Imágenes de páginas

burg Conference-there is not much to be said. The editor and one of the leader-writers have almost all the talking to themselves, and the latter gentleman receives orders to take the subject and 'make what he can of it.' The Trades' Union Commission is the subject of quite an angry debate between the two principal political economists of the party, one of whom is madly enamoured of Mr. Ruskin's ideas, whilst the other pins his faith to Mr. Mill. As to use the slang of the professionRuskin's theories 'won't wash,' the Trades' Union leader is given into the hands of Mr. Mill's disciple, whose face has grown red in the heat of the discussion. There only remains the case of the little boy who has got three months' hard labour for stealing a turnip, and before the debate upon this subject begins, our Bohemian, who has discreetly held his tongue during the discussion of the two previous topics, tells a story so ludicrous and appropriate, that even the political economists shake their sides with laughter, and the council with one consent devolve upon the story-teller the duty of scarifying Dogberry. The last business is to appoint some one to go down to the House of Commons in the evening to hear the debate, and, if necessary, to write upon it; and this having been done, the council breaks up.

Then the leader-writers commence their afternoon's labour, whilst those who have escaped writing for that day make their way westward to their clubs or homes. Some of the chosen stay in the office, and write there; others slip along to quiet chambers in Brick Court, and write as Pendennis or Warrington might have done, undisturbed, save by the whistling of some idle lad on the pavement beneath their windows. By five, or, at latest, by six o'clock, their task must be completed. 'The leader then is finished, I suppose?' says my reader. Not so, my friend. The leader, as yet, is but rough-hewn, and has still to be shaped by the divinity which presides over every modern journal. But first of all it has to be set in the bold clear type in which the finished article subsequently appears.

Then, when set, the 'reading' commences. First, it is read for mere errors of the press, all of which are corrected with scrupulous care. Then the 'revise,' as the second proof is called, is given to the chief reader, who must be a man of education and intelligence. He reads it for 'the sense.' Any grammatical blunders—and of such blunders there are not a few-are corrected; sometimes the careless writer has omitted a word in the middle of a sentence, or has left it otherwise imperfect, and all such defects have to be remedied; the classical

and historical allusions are carefully verified, for nothing looks worse than a blunder in one of these; and if there is any obscurity in any particular passage, it is marked in such a manner as to call the attention of the next reader to the doubtful


By eight o'clock, all this work has been done, and a final proof of the leader, printed on a great sheet of paper, which leaves a margin seven inches wide on either side of the type, is ready for the hands of the editor. Then he again comes upon. the scene, and with him a new character-the revising editor. These two, sitting opposite each other at the desk, set themselves down to three hours' hard work. The leaders are carefully read, compared with each other, and with previous articles on the same subjects, and altered and revised as the judgment of the editor may direct. Very frequently, this revision amounts almost to the re-writing of the article; and sometimes the original writer scarcely recognises a sentence of his own composition in it as it appears the next morning. Seldom, indeed, does it escape without some alteration, generally made at the very parts which the author of the article is most anxious to preserve intact. To a young writer, nothing is more annoying than this system of

revision; he revolts against it as the mothers of Egypt revolted against the slaughter of their firstborn. But no expressions of disgust or indignation have any effect upon the ruthless editor; and should the victim complain of the manner in which his productions are treated, he is most probably told that he has been paid for what he wrote, and that he has no longer any interest in or control over an article which has become the property of another. Indeed, it is hard to see how, under our present system of leader-writing, this revision could be avoided. If every writer signed his articles, the case would be different; but where all the articles in one journal are put forth as emanating from the same source, it is absolutely necessary to secure their consistency by a severe and rigorous system of revision and alteration. Whether the anonymous system is an advantage or not, is a question upon which I do not pretend to enter here. Of the extent of the alterations made by the editor and his colleague in the leader before it is allowed to go forth to the world, some idea may be gained from the fact, that the corrections in the type rendered necessary by these alterations cost the proprietors of one daily newspaper alone a thousand pounds a year!

On some of the morning papers the manner in


which the leaders are produced differs from that which I have described, and a much larger amount of independence is allowed to the individual leaderwriters. On one great journal, the daily council about the leaders is not attended by the leaderwriters at all. The editor and his assistant draw up between them a list of the subjects to be treated, and the sketch is sent out to the house of the trusted contributor to whom each particular theme has been allotted. The writers for this journal are required to leave notice at all times where they may be found; and it has happened to some of them, not seldom, to be roused at midnight, or still later, by a manager who has placed in their hands a telegram containing important news just brought to hand, on which a leader has been needed for the next issue of the paper. Some idea of the qualifications required by a leader-writer must be gained from this fact.

How many men are there who could thus sit down at a minute's notice, in the middle of the night, and write an article worthy of the subject and of the great journal to which I allude? On at least one other morning paper, the council is dispensed with altogether; the leader-writers communicate personally and separately with the editor, and their articles are seldom interfered with. In

« AnteriorContinuar »