Page images

lar, on account of its dry political economy | provincial newspaper must undertake, there of the Colonel Torrens school, nearly 3000 is nothing to compare with the distracting daily; the Standard, ultra-Tory, but never- toil and trouble which arises from the modern theless much higher on the list, having innovation of attempting to give what is very reached an average of 4300; the Sun, Whig- erroneously styled "a judicious summary of Radical, pluming itself on its late editions, all the interesting intelligence in each diswith full but inaccurate reports of parliamen- trict." The Colonial Secretary, snugly seated tary and other intelligence, little more than at his desk in Downing-street, where he must 2000; and last of all, the Radical True Sun, manage in the best possible manner the affairs which in spite of the host of clever writers of some forty or fifty various British settleengaged on it, had a circulation of only 1250 ments, in opposite quarters of the globe, has in 1837, the last year of its existence. The a hard enough task, no doubt, but it is not Courier, after many a desperate struggle to half so harassing as that of an editor who keep alive, expired in 1842, a warning to all tries to satisfy the insatiable thirst for news unprincipled journals of what their fate must of half a hundred constituencies, within the ultimately be. Under Daniel Stuart, who limited space of a single newspaper. In contrived to make it the ministerial organ Edinburgh or Glasgow, the task is comparaduring the war, it ranked among the first tively easy, because the surrounding country newspapers in point of circulation; higher, is not so thickly studded with towns and indeed, at one time, than even the Times of villages, all swarming with an active, intellithat day. In 1814, it was said to be worth gent population, and all alike requiring a full 12,000l. per annum, but it declined very and accurate register of whatever events may much soon after the war. Hazlitt described be deemed interesting in each locality. It is it in 1823 as "a paper of shifts and expe- in Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkdients, of bare assertions and thoughtless shire that the evil of which we speak is felt impudence, which denies facts on the word most severely. Take the Leeds Mercury, of a minister, and dogmatizes by authority." the Manchester Guardian, or the Manchester No one could regret the death of such a Examiner, for example: all first class papers, disreputable organ. At present there are of the largest size allowed by law, and all only four evening newspapers published in giving four-page supplements once a week. London, whose daily circulation is as fol- In spite of their immense size, there is not lows-Sun, 2660; Express, 2493; Globe, one of those journals which can give a faith1869; and Standard, 1571. The aggregate ful weekly record of all that is worthy of circulation of the evening press, instead of note in the forty or fifty towns and villages advancing with the population and intelli- by which they are surrounded, and through gence since 1837, has actually fallen from which those papers circulate. An attempt, 12,000 to 8599, or little more than one-half indeed, is made to give as many "Town of what it was forty years ago. The whole Council Meetings," "Board of Guardian of the evening newspapers put together do Proceedings," "Temperance Demonstrations, not circulate as many copies daily as are and "Meetings of Rate-payers,"—with a due contained in a single impression of the Man- mixture of change-ringings, friendly anniverchester Guardian or the Leeds Mercury. This saries, elections of churchwardens, elections would not be the case were the same pains of town councillors, elections of guardians, bestowed on the editing and sub-editing on offences, accidents, and crimes, -as can be the London evening papers as there is on the crammed, by rapid abridgment, into a cerprovincial journals we have named. Were tain number of columns. But after all has the stamp duty abolished, we should proba- been done in this way that the most skillful bly witness a very great improvement in the and industrial editor, aided by the most indeevening press, as it would then be worth fatigable sub-editor, can accomplish, or that while to publish a paper not much less than any reasonable newspaper reader in any of the Globe or Standard, containing a clever the smaller towns could possibly require, abridgment of all the news of the day, at there still remains a great number of equally twopence each, which, with a halfpenny for important events, which are necessarily left postage, would still leave it 50 per cent. below unnoticed altogether by the mammoth jourthe present exorbitant price of the evening nal, for sheer want of space, or given in a papers; a sufficient cause of itself for their form so much abridged as to render them of very limited circulation. little or no value. The people of Oldham are perhaps waiting with intense anxiety for a long and amusing account of the "Extraor

Among all the disagreeable and thankless duties which the editor of a widely-circulated

dinary Scene" at the last meeting of the | there is only one Tory journal circulating i board of poor-law guardians; or those of more than 4000 copies weekly, and only two Ashton are looking forward with equal interest besides it which can boast of a circulation to Saturday's paper, for a report of the ani- above 3000. On the other hand, there are mated debate in the town council on the pro- no less than eighteen Liberal newspapers posed increase of two policemen for that bo- circulating upwards of 3000 copies each, and rough. With the exception of the Illustrated of these there are nine with a circulation London News, which owes its enormous weekly above 5000 each, six with a circulation above sale of 66,673 copies chiefly to the profusion of 6000, three above 8000, two above 9000, i wood engravings with which it is embellished, and one circulating upwards of 11,000 copies the most widely circulated weekly papers weekly. If this comparison of the respective are all low priced. The News of the World, circulation of first-class Liberal and Conser156,274; Lloyd's Weekly News, 49,211; and vative newspapers may be taken as a fair the Weekly Times, 39,186 are all threepenny criterion of the comparative political intelli1 papers, while the older and far more celegence and activity of the two great parties, brated, but high-priced Weekly Dispatch, the facts we have stated are well worth the though well adapted to the popular taste, serious attention of statesmen. From that has fallen from 62,000 to 37,500; and Bell's comparison, it will be seen that the proporLife in London, another sixpenny paper, in tion of Liberal to Conservative papers of the spite of its universal popularity in bar-par- class mentioned is as six to one, while the lors and tap-rooms as "the highest sporting difference becomes still more striking if we' authority in the world," has fallen from take into account the small aggregate con30,000 to 24,721 since 1845. Among papers sumption of stamps among the Protectionists, of a higher class, we find that even the Spec- compared with the large number required by tator and Examiner, after having long stood the friends of progress. It appears, for at the head of the weekly press, have been example, that the number of stamps taken in gradually losing ground during the last few 1850 by two free-trade journals in Lancayears, under the combined influence of dear- shire-the Manchester Guardian and the ness and increased competition. At present Manchester Examiner-was equal to the the weekly circulation of the Spectator is whole of the stamps consumed by the entire. only 2932, not one third of what several pro- Conservative press of the following fifteen vincial journals can boast. The number of counties--Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Cambridge, stamps issued to the Examiner last year Cornwall, Cheshire, Devon, Dorset, Essex. gives a weekly average of 4389, a very great Herts, Kent, Leicester, Lincoln, Wilts, and decline from what it was six or eight years Warwick. Not less significant is the fact, ago; while the Leader-which in point of that, while nearly all the thirty-three Proboldness, talent, and heterodoxy, appears to tectionist papers in those fifteen counties Occupy pretty much the same advanced have either remained stationary, or decreased position among its contemporaries as the Ex-in circulation, during the last ten years of aminer did some forty years ago, under Leigh Hunt-stands midway between the two respectable journals we have named, having already attained a circulation of 3152. One very striking fact, ascertained from an examination of the stamp returns for the last fifteen years, is the very limited circulation of Conservative newspapers compared with that of papers which advocate commercial and political reform. Out of London

agitation for and against free-trade, the number of stamps taken by the free-trade newspapers of Manchester and other large towns has nearly doubled within that period. This broad fact, while it shows how strongly the current of public opinion is flowing in one direction, and how worthless the boast of a reaction against free trade, may well encourage ministers to proceed boldly with their proposed measure of parliamentary reform.

From Sharpe's Magazine.



NEW YEAR'S-DAY and the Benediction of the Waters provide the inhabitants of St. Petersburg with two great national festivals, in which all classes share in the pleasures and devotion of the sovereign. The first is an imperial fête, the second an imposing religious ceremony.

On New Year's-day, in virtue of an old and touching custom by which the Emperor and Empress of Russia are designated by their poorest subjects Father and Mother, these potentates at the commencement of the year receive their children as their own invited guests. Their family being too vast to invite by name, they adopt the simple but effacious plan of scattering about the streets of their capital twenty-five thousand cards of invitation indicative that they will be at home to such a number of their children. These cards bear no address, but they give admission to the bearers to the splendid saloons of the Winter Palace without the slightest distinction of rank or, wealth.

to see.

It was thus that the Emperor Alexander, according to custom, kept the first day of the year 1825, the last he was ever destined The rumor of the conspiracy that embittered the closing months of his life and reign, though it had reached his ears and troubled his repose, did not appear to him any reason for depriving his subjects of their annual visit to their sovereign. From these unknown guests the Russian Autocrat felt assured he had nothing to fear. With them he was not only popular but adored. He therefore directed the Master of the Police to order no alteration in the usual costume of the male part of the company, whom he was to admit in masks according to custom on these occasions. In the darkest annals of barbarism, despotic sovereigns dreaded and often found the dagger of the assassin in the hands of some member of their own family. Civilization, however limited, changes the objects of suspicion to the aristocracy, who

are always, under these unfortunate constitutions, of the military profession. Now the want of the counterpoise of the middle classes creates this secret but perpetual warfare between the absolute monarch and nobility— the nobility who in free countries are the natural bulwark of the throne. In Russia the Autocrat is never afraid of the multitude, with whom he holds a two-fold claim to their veneration, as supreme pontiff, or head of the Church, and Czar.

The cards of invitation, being transferable, are, as a matter of course, purchasable; and among his masked guests who were privileged to shake hands with Alexander, some cowardly assassin might take that opportunity to murder the sovereign; yet he, with a firm but touching reliance on God, ordered at seven o'clock on the New Year's evening, the gates of the Winter Palace to be thrown open as usual, to his motley company.

No extra precautions were taken by the police; the sentinels were on duty, according to custom, at the palace gates, but the Emperor was without any guards in the interior of the imperial residence, vast as the Tuileries. In the absence of all precaution or even regulations for the behavior of an undisciplined crowd, it was surprising what natural politeness effected. Veneration for the presence of the sovereign was alone sufficient to produce good breeding; there was no pushing, nor striving, nor clamor, and the entrance was made with as little noise as if gratitude for the favor accorded to the guests had induced each to give a precautionary admonition to his neighbor.

While the thronging thousands were gaining admission to his palace, the Emperor Alexander was seated by the Empress in the Hall of St. George in the midst of the imperial family, when the door was opened to the sound of music, for the saloons were filled with his visitors, and a grand coup d'œil of grandees, peasants, princesses, and grisettes

was discerned. At this moment the Em-¡ Niemen. This was the Emperor Napoleon, peror advanced and gave his hand to the his old host at Erfurth, who might momentEnglish, French, Spanish, and Austrian arily be expected to enter the hall, followed ambassadors, the representatives of their by six hundred thousand dancers. Alexseveral sovereigns. He then moved alone to ander gave his orders with great coolness, the door, that the guests might behold in chatting while he issued them with his aidtheir sovereign and host the father of his de-camps. He walked about, praised the people, It was a moment anarchy was said manner in which the saloons were lighted, to have dedicated to his assasination, and that which he declared was only second to the parricidal and regicidal act could have been beautiful moonlight, supped, and remained easily effected at such a juncture had it really till dawn. His gay manner and the serenity been in contemplation. Alexander was no of his countenance prevented the guests longer in appearance a melancholy and suffer- from even suspecting the nature of the coming invalid, he looked happy and smiling; and munication he had received, and the entrance if his smile was counterfeited, he wore the mask of the French into the city was the first inably and well. The instant the Autocrat timation the inhabitants had received of their appeared, the motley group made a forward approach. movement, and then a pecipitate retreat. The danger vanished with them. The Emperor regarded the retiring waves of this human sea with-imperturbable serenity, a remarkable feature in his character, a moral reaction, which a courageous mind can alone bestow, and which he had shown on several trying occasions. One of these was at a ball given by M. Caulincourt, Duke of Vicenza, the French Ambassador; the other was at a fête at Zakret, near Wilna.

The ball was at its height, when the ambassador was informed that the house was on fire; fearful that the news of the conflagration might occasion more ill-consequences than the fire itself, he posted an aide-de-camp at every door, and ordered his people to keep the misfortune a profound secret, after which he communicated the accident in a low voice to the Emperor, and assured him that no one should be permitted to withdraw till he and the imperial family were in perfect safety; he was going to see the fire extinguished, and he hoped the efforts made to get it under would be successful; adding, that even if a report should circulate in the saloons as to this startling fact, no one would credit it while they saw the Emperor and his family still there.

"Very well, then, I will remain," coolly remarked the Emperor; and when Caulincourt returned some time after to announce the extinction of the fire, he found the Russian Autocrat dancing a polonaise.

The guests of the ambassador heard on the morrow that their festivities had been kept over the mouth of a volcano.

At the fête held at Zakret not only the life but the empire of Alexander was at stake. In the middle of the dance he was apprised that the advanced guard of a guest he had forgotten to invite had passed the

He was in imminent peril in this Polish city, from which his great self-command delivered him. His retreat at early morning was made before the approach of an enemy he had hitherto found invincible. Very different might have been the result of Napoleon's campaign in Russia, if the inhabitants of Wilna had known during the fete of Zakret of his vicinity.

These incidents naturally occurred to the

guests of the Emperor Alexander, during this New Year's-day festival, when they beheld him approach alone to show himself to the multitude, amongst whom he had reason to believe many conspirators, or even assassins lurked. If such indeed were there, the calm serenity of his countenance disarmed them, and none dared raise an arm against the life he fearlessly trusted, if not to their loyalty at least to their honor.

Indeed the suffering and melancholy Emperor, the last time he received his people, seemed to have shaken off his lassitude and depression, and appeared full of life and energy, traversing with rapidity the immense saloons of the Winter Palace. He led off the sort of galoppe peculiar to the Russian Court, which, however, terminated about nine o'clock.

At ten, the illuminations of the Hermitage being finished, those persons who had cards for the spectacle went there. Twelve negroes, superbly arrayed in rich oriental costumes, kept the doors of the theatre, to admit or restrain the crowd, and examine the authenticity of the vouchers of the guests. Here the admission was not promiscuous, a certain number alone being allowed to be present at the banquet.

Upon entering the theatre, the spectators found themselves in a land of enchantmenta vast hall encircled with tubes of crystal,

At eleven a flourish of musical instruments announced the arrival of the Emperor, who entered with the Empress and the imperial family, the ambassadors, the ambassadresses, the officers of the household, and the ladies in waiting, who all took their places at the middle supper-table; two other tables were filled by six hundred guests, mostly composed of the first-class nobility. The Emperor alone remained standing, moving about the tables, conversing by turns with his numerous guests.

bent in every possible way, meeting at top | four paintings, crowned with a cross; to this in order to form the ceiling, united by silver pavilion access was given by a jetty forming threads of imperceptible fineness, behind the hermitage. The temporary edifice, on which hung 10,000 colored lamps, whose the morning of the ceremony, was to have its light, reflected and refracted by these tran- pavement of ice cut through in order to persparent columns, illuminated the gardens, mit the Patriarch to reach the water. The groves, flowers, cascades, and fountains, like cold was already twenty degrees below zero, an enchanted landscape, which seen across when at nine o'clock in the morning the whole this veil of light resembled the poetical population of St. Petersburg assembled themphantasm of a dream. These splendid illu selves on the frozen waters of the Neva, then minations cost twelve thousand roubles, and a solid mass of crystal. At half-past eleven lasted two months. the Empress and Grand-Duchesses took their places in the glass balcony of the Hermitage, and their appearance announced to the crowd that the Te Deum was concluded. The whole corps of the Imperial Guards, amounting to forty thousand men, marched to the sound of martial music and formed in line of battle on the river, from the hotel of the French embassy to the fortress. The palace gates opened as soon as this military evolution was effected, and the banners, sacred pictures, and the choristers of the chapel, appeared preceding the Patriarch and his clergy; then came the pages and the colors of the different regiments of guards, borne by their proper officers; then the Emperor, supported by the Grand-Dukes Nicho las and Michael, followed by the officers of his household, his aid-de-camps and generals. As soon as the Emperor reached the door of the pavilion, which was nearly filled with priests and banners, the Patriarch gave the signal, and the sweet solemn chant of more than a hundred voices rose to heaven, unaccompanied by music indeed, yet forming a divine harmony hardly to be surpassed on earth. During the prayer, which lasted [twenty minntes, the Emperor stood bareheaded, dressed in his uniform, without fur or any defence from the piercing cold, running more risk by this disregard to climate, than if he had faced the fire of a hundred pieces of artillery in the front of battle. The spectators, enveloped in fur mantles and caps, presented a complete contrast to the religious imprudence of their rash sovereign, who had been bald from his early youth.

Nothing could exceed the magnificent effect produced by the banquet, and the appearance of the court; the sovereign and his officers and nobility covered with gold and embroidery, the Empress and her ladies glittering with diamonds and splendid velvets, tissues and satins. No other fête in Europe could produce such a grand coup d'ail as the New Year's fête at the Hermitage. At the conclusion of the banquet the Court returned to the Saloon of St. George, where the music struck up a polonaise, which was led off by the Emperor. This dance was his farewell to his guests, for as soon as it was finished he withdrew. The departure of their sovereign gave pleasure to those loyal subjects who trembled for his personal safety; but the courageous and ever paternal confidence reposed in his subjects by Alexander, turned away from him every murderous weapon. No one could resolve to assassinate a kind father in the midst of his children, for as such the Emperor had received his numerous guests.

[ocr errors]

The second annual fête was of a religious character. "The Benediction of the Waters,' to which the recent disastrous calamity of the most terrible inundation on record in Russia, the preceding year, had given deeper solemnity. The preparations were made with an activity tempered by care, which denoted the national character to be essentially religious. Upon the Neva a great pavilion was erected of a circular form, pierced with eight openings, decorated by

As soon as the second Te Deum was concluded, the Patriarch took a silver cross from the hand of the younger chorister, and encircled by the kneeling crowd, plunged it through the opening made in the ice into the waters below. He then filled a vase up with the consecrated element, which he presented to the Emperor. After this ceremonial of blessing the waters, came the benediction of the standards, which were reverently inclined towards the Patriarch for that

« PreviousContinue »