[The following description of the Echo comes from the author's biography of Frances Power Cobbe (see bibliography) — George P. Landow.]

Illuminated initial T

he first respectable halfpenny newspaper, published "on the eve of the assembling of a Reformed Parliament" at a price within reach of new voters, the Echo gave Frances Power Cobbe a stunning opportunity as a regular staff writer responsible for three leaders a week. Its owners, the firm of Cassell, Petter and Galpin, had asked Moncure Conway to edit; when he refused, they had turned to Arthur Arnold. Trained as a surveyor, Arnold had been assistant commissioner of the public works that provided relief in Lancashire during the cotton famine; he also wrote two sensation novels and would later serve on the London County Council. Horace Voules, then only twenty-four years old, was business manager; T. H. S. Escott called him "the most universal utility man known to the press in his day," a man "equally able to write printer's copy and to set it up himself." Newsagents refused to handle the paper because its price allowed them hardly any profit, so Voules introduced a "brigade of boys" (and girls) to peddle it on the streets.1

The Echo

The author's biography of Cobbe reproduces this “typical Echo front page (larger than a tabloid but somewhat smaller than a broadsheet).” The headlines of the four articles are as follows: “The Revised Budget,” “The Temptation of Mr. Gladstone,” “The Austro-Prussian War” and “Murderous Outrage at Eltham.” [Click on image to enlarge it.]

The Echo said that its intention was not to compete with the morning dailies by priming "a folio edition of Hansard" but rather to find a place "after the labours of the day ... in as many homes as we can reach with news which may be read without fatigue." Its front page typically had two leaders. Often, though not always, the first was political, and the second more broadly social or sometimes just amusing. Cobbe's were usually second leaders. Inside were some columns of "Public Opinion" that cannibalized leaders from the morning papers, a "Summary of the News" in short paragraphs, a column of crime reports, letters to rhe editor, items from Reuters, notes from abroad, and some book reviews or a longer account of a public event. Finally, there were reports of sporting and financial news and a page or more of small ads. Except for a very brief court circular, it had no society news, no fashion notes, nothing in the nature of a "ladies' page."

According to the masthead, three editions were published—at 3:00, 5:oo, and 6:30 P.M. The first edition went to press just after noon; it gave the 12:00 London temperature and a stock market report from 11:30. Arnold claimed that the Echo was the first paper "to publish tape-prices—our printers setting up from the tape . . . which tor the first time placed the Stock Exchange in almost direct communication with the public." The late editions also had early racetrack results. These features made the Echo a paper for commuters, for city gents, clerks, civil servants, and artisans. Before very long its circulation topped 100,000—twenty times that of the Daily News. And though it was published after some men's workday ended, the Echo was out before Parliament went into session. Arnold had many friends in government and used them to good effect: "Very frequently when my first edition had gone to press I walked to the Foreign office and saw Lord Granville or Mr. Hammond, gathering hints or news enough ... to make the success of a later edition. . . . Almost every day from noon to two o'clock I went out in search of news, and very often helped the fortunes of 'The Echo' by inferring events from the casual remarks of casual persons whom I saw in those mid-day hours."3

The Echo's politics, as well as its success, grew from Arnold's ability to pick writers with ideological goals that made them willing to produce good copy for rather less money than was paid by the morning papers. (Cobbe got two guineas for an Echo leader, three for a piece the same length in the Daily News.) The staff included the clergyman H. R. Haweis, whose dramatic sermons made St. James, Marylebone, a tourist attraction; George Manville Fenn, whose boys adventure stories gave lessons in geography and natural history; John Macdonnel, later master of the Supreme Court; George Shce, another barrister; William Black, a very successful novelist, now forgotten; and most surprisingly, Frances Power Cobbe, one of the very few women to have a regular staff position on a London paper. . . .

The importance of the Echo under Arthur Arnold's editorship lay in its reach as a halfpenny evening paper with racing results, political commentary, and business news; in its lack of identification with any specific faction; and in the freedom it supplied to an activist who created a lively, genderless voice that let her opinions speak for "the newspaper" rather than coming before the public as "a woman." At the same time, Cobbe learned through hard experience the physical and mental rigors of writing to order three days a week.[186-87, 190]

Bibliography

Mitchell, Sally Francis Power Cobbe: Victorian Feminist, Journalist, Reformer. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2004.


Victorian Periodicals

Last modified 9 July 2014