"We have many things to learn from America. The maintenance of the honour and the reputation and the authority of the critical columns of our journals is one of these"--WALTER BESANT.
EARLY in the nineteenth century British travellers and critics acknowledged American superiority in one aspect of intellectual culture, namely, the diffusion of the reading habit among the less cultivated classes. The quantity of newspapers and magazines consumed in the United States was, like Niagara Falls, a wonder of the New World. Of course there were complaints about the low and vulgar tone of the public press, and the vast store of English material reprinted in American magazines was eyed with little satisfaction; but already in the 1830s there was no denying the fact that the United States had surpassed England in its devotion to the newspaper and the magazine.1 With no taxes on paper, on advertisements, or on periodicals issuing news--and with a much more extensive system of elementary schools--it was only natural that the production of newspapers in the United States should have surpassed that in the United Kingdom. So far as quality is concerned, no one could compare the London Times and the New York Herald in the middle of the century without admitting that the former was far more genteel.2 And____________________