ENGLISH INFORMATION OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS. T HE very great success which
English journals have achieved in working the telegraph has, for the English community, one serious drawback. We fully recognise the energy and liberality which the Daily Papers are displaying in procuring early news, and can understand that the managers of the Times are proud of their broad page of telegrams, in which the events of the world are recorded daily ; and that the owners of the Standard feel that a column and a half of news only forty- eight hours old from the deep interior of the Suleiman is a victory for England, as well as for themselves. A verbal photograph of Monday's scenes in the Khost Valley issued in London on Wednesday ! What has become of time ? The transmission of such a narrative, from such a spot, in such a time, was really a marvellous feat,—one which makes us doubt whether, after all, Central Asia can be the remote and secluded region it appears, even to Anglo-Indians. But the public pays a large price for triumphs like these. Of all great communities that have ever existed, the English people, including the ruling class, know perhaps least of foreign affairs. They read very little, they listen to few foreigners, and they see no foreign newspapers. They are entirely dependent upon their own daily papers, and those papers are shrinking from their old business of supplying foreign information. They only supply foreign news. Large as the means of their conductors are, and good as their organisation is, they cannot afford to give both telegraphic bulletins by the page, and explanatory letters too ; and the letters are rapidly dying out. The newspaper manager no longer strives for his old ideal,—a good, thoughtful,tri-weekly letter from every important capital, with a history of affairs, and even of opinions, as careful as that compiled by an Envoy, and accompanied by illustrative documents and reports of speeches. He seeks for excessively condensed reports of events only, and while the incidents of the world are recorded almost as they occur, the history of the world remains unwritten and un- known. There are no correspondents left like Mr. Finlay, in Greece ; or the Times' old agent in Naples, Mr. Wreford, the quiet man who faced a despotic Government, and had no small share in its overthrow ; or the Daily News' correspondent during the American Civil War ; or the " Genevese Traveller ;" or Mrs. Adolphus Trollope, who kept up in England such an abiding interest in Florence ; or the Berlin correspondent of the Times, selections from whose contributions make up large and very valuable books. The same men may be employed, but they are no longer doing the same work. The continuous stream of narrative, explanation, and com- ment, which kept Englishmen who attended to Continental poli- tics as well posted up in the affairs of the country they were watching as local journalists, has stopped, and there is nothing to replace it. There is no country in the world whose history is fully reflected in a London daily journal, nor one, with the partial exception of France, in which it is any longer possible, from the information afforded in any English newspaper, to follow the movement of opinion. Londoners hear of Prince Bismarck's reactionary proposals, but not of the reasons by which he justifies them—his long, explanatory letter on Protectionism was never even published—still less of the sentiments they excite in Germany. What is the Liberal party there thinking, and what is the explanation of its ap- parent prostration at the feet of the Reactionaries ? So little is told us of Austria, that Englishmen imagine that great Empire to he mainly interested in the state of Bosnian roads ; and the efforts of Count Apponyi's Secretaries to find a formula for annexation hypocritical enough to be quoted by a Turkish Pasha to a Turkish mob, as proof that the Sultan still reigns in provinces irrevocably ceded to the Hapsburgs. Italian Ministries rise and fall, and there is scarcely more explanation of the reasons than of the changes in the Divan at Constantinople, where this country is supposed to be conducting a grand struggle, but whence we hear nothing, except the fluctuations of the cainte's and tiresome details of Ambassadors' daily occupations and dinners. If Sir Henry Layard never dined at all, what would that matter, ex- cept to Sir Henry Layard ? There has not even been a single in- telligible account of the present condition, strength, and temper of the new Ottoman Army now gathered in Roumelia and
Constantinople, or one solitary paragraph professing to give the official explanation of the state of the Ottoman Treasury. From Cairo we hear occasionally, when speculators tremble for Egyptian bonds—if Shere All had owed the Jews money, he would have been described as the greatest of Princes, daily and nightly intent on " regenerating " Central Asia—but St. Petersburg sends information only occasionally, and then mainly about riots. Russia would be as Lapland to Englishmen, but for bulletins about Kaufmann and the doings of students of hare-brained opinions. Not one correspondent has thought fit to send an intelligible analysis of the last Russian budget, issued this week, with figures translated into English, and explanations as to the fluctuations in the purchasing
value of the rouble. Scandinavia has dropped out of the map, except when some royal lad or lass is married, although a struggle is proceeding in Denmark which would interest every man who speaks English. The affairs of Holland, a country alive with "questions," and with political, religious, and literary disputes, are unknown and unnoticed here, unless the succession is threatened, or unless the Dutch levies make some failure in Sumatra ; while of Switzerland, we hear only that its great tunnel is getting on. South America is, for Londoners, a geographical expression ; and even from India the only accounts, except the war telegrams, are bulletins explaining Lord Lytton's ideas upon Central Asia. Facts come in plenty, isolated facts, dry facts, barren facts, but of history in the true sense—history like the history of England which "G. W. S." furnishes to the New York Tribune—there is none ; and the small amount of real information about foreign affairs current in London grows daily smaller, until the Times ventures to say that Germany and Austria were afraid of Russia till Lord Beaconsfield arose in his might. Nobody whose mind is nourished on such saw-dust really knows anything, and England is, for all sound purposes except trade, becoming as insulated as if it were a separate planet.
The evil is the greater, because it is so nearly incurable. The managers of the journals we have mentioned would, if they answered us, reply that they know their own business ; that they cannot exclude the telegrams, without losing circulation ; and that though they would gladly give the letters, sure at last of finding purchasers for them, they positively have not space to spare. When Parliament is sitting the double work is im- possible, and when it is not sitting it is too costly, not because of the expense of salaried correspondents, but because of the con- sequent exclusion of advertisements. The journals are properties, and must pay their owners. The reply is well founded enough, and till we have a decimal coinage which, by allowing an extra fifth of a penny to be added to the price, would allow newspapers to expand to the new needs, it is unanswerable ; but it does not in any degree diminish, though it explains, the public loss. Letters given at intervals are of very little use, for it is only by a certain regularity and continuousness in the supply of infor- mation that interest is kept up. Men are for the most part intellectually lazy, and while they can interest themselves in almost any history, in that of a small borough, or a remote county, or a powerless canton, if only they keep attending, they soon weary of picking up broken links, and accounting for un- expected facts, and hearing unknown names. Even a weekly foreign supplement to a daily paper might induce them to keep on watching, but they will not watch when the knowledge comes at irregular or very infrequent intervals, and demands of them, therefore, either painful guessing or laborious study. They feel as men feel who watch dancing with their ears stopped, as if they were utterly bewildered, or gazing at something phantasmal and unreal. Nor is there any hope that the function once performed by the daily journals will be performed by any other source of intelligence. The Con- temportuy Review at this moment furnishes the best contem- porary history of France, true France, France teeming with political, literary, and scientific life, that is procurable of any country, a history, indeed, sometimes almost incomparable ; but it comes out at intervals of two months, too long for the interest of the ordinary public. And the best substitute for continuous daily letters, a daily or hi-weekly newspaper de- voted to foreign affairs, will probably never appear. One would think that such a paper, the size of the Record, and full of a living history of the Continent, would pay ; but the presump- tion is it would not, for in an age of such enterprises it has never been fairly tried. A few publications of the sort have been started, but they have either been edited by men with a craze, or have been supported by insufficient means, or,—and this is the usual difficulty—have been tainted by the intention of getting particular sets of bonds into favour in the market. The curse of stock-jobbing is poisoning political literature, till there are
papers in which every letter, telegram, and leader is directed to the single end of making Timbuctoo Con- sols sixpence per cent. more saleable on Change There is no reputable paper in London solely devoted to the history of the life of other nations, and we question greatly if they ever will be. The English trust their journals,— reasonably enough in some departments of labour ; and when their journals fail they remain contented, hardly aware how ignorant they are, or what sources of intellectual pleasure and excitement they have missed. Before twenty years are over, the telegraph will have insulated the great mass of Englishmen from their neighbours as completely as it is now said to bind them together, and the effect of the insulation will have influenced even the supply of news. Already the most improbable statements are swallowed as easily as the probable, the readers not being " posted up " enough to know in what probability consists, till a statement that " the Catholic majority in Holland had abolished Protestantism " would be received to-morrow unquestioned, and probably send down all Dutch Stocks.