I soon reached the American reading-room, and walked in. My first act was to look at the register where all persons who call inscribe their names, and I was surprised to notice the number of Americans present in Paris. It only proved what I long had heard, that Americans take more naturally to the French than to the sturdy, self-sufficient Englishman. As it is in the matter of fashions, so it is regarding almost everything else, save morals, and I doubt if the tone of fashionable society in New York is any better than in Paris.
I was heartily rejoiced to take an American newspaper in my hand again. There were the clear open face of the plain-spoken Tribune, the sprightly columns of the Times, and the more dignified columns of the Washington journals. There were also many other familiar papers on the table, and they were all touched before I left. It was like a cool spring in the wide desert. For I confess that I love the newspaper, if it only be of the right sort. From early habit, I cannot live without it. Let any man pursue the vocation of an editor for a few years, and he will find it difficult, after, to live without a good supply of newspapers, and they must be of the old-fashioned home kind.
I did not easily accustom myself to the Paris journals. Cheap enough some of them were, but still the strange language was an obstacle. They are worse printed than ours, and are by no means equal to such journals as the Times and Tribune. They publish continued stories, or novels, and racy criticisms of music, art, and literature. The political department of the French newspaper at the present day is the weakest part of the sheet. It is lifeless. A few meager facts are recorded, and there is a little tame comment, and that is all. There was a time when the political department of a French newspaper was its most brilliant feature. During the exciting times which presaged the downfall of Louis Philippe, and also during the early days of the republic, the Paris press was in the full tide of success, and was exceedingly brilliant. The daily journals abounded, and their subscription lists were enormous. Where there is freedom, men and women will read—and where there is unmitigated despotism, the people care little to read the sickly journals which are permitted to drag out an existence.
There is one journal published in Paris in the English language, “Galignani’s Messenger.” It is old, and in its way is very useful, but it is principally made up of extracts from the English journals. It has no editorial ability or originality, and of course never advances any opinion upon a political question.