An Evening Newspaper and Review.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 28, 1888.
THE accident which has closed the career of Mr. SIMMONS, the aeronaut, will give a new zest to ballooning. Professor BALDWIN will probably in future receive £150 per ascent instead of the hundred pounds which he is paid for risking his life at present. Of late the enterprising showman who has engaged BALDWIN and his parachute has been compelled to lay stress upon the danger, for, as he very well knows, the chance of seeing the Professor killed is half the attraction of the performance. Now that poor SIMMONS has been mangled out of recognition by a too sudden descent, caused by the collapse of his balloon after collision with a tree, the attractiveness of all aeronautical exhibitions will be increased by at least 50 per cent. SIMMONS, it seems, had made 494 previous ascents, so that after all the chance of an aeronaut coming down alive is about 500 to 1. But the odd chance has been brought vividly to the public mind, and there will be a certain thrill of excitement every time a man takes his seat in the car, caused by the reflection that when he next touches terra firma he may be a mangled corpse.
The craving for sensation, the longing to be thrilled, are the master passions of this nervous and excitable generation. And after all there is nothing so sensational as death, which is the climax and end of all sensation. Literature, painting, the theatre, our exhibitions, journalism, all bear witness to the fact that murder, suicide, or sudden death - that is to say, bloodshed in some form or another - is the master spell for enchaining human attention. The young Virginia authoress AMÉLIE RIVES, who wrote "The Quick or the Dead" in Lippincott, has written a tragedy entitled, "Herod and Mariamne," copious extracts from which appear in the New York Herald under the following headline: -
This tragedy, which is guaranteed to make the reader shudder, represents HEROD in one scene as crying, "Oh God, I choke! Wine there! Nay, blood - blood - blood!" And, adds the journalist, "he gets it." HEROD in this cry is not unlike the latest product of civilization. Men and women, choking of ennui, cry for "blood - blood - blood," and Mr. RIDER HAGGARD and others take care that they get their fill of gore. There is no doubt about the demand. In all the annals of crime there is no more revolting episode than that of the murders of BURKE and HARE. But to this day the grim and horrible tale of how these men murdered their fellows in order to sell their corpses for the dissecting-table is the most popular subject that a novelist can select. The Newcastle Weekly Chronicle could never command a sale until it rehashed the narrative of these murders many years ago, and the Sheffield Telegraph is said to be selling at this moment 300,000 copies weekly solely on the strength of BURKE and HARE. What is known in the suggestive slang of the profession as a "good, first-class bloody murder," will sell more papers than the most brilliant article that was ever penned. A newspaper circulation is a very accurate gauge of the taste of the public. No man will give a penny for that which does not interest him. Every paper sold represents a wish sufficiently potent to lead to the sacrifice of one penny for the sake of the intelligence the paper contains. Judged by this test, the average man or woman prefers bloody murders served up hot to a poem by TENNYSON, the account of a scientific miracle of EDISON'S or an exquisite prose essay by JOHN RUSKIN.
How far will this sanguinary appetite carry us? At this moment in London one of the most popular exhibitions in London is a reproduction as lifelike as possible of the gladiatorial games of the Roman Colisseum. Twice a day thousands of men, women, and children, watch with eager interest the mimic representation of the deadly combats in a building as nearly as possible the facsimile of that where once in Imperial Rome "the buzz of eager nations ran," while "murder breathed her bloody steam" and "man was butchered by his fellow man, and wherefore butchered? Wherefore but because" the Roman public, jaded and ennuyed, found life not worth living without the stimulus of the sight of death. We are getting it very like the real thing at Kensington. BUFFALO BILL began it with apparent slaughter of Indians. The Arabs at Olympia kept it up with their attack on the French military train, and now we have killing going on in make-believe at both the Irish and the Italian Exhibition. Where will it stop? The popularity of a hanging in England in old time and of a guillotining in Paris to-day show how deep and passionate is the craving to see men killed. Some day perhaps some great artist in realism will arise who will give us the real thing itself. A generation that exults in the Spanish bull fights, that pays BALDWIN £100 to risk his neck, that puts an enormous premium upon exploits which sooner or later end in death, which crowds to see the make-believe of gladiatorial combat and which prides itself upon vivisection, is not far removed from the generation that almost deified TITUS for building the Flavian amphitheatre. Science and freedom of contract and over-population might together bring men first to excuse and then to justify the occasional massacre of Chinese gladiators, who would willingly sell themselves to death - if the price were good enough - to make an English holiday in West Kensington.
Two magistrates yesterday were compelled to admit that the police are not infallible, and to-day of course they ought to be reprimanded for their pains by Sir Charles Warren. At Worship-street a publican named Saunders was charged with assaulting policeman 211G, but being able to retain a solicitor for his defence he repulsed the "moral miracle" with loss. The constable found Saunders "standing against a lamp post" for a long time and asked him if her were waiting for a friend. Saunders said, "What is that to you?" and, according to the evidence of 211G and 181G - the usual backer-up in such cases - pushed the constable twice and gave him a back-hander on the chest. Saunders's statement was that he was standing opposite his public-house, to which he pointed, and said to the constable, "There is my name up there." After hearing which Mr. Bushby said "it was certain that Mr. Maitland (the prisoner's solicitor) was entitled to contend that a man had a right to stand in the street, unless seen to do any overt act, without being catechized by a constable. The prisoner was wrongly in custody and must be discharged." Yet 211G, who had so monstrously exceeded his duty, is, apparently, to go unpunished.
At Bow-street there were more police charges; one Lumsey being charged with assaulting the police, and one Martin with attempting his rescue; but the evidence was so unsatisfactory that Mr. Bridge accepted the former's own recognizances in £5 for six months, and discharged the latter. And then Mr. Bridge spoke pregnant words, which show pretty clearly the opinion he is at last beginning to entertain as to the ways of Sir Charles Warren's lambs. He did not, he said,
Want to complain of the conduct of the police, but he thought that where a man was charged and a man was following he ought not to be arrested, because he might be going up to give the defendant a character or offer some valuable information. If there was any charge to be preferred against him he could afterwards be summoned. It looked as if constables did it for the purpose of preventing evidence being given, and action ought never to be taken by the police to lead to that supposition. He hoped his advice would be taken by the police.
This is cheering; for when magistrates begin to realize the truth of what we have so long maintained, there is hope that the metropolitan police may at last be converted into efficient guardians of the peace.