Having finished with Bruce Chatwin’s correspondence I’ve now moved on to rereading Kilvert’s Diary, a book I last read in the seventies, long before I lived in mid-Wales, not far from Kilvert’s Hay and Clyro.
I read it so long ago I don’t really remember what I thought of it at the time, save that I found it interesting – rereading it I find it amusing, and perhaps a little more frank about human relations than one might have expected the mid Victorians to be – but then there’s plenty of evidence that whatever their publc personas middle class Victorians were as unconstrained behind closed doors as anyone else.
One thing though that I found interesting is that the first part of his diary is written against the background of the Franco Prussian war and he makes references to it in his diaries, and to newspaper reports.
Yet despite his ready access to newspapers and his frequent use of railways, the general tenor of his comments is one of things far away, despite on one occasion mentioning that a newspaper had received a report overnight by telegraph
It is almost as if he had not acquired the habit of reading, and keeping up, with the news on a daily basis – in other words they were not part of life’s panoply.
I’m sure that Kilvert was not unique in this – that the use of newspapers was something that people adopted.
When I looked at ninteenth century telegraph links to Australia it was clear that commercial news took the lead and other news came second, in other words newspapers developed as a tool in support of commerce.
Kilvert of course was a clergyman and hence less interested in commercial news.
So the question would have to be, at what point did reading the newspaper become a middle class meme (and why?)