowing in its Holy Alliance, when all was over, of that
League of Nations for which our hopes bespeak a better destiny.
But in nothing is the parallel so close as in the evidences of that unchanging British
temper so hesitant to break the peace, so tenacious of a conflict once accepted.
Other emotions may foam upon the surface, but they are nothing to the underlying,
dominant impulse of holding on. Italy conquered, Belgium annexed, Prussia
seduced, Austria humbled, Spain and Holland allied with the enemy — all that was
nothing to the piurpose. Hold on ! Let the conqueror's legions muster for invasion ;
let his writ run in Rome, Vienna, Berlin ; let his decree close the ports of Europe.
Backs to the wall — ^hold on !

We believe, looking back upon a century's distance, that "there were giants in those
days." If there were, they could be belittled and aspersed even as the national
leaders of any other epoch. "The enemy of mankind is Pitt. I detest, from the
bottom of my heart, him and all his satellites," writes Thomas Creevey, looking
back regretfully upon "past and better days in Parliament." If this could be said
of "the pilot who weathered the storm," we need not be astonished to find lesser
men the target of "politics as usual." To take refuge from imagination in the
routine, in the flippancies, and in the grumbles of life is a self-protective instinct of
the Englishman, whether he surveys Armageddon from the front trench or from
the breakfast-table. And so they wrangled and muddled through.



19




nl



E



SAVOY PRISON, 1793.

Engraved on wood by W. Thomas Smith from a print in the Guildhall Library.



PJ



m



o
>



on

H

H
I— I



o
o

(/)
H

O

n



a-

i
w

H



00



a




la



THE OBSERVER reported the details of Trafalgar (1805) without any headlines
to speak of. It printed Wellington's'despatch of ten years later under the business-
like legend : —

COMMENCEMENT OF HOSTILITIES IN THE NETHERLANDS-
SANGUINARY ACTIONS— BATTLE OF WATERLOO— TOTAL DEFEAT
OF BUONAPARTE BY WELLINGTON, etc.




1815-1837

FROM THE GREAT PEACE TO THE ASCENSION OF QUEEN VICTORIA.

SO they entered upon peace, and soon found that when the word is spelt
with a capital P, it may not amount to very much. The next fifteen years
I were as sore -headed and raw-tempered a time as 1919-21 — with the
violence of a more passionate age thrown in. The after-surge of war
fell upon trade, producing unemployment and riot. We had not learnt then
that to let men deflate themselves by strong language is often the best means of
diverting them from dangerous action. The classes hated each other ; the upper-
most busied itself in muzzling those who suffered below. Starving weavers broke
machines ; starving labourers burned ricks ; starving ex-Service men danced on
their wooden legs for coppers in country towns. These are among the most
miserable years to read of in all our "rough island story." There is nothing so cruel
as fear, and the fears of those in power made them see a Jacobin in every reformer.
The bloody business of Peterloo (1819), where the cavalry were made to hew their
way through an orderly political demonstration, must have made many converts to
the revolutionary creed, and may have given recruits to the Cato Street conspiracy
of two years later, which aimed at the murder of the whole Cabinet,
In that latter story THE OBSERVER made a stand of some consequence for the
liberty of the Press and a more liberal supply of fresh air to public business. When
Thistlewood and his companions were brought to justice (1820), the law ran that
no trial must be reported in a newspaper until it had been concluded. THE
OBSERVER demurred to the bottling up of news until it had become stale, and
printed full reports of the current proceedings. The Court was scandalised and
fined the paper jCSOO- But the penalty was never paid, and an obsolete rule perished
in a last futility.

There is another trial that bulks largely in THE OBSERVER files of those days—
that of Queen Caroline under the Bill of Pains and Penalties which the Government
had introduced against her (1820) in the House of Lords. There seems no particular
reason why the public should have been fond of that misguided woman ; there were
many why it should dislike and despise her husband. And there is nothing, perhaps,
so much to the popular taste as a thorough-going scandal in a time of over- wrought
nerves and general disillusionment. For a week or two the judicial dissection of
her career and character swamps all other topics, and then she passes out of sight,
an exhausted sensation. The wit of the day, seizing upon Brougham's peroration
in which he had urged the Peers, even if they held her guilty, to bid an erring woman
"Go and sin no more," had written : —

Gracious Queen, we thee implore,

Go away, and sin no more !
Or, if that effort be too great,
Go away, at any rate !
Her popularity had quite evaporated when a few months later she was to knock
vainly for admittance to her husband's Coronation. That pageant found THE
OBSERVER a pioneer in the then little-known paths of illustrated journalism, with
a whole page flamboyantly depiaing the ceremony and the subsequent banquet.



51




19



r

i



■3

■us






w



o

o

Q



<

<

H
W









£



iVl^.






a •



n =






n
^ o

2 ^
« on



§ ^ =



1 ^

I. w

^ o

s w



-. O

* m
I. o

o

H



- 4

00



O E




The country emerged but slowly from the harsh heritage of the long struggle. With
George IV. upon the throne and Lord Liverpool for fourteen years as Prime Minister,
history seems to be half-asleep. The new era is slow to define itself. But in 1829
we have Catholic Emancipation, with appropriate riots in the Whitechapel Road.
Then at last the stage is set for Parliamentary Reform. With much creaking and
groaning among the timbers of ancient privilege, the gates are thrust open for the
tide of democracy to flow through. History, in what it sets down to the credit and
debit of Coalitions, has curiously omitted to make an entry of the Great Reform
Bill (1832). Yet this measure was in every true sense the work of a Coalition
Government. Of the thirteen members of Lord Grey's Cabinet, six — Melbourne,
Palmerston, Goderich, Grant, Richmond, and Carlisle — had held office as Tories,
and Sir James Graham had, at any rate, never been known as a Whig or Radical.
The Bill, in fact, was not a triimiph of party, but an outcome of the matured opinion
of the country at large.

Now, at last, THE OBSERVER shews its country going ahead. Mimicipal reform
(1835) follows upon Parliamentary ; Colonial slavery is abolished (1833) 5 railways
are spreading ; the Penny Post (1840) is in sight. In 1837 the last of the Hanoverian
Kings passes away, and the Archbishop of Canterbury posts off in the small hours
with an important commimication for a yoimg lady in her nightdress. The Victorian
Era has begun !




\ A^4>X-^->



1837-1852

FROM QUEEN VICTORIA'S ACCESSION TO THE GREAT EXHIBITION.

DEATH," says Mr. Creevey, writing from Brighton in October, 1837,
i "has made great havoc in a very short time with our Royalties of the
I Pavilion — Prinney and 'brother William,' Duke of York and Duke of
Kent, all gone, and all represented now by little Vic. only." Little Vic,
with her five feet four inches and her nineteen years, to sustain all by
herself the dome of an ancient monarchy dilapidated by half-a-century's scandal,
egotism and folly — to preserve and vindicate it in an age of jealous criticism and
draughty democracy — to wear out, if she can, all those chuckling, contemptuous
traditions of lunacy, levity, and looseness, of prodigality and the Pavilion ! There
is a drama yet unwritten in that sweet round face and gracious eyes, with the
direct mind and firm will at the back of them — a countenance that is to broaden
with years and love and motherhood and sorrow and constancy and high truthfulness
into the whole world's emblem of reverenced dignity. "A resolute little tit,"
says Lady Tavistock, and Palmerston, connoisseur of humanity and horseflesh,
informs his intimates that "any Minister who had to deal with her would soon find
she was no ordinary person." He was to be yet more sure of it as time went on !
Under her young Queen, England, too, seems to renew her youth as she enters
upon the roaring forties. Never has the pulse of national life beat more keenly in
politics, business, science, religion, literature — in all the activities. The Free Trade
question comes to its height in the great duel between Peel and Disraeli (1846).
The working classes, finding that the vaunted Reform has enfranchised only their
employers, and gives little help to the improvement of their own condition, throw
themselves into the Chartist agitation, but the dread year of '48, which upsets or
shakes thrones throughout Europe, leaves our Constitution unscathed. Life is too
brisk and too full of meaning to be deranged by mere politics. The nation is
capitalising a past century of thought and science ; cities and manufactures are
extending ; Franklin is out to find the North- West Passage (1845) ; the sense of
wonder is being fed by revelations like photography (1839) and chloroform (1847) ;
and, as for literature, you have Dickens, Thackeray, Newman, Carlyle, Macaulay,
Ruskin, Tennyson, DisraeH, John Stuart Mill, Kinglake, and George Borrow all in
the zenith of their powers, with Darwin, Herbert Spencer, and Matthew Arnold
just beginning to claim the attention of their contemporaries. A "braw birlin'
world," as the Scottish poet has it, which might well be excused if it felt that in
prosperous trade and unlimited discussion it had found the master secrets of human
well-being and a route to the uninterrupted progress of civilisation. The
consecration of its ideals was performed in the opening of the Great Exhibition of
1 85 1 — a marvellous display of the world's productive energies, which ov/ed its
inception to the benign doctrinal mind of the Prince Consort, and had for its aim
to "strengthen the bonds of universal society by a physical perception of the means
by which mankind might be knit together by inculcating a practical sense of mutual
interest and general advantage."



^iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiHiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiniiiiniiiMiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitiiiiiiiiiiiiiniiiiiiiiiiiinniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiniiiiiiiiinnii^




EL



a



DRURY LANE THEATRE, AS NEWLY FRONTED BY ROBERT ADAM FOR GARRICK.

Engraved on wood by W. Thomas Smith front a print in the Gutldhall Library.



3 ^^tki '.



• • 9 J



• •J9,», •■»<> *,



9» > • -O' •





^




>











^


►u




>


S-




9^


"k

►-










SXt


03


^


X


.^


o

H


s




»•




o




3


j>


8


Z


V'


n c


1


s>


*-^


w r>




5« H


3


c« o


6


5«3


a


Q ►<


5




£.




1




^


^ w


S


Si o


s-


<jj ?«


5


• w


A.


5S


t!


00


3


W


H


<




5'


<^




t-"


f


>


<?i


Q


r


W










n.




a-


<:






h<








if


^


4







►n




Jfl




o




s




1852-1870



THE YEARS OF WAR.



THAT "practical sense of mutual interest and general advantage" was
destined to betray the hopes invested in it more than once during the
years that followed, and to prove the weaker argument when chal-
lenged by dreams of passion, glory, or ambition. Only a year later,
when THE OBSERVER had to relate in twenty-five columns the
career of the departed Duke of Wellington (1852), it could not pretend to feel
that the Age of War was "interred with his bones," but had to confess that the
outlook in Europe was again "dark, unsettled, and stormy." The next eighteen
years, indeed, were destined to present a spectacle of almost perpetual warfare
upon the Continent, and the earlier of them were to see England and her Empire
themselves deeply involved in hazard. The Crimean War (1854-6) originated in a
controversy over the guardianship of the Holy Places in Palestine ; the Indian
Mutiny (1857) found its pretext in the religious impurity of greased cartridges —
provocations, both, to which the "practical sense of mutual interest and general
advantage" offered an ineffectual appeasement. The glass-house which had covered
the Great Exhibition went to Sydenham, and the British Army went to war — ^rusty
in every hinge with forty years' unemployment.

It is not the simplest of tasks to-day to explain the reasons which drew England
into the Crimean War, but the nation entered upon it with a good conscience, and
all the more so after the publication of those "secret despatches," which THE
OBSERVER had the privilege of being the first to lay before its readers. In a few
days' time it had further information to give, which, to our more searching standards,
appears more interesting than prudent — no less than a complete schedule of the
force despatched to the Black Sea — "a grand total of 25,731 men and muskets,"
with the exact numbers embraced in every imit. It was not very long before the
paper was to do its part in calling attention to the incapacity of the arrangements
for keeping these men in health, fitness and such "comfort" as organisation can
combine with warfare. In a few months' time, under the heading of "A Cry from
the Camp — Cholera and Starvation," we have the bitter complaint from an eye-
witness that "the troops out here are starving," and that "there is not a single general
officer who will dare to assert that the rations served out to the men are sufficient
for their maintenance."

But it would take too long to dwell upon the Alma, Inkerman, and Balaclava —
battles which were mere skirmishes by the scale of to-day. The whole Crimean
campaign recalls the Trojan War, in the compactness of its area and the immortality
of its memories. History was bringing us on to a more poignant experience in the
Indian Mutiny, where the fate not only of Englishmen but of EngHshwomen cut
like a sword to the heart of the British people.

The newspaper files of the time remind us of the vast revolution which sixty years
have brought about in the world's communications. It was on the loth of May,
1857, that the Mutiny broke out at Meerut, spreading itself instantaneously up and
down the Ganges Valley.



But it was not until June 7 that an unobtrusive three-line paragraph records the
event in a London newspaper — the news touching Europe at Marseilles and being
thence telegraphed to THE OBSERVER. Even then there was no conception of
what had really occurred ; several days later we find a Minister assuring the House
of Commons that "no alarm need be felt^on the subject, as the promptitude dis-
played by the Governor-General and the eloquent speech of General Hersey had
restored tranquility." Not until eight weeks after the outbreak is it fully reaUsed
that the native army is in wholesale and furious insurrection, and that the Indian
Empire itself is in jeopardy.

For the next dozen years war in one theatre or another seldom ceases to be the
predominant feature of the newspaper page. No sooner is the Mutiny suppressed
than we have staged nearer home a fresh act in the drama of Italian liberty. Napoleon
III., in one of the least mistaken of his adventures, makes himself god-father to the
cause of revolt against Austria — only to awaken the resentment of his proteges, after
the victories of Magenta and Solferino (1859), by a peace which seemed to make
the full consummation of their hopes infinitely distant. We have one of our own
campaigns in China, followed by the Maori War. Garibaldi (i860) (with not a few
English volimteers in his train) is expelling the Bourbon tyranny from Naples.
But the New World is soon to challenge the attention of the Old, not only with the
great issues of slavery and Union between the Northern and Southern States (upon
which Englishmen were so long to be bewildered by a confusion of understanding
and sympathy), but by the consequent cutting-oflf of those supplies of raw cotton
which support one of the great arches of British industry.

It is the first great lesson of the inter-dependence of the modern world. THE
OBSERVER proved a peculiarly important link of communication between America
and England throughout the whole of the Civil War (1861-65). For there was, in
those days, no cable ; the Atlantic steamers arriving usually on Saturday or on
Sunday morning, the telegrams from the ports to its ordinary or special editions
often provided the first intelligence of important stages in the four years' campaign.
Before Lincoln and freedom have won their battle the politics of Europe are again
boiling over into hostilities. Palmerston once said that only three persons had ever
really understood the question of the Schleswig-Holstein Duchies — himself (who
had since forgotten it), a contemporary who was now dead, and a third who was in
an asylum. This obscurity may bear part of the responsibility of Europe for
allowing Prussia to play her high-handed game in the war with Denmark of 1864.
But it was a fatal precedent as permitting Bismarck to measure the bark of Western


1 3

Online LibraryPublic Library Cincinnati (Ohio)The Observer, 1791-1921 [a short record of one hundred & thirty years → online text (page 1 of 3)