A Literary Bloomer

Time was when the independent borough of Swillingford supported two newspapers, or rather two editors, the editor of the Swillingford Patriot, and the editor of the Swillingford Guide to Glory; but those were stirring days, when politics ran high and votes and corn commanded good prices. The papers were never very prosperous concerns, as may be supposed when we say that the circulation of the former at its best time was barely seven hundred, while that of the latter never exceeded a thousand.

They were both started at the reform times, when the reduction of the stamp-duty brought so many aspiring candidates for literary fame into the field, and for a time they were conducted with all the bitter hostility that a contracted neighbourhood, and a constant crossing by the editors of each other’s path, could engender. The competition, too, for advertisements, was keen, and the editors vere continually taunting each other with taking them for the duty alone. Æneas M’Quirter was the editor of the Patriot, and Felix Grimes that of the Guide to Glory.

M’Quirter, we need hardly say, was a Scotchman -- a big, broad-shouldered Sawney -- formidable in ‘slacks,’ as he called his trousers, and terrific in kilts; while Grimes was a native of Swillingford, an exschoolmaster and parish clerk, and now an auctioneer, a hatter, a dyer and bleacher, a paper-hanger, to which the wits said when he set up his paper, he added the trade of ‘stainer.’

At first the rival editors carried on a ‘war to the knife’ sort of contest with one another, each denouncing his adversary in terms of the most unmeasured severity. In this they were warmly supported by a select knot of admirers, to whom they read their weekly effusions at their respective ‘houses of call’ the evening before publication. Gradually the fire of bitterness began to pale, and the excitement of friends to die out; M’Quirter presently put forth a signal of distress. To accommodate ‘a large and influential number of its subscribers and patrons,’ he determined to publish on a Tuesday instead of on a Saturday as heretofore, whereupon Mr Grimes, who had never been able to fill a single sheet properly, now doubled his paper, lowered his charge for advertisements, and hinted at his intention of publishing an occasional supplement.

However exciting it may be for a time, parties soon tire of carrying on a losing game for the mere sake of abusing each other, and Æneas M’Quirter not being behind the generality of his countrymen in ‘canniness’ and shrewdness of intellect, came to the conclusion that it was no use doing so in this case, especially as the few remaining friends who still applauded, would be very sorry to subscribe anything towards his losses. He therefore very quietly negotiated the sale of his paper to the rival editor, and having concluded a satisfactory bargain, he placed the bulk of his property in the poke of his plaid, and walked out of Swillingford just as if bent on taking the air, leaving Mr Grimes in undisputed possession of both papers, who forthwith commenced leading both Whig and Tory mind, the one on the Tuesday, the other on the Saturday.

The pot and pipe companions of course saw how things were, but the majority of the readers living in the country, just continued to pin their faith to the printed declarations of their oracles, while Grimes kept up the delusion of sincerity by every now and then fulminating a tremendous denunciation against his trimming vacillating, inconsistent opponent on the Tuesday, and then retaliating with equal vigour upon himself on the Saturday. He wrote his own ‘leaders,’ both Whig and Tory, the arguments of one side pointing out answers for the other. Sometimes he led the way for a triumphant refutal, while the general tone of the articles was quite of the ‘upset a ministry’ style. Indeed, Grimes strutted and swaggered as if the fate of the nation rested with him.

The papers themselves were not very flourishing-looking concerns, the wide-spread paragraphs, the staring type, the catching advertisements, forming a curious contrast to the close packing of The Times. The ‘Gutta Percha Company,’ ‘Locock’s Female Pills,’ ‘Keating’s Cough Lozenges,’ and the ‘Triumphs of Medicine,’ all with staring woodcuts and royal arms, occupied conspicuous places in every paper. A new advertisement was a novelty. However, the two papers answered a great deal better than either did singly, and any lack of matter was easily supplied from the magazines and new books. In this department, indeed, in the department of elegant light literature generally, Mr Grimes was ably assisted by his eldest daughter, Lucy -- a young lady of a certain age -- say liberal thirty -- an ardent Bloomer -- with a considerable

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