The Old Journalism and the New: Forms of Cultural Production in London in the 1880s

  • Laurel Brake


As a cultural form journalism may be seen as the commercial and ideological exploitation of the transient and the topical, a ceaseless generating or production of ‘news’ and novelty, involving a plurality of discourses, including literary and political. It has normally been seen by critics, however, as ‘subliterary’; and the retrospective foregrounding of the novel as the dominant literary form of the nineteenth century must be predicated on the exclusion of the nonfictional prose that appeared so prodigiously in periodicals and newspapers in the forms of essays, reviews, leaders, and ‘correspondence’. The ‘New’ Journalism was named in an article in the Nineteenth Century in 1887 by Matthew Arnold, a practitioner for more than thirty years of what by implication was the ‘Old’ Journalism, whose long-term project was to elevate his journalistic practice into ‘criticism’ and thus to the authority of literature. He places unsurprisingly the New Journalism at the bottom of a hierarchy of cultural forms, at the top of which is art, which, by his definition, outlives the specificities of history and is accessible only to the cultivated. In tainting the Pall Mall Gazette and journalism like it with the epithet New (a pejorative term for Arnold and much of his audience) and, by implication, designating a sector of the press Old and trustworthy, Arnold created a ‘history’ and a tradition that posit a decisive and anomalous transformation in the nature of journalism associated with the Pall Mall Gazette in the 1880s.


Nineteenth Century Railway Carriage Evening Paper Contemporary Review Periodical Literature 
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Copyright information

© Laurel Brake 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurel Brake

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