“And how many people would read such a paper?” I said.
“Oh, I don’t know, I’m sure,” said Father Payne with a groan. “I would for one! I want to have the feeling of being in touch day by day with the clever, interesting, lively, active-minded people, as if I had been listening to good talk. Isn’t that possible? Instead of which I sit here, day after day, overflowing with my own ridiculous thoughts—and the world discharging all its staleness and stupidity like a sewer in these horrible documents. Take it away from me, someone! I’m fascinated by the disgusting smell of it!” I withdrew the paper from under his hands. “Thank you,” said Father Payne feebly. “That’s the horror of it—that the world isn’t a dull place or a sensational place or a nasty place—and those papers make me feel it is all three!”
“I’m sorry you are so low about it,” said Barthrop.
“Yes, because journalism ought to be the finest thing in the world,” said Father Payne. “Just imagine! The power of talking, without any of the inconveniences of personality, to half-a-million people.”
“But why doesn’t it improve?” said Barthrop. “You always say that the public finds out what it wants, and will have it.”
“In books, yes!” said Father Payne; “but in daily life we are all so damnably afraid of the truth—that’s what is the matter with us, and it is that which journalism caters for. Suppress the truth, pepper it up, flavour it, make it appetising—try to persuade people that the world is romantic—that’s the aim of the journalist. He flies from the truth, he makes a foolish tale out of it, he makes people despise the real interests of life, he makes us all want to escape from life into something that never has been and never will be. I loathe romance with all my heart. The way of escape is within, and not without.”
“You had better go for a walk,” said Barthrop soothingly.
“I must,” said Father Payne. “I’m drunk and drugged with unreality. I will go and have a look round the farm—no, I won’t have any company, thank you. I shall only go on fuming and stewing, if I have sympathetic listeners. You are too amiable, you fellows. You encourage me to talk, when you ought to stop your ears and run from me.” And Father Payne swung out of the room.