America is a land of newspapers, and the newspapers are very largely the same. To a certain extent many of them are exactly the same, for the vastness of the country makes it possible to syndicalise various features, so that you find Walt Mason's sagacious and merry and punctual verse, printed to look like prose but never disappointing the ear, in one of the journals that you buy wherever you are, in San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Chicago or New York; and Mr. Montagu's topical rhymes in another; and the daily adventures of Mutt and Jeff, who are national heroes, in a third. Every day, for ever, do those and other regular features occur in certain of the papers: which is partly why no American ever seems to confine himself, as is our custom, to only one.

Another and admirable feature of certain American papers is a column edited by a man of letters, whose business it is to fill it every day, either with the blossoms of his own intelligence or of outside contributors, or a little of each: such a column as Don Marquis edits for The Sun, called "The Sundial," and Franklin R. Adams for The Tribune, called "The Conning Tower," and Christopher Morley for the New York Evening Post, called "The Bowling Green." Perhaps the unsigned "Way of the World" in our Morning Post is the nearest London correlative.

These columns are managed with skill and catholicity, and they impart an element of graciousness and fancy into what might otherwise be too materialistic a budget. A journalist, like myself, is naturally delighted to find editors and a vast public so true to their writing friends. Very few English editors allow their subscribers the opportunity of establishing such steady personal relations; and in England, in consequence, the signed daily contribution from one literary hand is very rare - to an American observer probably mysteriously so. The daily cartoon is common with us; but in London, for example, I cannot think of any similar literary feature that is signed in full. We have C.E.B.'s regular verse in the Evening News and "The Londoner's" daily essay in the same paper, and various initials elsewhere; but, with us, only the artists are allowed their names. Now, in America every name, everywhere, is blazoned forth.

Whatever bushel measures may be used for in the United States the concealing of light is no part of their programme.

Another feature of American daily journals comparatively unknown in England is the so-called comic pictorial sequence. All the big papers have from one to half a dozen of these sequences, each by a different artist. Bud Fisher with "Mutt and Jeff" comes first in popularity, I believe, and then there are his rivals and his imitators. Nothing more inane than some of these series could be invented; and yet they persist and could not, I am told, be dropped by any editor who thought first of circulation.

After the individual contributions have been subtracted, all the newspapers are curiously alike. The same reporters might be on every one; the same sub-editors; the same composers of head-lines. If we think of Americans as too capable of cynical levity it is largely because of these head-lines, which are always as epigrammatic as possible, always light-hearted, often facetious, and often cruel. An unfortunate woman's failure at suicide after killing her husband was thus touched off in one of the journals while I was in New York:


When it comes to the choice of news, one cannot believe that American editors are the best friends of their country. I am holding no brief for many English editors; I think that our papers can be common too, and can be too ready to take things by the wrong handle; but I think that more vulgarising of life is, at present, effected by American journalists than by English. There are, however, many signs that we may catch up.

Profusion is a characteristic of the American newspaper. There is too much of everything. And when Sunday comes with its masses of reading matter proper to the Day of Rest one is appalled. One thing is certain - no American can find time to do justice both to his Sunday paper and his Maker. It is principally on Sunday that one realises that if Matthew Arnold's saying that every nation has the newspapers it deserves is true, America must have been very naughty. How the Sunday editions could be brought out while the paper-shortage was being discussed everywhere, as it was during my visit, was a problem that staggered me. But that the shortage was real I was assured, and jokes upon it even got into the music halls: a sure indication of its existence. "If the scarcity of paper gets more acute," I heard a comedian say, "they'll soon have to make shoes of leather again."

But it is not only the Sunday papers that are so immense. I used to hold the Saturday Evening Post in my hands, weighed down beneath its bulk, and marvel that the nation that had time to read it could have time for anything else. The matter is of the best, but what would the prudent, wise and hard-working philosopher who founded it so many years ago - Benjamin Franklin - say if he saw its lure deflecting millions of readers from the real business of life?

When we come to consider the American magazines - to which class the Saturday Evening Post almost belongs - and the English, there is no comparison. The best American magazines are wonderful in their quality and range, and we have nothing to set beside them. It is astonishing to think how different, in the same country, daily and monthly journalism can be. Omitting the monthly reviews, Blackwood is, I take it, our finest monthly miscellany; and all of Blackwood could easily and naturally be absorbed in one of the American magazines and be illustrated into the bargain, and still leave room for much more. And the whole would cost less! Why England is so poorly and pettily served in the matter of monthly magazines is something of a mystery; but part of the cause is the rivalry of the papers, and part the smallness of our population. But I shall always hold that we deserve more good magazines than we have now.