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

§ 30. The Manchester Guardian

Mention, however, must be made of The Manchester Guardian, because, at the end of the century, through a variety of causes, it became the chief morning exponent of liberal policy in the United Kingdom, and because, during many years, there were associated with it writers of the highest rank in special subjects. It is remarkable that these qualities did not, in any way, lessen its experience of the keen competition set up by less expensive journalism. Manchester had been the scene of the first endeavour to issue a daily paper in the provinces. This was in 1811. Another journal issued outside London should, also, be mentioned because of its metropolitan character. The Scotsman was founded in Edinburgh in 1817, to promote reasoned liberal opinions. It developed into a daily paper, and, in the hands of Alexander Russel, achieved a wide and sound reputation. Its support was wholly given to the liberal party until 1885.

The halfpenny evening papers of the biggest centres in the provinces and Scotland are better arranged than those of London. Like the chief morning papers, they are connected with London by private telegraph wires, and it would be impossible for any London evening newspaper to obtain, within their areas, a circulation of more than a few dozen copies, bought for some especial feature.

The tendency of journalism towards the end of the century was not of the kind anticipated by writers and thinkers of the middle period. It depended more and more upon advertisements; in many cases, the cost of procuring news and articles, and printing and publishing them, is materially greater than the prices charged for the newspapers; and those with very large circulations are not always noted for careful ascertainment of facts or for deliberation in their political judgments.

The journalist has no title to usurp the functions of prophet, and, therefore, no attempt is made here to look into the future. The great dependence of newspaper properties upon advertisements may or may not subject them to a rude shock, or, as a result of a reorganisation of industrial conditions, to a gradual loss of revenue. In either case, no doubt, the contraction of their activities in the matter of the very expensive collection of news would be probable, since a growth in circulation cannot compensate for the shrinkage of advertisements. Our task has been to record the past of English journalism, and this, as we have endeavoured to show, has been at least in harmony with the general development in arts and science, and in the industrial, social and political conditions of the country.