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Book Reviews New Journalism, 1850-1914 Joel H. Wiener, ed. Papers for the Millions: The New Journalism in Britain, 1850s to 1914. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988. xix + 328 pp. $45.00 SURELY THERE IS AT LEAST one other reader of this journal besides me who, visiting London during the summer, can better face the British Museum having been apprised of the day's baseball scores from America. Access to "news agents" is difficult enough from Bed & Breakfast vantage, but even if one locates such a rarity, the vendor is unlikely to stock the beacon for the baseball buff, the Paris Herald. A hasty recon of available papers from the U. K. only confirms British provincialism: rugby results from some West Indian redoubt are deemed more vital than diamond doings from the continent across the Atlantic. Frustrated by failure in his quest, the Yank cannot avoid assault by the headlines of the Daily Mail or London Standard or almost any other English newspaper save the Times or Guardian. They are all a daily dose of the National Enquirer. How did the London papers, with a few distinguished exceptions, get that way? In an era when the Ruppert Murdoch-ized New York Post, seemingly overnight, declined from Liberal crusader to a school for the scandalous, one can find a partial answer in the power of prurience and big bucks. If one wishes for more scholarly reasons why today's London papers loom as a contradiction to the English character , as gleaned, say, from Masterpiece Theater, one might begin by delving into the fifteen sedulously arranged essays in Papers for the Millions: The New Journalism in Britain, 1850s to 1914. Based on the proceedings of the City of New York (CUNY) Conference on History and Politics held in November 1986, this work, at its most interesting, chronicles the acumen of such newspaper barons as W. T. Stead, T. P. O'Connor, and Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) in converting the British press of a century ago and more from one limited by its own traditions and modest demands of its readers to one whose capacity for change was nonstop. Serious studies like this one may help set off an inquiry into the nature and origins of popular journalism in England. H. G. Wells appears to have included such an inquiry in the fabric of his Shape of Things to Come. He predicted more than a half-century ago, writing of Lord Northcliffe, that posterity would find astonishing the ways the British William Randolph Hearst and others, "naked of any sense of responsibility, with immense native energy . . . set about pouring 519 ELT: Volume 33:4 1990 millions of printed sheets of any sort of trash that sold into the awakening mind of the British masses" [emphasis added]. The last six words are the key ones. Readers of ELT do not have to be reminded that the watershed years of what Matthew Arnold pejoratively labelled the "New Journalism"—1880-1900—also witnessed a dramatic increase in the audience for popular novels. In their capacity to excite larger and larger audiences—never forgetting, in Arthur Pearson's phrase, "the cabman's wife"—popular fiction and journalism went hand in hand. Students of serious fiction will look in vain for a single reference to fin de siècle, literary history's handy designation for the New Journalism 's pinnacle years. For the circumscribed literature-in-transition student, these journalism-in-transition essays will offer little. Only Laurel Brake ("The Old Journalism and the New: Forms of Cultural Production in London in the 1880s") explores the implications of Arnold's keep-off-the-high-culture-grass dictums. As is well known, Arnold in 1887 placed Stead's Pall Mall Gazette and journalism like it at the bottom of a hierarchy of cultural forms, at the top of which is art, which, by his definition, outlives history and is accessible only to the cultivated. The "Old" Journalism, for Arnold, passed cultural muster because it sought to elevate his own periodical essays into "criticism" and hence to the empyrean of literature. Professors Brake, Joel H. Wiener (estimable editor of these proceedings), and many of the other participants argue that the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 519-522
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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