"First Rough Draft of History"
Joel S. Berson
Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Aug 31 11:24:30 UTC 2010
For the notion, one can go back to the 1830s, with Nathaniel
Hawthorne. And to a British journal of 1754. And probably earlier.
The first paragraph of "Old News: I" (1835) is:
"Here is a volume of what were once newspapers ... . Their aspect
conveys a singular impression of antiquity, in a species of
literature which we are accustomed to consider as connected only with
the present moment. Ephemeral as they were intended and supposed to
be, they have long outlived the printer and his whole
subscription-list ... . These are but the least of their triumphs.
The government, the interests, the opinions---in short, all the moral
circumstances that were contemporary with their publication, have
passed away, and left no better record of what they were, than may be
found in these frail leaves. Happy are the editors of
newspapers! Their productions excel all others in immediate
popularity, and are certain to acquire another sort of value with the
lapse of time. They scatter their leaves to the wind, as the sibyl
did, and posterity collects them, to be treasured up among the best
materials of its wisdom. With hasty pens they write for immortality."
In "The Old Manse" (1846), Hawthorne wrote of "the images of a
vanished century" and "a kind of intelligible truth for all times"
presented by old newspapers, in contrast to "nothing half so real" in
books written "by men who, in the very act, set themselves apart from
In The Connoisseur of 1754, "Mr. Town, Critic and Censor-General",
wrote: "I look upon the common intelligence in our public papers,
with the long train of advertisements annexed to it, as the best
account of the present domestic state of England, that can possibly
be compiled: nor do I know any thing, which would give posterity so
clear an idea of the taste and morals of the present age, as a bundle
of our daily papers." Mr. Town continues with a regret that we have
no newspapers from Greek or Roman times. [No. 45, Dec. 5, 1754, p. 268.]
At 8/30/2010 09:41 PM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
>Jack Shafer writes extensively today in Slate about how Barry Popik
>and I have demonstrated that Philip Graham did not coin the
>description of journalism as the "rough first draft of history":
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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