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Confusion seize the caitiff wretch
Who'd drag old England down!
The thickness of his crown!
For whene'er, with the mien and the tones of an Aga
So mighty the power and dominion of Maga !
Yet not too constantly or long
Her thunderbolts she hurled,
To entertain the world.
She tinctured many a story;
The genius with the Tory.
For, whatever the virtues esteemed in a Saga,
In the hundred and sixty-four volumes of Maga.
Her inspiration is.
But, if the omen's true,
A glorious future too.
For, with more than the lightness and speed of the Quagga, She'll continue the race, set her rivals the pace,
And show them a clean pair of heels, will our Maga !
warble like a lintie. But whatna
paper's this beside Mr Tickler in his cyooral-ooral chair? Aha! I jaloused as muckle. Mony's the time I ha'e tell’t him that gin he behoved to read Leeterature he maun tak the consequences. Here's the Daily Mail to ye, sir. That'll keep ye awake, I'se warrant.
TICKLER. Many thanks, many thanks. Yes, I confess I like to read my Mail. From its very birth it has fascinated me strangely. It could boast of the only good first number that ever paper had, and it has kept up its character bravely. Not but what it has its failings like the rest of us. A little apt to be too emphatic, to "force the note,” as I believe they say nowadays; inclined at times to make mountains out of molehills; fond of assuming airs of self-importance, with no apparent justification. Its fiction is beneath contempt, and I long for a little more restraint and modesty, a little less cock-sureness and "actuality,” if actuality means the relict of a Baker Street bazaar-keeper and the tittletattle of flunkeys and waiting-women. These, let us hope, are the vices of youth which time may be trusted to cure.
SHEPHERD. An' a' this for a single bawbee ! Preserve us, but Maister Harmsworth maun be a fair extraord'nar chiel! Wha but him iver sell’t a threepenny magazine for threepence-ha'penny?
NORTH. Not so bad, James ; a palpable enough hit. But Southside has spoken well and truly. The Daily Mail is a distinct acquisition to our stock of newspapers; and to say that is to say much when you consider the variety and ability displayed in that composite body, the London daily press. There is the Standard, firm as of yore in the advocacy of sound principles,—a pillar of strength to the Conservative party, and conducted with enterprise and courage. Then there is the Morning Post, aroused from lethargy and slumber to activity and life; with a dash of the Churchill tradition in its politics, which discriminates it not unpleasantly from its younger rival. Once more, you have the Daily Telegraph, that marvellously faithful mirror of the Cockney mind; reflecting alike its excellences and defects, its hot and hasty impulses to fairplay as well as its shallow capacity for thought or principle. Not much pretence at leading the multitude, but a complacent willingness to follow.
SHEPHERD. An' the public hangin' a' the mair, I'se warrant, on the yeditor's ivery word!
NORTH. No doubt, James, no doubt. But interrupt me not. If you be so far left to yourself as to be a Liberal, behold the Daily News, the candid and respectable, though occasionally acrimonious, champion of that creed; while if Radical prepossessions bring you to the gates of Bedlam, you will find much to your
taste in the hysterics of the Daily Chronicle. How cunningly it tickles the palate of the ambitious half-educated, and gratifies their vanity by doses of sham culture! Plenty of manure, no doubt, as the old repartee has it, but a marked absence of cultivation. Some day—who knows?—the braying of its juvenile bigots will be moderated by the lessons of experience, and ability will no longer be obfuscated by fanaticism worthy of the Glasgow Gander.
SHEPHERD. It's plain to see, sir, that lapse o' time has no' muckle altered your opeenions ony w'y.
NORTH. Heaven forbid ! James, that it should. Changed circumstances, it may be, have rendered necessary changes in detail. But Church and Queen (God bless her!) is still the old man's motto, and his staff is still vigorous to rap the meddling fingers and bemuddled pates of all who would tamper with our glorious constitution. What reign ever equalled her Majesty's in duration and glory? Take my word for it, not one of us guesses how much of the prosperity which our country, under Providence, has enjoyed is due to the Queen's sound judgment, unfailing sagacity, and strict sense of duty. Long may she rule over a loyal, virtuous, and contented people! Come, a caulker in honour of the venerable toast.
[Al drink. TICKLER. In your enumeration of the London papers, sir, you were about, as I conjecture, to wind up with the greatest of all—to wit, the Times.
NORTH. Right, Tickler; and where shall we find a journal like it? How much of the old prestige still justly clings to it! I am told that an eminent statesman, recently arrived in these parts, disliked it heartily in his later years; which proves that there cannot have been much wrong with it.
The Unionist cause stands heavily in its debt, and, joking apart, it is no small distinction for a paper that its pages should be the recognised playground for the recreation of the most illustrious politicians in vacation.
SHEPHERD. Haw! haw! haw!
NORTH. How, James? You laugh?
SHEPHERD. The fac' is, Mr North, I couldna help thinkin' on yon chiel, the Peking correspondent. Man, he's a cliver lad that! I mind fine, hardly a year syne, wheniver a cawbinet meenister made a bit speech aboot hoo English diplomacy had gained a graun' victory in Chiny, an’ hoo the firrum an' unflinching awttitude
o' the Gover ment had left a fine open port for huz to draw, the verra neist mornin', sure's fate, comes a tallagram frae the fallow tellin' hoo thae Rooshians had laid a gyard, an' hoo the British ambawssador wis clean nonplushed. An' he was richt ivery time, mind ye—mair's the peety.
NORTH. Whisht, whisht, James ; let that flee stick to the wall. He who goes to Rome should not quarrel with the Pope; and Maga can afford to deal generously with the Government. Their hurdies are smarting yet, I'll be bound, from the castigations which she inflicted last year; and besides, they have done much in recent months to rehabilitate the good name of British diplomacy and statesmanship.
SHEPHERD. Ye was speakin', Mr North, aboot the Times an' the Unionist pairty ; but
ony paper has dune better wark for the great cause than the Scotsman ?
NORTH. Not I, assuredly. Where, indeed, would the right side have been in Scotland without its powerful assistance? And for well-selected, well-arranged, well-digested, and well-proportioned news, I know of no journal to match it, out of London-ay, or in London. I never feel that I have gotten the intelligence of the day in proper focus till I have cast my eye over the Cockburn Street sheet.
TICKLER. Times are changed indeed when Conservatives swear by the Scotsman. It is not so long since many an honest door was barred against it, not without cause; and I own that in moments of depression I sigh for the poor old Courant, miracle of ineptitude that it was. Ah! If only Mr John had seen his way to take it up! That would have been a memorable day for the Tory party. But even in its best period—and when “Blood-andbrains” conducted it there were moments of great brilliancy-it always somehow seemed to be a day late for the fair. The Scotsman, I am sorry to see, cleaves obstinately to some of its less happy traditions. Its controversial manner is the reverse of urbane, and it persists in cracking the dreary old jokes about ministers and Sabbatarians. Sandy Russel's wand was not meant for less mighty wizards to conjure with.
I have sometimes, indeed, thought that the difference in tone between the Scotsman and the Standard was no unfair index of the respective degrees of civilisation attained by Scotland and England. Yet, when all is said and done, those failings are not serious, and very little effort would cure them.
NORTH. To be sure it would; and remember to the paper's credit that it never condescends to those trivial personalities to which other journals—I speak not merely of gutter-rags—too frequently stoop.
I ken fine what ye're at, Mr North ; parteecl’ars o' my leddy Fowerstars' pairty, whaur the wine was "undeneeable," an whaur the pawms cost as muckle siller's wad pit a West Indian colony, safe an' soun', upon its legs. Short wark wad I mak' o' thae infernal sugar bounties.
But the maania for publeecity is somethin' awfu', aneuch to turn a body's stamack. Leddy Fiddle - Faddle (set her up !) was obsairved last Monanday shopin' in Sloan Street, dentily attired in a smairt tock an'an eelegant winsey creation o’ Yoojeeny's; or Lord
Tom Noddy was perceived takin' a daun'er roond the Pawrk, faultlessly got up, as us’al; or Mistress High Flyer's bal masky, whilk included twa three Hebrew money - lenders an' a dizzen company-promoters at the verra least, was distinguished by a wise exclusiveness." An' the warst o't is, that Leddy Fiddle-Faddle, an' Lord Tom, an' Mistress High Flyer wad sit them doon on their hunkers an'mak a fine humdudgeon, an' mebbe even skirl for sheer vexation, gin their names wisna prented in the papers; ay, an' they feed, an' pamper, an' wheedle, an' coax, an' do the ceevil to the pawrasites wha yearn a leevlihood-puir misguidit deevils—by writin' sic like trash. But gin a wheen lords an’ leddies, no' preceesely o’ the first fawshion, think nae shame to beg an' Heech for adverteesements o' the sort, what say ye, Mr North, to the authors wha suld ken a hantle better? Wae's me, wae's me for the dignity o' leeterature! It's pawragraphs here, an’ pawragraphs there; whiles a bit interview, an' whiles a bit denner; wi' oor gude freen' Mr Wamblewame, the “guest o' the evenin',” an' hoo he has brocht the true flevvour o'the shambles to mony a twitching nostril; or the health o' Miss Claw-the-midden, gentlemen, an' may she lang be sparit to probb the beilin' sores o' humanity to the verra roots.
Yet we must suppose that there is a public eager to hear of such matters, or else they would never be dished up so regularly as they
A queer beast the public, as Mr John used to say; and who can tell what it will fancy for its next meal? Why, a daily paper is said to have added fifty thousand to its circulation, by what?
TICKLER. A set of papers by Mr Kipling, sir?
SHEPHERD. An exposhy o' an obvious impostor?
NORTH Wrong, gentlemen, though your guesses were ingenious. No; by taking a vote of its Radical readers on the Opposition leadership and the Opposition programme.
SHEPHERD. What's this they ca't again? I ken it's an unco kittle word to pronounce.