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

§ 6. Jerdan

One consequence of the increased mechanical rapidity of journalism in all its branches is the gradual disappearance, not of Bohemianism, but of alcoholism, among journalists. It is impossible to imagine the occurrence, at the end of the century, of an incident like that detailed in James Grant’s Newspaper Press, when the one reporter left on duty by his colleagues in the house of commons fabricated, for the benefit of an Irish colleague, a speech by Wilberforce, eulogising the virtues of the potato, with the result that the speech appeared in all the London newspapers except The Morning Chronicle, on which the practical joker himself was employed. Nor would it be possible for a famous editor to be intoxicated night after night, like the editor of The Aurora, depicted in William Jerdan’s autobiography. Jerdan was a man of considerable pretensions to literature, and, in 1817, produced The Literary Gazette, the earliest weekly venture of the kind; for, though The Examiner made a feature of dramatic, and, to some extent, of literary, criticism, its main intention was political. Newspaper men have become as reputable and trustworthy as any workers in the nation. Proprietors and editors demand from their staffs unvarying fitness for duty; a Coleridge, working only when in the humour, could have little chance of employment. Nor would a brilliant but irregular Maginn (Thackeray’s captain Shandon) be likely to edit a newspaper “written by gentlemen for gentlemen,” or even one written, as sometimes seems to happen, by the ignorant for the ignorant. Journalism, moreover, has been yoked with the requirement of special knowledge of science, the arts and literature. Journalism, in short, passed through a revolution in the nineteenth century.

The business of providing the public with news has always been precarious; more so in London than in the provinces, though, even in the latter, there are many instances in which newspapers have sprung up, made a reputation and maintained it during many years, bringing wealth to their proprietors, and providing professional writers with what appeared to be permanent means of livelihood, and have then been overtaken by competitors, and, eventually, been extinguished. Still, there are, in different parts of the country, many which have run their course through the nineteenth century, and others which, though with altered titles, can show a similar continuity. In London, there are only three daily journals able to make such a boast. The Morning Post has had a continuous history since 1772; The Times was started by the first John Walter in 1785, as The Daily Universal Register, a title which, on 1 January, 1788, gave place to The Times, and The Morning Advertiser was founded in 1794.