Friday, 27 November 2015

Transition of Media in Victorian Era: Broadside Ballads and Newspapers

Transition of Media in Victorian Era
Broadside Ballads and Newspapers
(The illustration from “The Red-headed League” by Sidney Paget)

In Victorian era, the development of technology helped to improve media industry for example newspapers. Media such as newspapers and broadside ballads show not only topical news in the time but also how they live in the time. Narratives have a similar aspect with the newspapers because readers could see how the people lived in Victorian era with the Victorian narratives’ description of a daily life. Let’s examine broadside ballads in 19th century first, then the Victorian newspapers and these in Victorian narratives at the last.

Firstly, we should know the social conditions of Victorian era. The Industrial Revolution was happened later 19th century and it changed the working and living patterns of the people in the time. It is easy to imagine that new industry was attractive for people who were looking for work. The population of UK was doubled between early 19th century and later 19th century because people looked to work in new industrial cities in UK. London was full of the people and overpopulation made London to violent and indelicate. Poor working class children had to work even illegal and immoral works to survive. You could see the social condition in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series, for instance. Holmes, the excellent consulting detective, has hired street children, called the Baker Street Irregulars, to gather information of cases. Watson who is a friend of Holmes and main storyteller of the series explains the Baker street irregulars are “a dozen dirty and ragged little street Arabs” in The Sign of Four (83). On the other hand, Holmes said that “[t]hey can go everywhere, see everything, overhear everyone” (84) therefore it supposes those kind of street children were common in the Victorian era according to Doyle. Poor children were on the streets in Victorian London. Victorian era was not only successful but also faced distinctions between classes.

Their horrible entertainment

However, the Victorian people did not forget entertainments. The Victorian people must be crazy to enjoy the horrible crimes and awful murders. Crimes and murders were not rare in the period and it might paralyze the people’s fear of death. Their crazy entertainment can be seen as broadside ballads. Broadside ballads are popular songs, which are printed on one single side papers, and were sold cheap price in Britain between 16th century and 20th century. Its theme was a variety. Crimes and murders were popular theme in 19th century. Early period, 16th and 17th century, of broadside ballads were topical therefore the ballads had been common as newspapers. However, the development of news industry, for instance penny newspapers made the ballads allocate to the function of commenting and to be gossip papers. Here is example of broadside ballads about murders in Victorian era.

Broadsideballad: a most barbarous and inhuman murder
It is estimated that this broadside ballads was published in 1826. It is not exactly Victorian broadside ballad as Victorian era begun in 1837, but it is retained in good condition and nobody knows when it published exactly at this stage. Let’s have a look. This broadside ballad shows the demands of people in around Victorian era. The head line sentence is simple, not complicated. This head line tells gives enough information to hook readers. However, the font was mismatch to represent murder. The font is decorated with flowers and it looks gorgeous. This mismatch makes the illustration, under the headline; to be comical even it is “inhuman murder” as the headline told. The sentences of the article are not used complicated languages but the information of this article is unclear and it seems like unpolished. For example, the headline told the victim is Mr J. “Arkhurst”, but Mr J. “Akehurst” is the victim in the article. In addition, this article mention about the business of victim, holding cottages in Fetcham Common, but the information was given roughly. It was written “Some thirty or forty years ago Fetcham common began to be cultivated: three or four very simple but very sweet cottages […]”. On the other hand, the writer of this ballad used 10 paragraphs to tell readers the story of Mr J. Arkhurst with detail. The story of victim makes the murder more fearful and awful. It was written that “how at any period of his life he could have given offence or sown the seeds either of rapacity or of revenge in a single human breast”, and the writer continued “[l]atterly there could hardly he conceived an enemy to him, for those with whom he associated in the prime and activity of his life, […] have been knedded [probably misspelled words of kneaded?] into their kindred clay; […] the venerable John Akehurst [it should be Arkhurst, according to the headline] was an object of jealousy”. This structure of the article shows the demand of broadside ballads which is not clear and correct information but horrible and awful stories as entertainment. Moreover, broadside ballads are the cheapest printed materials in Victorian era therefore it seems to be easy to get for working class people. The people probably sought entertainments rather than solemnity topical news therefore broadside ballads focused telling how awful and fearful crimes and murders rather than telling faithful information.

Victorian newspapers

The Morning Post

Newspapers took the place of broadside ballads as topical and political news in early Victorian era. According to Kevin William, “[n]ewspapers in the second half of the nineteenth century were primarily purveyors of political news, depending on a small and educated body of readers whose political opinion they articulated and to whom they provided direction on the great political issues of the day” (106). In addition, he says that “[a]dverting increased its prominence in press finances, taking up more space within the newspapers” (99). Here is the one of advertising columns in April 1860. Advertising are printed on the page tightly. There were about 130 advertisings on the one page! Unfortunately, it is difficult to read all sentences in the column because of the font size and this picture’s resolution. However, the headlines of the advertisements seem to be enough to see what they are for. There are the advertisings of plays, banks, science tutorials, dinners, and so on. It shows how advertising on newspapers were commonly used in the Victorian era.

The advertising column on newspapers in Victorian narrative

The wax figure of Mr Wilson from “The Red-headed League” written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 “The Red-headed League”, one of Sherlock Holmes series’ short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, also shows looking for a job/employer with using the newspaper’s advertising columns was general in the period. One day, Mr Wilson, who is a client of Holmes, found a queer job advertisement on the newspaper and he doubted the advertisement because it was too good to be true but his job assistant recommended him to go the interview. Actually, this assistant also got the job in answer to an advertisement which Mr Wilson put on a newspaper. Mr Wilson shows Holmes and Dr Watson the advertising on “halfway down the column” so it supposes that the newspaper which Mr Wilson brings is also full of advertisings. The advertising saysTO THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE: On account of the bequest of the late Ezekiah Hopkins, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, U. S. A., there is now another vacancy open which entitles a member of the League to a salary of £4 a week for purely nominal services. All red-headed men who are sound in body and mind and above the age of twenty-one years, are eligible. Apply in person on Monday, at eleven o’clock, to Duncan Ross, at the offices of the League, 7 Pope’s Court, Fleet Street.” It could not find like this queer league’s advertising on The Morning Post which is attached above, but those descriptions help to see how the advertising column was bustling. Moreover, Mr Wilson tells Holmes and Dr Watson “[f]rom north, south, east, and west every man who had a shade of red in his hair had tramped into the city to answer the advertisement” and “I should not have thought there were so many in the whole country as were brought together by that single advertisement”. Probably it is because this narrative is fiction but it is not difficult to imagine so many people come to answer the advertisement on newspapers. A number of newspapers were sold in Victorian era and they influenced in not only Britain but also Europe. For example, The Times’s “advertisers were attracted not only by the paper’s large number of readers but also by their quality. Everyone who was anybody or aspired to be anybody read the paper which described itself as the ‘leading Journal in Europe’” (106) according to William.

To conclude, these two kinds of media, broadside ballads and newspapers, show the social condition of the period. How the people got news, what kind of news they like, how the media played their role. The broadside ballads are horrible, but it is interesting to see the Victorian social conditions. In addition, it can be seen their daily life even from the advertising columns. I enjoyed seeing their advertisements because it passed about 150 years, but they are still attractive! I hope you also enjoy seeing them.
Work cited
Banerjee, Jacqueline. “How safe was Victorian London?” The Victorian Web. Web. 27th November 2015.
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads;
The allegro Catalogue of Ballads. Help. Web. 27th November 2015.
Doyle, S. A. C. The Sign of Four. London: Penguin Books, 2010. Print.
Doyle, S. A. C. “The Red-head League” in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. Kindle Edition.
Flanders, Judith. Murder as entertainment. Web Article. 27th November 2015.
William, Kevin. Read all about it! London, Routledge. 2009. e-book. Dawsonera. 26th November 2015.

Work cited: Pictures
Paget, Sidney. “What on earth does this mean?” Victorian Web. Web. 27th November 2015.
Seven Dials, London. “Broadside on 'a most barbarous and inhuman murder'” British Library. Estimated 1826. Web. 27th November 2015.
The Morning Post. “Advertisement for a house for 'fallen women' from the Morning Post “ British Library. 1860. Web. 27th November 2015.

“The Baker Street Irregulars” Camden House; The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Web. 27th November 2015.
The last photo is mine. Took at the Sherlock Homes Museum.

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