The Morning Chronicle 1835-1844

In 1877 Charles Mackay published his two-volume “Forty Years’ Recollections of Life, Literature and Public Affairs from 1830 to 1870” and dedicated two chapters to The Morning Chronicle, one of the years from 1835 to 1844 and the other of the final years of the newspaper. Another related chapter details some of the newspaper work he undertook and discusses Angus B. Reach who was both a friend and fellow Morning Chronicle journalist and who penned the Manufacturing Districts letters during the “Labour and the Poor” investigation.

Forty Years’ Recollections, Charles Mackay, 1877.


This once-famous and powerful journal was established in 1769 by twenty gentlemen, got together for the purpose by William Woodfall—a reporter and printer. This was nineteen years before the Times came into existence; and the specialty of the new journal was to be the publication of the debates in Parliament. The reporter’s gallery was non-existent and undreamed of. Notes were not allowed to be taken in either house, and the publication of the debates was not only nominally but actually a breach of privilege, at which the Commons sometimes shut their eyes, and which at other times they angrily resented. Woodfall, from his retentive memory called Memory Woodfall, was able without taking a single note to report or rather to summarize with accuracy and tolerable fulness a long debate. But though established for reporting the proceedings of Parliament, the Chronicle could claim no monopoly in the practice, and speedily had to encounter the competition of rival papers whose reporters did not rely upon memory, but took notes, at first furtively, and afterwards more openly, and who did not depend upon a single reporter, however able and industrious, but on a succession of hands. Among the most noted of these early reporters was James Perry, a native of Aberdeen, who twenty years after the establishment of the Morning Chronicle which had not greatly prospered under Woodfall’s management, entered into partnership with another Scotsman named Gray, and in conjunction with him purchased the copyright of the paper for £150, part if not the whole of which was advanced by Bellamy, the keeper of the refreshment rooms in the House of Commons. Perry conducted the paper with great spirit and success; and made it what it remained for many years, not only the greatest of the Whig journals then in existence, but the leading journal of Great Britain. Perry died in 1821, and his family and representatives not finding in themselves any inclination or perhaps talent for conducting the enterprise as Perry had conducted it, disposed of the copyright to Mr. William Clement, proprietor of Bell’s Life in London, and the Observer. Under the management of this gentleman its decline was steady, and he disposed of the copyright in 1835 after fourteen years possession, for more than a hundred times as much as Messrs. Perry and Gray had given for it.

The publication of a small volume of juvenile poems, now happily out of print, and a translation, or rather paraphrase of Béranger’s poem, “Mon Habit,” procured me in that year through the intermediation of Mr. Robert McWilliam, one of the magistrates of Middlesex, the acquaintance of Mr. John Black, “the Dr. Black” of Cobbett’s Register, who was at that time and for several years subsequently, the working editor of the Chronicle. Mr. Black spoke kindly of my paraphrase, inserted it in the Chronicle, and gave me an order for five guineas for it, saying, “That is as much as Milton’s first payment for ‘Paradise Lost,’ and I dare say more than ever Béranger received for the original. It is given not so much as a payment, but as a retainer.” This was the pleasantest money I ever received before or since—pleasant yet to some extent fatal—for it tended to fasten my inexperienced feet in the thorny pathways of literature, and to confirm me in the confidence that the profession of literature was as profitable as it was noble. At that time the Chronicle, of which the circulation had sunk so low as 800 copies a day, had just been purchased from Mr. Clement by three gentlemen, who determined if possible to infuse new life into it and restore it to that high place in the political and literary world, which it had occupied in the brilliant days of Mr. Perry, when it was de jure by its talent, and de facto by its circulation, the leading journal of Great Britain. These gentlemen were Mr. John Easthope, a stockbroker, who had once been member of Parliament for St. Alban’s, and again aspired to legislative honours; Mr. Simon MacGillivray, a warm-hearted and impetuous Highlander, who had been a prosperous merchant in Mexico, and a leading spirit in the Canada and the Hudson’s Bay Companies; and Mr. James Duncan, a publisher in Paternoster-row, who had become celebrated and wealthy by the publication of the most accurate Hebrew text of the Old Testament. It has been said of many publishers that they never cared to read the books they sold; but it was said with more truth of Mr. Duncan that he was totally unable to read the books by which he made his money. These gentlemen, on entering into partnership, found John Black in possession of the editorial chair of the Chronicle, and they resolved, principally on the emphatic decision of Mr. MacGillivray, to whose heart the fact of a man’s Scottish birth was a sure passport, that Mr. Black should continue in it. For many years Mr. Black had performed single-handed the whole editorial work of the Chronicle, lightened now and then by the aid of Mr. Albany Fonblanque, of Mr. Serjeant Spankie, Mr. Frederick Dubois, and by that of any political or literary volunteer who might happen to turn up, and whose pen Black was always glad to welcome to the columns of his beloved journal, provided the work was up to the standard of his judgment. Black was a celebrity in his day, but he had been overburdened with work, and his style had become somewhat diffuse and rambling from the nightly necessity of filling up a certain quantity of space with political matter—space which he did not always occupy with the work of the pen, but with the proceeds of the scissors and the paste-pot, cemented by a running commentary. John Black was a thorough journalist. His whole soul was in his business. He was a keen politician, and an acute critic; but his mind had capacity for other things than politics and criticism, and ran over the whole gamut of literature and knowledge. He spoke with the strong border accent of his native town of Dunse in Berwickshire, and had a fund of homely humour, which he expressed in the homeliest and sometimes the coarsest words. He was an accomplished linguist, and particularly fond of Greek, and used to boast that he could read off at sight one of his own or anybody else’s leaders into that language. He would occasionally recite Greek passages ore rotundo, and affirm with great glee that the music of the language was so sonorous and so magnificent as to afford pleasure to the ear, even of one who could not understand a word of it. But he was not merely a learned man; he had a heart overflowing with kindness, and a warm sympathy with all literary talent. Nothing delighted him more than to find a young man of genius and good conduct whom he could help to ascend the steps of the difficult ladder of worldly fortune. At this period of his life he resided rent free with Mrs. Black on the upper floors of the Morning Chronicle office, at No. 322, Strand, now the printing-offices of the Weekly Times and the London Journal; and had besides a little cottage at Lewisham Hill, on the skirts of Blackheath to which he resorted every Friday night, or rather Saturday at two or three in the morning, when the material of the Saturday’s paper was in the printer’s hands. He used to walk the distance, whatever might be the season or the weather, and remain in rural idleness until the Sunday evening, when he walked up to town to resume his usual round at the mill-wheel of his business.

I dwell thus particularly upon him, not only because he was my first literary friend, but because he was the last of the London editors of the old school, and had made his way by sheer ability and force of character to the influential position which he held. He used to tell that he had walked with a few pence in his pocket all the way from Berwickshire to London to try his fortune in the great metropolis, and lived on the way upon the hospitality of farmers and farmer’s wives, to whom he had never hesitated to tell his story, and by whom he had been generally made welcome to a slice of bread and a bowl of milk or a night’s lodging when he needed it. Mr. Black’s abilities had been discovered early by Mr. Perry, by whom he was rapidly advanced to positions of importance on the paper.

Mr. Black, at an early period of our acquaintance, told me that he would do his utmost to procure me an engagement, and urged upon me the desirability of cultivating a good prose style to which he said the writing of verse was an admirable apprenticeship. He had not only the will, but he knew the way to serve me, and in less than six months I was made through his instrumentality assistant sub-editor. I had for my immediate superior Mr. George Hogarth, the son-in-law of Mr. George Thomson, widely known as the George Thomson to whom so many of the letters of Robert Burns were addressed, and as the editor of the famous Scottish songs, which had helped to render the name of Burns immortal. Mr. Hogarth was above all things a musician and a musical critic, a most excellent, amiable, and accomplished man; and I worked under him with much pleasure as long as he remained sub-editor.

The time at which Messrs. Easthope, MacGillivray and Duncan assumed the management of the Morning Chronicle was an important epoch in English history, and especially in that of the Whig and Liberal party. “It was a time” to use the eloquent words of Macaulay in a speech on the Reform Bill, which had been carried by a reluctant House of Lords, and consented to most unwillingly by a still more reluctant king, “when everything abroad and at home foreboded ruin to those who persisted in a hopeless struggle against the spirit of the age—a time when the crash of the proudest throne of the continent was still ringing in people’s ears; a time when the roof of the Palace of Holyrood afforded an ignominious shelter to the exiled heir of forty kings—when on every side ancient institutions were subverted and great societies dissolved, but when the heart of England was still sound,” and when king and peers—not a moment too soon—warned by the fate of Charles X. had prevented revolution by conceding reform. As Macaulay had adjured, the old unreformed Parliament had “taken counsel, not of prejudice—not of party spirit—not of the ignominious pride of a fatal consistency, but of history, of reason, of past ages and the signs of the living time, and pronounced in a manner worthy of the expectation with which the great Reform debates had been anticipated.” He had called upon both houses to “renew the youth of the state, to save property, divided against itself; to save the multitude, endangered by their own passions; to save the aristocracy, endangered by its own unpopular power; to save the greatest, and fairest, and most highly civilized community that ever existed, from calamities which might in a few days have swept away all the rich heritage of so many ages of wisdom and glory.” The appeal—only one of a hundred others—made by other statesmen and orators, with equal wisdom though not perhaps with equal eloquence, had not been made in vain, and Great Britain had just begun to enter upon a new and hitherto untried career of popular government. Though the Reform question had been settled for a time, other questions almost as vital were looming dark and large upon the political horizon. Under the leadership of Daniel O’Connell, whose unwelcome aid was essential to the ministerial existence of the Whig and Liberal party, that would gladly have dispensed with it had that been possible, Ireland was almost in a state of rebellion. The labouring classes of England and Scotland, under the pressure of bad trade, low wages, and high prices of bread, were, if not exactly rebellious, very much inclined to become so. Though the Roman Catholic Emancipation Bill had long since happily passed, the Roman Catholics of the South and West of Ireland, not content with political and religious equality with the Protestants of the North, thirsted for domination over them, and with a view of acquiring it clamoured for a repeal of the Union, while the masses of the British public, not satisfied with the Parliamentary Reform from which so much had been predicted, but which had as yet produced no improvement in their social condition, began to demand other and greater changes and to put forward pretensions which seemed, even to persons not easily frightened, to partake of revolution and to foreshadow a time when the three estates of the realm should be reduced to one—and that one, the uneducated and prejudiced multitude. The Corn Law question had become troublesome to the minds of easy-going men, though as yet it had made no great way with the people, who it might be supposed were most interested. Thomas Moore had written not long previously⁠—

What, still those two infernal questions,

That with our meals, our slumber mix!

That spoil our tempers and digestions,

Eternal Corn and Catholics!

Gods! were there ever two such bores!

Nothing else talked of night or morn,

Nothing in doors, or out of doors,

But endless Catholics and Corn!”

Lord Brougham and his coadjutors in the “Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge” had broken ground on the great question of the Education of the People, but had scarcely done more. His happy phrase that “the schoolmaster was abroad” was germinating, however, in the public mind, and many earnest spirits were awakening to the perception, that of all the tasks reserved for a near future to accomplish, that of education was the most important. The philanthropic legislation of later years for the abridgment of the hours of labour and for the protection from undue and exhaustive toil of women and children, had hardly gathered a parliamentary following. Few railroads had been constructed beyond the little line connecting Manchester and Liverpool, at the opening of which Mr. Huskisson had lost his life. The old semaphore still corresponded from the top of the Admiralty with the old semaphore at Greenwich, and that with a succession of other old semaphores all the way to Dover; the postage of a letter to Cornwall was tenpence, and to Edinburgh one and twopence, and to John o’Groat’s house half-a-crown, for Mr. Rowland Hill, even if he had imagined or planned the great Reform for which the country was afterwards to bless his name, had not yet brought it before the public. It was a transition period from the old England to the new; and when the slow civilization of our grandfathers was giving place to the far more active, prying, aggressive civilization of the present day—the day of steam, electricity, and engineering, and of material rather than of intellectual or moral progress.

The Chronicle, as the leading journal of the Whig and Liberal party, had abundance of work before it under its new proprietary, and set about its task with vigour as well as wisdom, to keep its party well together after its long banishment from power; and to educe out of the Reform Act the social benefits for the sake of which far-seeing minds had advocated a change which had been so long and obstinately resisted.

When I joined the Chronicle there was on its Parliamentary staff a young reporter named Charles Dickens, universally reputed to be the rapidest and most accurate short-hand writer in the Gallery; and who was known to a few, and among others to John Black, as an essayist and humorist of highly original genius. It was proposed in the summer of 1837, to establish an Evening as well as a Morning Chronicle, and George Hogarth was appointed to the editorship. The proprietors were desirous that the Evening Chronicle should not be a mere abridgment and re-issue of the Morning Chronicle, but that it should contain, in addition to the news of the afternoon, some original article or articles of a political or literary character, of a nature to attract the public attention. There were five other daily evening papers then in existence, three of them in the Whig and Liberal interest, namely, the Sun, the True Sun, and the Globe, and two in the Tory, namely, the Courier and the Standard. Bethinking themselves that a fourth Liberal paper ought to justify its existence, or in the literary slang of 1875, its “raison d’être,” by some specialty, the proprietors took counsel with John Black on the subject, and on his recommendation entered into negotiations with Mr. Dickens, who was then writing for the Monthly Magazine a series of articles signed “Boz,” to contribute under the same signature to the Evening Chronicle. Mr. Hogarth was charged with the conduct of the negotiation, and received from Mr. Dickens the following letter:⁠—

“13, Furnival’s Inn,

“Tuesday Evening, January 20th.

My dear Sir,

“As you have begged me to write an original sketch for the first number of the new evening paper, and as I trust to your kindness to refer my application to the proper quarter, should I be unreasonably or improperly trespassing upon you, I beg to ask whether it is probable that if I commenced a series of articles, written under some attractive title for the Evening Chronicle, its conductors would think I had any claim to some additional remuneration (of course of no great amount) for doing so?

“Let me beg of you not to misunderstand my meaning. Whatever the reply may be, I promised you an article, and shall supply it with the utmost readiness, and with an anxious desire to do my best, which I honestly assure you would be the feeling with which I should always receive any request coming personally from yourself. I merely wish to put it to the proprietors, first, whether a continuation of light papers in the style of my ‘Street Sketches’ would be considered of use to the new paper; and, secondly, if so, whether they do not think it fair and reasonable that, taking my share of the ordinary reporting business of the Chronicle besides, I should receive something for the papers beyond my ordinary salary as a reporter.

“Begging you to excuse my troubling you, and taking this opportunity of acknowledging the numerous kindnesses I have already received at your hands since I have had the pleasure of acting under you,

“I am, my dear Sir,

“Very sincerely yours,

Charles Dickens.

“George Hogarth, Esq.”

As I had repeatedly heard Mr. Black predict the future greatness of the writer, I begged the MS. of Mr. Hogarth, after he had answered it, and it has since remained in my possession. The modest request which it preferred was complied with, and in addition to his salary of five guineas per week, as Parliamentary reporter, the embryo novelist, who was destined to achieve the greatest popularity ever enjoyed by any author of modern time, except Sir Walter Scott, received an extra two guineas for his “Sketches.” These laid the firm foundations of his future fame. In the preface to “Sketches by Boz—illustrative of every-day life, and every-day people,” forming one of the volumes of “The Charles Dickens edition,” the author makes no allusion to the Evening Chronicle, but merely says, “The whole of these sketches were written and published, one by one, when I was a very young man. They were collected and republished while I was still a very young man, and sent into the world with all their imperfections (a good many) on their heads.”

At this time there was no daily paper in the British isles, published out of London: and the London dailies had neither the circulation, the wealth, nor the political power which they have since acquired. They were burdened with a stamp duty of fourpence per copy, were sold at sevenpence, and were not half their present size. The Times and Chronicle, the two great rivals, were what is called single papers—of four pages—and only published eight pages at rare intervals on great occasions, or when there was a pressure of advertisements. In addition to the stamp duty, there was an advertisement duty of three-and-sixpence for each advertisement, long or short; and an excise duty of three-halfpence per pound upon the fabric of the paper. Their circulation was small, though thought to be large at the time. I well remember the consternation excited in the office of the Morning Chronicle, of which the daily issue was about nine thousand, when it was proved on the authority of the Parliamentary returns, that the circulation of the Times was eleven thousand. This was the first intimation the public received that the Times had shot ahead of the Chronicle. But the proprietors of the Chronicle, though alarmed, were not disheartened; and after the first feeling of disappointment had subsided, set themselves to work to improve their journal in all its departments. Their chief care was to secure the excellence and extend the fulness of their reports of the proceedings in Parliament, in which for many years the Chronicle was far superior to its only rival, the Times. This was so well known to all the Parliamentary celebrities, and to the political public of the day, as to send them to the Chronicle in the first instance to read the reports of all great debates. The next care of the proprietors was to secure the services of competent writers for their editorial articles, and to relieve Mr. Black of three-fourths of his labour, leaving him, however, all the more time for the supervision of his colleagues, and the harmonisation of the labours of different minds into one consistent whole. Among the Chronicle writers at, and after this time, who had either obtained, or afterwards achieved, political renown, were Mr. Charles Buller, M.P., who became President of the Poor Law Board; Mr. W. J. Fox, M.P. for Oldham, the Unitarian preacher and lecturer, and one of the most eloquent speakers as well as writers of the day; Mr. Albany Fonblanque, editor of the Examiner, who wrote one leader per week for the Chronicle, for which, it was reported in the office he received what was considered the enormous fee of fifteen guineas; Mr. Eyre Evans Crowe, author of “A History of France;” Mr. James Wilson, M.P., a Scotsman, from Hawick, who wrote the City or Money Article, and afterwards filled a distinguished position in successive liberal administrations; Mr. Thomas Hodgskin, a well known political economist; and Mr. Thomas Gaspey, a voluminous novelist, and formerly editor of the Sunday Times. Among the parliamentary reporters were Mr. Thomas Beard, who always ran in harness with Mr. Dickens whenever there was special or extraordinary work to be done at great public meetings, or other political celebrations in the provinces; Mr. John Payne Collier, the well known antiquary and Shakspearean critic; Mr. William Hazlitt, son of the celebrated essayist and critic, and afterwards and now a Registrar in the Court of Bankruptcy; Mr. W. B. MacCabe, a novelist; and at a later period Mr. Alexander Mackay, author of the “Western World;” Mr. Angus B. Reach, and Mr. Shirley Brooks. Mr. Thackeray long held a floating connection with the Morning Chronicle, but was never on the staff. Among the occasional contributors of poetical jeux d’esprit were Thomas Moore and Thomas Campbell.

When the Chronicle and the Times were running a hard and a close race for the premiership of the press, and when it was difficult to decide which would win, an incident occurred, which, had the Chronicle taken advantage of, it might, perhaps, have given it the superiority. The Americans had been making claims to the whole of the great western territories on the Pacific, including what is now called British Columbia, Vancouver’s Island, and Oregon, and agitating the question in so bad a spirit as to render the relations between Great Britain and the United States unpleasant, if not threatening. In those days, when the electric telegraph was but a dream of science, the annual Message of the President to Congress was usually expected in London a few days before Christmas. The Oregon difficulty had unsettled public opinion; and the money market was sensitive, lest, unfortunately, the Americans should prove so unreasonable as to render a war inevitable. The President’s Message was consequently looked for with more than usual anxiety, and speculation was eager to know whether its tone would be peaceable or hostile. One night, or rather morning, about an hour and a half after midnight, when all the staff of the Chronicle, except Mr. Black and myself, had gone home to bed, an unexpected visitor appeared at the office. Mr. Black had been dissatisfied with a leader sent in by one of his colleagues, and finding it impossible to patch or alter it, he had sat down after midnight to write a new one, with directions that he should not be disturbed. It was my business to wait until Mr. Black had given up his last page of “copy,” and then to arrange with the printer if he had more matter than would fill the paper, what miscellaneous articles should be either abridged or omitted. I was asleep on a sofa, when I was suddenly aroused by the night porter, who announced that a gentleman, in a great hurry, who had just arrived from New York, desired to see the editor on urgent business. The gentleman declared that he had not even a minute to spare; and the porter thought, after Mr. Black’s strict injunctions to be left alone, that it was better to bring him to me. I directed that he should be shown up to my room, and invited him to take a chair, and explain his business. He would not sit down: he had no time; and proceeded to say that he had a copy of the New York Herald in his pocket, containing the President’s Message. The steamer from New York by which he was a passenger, had put into Queenstown to remain for four hours, before proceeding on her voyage. At that moment an ordinary steam-packet between the two ports was about to start for Liverpool; and without hesitation he had transferred his luggage from the larger to the smaller steamer, carefully secured the New York Herald in his pocket, and sped on his way. On arriving at Liverpool he had engaged a special train all to himself, for which he had paid eighty guineas; and here he was, with the President’s Message, at the service of the Morning Chronicle, for the sum of 500l. Fully alive to the importance of the offer, I made my way to Mr. Black, and told him the news. He became greatly excited. “I wish Mr. Easthope were here,” he said. “What am I to do? It is a large sum. Ask the gentleman to wait ten minutes while I think it over.” I returned to the traveller, and told him what Mr. Black had said. “I can’t wait ten minutes,” he replied. “If the Chronicle won’t do business with me I must do business somewhere else; but I like the politics of the Chronicle and give it the first offer. But as I am thirsty and weary, I will go to Short’s tavern next door, and wait five minutes while I have a glass of brandy and water. Not another minute can I spare.” I reported this to Mr. Black, who was in a state of much perturbation of spirit, and walked hurriedly up and down the room, speaking by fits and starts. “I am afraid that I shall be blamed by the proprietors if I agree to pay so large a sum. And after all, it would be well worth 500l. to have the Message exclusively! We’ll have it! No! I am afraid we cannot! It would be hard upon me to have my bargain repudiated! If MacGillivray were sole proprietor I would not hesitate. What shall I do?” “Risk it,” said I. And while we were talking the news-bearer came back, was shown into the room, and exhibited the New York Herald, containing ten or twelve long columns of the important document. At the last moment Mr. Black reluctantly refused the offer. The stranger folded up his paper, curtly said “Good night,” and vanished. He had not been gone two minutes when Mr. Black asked me to run after him and bring him back. I sprang down stairs as fast as I could, but the stranger had jumped into a cab, and was rattling away in the direction of Fleet Street. There was no other cab on the stand, or I would have followed him; but pursuit on foot was vain, so I returned to Mr. Black and announced the fact. “It is just as well,” he said, “and now let me finish my leader.”

That morning the President’s Message appeared in the Times, and procured for that journal an amount of commendation for its spirit and energy, which, at that critical moment was of the utmost value to its character, and which in like degree was damaging to its rival. At the usual four o’clock meeting of the Chronicle staff the subject was discussed; and though no blame was cast upon Mr. Black, so much regret was expressed at the victory of the Times, that he looked upon the remarks that were made as equivalent to a reproof for his mistake. “I tell you what it is, Mr. Easthope,” he said, “if I had been dealing with my own money and not yours I should not have hesitated a moment. Indeed I think I should have paid a thousand pounds rather than have allowed the Times to gain an advantage over the Chronicle. And it’s my opinion that every chief editor of a great London newspaper ought to be a part proprietor, so that he might act without hesitation in an emergency.” Here the subject dropped, and was not again revived in the councils of the Chronicle.

It is curious and not flattering to the public to reflect, that no newspaper ever yet published in London, or England, or Scotland, or anywhere else within the compass of our isles, has ever been able to pay its way by the profits of its circulation. If for any reason the traders of the country took it into their heads to spend no money upon advertising, there is not an existing paper that would be able to live. It is trade alone that supports political literature, that pays for all the news that arrives from every part of the world, that enables newspapers to keep reporters in the galleries of the Lords and Commons, and in the law courts, and to make known to civilization what is done and said in its centres, whether at home or abroad. Even when the old stamp duties and other taxes on knowledge, or the vehicles of knowledge, were in existence, and when newspapers were small, and conducted with less than half the spirit, and perhaps not a tithe of the expenditure of the present time, the profits on a sevenpenny paper, from which the State took fourpence, were insufficient, without the aid of the advertiser, to keep it in a state of solvency. Forty years ago advertising had not reached the large proportions which it has now assumed; but even at that period, there were some leviathans of trade who considered advertising as one of the fine arts, and who were the real patrons, and sometimes when they dared—the controllers or masters of the newspapers. Among these, George Robins, the famous auctioneer of Covent Garden, stood conspicuous as a person who was not to be offended without danger, and whose countenance was to be courted by every means, as Burns says of money, that were “justified by honour.” It was said that his weekly expenditure for advertisements of land, houses, and estates, of which he had the disposal, sometimes amounted to as much as 5000l. There are no such advertisements issued in our day as those which were drawn up by George Robins, and which sometimes filled a whole page of the Chronicle or Times, with flowery, high-flown, and wordily profuse descriptions of the various terrestrial paradises, bowers of bliss, and palatial mansions, which were to be knocked down to the highest bidder at the tap of his potent and busy hammer. Among other great advertisers of that and the preceding period were Robert Warren, the blacking-maker, of No. 30, Strand, the site of whose house and premises is now occupied by the court yard in front of the Charing Cross hotel, where stands the beautiful fac-simile of the old cross, erected by King Edward to the memory of Queen Eleanor. It was Warren who boasted that he kept a poet to write his rhymed advertisements, after the fashion of the floriline advertisements of the present day. Warren expended many thousands of pounds on making known the merits of his commodity; and doubtless got them all back again, with as many thousands more upon their backs in the shape of profits. He carried on his business for many years, and paid his poets so well, that, in the zenith of Lord Byron’s fame, in the second half of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, some malicious wag spread abroad a report that the author of Childe Harold himself did not disdain to write advertisements for Warren at a guinea a line, a report at which, it is said, Lord Byron was wise enough to laugh. Day and Martin were also great advertisers of a similar article, as was one Henry Hunt, a famous radical in the days when radicalism was more perilous to the radical than to the nation, and who was afterwards Member of Parliament for Preston. In our day we may look in vain for the advertisements of the blacking-makers. The columns of the newspaper, and even the bill-posters of the street, and the walls of the railway stations know them no more. Almost, if not the very last of this race of advertisers are Rowland and Son, who, forty years ago, rivalled George Robins and the blacking-makers in his lavish expenditure in making known to the admiring world the merits of his macassar oil, his kalydor, and his odonto. It is not the fashion for men in our day to anoint their hair with oil or grease. Possibly the cultivation of the beard is one of the reasons for the wholesome neglect of this ancient practice. The fashion is going out even among the ladies, who have discovered that nothing is better for the hair than pure cold water. Macassar, however, is not wholly a thing of the past, and has left its traces in the word “anti-macassar,” not yet admitted into the dictionaries; an article that supplies much elegant work to fingers that might otherwise be idle, and that preserves from the desecration of grease the arm-chairs and sofas of our drawing-rooms. The advertisers, by profession, no longer seek to polish our boots, or oil our heads, but in the persons of the proprietors of Holloway’s, Morrison’s, and Old Parr’s pills attack credulity on even a weaker side than its head or its heels—the most imaginative side of humanity—the stomach.

An early incident of my connection with the Morning Chronicle was the sudden and mysterious disappearance of John Black from his editorial chair; and the equally sudden and mysterious disappearance of Mr. Simon MacGillivray from the daily meetings of the editors and proprietors. There were many nods and whispers about it, and various unsuccessful attempts to curb the curiosity of those who were not in the secret. But it soon oozed out that John Black had gone to fight a duel with Mr. John Arthur Roebuck, member for Bath; and that Mr. MacGillivray was to act as his second. Mr. Black was the challenger, and the cause of offence was an attack by Mr. Roebuck in a series of pamphlets entitled, “Pamphlets for the People,” then in course of publication, on the whole body of editors, contributors, and reporters of the London press, especially those of the Morning Chronicle. In this attack he singled out Mr. Black by name; and Black’s impetuous friend MacGillivray decided that nothing was left for the honour of London journalism but that Black should be its champion, and challenge Mr. Roebuck. The duel took place on the 10th of November, 1835, near Christchurch, in Hampshire. Two shots were exchanged; neither combatant was injured, honour was declared to be satisfied, and Black and MacGillivray returned to London to MacGillivray’s rooms in Salisbury Street, Strand, where they were reported to have celebrated the event in copious libations of mountain dew, of the merits of which both of them were excellent judges.

Black had a fine Newfoundland dog, named Cato, a great favourite, who usually lay at his feet while he wrote his articles, accompanied him home in the early grey of the morning, and was always the companion of his long Saturday and Sunday walks in Kent and Surrey, when he forgot politics and literature, and every thing but his keen enjoyment of exercise, fresh air, and rural scenery. He was invited on one occasion to stay a week at Fonthill, the seat of Mr. Morrison, head of the house of Morrison, Dillon, and Co., of Fore Street, a rich merchant, then in Parliament, and a constant visitor to the Morning Chronicle office. Black, on accepting the invitation, stipulated that his dog Cato might be allowed to accompany him. His friend Mr. MacGillivray, always ready for a joke, or a tumbler of toddy, prevailed upon Black’s locum tenens in the editorial chair, to give his imprimatur to a paragraph under the head of “Fashionable Intelligence,” to the effect that “John Black, Esq., and ____ Cato, Esq., had gone on a visit to Mr. Morrison, of Fonthill.” The little joke passed unnoticed until the following Saturday, when the Age newspaper, very notorious in its day, happily long passed, and edited by Mr. John Molloy Westmacott, appeared with a furious article, denouncing the insult to the aristocracy of England, committed by that vile, radical journal, the Morning Chronicle. “Will it be believed,” said the indignant editor, “that ____ Cato, Esq., is no other than the Editor’s big black dog? The intention to insult not only the king, who is the fountain of honour, but the whole aristocracy, is palpable.” The logic of this diatribe was not at all palpable; but the attention directed to the paragraph was exceedingly unpleasant to Messrs. Easthope and Duncan, who called the acting editor to account for the joke, and even went so far as to threaten him with dismissal. Under these circumstances Mr. MacGillivray came to the rescue, avowed himself the originator of the jest, and took all the blame upon himself. The case was altered immediately. “That, which in the captain’s but a choleric word, is in the soldier rank blasphemy;” and the other co-partners came at once to the conclusion that no harm had been done after all, and that the editor of the Age was a blockhead for trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

Black was accustomed to say that every man was the better for the possession of a hobby; and that devotion to it gave a zest to life, which, unlike other condiments, grew in flavour the more earnestly it was indulged. His hobby was the collection of old books, of which he had a vast and heterogeneous store, amounting, it was said, to upwards of 50,000 volumes. In the later years of his connection with the Morning Chronicle, when he had apartments at the top of the great house in Salisbury Street, the last on the right-hand side, overlooking the river, now occupied as a private hotel, he had no space to arrange his library, and could not easily find a book when he wanted it. Sitting-rooms, bed-rooms, pantries, closets, staircases, passages, every available inch of space overflowed with books in all languages and on all subjects. In one department of literature his collection was unusually rich—that which second-hand booksellers, with a euphemism, call “Facetiæ”—but which a barrister, prosecuting a delinquent under Lord Campbell’s Act, might appropriately describe by a harsher and correcter word. Black had many thousands of such volumes in Italian, as many in French, and a few in English. The latter he did not greatly care about, as he alleged that their grossness was too gross, and was unaccompanied by any degree of wit, or even of humour, to atone for their indelicacy. It was his design to bequeath his whole library to his native town of Dunse, including the facetiæ—a design which he imparted to his particular friend and crony, Mr. John Ramsay MacCulloch, the well-known political economist and voluminous statistical writer—afterwards Comptroller of the Stationery Office. “Lord save us, man!” said MacCulloch, in broad Scotch—much broader than Black’s own; “if you do, it’s to be hoped the provost and bailies will make a bonfire of your books, or, at all events station a force of police constables at the library door to prevent anybody from going in. Such a collection is enough to poison the whole Border!”

“No, no!” said Black, “there’s not a soul in Dunse, or within twenty miles of it, that can read either French or Italian, and the facetiæ will do no harm. There may be a minister or two who can read French, and it’s a kind of literature that ministers like.”

“Eliminate the facetiæ,” replied MacCulloch, “and when you die they will ‘roup’ at auction for a good round sum, and excite a keen competition among the rich old reprobates of London. Give the good books to Dunse if you like, but keep your facetiæ for your executors!”

Black employed the leisure hours of several years in making a catalogue of his books, little thinking that Dunse would never possess any of them, the good, the bad, or the indifferent; that the auction which his friend MacCulloch foresaw in the dim distance would become necessary during his life-time; and that the beloved volumes which he had taken such pleasure in collecting would have to come to the hammer to provide him with bread in his old age. But Black was an easy philosopher; and if perchance he cared for the morrow, seldom extended his thoughts so far into futurity as the day after. It was fortunate for him that he did not.

During the first and second periods of the premiership of Lord Melbourne, it was Black’s duty to wait upon his lordship occasionally in Downing Street, to obtain information, or consult with him upon points of ministerial policy, to be advocated in the columns of the Chronicle. “Lord Melbourne has a very high opinion of Mr. Black,” said Mr. Joseph Parkes, who at that time acted as confidential parliamentary agent for the Whig party, “and wishes he would call upon him oftener than he does. He likes to talk to him, and thinks he possesses a greater fund of miscellaneous knowledge than any man he ever met. And with all his knowledge, said his lordship to me, he is as simple as a child. Lord Melbourne frightened him a little the other day, and was quite amused at his bewilderment. After a long and pleasant talk, chiefly ethnological, his lordship said to him somewhat abruptly, ‘Mr. Black, I think you forget who I am!’ ‘I hope not, my lord!’ replied Mr. Black, in a tone of alarm; ‘I trust I have not said or done anything to show that I am not fully aware of your position, or to make you think I am wanting in proper respect.’ ‘Mr. Black,’ said his lordship, solemnly, ‘you forget that I am the Prime Minister, and treat me in a manner that is, to say the least of it, somewhat uncommon.’ Mr. Black looked more puzzled than before as his lordship went on. ‘Yes, somewhat uncommon! Here am I, as I have said, in the position of Prime Minister, in confidential intercourse with you, and always glad to see you. I have patronage at my disposal, and you never so much as hint to me that you would like me to give you a place. And, Mr. Black,’ he added, ‘there is no man living to whom I would sooner give a place than yourself.’ ‘I thank you, my lord,’ said Mr. Black, with the utmost simplicity and bonhommie, ‘but I do not want a place. I am Editor of the Morning Chronicle, and like my work and the influence it gives me, and do not desire to change places with anybody in the world—not even with your lordship.’ ‘Mr. Black,’ said Lord Melbourne, shaking hands with him very heartily, ‘I envy you; and you’re the only man I ever did.’”

Mr. Parkes brought this story fresh from Lord Melbourne’s lips to the Chronicle office, from a dinner table at which he, Lord Melbourne, and Mr. Simon MacGillivray were guests. At a later period, when it became necessary that he should leave the Morning Chronicle, Mr. Black’s friends applied for the editorship of the London Gazette, as a fitting reward for his long, consistent, and arduous services to the party; but Lord Melbourne was not then in power, and the application was unsuccessful.

During the last two years of the reign of William IV. and the first five years of the reign of Queen Victoria, Mr. Joseph Parkes was a constant visitor to the editorial rooms of the Chronicle—a privileged interloper, who brought the latest social news, and sometimes got political news in exchange. Mr. Parkes had been an attorney in Birmingham, and, like Mr. Black, had the honour of being abused in “Cobbett’s Register,” where he was always designated as “Pis aller Parkes.” He had played a prominent part in the Reform Bill agitation in his native town, where he or his leader, Mr. Attwood, had proposed that the Birmingham people, to the number of 100,000, should march upon London, and demand the Reform in Parliament, which the Duke of Wellington’s Government had offensively refused. After the passing of the Reform Bill, Mr. Parkes settled in London as a solicitor, and was trusted by the leaders of the Whig and Reform party as a confidential agent, or what the Americans call “a wire puller,” doing the work that had to be done, and in which the hands of the real doers were not to be seen. Mr. Parkes, who was a stanch friend and admirer of Black, and who adhered to him loyally in bad fortune as well as in good, had, as Black said, the luck to have a hobby. His hobby was the mystery of the authorship of the “Letters of Junius,” about which he was never weary of talking. Upon the questio vexata of the identity of Junius with Sir Philip Francis, with the Earl of Chatham, with Colonel Barré, and others, he had collected a considerable library; omitting no book, or pamphlet, or even newspaper article, that touched upon this, to him, all-absorbing topic. He was also an industrious retailer of the jokes and bon mots of society, and was always ready to tell the last new story. At that time, 1837, many stories were current about the good-natured king, who had outlived the short and not very vehement popularity that greeted his accession to the throne. It was the custom to call him “Silly Billy,” and “Poor old Billy Barlow,” and to hold him up generally to a ridicule which he did not deserve. Two of these stories recur to my memory, as told by Mr. Parkes.

“Human nature,” said he, “is the same in kings as in other folk, and the king is a very good fellow, though not the wisest of men. I have just heard a story of him and his son, which tickled my fancy. One of the Fitzclarences was desperately in need of £100, and applied to his father for a gift or a loan of that sum. The king pleaded poverty; but the son’s poverty was still greater. Wearied by his importunity, and in his heart desiring to assist him, the king opened a secrétaire and took out a couple of rouleaux of sovereigns neatly done up in paper. Counting out fifty sovereigns from each, he spread them upon the table in piles of ten. He looked upon them lovingly, as well as sadly, for a little time, and then took them up quickly and put them back into the secrétaire. ‘Dang it!’ he said, ‘I can’t let you have the gold; I really can’t. I’ll give you a cheque instead.’ And he wrote out the cheque accordingly.”

The other story concerned a deputation of the baronets of Nova Scotia, who had waited upon his Majesty by appointment at Windsor Castle, to prefer some grievance relative to their order, and petition for redress. When the baronets arrived, the king was at breakfast alone, reading the Morning Chronicle. The page in waiting announced the baronets, who had come by appointment. The king looked up from the paper, took a sip of tea, glanced at the attendant, said nothing, and again began reading. After an interval of twenty minutes, that doubtless to the baronets appeared a very much longer time, the page, prompted perhaps by the deputation in the ante-room, ventured once again to remind his Majesty that the baronets were in attendance. Again the king looked up, poured out a cup of tea, and resumed his reading. Another interval, and more impatience on the part of the baronets. Next a third attempt on the part of the page, goaded to action, it is to be presumed, by the impatient dignitaries, to gain the king’s attention. “The baronets, please your Majesty, have come by appointment.” “I wish,” said the king quietly, and just lifting his eyes for a moment from the broad sheet, “that you would kick their *****;” using a phrase common among the sailors amid whom his Majesty’s youthful days had been passed, but which is never heard in polite society.

On the 24th of May, 1838, a band of musicians serenaded her Royal Highness, the Princess Victoria, under her windows in Kensington Palace, where she resided with her mother, the Duchess of Kent. The occasion was that of her nineteenth birthday, and the complimentary verses recited or sung on the occasion spoke of her as the budding rose and expectancy of the fair State. In less than a month afterwards the “budding rose” of the State expanded into the full flower of royalty. William IV., whose malady was reported to be hay fever, expired on the 20th of June, in the seventh year of his reign, and the sixth year of his unpopularity; and the young Princess ascended the throne amid universal good wishes for her personal happiness and the glory of her reign. The Liberal party were particularly elated; for the late king had been a very uncertain liberal, and when he adhered to a Liberal measure, he had, like the personification of Fear, in Collins’s Ode, only struck the string, “to back recoil, even at the sound himself had made.”

Forty Years’ Recollections, Charles Mackay, 1877.