Page images
PDF
EPUB

news.

[ocr errors]

Vienna, Gallenga in various capitals, Wingrove Cooke in China, did such service as could be done in days when competition had not yet forced the demand for foreign

A new era was to dawn with the appearance of 'the incomparable Blowitz,' in or about 1872. This little great man, with his round body, round face, and weep

ov ing' whiskers, was the oddest mixture of genius and vanity, of quick political insight and a manner which at first made it hard for statesmen to take him seriously, that has ever adorned the office of a newspaper. Born in Bohemia in 1825, of a family of landed gentry and, as his Memoirs' emphatically state, not a Jew, he found himself at twenty years old a poor man, an agent having made away with the family property. He travelled, picked up several languages, got to know French statesmen such as Thiers and de Falloux, obtained appointments in the Colleges of Angers and Marseilles, and, in the last days of the Empire, by a timely revelation caused the powerful M. de Lesseps to lose his election for the last-named city. He had to take refuge from official anger in a country village, from which, through his knowledge of Germany, he was able to send to M. Thiers abundant information as to Prussian preparations for war. The war came, the Empire fell, and at the worst moment the Bohemian De Blowitz became a naturalised French citizen. As yet he had done no journalism, and it was an accident that first led him that way-the accident being that when the Commune seized Marseilles, he, Blowitz, contrived by cleverly manipulating the telegraph wires, to get into direct communication with M. Thiers at Versailles. Thiers know him and believed his story. Two days later the National troops entered Marseilles and crushed the Commune, and Blowitz was sent, by the General in command, to report to the National Government. He did so, when the Paris fighting was just beginning, and a few days later his usual luck enabled him to be the first to announce to Thiers that the white flag was waving over the walls, and that the troops were entering Paris.

Happily for a vast public of readers, the talk of rewarding Blowitz with a Consulship came to nothing. At the house of a friend he met that man of wayward genius, Laurence Oliphant, at that time assistant to

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Mr Hardman, the Paris Correspondent of the Times.' Hardman was often absent, and one man could not deal at that crisis with both Paris and Versailles ; so Blowitz was invited to assist Oliphant, as he proceeded to do. He instantly made his mark, reporting accurately what Thiers told him in conversation and what he saw under the special facilities granted him by the Government. Next year he had the opportunity of making the first of those great coups of memory and enterprise for which in after years he was famous. Delane came to Paris, made the acquaintance of his new

subordinate, and went with him to the Versailles Assembly, where Thiers was, to make a great speech. The speech occupied the whole sitting, and as the pair returned to Paris, Delane, vexed at the slow publication of the official reports, exclaimed,

If we could have given the speech from end to end in to-morrow's paper, what a glorious thing it would have been !' Then he left for London, and Blowitz, 'following an old habit, sat down, shut his eyes, called up the scene, and wrote down the speech from memory almost word for word. The telegraph served him well, and when Delane next morning opened his Times,' he found two and a half columns Hilled with the report of the speech which he had heard twenty hours before in the Assembly at Versailles. Of course this established the new Correspondent's position, and soon, after both Hardman and Oliphant had withdrawn, he was definitely appointed chief Paris Correspondent.

Blowitz remained as Paris Correspondent of the "Times' for many years, during which he undoubtedly gave to the position of a Correspondent an importance which it had never achieved before. He has been justly described as the inventor of the Interview,' so freely used and abused in these present days, and his work of this kind differed from modern cheap imitations in that his published conversations were with important people on important subjects. Of his achievements in other directions two are among the classics of journalism-his article on the French Scare' on May 4, 1875, and his despatch of the full verbatim text of the Berlin Treaty, so that the Times' could publish it several hours before it was known to the people of Berlin. The story of this. last performance can be read at length in the 'Memoirs';

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

6

6

[ocr errors]

it was a wonderful instance of energy, contrivance, and mnemonic ability, but, except as a feather in the cap of the Times,' not of much importance, since anyhow the world would have known all about the Treaty a day or two later. It was quite otherwise with the article exposing the intrigues of Moltke and the Prussian military party in 1875. Even if the author and the Editor could not claim that the article had persuaded the Emperor Alexander to interfere decisively, it certainly roused England and all Europe to the appalling danger which they had escaped, and helped to postpone the European war for forty years. It revealed the fact that Moltke had persuaded the old Emperor William that France was recovering too quickly from the disasters of 1870, and that it was to Germany's interest to crush her before it was too late; and also the fact that Bismarck was no party to the scheme, but powerless in the face of the army. It was the Chancellor's secret information,

, conveyed indirectly through the French Ambassador at Berlin, that reached the Duc Decazes, at that time Foreign Minister in Marshal McMabon's Government, and that he conveyed to Blowitz in the persuasion that the publication of the nefarious scheme in the Times -the world's most influential organ of neutral opinion -would be the surest way to defeat it. The story of the publication is interesting also as an illustration of Delane's character as Editor. Keen as he was for news, and important news, he knew the heavy responsibility he would incur by publishing such an article as this unless supported by absolutely authentic evidence. Blowitz went to the Duc Decazes, showed him the Editor's letter, and, pledging himself never to reveal the incident, obtained the evidence required. It was a written despatch from the Vicomte de Gontaut-Biron, French Ambassador in Berlin, recounting a conversation he had just had with Von Radowitz, the German Foreign Secretary, which revealed the whole plot. This was simple, relentless, and thorough; it meant the extinction of France as a Great Power, the imposition of a crushing indemnity, and the military occupation of her great towns. People would hardly believe it then, but we of the present day know that it exactly anticipated the designs of Germany in 1914.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

1870 his right-hand

6

may

here be said about Delane's allies and assistants within the office and outside. From 1845. to

man and assistant-editor was his brother-in-law, G. W. Dasent, who had spent some years in Stockholm as Private Secretary to the British Minister, and had made himself a Scandinavian scholar, as many excellent books afterwards showed. He remained with Delane till Mr Gladstone, in 1870, made him a Civil Service Commissioner and a knight. The business side of the paper was, till 1874, in the hands of Mowbray Morris, to whom under the old system fell a very anomalous duty, that of conducting all relations with the Foreign Correspondents. But Morris was a widely accomplished person, a scholar and a hunting man, and also at a later date, like Dagent, a brother-in-law of Delane; so that there were those who maliciously said that the 'Times' ought to change its name to the 'Family Herald.' When after some thirty years' service Morris resigned and died, his place was taken by John Cameron Macdonald, who had worked for the paper şince Crimean days, and who carried on the tradition for ten years

But these Managers, of course, though their work kept the machine going, had little direct influence on the writers. These, long before Delane's days, had included many men of mark, and as the paper grew in size and influence the number of them went on increasing. From the long list given in Delane's 'Life' we may here select a few. During the American Civil War, William Vernon Harcourt-afterwards the celebrated Liberal statesman-had published letters on International Law under the signature which he made famous of Historicus,' and which he used later when writing on all sorts of political subjects. Other occasional writers before 1870 were Charles Greville, Crabb Robinson, Abraham Hayward (most authoritative of 'clubmen'), Kinglake, Matthew Higgins (*Jacob Omnium”), Thackeray himself, Dean Blakesley, Roundell Palmer, and Gold win Smith. With Brougham, who had been a dangerous and difficult ally of Barnes, Delane was fortunate enough to have little to do, though the ex-Chancellor lived to the age of ninety, dying in 1868. Of regularly appointed Correspondents, it is interesting to find that Mark Pattison served at Berlin in 1858, while the

[graphic]

after Delane disappeared.

Vol. 239.–No. 474.

G

6

a

Hungarian General Eber, who began to work in 1854, was afterwards for many years the influential Times correspondent at Vienna, Athens, and Turin. Antonio Gallenga, the Italian, did invaluable work from 1859 to 1877, writing with equal success on Italy, on the Spanish Revolution of 1868, and on the Eastern Question nine years later. Louis Jennings, afterwards well known as the Editor of the Croker Papers,' worked for many years on the Times, both as Correspondent in India and the United States and as a miscellaneous writer at home. But it was, of course, in his staff of leader writers that Delane was most interested. A Correspondent may say, within limits, pretty much what he likes, but the writer of a leading article speaks for the paper, and the Editor must bear the responsibility for what he says. Hence Delane had to be careful whom he chose, and fortune for the most part favoured him. Dasent, Woodham of Cambridge, Thomas Mozley, A. A. Knox (afterwards a well-known police magistrate), Henry Reeve, and Robert Lowe were the chief members of his staff in early years; a strong team, which for the most part kept step beautifully and took the coach along safely, and at the regulation speed. Lowe was the most brilliant of these men, but neither his Editor nor his colleagues seem to have thought him capable of what he achieved in Parliament in 1865-6-of delivering a tremendous attack upon democracy, of collecting the discontented Whigs in a Cave of Adullam, and of breaking up

Gladstone's Government. With Henry Reeve, Foreign Adviser' from 1840 to 1855, neither Delane nor Dasent was ever on comfortable terms. The future editor of the 'Edinburgh' was both pompous and quarrelsome. There was no room in the Times' office for both him and Delane, and the Editor was not sorry when, in 1855, Reeve left the paper. .

Delane began to break down in 1875, and after two more years at work (often hard and anxious, for it was the time of the Near-Eastern crisis) he retired in the autumn of 1877, having just reached the age of sixty. Two years later he died.

In appointing his successor, Mr Walter did not go outside the existing staff; his principle being that a chief who knew the traditions of the office was more likely to

« PreviousContinue »