BLTC Press Titles

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The Characters of Theophrastus


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Famous war correspondents

by Frederic Lauriston Bullard


Lord Granville, 1870.

"Those newly invented curses to armies — I mean newspaper correspondents."

Sir Garnet Wolseley.

"The life of the modern war correspondent cannot be described as being exactly a bed of roses. The glorious days of the profession, when William Russell and Archibald Forbes and their like flourished, have gone, never to return."

Ellis Ashmead-Bartletl

We are told that the profession of war correspondence is out of date. War has become as much a matter of business calculation as any industrial enterprise, and in the interest of efficiency the newspaper man has been eliminated. Daring and dash no longer win battles. Close range actions and cavalry charges have faded into the picturesque past. The application of scientific methods to what was once the splendid game of kings has stretched the little battle line of Waterloo to the one hundred and fifty miles of Mukden, and has relegated the commanding generals to some point far in the rear of the firing trenches, where, with a battery of telephones, a corps of telegraphers and a roll of charts, they receive reports and send orders, not by galloping aides, but by wire.

The contending armies thus pushed apart and the lines of battle thus extended, the artist and the correspondent find themselves confronted by insuperable obstacles which render impossible the duplication of the feats of men like Archibald Forbes and William Howard Russell. They cannot see a battle. Episodes and incidents may come under their observation — provided they are permitted to get within reach of the firing line. These experiences may furnish the materials for articles which editors will welcome as "good stuff," if the press men are allowed to forward their copy. But the blue pencil relentlessly takes the thrill and throb out of their despatches. Wires do not sizzle and cables do not oscillate nowadays with the stories from the " specials at the front." Correspondents are kept in straight-jackets, "cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd," hampered, limited, and circumscribed. And therefore, we are assured, the alluring profession of the war special no longer invites the newspaper man.

Yet all these things have been said before. In 1880 the then Lieutenant, now General, Francis Vinton Greene, U. S. A., the friend of Januarius MacGahan, was writing of the drab colors of the military pageant which once had made so brave a show. "How very prosaic the modern battle can be with its longrange muskets," he said. "How tame as a mere spectacle — how little action there is in it. Yet this is characteristic of nearly all battles now. Up to the last moment of the final advance, which is decisive of victory or defeat, but which seldom lasts half an hour, . . . the dramatic features of battle have become short-lived and infrequent." In one of his books upon the Boer War, Winston Spencer Churchill exclaimed: "Alas! the days of newspaper enterprise in war are over. What can one do with a censor, a forty-eight-hour delay, and a fifty-word limit on the wire?" And Alexander Innes Shand, relating the situation after the Russo-Japanese War, declared: "The war correspondent is notably the victim of the cycles. He was, he is, and it seems likely that he may cease to be."

I do not think that he will cease to be, and for reasons which will presently appear. His province will be more defined and his sphere of action will be more circumscribed. Times change and he must change with them. The policies of the newspapers and of the war offices will be determined by two fundamental considerations: the right of the public — which pays/ the bills, furnishes the soldiers and mourns the dead — to know how well, or ill, a war is planned and fought, and the right of the men entrusted with the command of armies and navies to impose such restraints and compel \ such concealments as the strategy of a campaign may require.

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