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Art. IV.-The Leeds Mercury; The Munchester Guardian. THE subject of the present article will be the Provincial
Newspaper Press of the three kingdoms, or at least such specimens of it as may give a correct idea of the whole ; and in communicating the information we have been able to collect, we shall endeavour to deduce a few conclusions, as to the influence which is exercised by the provincial papers on the minds of the population, and the extent to which liberal, or in other words, correct and just ideas on religion and politics, have been created by the greater diffusion of knowledge through this medium. There is, however, one difficulty in the way. Of the total number of newspapers published out of London, some of the most extensively circulated, and which might fairly be expected to express opinions of their own, and to lead to a certain degree those of their readers, are absolutely without original articles, and may be regarded as mere (although frequently, from the skill and taste displayed in the selection, clever), registers of the news and occurrences given in the London papers. It would be a matter of great surprise, to see large towns and districts thus unrepresented in the great parliament of human intellect, if it were not for the circumstances attending the establishment of such papers. Many years ago, when under administrations, which encouraged every kind of tyranny in the “duly-constituted authorities," from the office of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to the constable of a hamlet, the expression of liberal opinions would have been attended with danger to the pecuniary interests, if not to the persons of those who should utter them. Newspapers were commenced in towns requiring some public means of announcing the mercantile changes
and wants of the population, upon the express understanding that all opinions on political questions should be excluded, or that if any were given, they should be in accordance with those of the rector, the magistrates, and the members of the corporation, who could discover no evils in a system under which they " throve and fattened daily.” Several of the most extensively-circulated country papers had this kind of origin; and in many towns where the improved ideas and principles of the last few years have made rapid progress, the reading and reasoning part of the inhabitants are satisfied to tolerate a local print, which is either a mere medium for advertisements, or the political opinions of which do not represent their own. Every large, and indeed almost every small town in England, and several in Ireland, have now subscription readingrooms, at which all the leading London papers are taken, so that no person who can afford to pay a guinea or so, annually, needs be without the means of gratifying his curiosity, or desire, for improvement. In many of the towns where papers of the kind alluded to are well circulated, the absence of competition may be very easily accounted for. In the metropolis, a speculating individual who wishes to start a weekly newspaper can do so with little risk, as compared with the country. Printers are to be found in almost every street with whom he may
make an arrangement for a week, or a month, by way of experiment; and a similar plan may be adopted as to every kind of literary assistance, whilst at the house of an established publisher he can have his work sold at a certain commission. When the experiment has been tried a few months and found to answer, he sets up an office and types of his own, upon which he derives a profit, which, in the first instance he was willing to forego, in the certainty of being able, at a very short notice, to lay down the speculation with a small loss. It is not so in the country. There are few towns in which a printer is to be found with sufficient materials for printing a newspaper, unless he has already one of his own, consequently a large outlay of capital becomes necessary. Then the literary engagements must be at least for one year, for no man of talent and experience in newspapers would accept of an engagement on a new provincial print for a shorter term. Agents must be appointed over the whole district, and a variety of expenses must be incurred, of which nothing is known in the setting-up of a London weekly newspaper. Considering all these, and next the great difficulty of obtaining subscribers and advertisements in towns or districts where prejudices and habits are much stronger than in the metropolis--where in short every thing new, however excellent, is regarded with distrust—the surprise that there should be so few liberal papers in some places will yield to astonishment that the “ march of intellect” should have induced so many persons to risk their capital in this way in others. As we proceed we shall endeavour to shew the extent to which this enterprising spirit has already been carried, and it does not require the spirit of prophecy to foretel that, unless some extraordinary and unexpected circumstances should occur to prevent so desirable a result, new papers, conducted with the spirit and liberality which so eminently characterize many of the provincial newspapers, will soon appear in places which have now either only a mere advertisement-sheet, with a column or so of accidents and offences, or a print devoted to the interests of persons
of the old Tory school, who contrive, amid the fondness for what is ancient among Englishmen, to maintain a certain degree of influence in society.
By printed lists published by the respectable advertising agents, Newton and Co., of Warwick Square, and by Barker and Co., of Fleet Street, it appears that the total number of newspapers printed in Great Britain and Ireland, not including those of the metropolis, is two hundred and fifty-four, of which number there are printed in Ireland fifty-nine, and in Scotland thirty-seven. In the preceding articles was given a calculation of the average circulation of these papers, and of the amount of expenditure for stamps, paper, &c.; and as subsequent inquiries have confirmed the general correctness of the estimate, it will be unnecessary to offer any further observations on that part of the subject. It may not be amiss, however, to make a few remarks on the character and influence of some of these publications, with a view to the conclusions which we shall endeavour, in the spirit of fairness and impartiality, to draw from the general consideration of the subject. Of the provincial papers published in England, Bath and Bristol have each four, Exeter five, Leeds three, Liverpool eight, Manchester seven, Sheffield three, York four, Brighton three, and Birmingham, with its great population, only two. The increase of newspapers in Liverpool and Manchester, during
the last few years, has been very creditable to the inhabitants. Three of the papers published in Liverpool, the Chronicle, Albion, and Times, are of comparatively recent date, and the advocacy of liberal principles, which was for some years almost exclusively confined to the able pen of Mr. Egerton Smith of the Liverpool Mercury, lias derived much strength from the additions which have been made lately to the number of Liverpool newspapers. A more upright and determined support of right doctrines than that given by Mr. Smith, could not have been desired ; but the increasing population of the place, and its growing importance, as well in wealth, as in intellect, rendered some additions necessary, particularly as the Tory paper, the Courier, was no mean advocate of the principles of its party, and was in very general circulation. The Liverpool papers are well got up, most of them are of the quarto shape, very neatly printed, and they contain, from time to time, articles on general science, as well as politics, which are very meritorious. In the Mercury, particularly, we frequently find articles on natural philosophy, so written as to be interesting to every class of readers ; and besides the newspapers published in Liverpool, there is a small periodical paper exclusively devoted to Literature and Science called the Kaleidoscope. We have no means of ascertaining the exact number of copies of the Liverpool papers printed, but we have reason to believe that it is considerable, and if a conclusion might be formed from the appearance of the advertising columns, we should set them down as very profitable undertakings. With a due regard to the interests of the advertisers, the charge for advertisements in the Liverpool papers is said to be very moderate ; and taking that circumstance into consideration, as also the fact, that although the duty on the advertisements is paid by the proprietors to the government monthly, a twelvemonth's credit or more is frequently given to advertisers, we may infer that the profits are less considerable than they would otherwise be. About three years ago, an attempt was made to establish a daily paper in Liverpool by some gentlemen connected, we believe, with a paper in Dublin. It did not, however, last more than three months. That Liverpool is large enough, and spirited enough, to support a daily paper, there can be no doubt, but before the projectors of the paper in question started their concern, and applied for support, they ought to have ascertained the want of such a publication. The same post that would take the news from London to Liverpool for the use of a daily paper printed there, would bring the London papers ready printed, so that they might be read through by all the subscribers of a reading-room, and at the inns and coffeehouses, long ere the conductors of the local print could send out their paper with the news extracted from the London journals. As an advertising sheet, there was no want of a daily paper, for the papers printed in Liverpool are so divided as to their days of appearance, that in one or the other it is practicable to advertise almost daily ;-add to this, that the paper in question, was not very well conducted, and it will not be thought surprising that it did not answer. It may be well to state, for the information of those readers who do not see the Liverpool papers, that most of them (even the Liverpool Courier to a certain extent) advocate free-trade principles. This fact, we think, is a very powerful answer to the assertions of one or two London journals, that the principal merchants in great Britain are opposed to a system of free trade, and fully convinced of its fallacy. If we may be permitted to refer to the sentiments expressed in the papers published in Liverpool, and to consider them, as we think we have a right to do, the faithful organs of the wealthy and enlightened merchants and traders of that great town, we shall shew at once that the persons most interested, and best able to understand the subject, are strong advocates of the measures which, amidst so much reviling and prejudice, Mr. Hus
kisson introduced into parliament. The reception given to this gentleman, on his recent visit to Liverpool, and the candid admissions in favour of his system, which appeared in the Liverpool Courier, a paper not generally favourable to Mr. Huskisson, afford strong evidence of the good sense and impartiality of the inhabitants. They are as creditable to the town as they must have proved flattering to its distinguished representative. Another excellent paper, the Liverpool Times, has been lately started in Liverpool under the intelligent management of Mr. Baines, jun.
From Liverpool to Manchester the distance is so short, even without the facilities of the rail-road, that we may very well travel at once to that extraordinary town. Much of what we have said about Liverpool, will equally apply to Manchester ; but it may very well be imagined, that in a place where the population is in a marked way divided between the governing and the governed between the employers and their workmen; or, as
some have unjustly said, the task-masters and their slaves—there must be more of party violence among ductors of Newspapers than in Liverpool. This, however, is now much less the case than it used to be. The overthrow of the Castlereagh and Sidmouth administration, under which great horrors were perpetrated at Manchester, and the adoption of a more moderate system, had the natural effect of lowering the insolence of the tools of power, and softening the asperity of the reformers, who, in defiance of danger, had exposed the corruption of the authorities, and vindicated the rights of the people. The Manchester Newspapers of the present day are polished and urbane in their conduct towards each other, compared with what they were about the time of the calamitous event called “ The Manchester Massacre ;” and without having compromised a jot of principle, the " Manchester Guardian, which rose into notice upon that sad affair, has become a steady advocate of reform-a temperate medium of reconciliation between the extravagant commands of the masters and the unjust demands of the workmen. Of the seven Papers printed in Manchester, those decidedly liberal are the Guardian, the Mercury, the Advertiser, and the Times. The Guardian, which has a very large circulation, and is altogether a respectable and profitable undertaking, was commenced by Mr. John Edward Taylor. It is now conducted by him, conjointly with another gentleinan named Garnett. The Mercury, which appears on the Tuesday, three days after the Guardian, is the property of the same parties, and conducted upon the same principles. The Advertiser is almost a new paper started on the interest of the licensed victuallers