Once, while in Paris, during the days of the republic, I called upon the editor of one of the prominent French journals. It was a journal which had again and again paid government fines for the utterance of its honest sentiments, both under Louis Philippe and the presidency of Louis Napoleon. Before the revolution it had a very great influence over the people, and in the days of the so-called republic. The struggle between it and the government, at that time was continued. Its editor’s great aim was to express as much truth as was possible and escape the government line, which in the end would suppress the journal.
As I entered the building in which this journal was printed and published, I felt a kind of awe creeping over me, as if coming into the presence of a great mind. We entered the editor’s office; a little green baize-covered table by a window, pen and ink, and scissors, indicated the room. One might indeed tremble in such a place. What greater place is there in this world than an editor’s office, if his journal be one which sells by tens of thousands and sways a vast number of intelligent men? A throne-room is nothing in comparison to it. Thrones are demolished by the journals. Especially in Paris has such been the case. The liberal press has in past years controlled the French people to a wonderful extent. Kings and queens have physical power, but here in this little room was the throne-room of intellect. A door opened out of it into the printing-room, where the thoughts were stamped upon paper, afterward to be impressed upon a hundred thousand minds.
The editor sat over his little desk, an earnest, care-worn, yet hopeful man. His fingers trembled with nervousness, yet his eye was like an eagle’s. He did not stir when we first entered, did not even see us, he was so deeply absorbed in what lay before him upon his table. I was glad to watch him for a moment, unobserved. He was no fashionable editor, made no play of his work. He felt the responsibility of his position, and endeavored honestly to do his duty. His forehead was high, his eye black, and his face was very pale. Suddenly he looked up and saw us, and recognized my friend. It was enough that I was a republican, from America, and unlike some Americans, abated not a jot of my radicalism when in foreign countries.
I looked around the room when the first words were spoken, and saw everywhere files of newspapers, old copy and that which was about to be given to the printers. It was very much like an editorial apartment in an American printing office, though in some respects it was different. It was a gloomy apartment, and it seemed to me that the writings of the editor must partake somewhat of the character of the room.