Saturday, September 25, 2021

How the Regency got its News

The Regency era was a period when news was neither timely or easy to come by. Word of mouth offered the most immediate source of new information, but whether it was correct or judicious was another matter entirely.

Newspapers and journals or magazines offered the best possible sources of news. Their offerings were, in the case of newspapers, anywhere from one day to weeks and months old, depending on the location of the news story. In the case of journals, news items were always at least a month old.

Given the cost and availability of journals and newspapers, the news did not get to citizens easily.

Presumably because of these challenges, many of the popular journals, bound yearly into a hardback compilation of their monthly editions, began to print a yearly 'round-up' of top news stories. Often called a "Chronological Table" these calendric lists were generally printed in the January or February issue of the year following the stories' first appearance. Some of the 'tables' were quite detailed with more than six items recounted; some were less comprehensive with three or four news articles noted.

For example, The Lady's Magazine of 1804 published a 'supplement' (presumably in early 1805) which included a "Chronological Table of the most remarkable Occurrences of the Year one Thousand eight Hundred and four". In the September section of the 'Table', eight items were retold. Below are excerpts:

    5th. Francis the IInd assumed the title of emperor of Austria.
    16. The Vienna court gazetter, for the first time designates Bonaparte by
    the title of Emperor.
    17th. Restoration of the order of Jesuits in Naples and Sicily.
    28th. Journey of the French emperor and empress, and the servile adulation
    of the people of France.
          Dreadful plague at Malaga.

The Scots Magazine of 1800 (published February 1801) contained a list titled "Remarkable Events of the year 1800". The September 1800 events included:

6. The Emperor of Germany left Vienna, for the purpose of taking
the command of his armies.
14. Riots in different parts of the metropolis, which, however, by the
exertions of the Magistrates, and the activity of the different Volunteer
corps, were happily suppressed. The ostensible cause the dearth of provisions.
25. Intelligence was received of the further prolongation of the
armistice on the Continent.

The National Register was a short-lived newspaper in England, begun in 1808. The following is their first "Chronological Table of the Most Remarkable Occurrences of the Year". The September 1808 listing included:

6. Bonaparte issued a decree, prohibiting the importation of
colonial produce into any part of his dominions till further orders.
20. The Spaniards recaptured Bilboa, and proclaimed Ferdinand VII.
20. Covent-Garden Theatre was destroyed by fire, when upwards
of 20 people lost their lives.

La Belle Assemblee, that necessity of life for fashionable ladies, included its own list titled "Chronological Sketch of the Most Remarkable Events of the Year 1809". This was published in the January 1810 issue. Even this fashionable journal included mainly items of political and military significance. England was after all a nation at war. Some of the September items noted were:

4. Eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
17. Treaty of Peace between Sweden and Russia concluded.
18. The new Theatre of Covent-Garden opened for the reception
of the public.
21. Duel fought between Lord Castlereagh and Mr. Canning, in
which our Minister for Foreign Affairs is wounded by our
Minister of War.
24. Received intelligence of the conclusion of the war in

The European Magazine and London Review had its "Chronological Table of remarkable and Interesting Events, for the year 1812". They leaned heavily on military and political events though it was a general interest magazine. In September, for example:

8. Arrival of the 13th and 14th Vulleins of the French Grand
Army, dated August 21 and 23, from Smolensko, which city
was entered by the French on the 18th of August, after a
sanguinary battle.
23. Despatches from Major-general Cooke, announce the taking
of the city of Seville, on the 27th of August. by the corps under
General Cruz and Colonel Skerritt.

The Monthly Magazine or British Register had extensive monthly lists in its "Chronological View of the Remarkable Events of the Year 1814". And it was a remarkable year. The Frost Fair on the Thames in London, the capture of Napoleon, and the peace celebrations of the summer months occupied the first seven months of the year. By September the war in America was claiming the "Chronological View":

1. Fort Custine, in the Penobscott, taken, and the sloop Adams destroyed.
9. Defeat of the British squadron on Lake Champlain, by the
American squadron.
12. American troops repulsed before Baltimore. Gen. Ross killed.

And there was assembling the Congress of Vienna:

25. The solemn entry of the Emperor of Russia and King of Prussia into Vienna.
Prince Talleyrand arrived at Vienna.
26. Arrival different Sovereigns at Vienna, to form a Congress.

 So all the news was available in the Regency era, just not immediately to its happening, unlike our world.

But what is the value of immediacy? Like the people of the first years of the nineteenth century, we can do little to affect our world's events. Knowing about their occurrence instantly makes little difference to our own little worlds.