I came across an interesting fact whilst reading 1,339 facts to make your jaw drop, published in 2013: ‘In the 1720s, the Gloucester Journal apologised for ‘present scarcity of news’ and offered its readers a selection of poems instead.’
Intrigued by this claim, I decided to take a look at the Gloucester Journal (which Gloucestershire Archives holds as part of the Clifford collection). Low and behold, the volume covering 1722 to 1726 contains at least five ‘apologies’ for apparently having no news to provide (four in 1723 and one in 1725). I love the choice of wording they have opted to use, such as:
- ‘this post affording little news, we take the liberty to insert…’
- ‘As this Day’s Post affords but little News, we hope the following lines will be acceptable to our Readers’
- ‘This Post bringing nothing material of Foreign News, we cannot better entertain our Readers, than the following small Poems.’
Andrew Marr refers to this scarcity of news in his book My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism. Stig Abell, author of How Britain Really Works, adds that on 18 April 1930 the BBC’s news announcer said ‘there is no news’ and proceeded to play piano music instead!
In this age of social media, we will never again declare that no news is forthcoming and there will never be silence in the media. That’s why this 1720’s quirk of a scarcity of news caught my eye.
On the left:
‘This Paper affording little or no Foreign News worth our Observation, we shall proceed to that which it contains from London…’ there are a few cases in this style. The text then refers to quite a few women of various counties being hanged due to murdering their “bastard children” (22 April 1723, page 327)
While on the right: ‘This Post affording little News, we take the Liberty to insert some more of the Rhapsodical Pieces of Poetry, which we promis’d to continue in Numb. 55. but were prevented by receiving the Letter with which we began the last Paper (continuation of a number of fragments of poetry from an unknown hand, collected from the best English poets)’, 29 April 1723, page 338
And on the left: ‘As this Day’s Post affords but little News, we hope the following lines will be acceptable to our Readers’, 1 July 1723, page 387
And the right: ‘We hope, in the present Scarcity of News, the following Poems will not be unacceptable to our Readers’ then gives ‘To THYRSIS: On his Amours and then a copy of verses in imitation of an ‘excellent Original in the Carmina Quadragesimalia if the ingenious Lads of Christ Church in Oxon’, (4 January 1725, page 861)