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The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 243 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.

The average British daily newspaper is, perhaps, slightly in advance of its average reader; if we could imagine an issue of the Standard, or the Daily Chronicle, or the Scotsman metamorphosed into human form, we should probably have to admit that the being thus created was rather above the average man in taste, intelligence, and good feeling.  Speaking roughly, and making allowances for all obvious exceptions, I should be inclined to say that a similar statement would not be as universally true of the American paper and the American public, particularly if the female citizen were included under the latter head.  If the intelligent foreigner were to regard the British citizen as practically an incarnation of his daily press, whether metropolitan or provincial, he would be doing him more than justice; if he were to apply the same standard to the American press and the American citizen, it would not be the latter who would profit by the assumption.  The American paper represents a distinctly lower level of life than the English one; it would often seem as if the one catered for the least intelligent class of its readers, while the other assumed a standard higher than most of its readers could reach.  The cultivated American is certainly not so slangy as the paper he reads; he is certainly not keenly interested in the extremely silly social items of which it contains several columns.  Such journals as the New York Evening Post and the Springfield Republican are undoubtedly worthy of mention alongside of our most reputable dailies; but journals of their admirably high standard are comparatively rare, and no cultivated English visitor to the United States can have been spared a shock at the contrast between his fastidious and gentlemanly host and the general tone of the sheet served up with the matutinal hot cakes, or read by him on the cars and at the club.

Various causes may be suggested for this state of affairs.  For one thing, the mass of half-educated people in the United States—­people intelligent enough to take a lively interest in all that pertains to humanity, but not trained enough to insist on literary form—­is so immense as practically to swamp the cultivated class and render it a comparatively unimportant object for the business-like editor.  In England a standard of taste has been gradually evolved, which is insisted on by the educated class and largely taken on authority by others.  In America practically no such standard is recognised; no one there would continue to take in a paper he found dull because the squire and the parson subscribed for it.  The American reader—­even when himself of high education and refinement—­is a much less responsible being than the Englishman, and will content himself with a shrug of his shoulders where the latter would write a letter of indignant protest to the editor.  I have more than once asked an American friend how he could endure such a daily

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