"The Rowdy Journal"Office.
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Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, Vol. 7 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, Chapter 16, "MartinDisembarks from that Noble and Fast-Sailing Line-of-Packet Ship, The Screw, at the Port of New York, in the United States of America. He Makes Some Acquaintances, and Dines at a Boarding-House. The Particulars of Those Transactions," facing p. 289.
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Presently they turned up a narrow street, and presently into other narrow streets, until at last they stopped before a house whereon was painted in great characters, "ROWDY JOURNAL."
The colonel, who had walked the whole way with one hand in his breast, his head occasionally wagging from side to side, and his hat thrown back upon his ears — like aman who was oppressed to inconvenience by a sense of his own greatness — led the way up adark and dirty flight of stairs into a room of similar character, all littered and bestrewn withodds and ends of newspapers and other crumpled fragments, both in proof and manuscript.Behind a mangy old writing-table in this apartment sat a figure with a stump of a pen in itsmouth and a great pair of scissors in its right hand, clipping and slicing at a file of RowdyJournals; and it was such a laughable figure that Martin had some difficulty in preserving hisgravity, though conscious of the close observation of Colonel Diver.
The individual who sat clipping and slicing as aforesaid at the Rowdy Journals, was a small young gentleman of very juvenile appearance, and unwholesomely pale in the face; partly, perhaps, from intense thought, but partly, there is no doubt, from the excessive use of tobacco, which he was at that moment chewing vigorously. He wore his shirt-collar turned down over a black ribbon; and his lank hair— a fragile crop — was notonly smoothed and parted back from his brow, that none of the Poetry of his aspect mightbe lost, but had, here and there, been grubbed up by the roots: which accounted for hisloftiest developments being somewhat pimply. He had that order of nose on which theenvy of mankind has bestowed the appellation"snub," and it was very much turned up atthe end, as with a lofty scorn. Upon the upper lip of this young gentleman were tokens ofa sandy down—so very, very smooth and scant, that, though encouraged to the utmost, itlooked more like a recent trace of gingerbread than the fair promise of a moustache; andthis conjecture his apparently tender age went far to strengthen. He was intent upon hiswork. Every time he snapped the great pair of scissors, he made a corresponding motionwith his jaws, which gave him a very terrible appearance.— Chapter 16, "MartinDisembarks from that Noble and Fast-Sailing Line-of-Packet Ship, The Screw, at the Port of New York, in the United States of America. He Makes Some Acquaintances, and Dines at a Boarding-House. The Particulars of Those Transactions," p. 272-273.
Commentary: American Freedom of the Press at "The Rowdy Journal"
Arrived in America, Martin becomes Dickens's stalking-horse in exposing the scurrilous journalistic practices of the New York newspapers, Dickens's grievance being how his views on international copyright were being reported in Brother Jonathan. The "yellow journalism" of Colonel Diver's Rowdy Journal is exemplified by the inflated pro-Yankee and anti-British rhetoric of the bellicose Mr. Jefferson Brick, the paper's juvenile "war correspondent" (shown clipping columns of print at his "mangy" desk, left).
Martin and Mark visit these same office of the Fifth Estate to join the newspapermen in a glass of champagne which the Colonel has extorted from the captain of the packet-ship, infested with newsboys for the various "scandal rags" in the Fred Barnard Household Edition illustration "It is in such enlightened means," said a voice, almost in Martin's ear, "That the bubbling passions of my country find a vent", although Barnard assailed the scene in the newspaper office which Dickens's original illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne, had described in the July 1843 steel-engraving Mr. Jefferson Brick Proposes an Appropriate Sentiment (Chapter 16). In the Household Edition, however, Fred Barnard realizes the scene long after the champagne-imbibing when, waiting in the corridor for dinner at Mrs. Pawkins' rooming-house, Martin expresses appreciation of the honest observations of a Pawkins' waiter, in "You're the pleasantest fellow I have seen yet," said Martin, clapping him on the back, "And give me a better appetite than bitters" — recalling Mark's enjoying the company of a former slave, Cicero, in the corridor outside the journal's offices. In the original serial, it is not Martin but the honest, pro-abolitionist Mark Tapley who interacts with a genial Black employee, in Mr. Tapley succeeds in finding a jolly subject for contemplation (the companion illustration for July 1843). Perhaps the difference may be accounted for by the different era in which the artists were working, for Dickens encountered many Americans in the first reading trip (1842) who upheld slavery as an economic and social institution, whereas Fred Barnard composed his narrative-pictorial sequence not long after the Union victory in the American Civil War and President Lincoln's signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Harry Furniss, on the other hand, was half-a-century and more removed from Dickens's concerns with yellow journalism, America's refusal to subscribe to international copyright, and the evils of slavery; hence, these controversies raised in this novel and American Notes (1842) and long forgotten by the English reading public, Harry Furniss devotes just a single illustration to this initial phase of Martin's American adventures.
Furniss's version of the precocious boy-journalistic and his jingoistic editor is markedly more realistic and less cartoon-like than Phiz's, the 1910 figures derived more probably from Barnard's illustrations. Furniss has given the Colonel a more respectable suit than the text and Phiz supply:
Martin turned involuntarily, and saw, standing close at his side, a sallow gentleman, with sunken cheeks, black hair, small twinkling eyes, and a singular expression hovering about that region of his face, which was not a frown, nor a leer, and yet might have been mistaken at the first glance for either. Indeed it would have been difficult, on a much closer acquaintance, to describe it in any more satisfactory terms than as a mixed expression of vulgar cunning and conceit. This gentleman wore a rather broad-brimmed hat for the greater wisdom of his appearance; and had his arms folded for the greater impressiveness of his attitude. He was somewhat shabbily dressed in a blue surtout reaching nearly to his ankles, short loose trousers of the same colour, and a faded buff waistcoat, through which a discoloured shirt-frill struggled to force itself into notice, as asserting an equality of civil rights with the other portions of his dress, and maintaining a declaration of Independence on its own account. His feet, which were of unusually large proportions, were leisurely crossed before him as he half leaned against, half sat upon, the steamboat's bulwark; and his thick cane, shod with a mighty ferule at one end and armed with a great metal knob at the other, depended from a line-and-tassel on his wrist.[Ch. 16, p. 268]
Although Furniss has conveyed the Colonel's facial expression effectively, his clothing does not appear to be as "shabby" and disreputable as Dickens stipulates, his feet are no larger than Martin's, and the cane is not evident here. Although Barnard does no better with Colonel Diver's suit, his portrait includes both the formidable cane and the sunken cheeks, and is therefore an improvement on both Furniss's newspaperman and Phiz's cartoon-figure, although clearly the Barnard character in the light waistcoat and broad-brimmed hat is derived from the original July 1843 steel-engraving. Whereas Phiz has Jefferson Brick wearing a cap, that same cap is sitting on top of a candle (left) in Furniss's generalised description of the "Rowdy Journal Editorial Office" as the door, upper right, announces for the room in a building on New York's Great White Way. Martin, for his part, seems bemused in the Furniss illustration at the notion that this snub-nosed, gangly boy playing with scissors and "office paste" is a "war correspondent," let alone that the Court of St. James should be accustomed to quake at the brilliance of his anti-British editorials — at least, Furniss is accurate in his depiction of the nose, if not of the employer of the owner of the nose.
Readers even in the United States have long forgotten Benjamin Day's weekly newspaper Brother Jonathan(1842), which focussed on reprinting English fiction without paying royalties to such authors as Sir Walter Scott, Sir Edward G. D. Bulwer-Lytton, but they have the revenant, Dickens's satire on American journalism in the first of the "American Chapters" of Martin Chuzzlewit,as exemplified by Colonel Diver, editor of the New York Rowdy Journal and jingoistic "War Correspondent," Jefferson Brick.
Relevant Illustrations, 1843-1872
Left: Hablot Knight Browne's satire on New York journalism, Mr. Jefferson Brick Proposes an Appropriate Sentiment (Chapter 16, July 1843). Centre: Phiz's support of Dickens's anti-slavery sympathies, Mr. Tapley succeeds in finding a jolly subject for contemplation (July 1843). Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s more appreciative treatment of the newspaper editor, Colonel Diver and Jefferson Brick (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Fred Barnard's realisation of the scene in the harbour, when Martin and the Colonel first meet, "It is in such enlightened means," said a voice, almost in Martin's ear, "That the bubbling passions of my country find a vent."(1872). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Above: Fred Barnard's realisation of the Martin's meeting Cicero, "You're the pleasantest fellow I have seen yet," said Martin, clapping him on the back, "And give me a better appetite than bitters"(1872). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 28January 2016