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"An extremely scurrilous paper" : the Cornwall Chronicle, 1835-47


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Bell, Jane 1993 , '"An extremely scurrilous paper" : the Cornwall Chronicle, 1835-47', Unspecified thesis, University of Tasmania.

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On the 9th of February 1847, Earl Grey, the Secretary of
State for the Colonies, sent a circular despatch to all
colonies under the British Crown requesting that they
provide him with details of each of the major newspapers
that were currently operating. This was nothing new.
Grey commented in the despatch that it had been a common
practice for a number of years and that "there are no
means by which Her Majesty's Government may become
acquainted with the general tone and temper of Colonial
Society so readily as through the Colonial Press." He
wanted information on the circulation of each paper, to
which classes in society each might appeal and the
general character of the particular paper. He stressed
that all despatches on this subject would be
Governor William Denison of Van Diemen's Land referred
the matter to Colonial Secretary J.B. Bicheno on the 21
July 1847. Bicheno's confidential reply noted that the
north of the colony supported two journals published
twice weekly, the Cornwall Chronicle and the Launceston
Examiner. He also commented that Mr. William Lushington
Goodwin, editor of the former, was once again its sole proprietor. When Goodwin had become insolvent he had
managed the business, paying rent to Mr. John Cameron who
bought it at public auction. Bicheno continued: "It has
usually been an extremely scurrilous paper, and does not
possess much influence amongst the more respectable
classes of Society, but it is extensively circulated
amongst the Licensed Victuallers, and read by many who
love personalities. It advocates the continuance of
transportation to this Colony. The Launceston
Examiner, on the other hand, was considered to be "a very
respectable paper especially amongst the better sort of
persons on the Northern side." It was also acknowledged
as being the advocate of the cessation of transportation. Governor Denison forwarded this reply to Earl Grey on the
10th of November 1847 and added some remarks of his own,
including the fact that this information might, to a
certain extent, be outdated by the time it was received
because newspapers appeared to change hands and because
"the character of a paper is in this Colony so entirely
dependent upon that of its Editor." This thesis examines and analyses the pages of the
Cornwall Chronicle from 1835 until 1847 with reference to the observations of Earl Grey, Colonial Secretary Bicheno
and Governor Denison and within the context of the
prevailing social, economic and political conditions. The analysis of any newspaper includes the development of
the newspaper itself, but also takes into account the
"perceptions and experiences of its readers as reflected
in the content." All components of a newspaper's
content ought to be analysed if conclusions are to be
drawn about that particular newspaper reflecting the
society in which it operates. For example, an analysis
of the content of the notices and advertisements gives an
indication of the goods and services available, as well
as what percentage of space in the newspaper is devoted
to advertising. The editorial comment, on the other
hand, can act as a guide to understanding the views of
the readers and the correspondent's page can indicate
that audience's reaction to an issue. However, not all
readers would view the contents of a newspaper in the
same way, and the fact that an item may appear frequently
does not necessarily reflect its importance. With these
constraints therefore, what is to be gained from an
analysis of the content? By analysing the content of a
newspaper we are able to examine the way of life as it is
expressed for those readers at that particular time, and to use Earl Grey's words, "become acquainted with the
general tone and temper of Colonial Society." 6
The Introduction to the thesis provides the frame of
reference as well as some background information on the
settlement of Launceston. Part A examines the Cornwall
Chronicle in terms of its general appearance and layout,
the circulation and distribution, its editor and its
competitors. Part A aims to establish the identity of
this particular colonial newspaper.
Part B of the thesis aims to add to that identity by
analysing the content of the newspaper. It examines some
of the components of Van Diemen's Land society as they
are interpreted in the pages of the newspaper.
Part C addresses the issues of colonial administration,
transportation, freedom of the press and scurrility as
presented in the Cornwall Chronicle and within the
broader colonial context.
These issues have been
selected because of their relevance to Van Diemen's Land
society in general, and to an understanding of the
character of the newspaper in particular.
The conclusion to the thesis relates the comments of
Grey, Denison and Bicheno to this analysis. Because the relationship between any society and the newspaper(s)
which serve it is a complex one, it is difficult to draw
conclusions about that particular society. Nevertheless,
the difficulty will be confronted.

Item Type: Thesis - Unspecified
Authors/Creators:Bell, Jane
Keywords: Cornwall Chronicle, Newspaper publishing
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1994 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 138-141). Thesis (M. Hum.)--University of Tasmania, 1994

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