The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

IV. The Growth of Journalism

§ 13. The Daily News

Charles Dickens was not successful as a leader-writer, though he had been as a reporter. In 1845–6, there was a demand for a liberal paper which should be wide in its sympathies, looking towards the educational and industrial advancement of the masses, and treating religious questions from the point of view of those who “faintly trust the larger hope.” Dissatisfied with the reception of an offer he made to write a series of sketches for The Morning Chronicle, Dickens talked over with his publishers the possibility of starting a rival newspaper, and, in the following year, agreed to edit The Daily News. Judged from the standpoint of the end of the century, Dickens’s scheme of editing was much too solid and heavy. The paper contained his opening article, followed by three others, all dealing with corn-law reform; more than a page was occupied with a report of a meeting at Ipswich, and a speech there by Richard Cobden. A review of railway affairs and reports of railway company proceedings nearly filled another page. After seventeen numbers had been issued, Dickens, as he said, “tired to death, and quite worn out,” ceased to edit the paper. John Forster took up the work, carrying it on to the end of the first year. It is said that, though all the proprietors were agreed in demanding the repeal of the corn-laws, there were great differences, not only among them, but, also, on the editorial staff, upon other questions, especially those bearing on foreign policy. Among its contributors, after 1852, was Miss Harriet Martineau—one of the two women who, in the century, attained especially high eminence as journalists, the other being Mrs. Emily Crawford, later the Paris correspondent of The Daily News and of Henry Labouchere’s Truth. The Daily News took its share in the campaign against the stamp duty, the tax on advertisements and the paper duty—the last being abolished in 1861. It had to cope with a Peelite endeavour to regain popularity for The Morning Chronicle, and was attacked in 1856 by the adherents of the then advanced radicalism of Cobden and Bright in The Morning Star and The Evening Star, which were started on 17 March, 1856. The Morning Star, like The Daily Telegraph, which had now come into being, was sold at one penny. But the advanced radical paper was never able to attract the general public, and its attitude towards the Crimean war, no doubt, spoiled any chance of success which it might have had. On its staff, however, it numbered several distinguished men of letters and other journalists of subsequent high repute. The Daily News maintained an excellent reputation. After the opening of the Franco-Prussian war, in 1870, it was joined by Archibald Forbes. The ability of one man—though the subject of his articles, in this case, was of overwhelming interest—to give popularity to a newspaper was never exhibited more clearly; during the war, the circulation of The Daily News rose from 50,000 to 150,000 a day. Writing in The Nineteenth Century of August, 1891, Forbes indicated some of the dangers attending war correspondents during the time of his service. Referring to the Crimean and other campaigns before 1870, and recognising, generously, that W. H. Russell “had made for himself a reputation to vie with which no representative of a newer school has any claim,” he pointed out that the advent of the telegraph had increased the labour of the correspondent—as it has, indeed, in all departments of daily journalism—and that the older correspondents did not run the same risks as the later of being shot.

  • Before far-reaching rifle firearms came into use, it was quite easy to see a battle without getting within range of fire. With siege guns that carry shells ten miles, with field artillery having a range of four miles, and with rifles that kill without benefit of clergy at two miles, the war correspondent may as well stay at home with his mother, unless he has hardened his heart to take full share of the risks of the battlefield. In the petty Servian campaign of 1876, there were twelve correspondents who kept the field, and went under fire. Of those, three were killed, and four were wounded. Certainly not more than thirty correspondents and artists, all told, were in the Soudan from the earliest troubles to the final failure of the Nile expedition, but on or under its cruel sand lie the corpses of at least six of my comrades.
  • Noteworthy among later contributors to The Daily News was Andrew Lang.