The Crimean War produced the first generally acknowledged war correspondent:The Times’s William Howard Russell. But perhaps more importantly, the war also changed the way journalism itself functioned during wartime and the way readers participated in its reportage. Newspapers like The Times provided a public forum for the expression of private experiences of the war—a forum in which public and private voices mixed, as official “despatches” were printed alongside personal letters from soldiers at the front. In addition, institutionally backed editorials and articles from the papers’ “Own Correspondents” surrounded an unprecedented barrage of letters to the editor from civilians weighing in on the Crimean campaign. These unofficial contributions suggest that the world fashioned by the mass media during what was dubbed “the people’s war” functioned as a genuine public sphere.
In the middle of January 1855, in the heart of the first, ravaging winter spent by British troops on Crimean soil and only a few weeks before the public outrage over the mismanagement of the war effort toppled the Aberdeen government, Captain George Frederick Dallas sent a letter home to his family:
I must give you an instance while I think of it, of the clever way in which everything connected with the Army is done, at home as well as here. We got up at last about 20 pair of boots per company, a great want as the men were all in a wretched state. Would you believe that they are all too small! & except for a very few men useless! How curiously the vein of Incapacity seems to wind about thro’ everything, not omitting even the humble boot. With endless wealth, great popular enthusiasm, numberless ships, the best material for Soldiers in the World, we are certainly the worst clad, worst fed, worst housed Army that ever was read of.
Dallas’s letter is remarkable on a number of fronts. Notice the elaborate construction of its sentences, in which the motif of the central “vein of Incapacity” seems to find a grammatical correlative in Dickens’s fog of Chancery at the beginning of the recently published Bleak House (1852–53) and anticipates the frustrations of that author’s Crimean-born “Circumlocution Office” in Little Dorrit (1855–57). Dallas’s sarcasm (note that “clever”) might also surprise readers, running counter to our expectations for the tone of a young Victorian war hero’s description of his experiences to his family. In general, the missive provides evidence that, at least as regards the issue of mismanagement, the perception of the war on the battlefront was very close to that on the home front. But the letter also—and to me even more remarkably—indicates the reason for this similarity in what might be the most surprising part of the passage: its final two words. What Dallas notes is not his membership in the “worst housed Army that ever was” but “that ever was read of.” It seems a slight difference, but these words contain the crux of what made the British experience of the Crimean War such a novel one, both for the army in the East and for people at home. For to an unprecedented degree, the experience of the Crimean War was filtered through print—not just after the fact as with past wars, when poets, novelists, and historians took up their pens to memorialize the experience, but in real time and by an extraordinary range of writers.Dallas unwittingly cites the major reason for this shift earlier in the same letter, when he comments that “Lord Raglan [the British Commander in- Chief of the forces in the East], who I think must have read The Times, came up here today, & is going to send the 63rd. to Balaklava” (70). Dallas is referring to complaints about Raglan’s invisibility and the soldiers’ overworked state expressed in The Times’s editorial columns as well as to the reports sent home by William Howard Russell, the “Special Correspondent” to the newspaper. But more significant than the military adjustments is Dallas’s conviction that Raglan’s reading of a newspaper prompted these changes. One week before, Dallas had attributed the tone of his own correspondence to the same source. “I am very glad to see that you seem thoroughly to understand my all letters,” he remarks, noting that his decision to write truthfully of the state of things has its roots in the press reports: “I thought & still think it an unworthy thing to write cheerful letters & say nothing of facts that you must know sooner or later by the papers”.
What Dallas describes here are typical moments of the war, moments in which reading and writing play central roles. Such moments usually begin with the observations of Russell, often considered the first real war correspondent. Virtually unknown at the start of the conflict, Russell’s was a household name by its conclusion, although his reports were published anonymously, usually under the sobriquet “from our Special [i.e. not just ‘our Own’] Correspondent.” His letters detailing not only battles but also the day-to-day life of the army and its appendages made him a hero and (at times) a villain. They were read avidly by hundreds of thousands of Britons. Russell’s dominance was so generally recognized that Henry Kingsley deferred to him when, in writing the novel Ravenshoe (1862), he was faced with the need to describe Sebastopol: “I could do it capitally by buying a copy of Mr. Russell’s ‘War’ [the compilation of his reports to The Times published in 1855–56]. . . . But I think you will agree with me that it is better left alone. One hardly likes to come into the field in that line after Russell” (350). Yet if Russell’s voice was loudest, it was backed by a surprising chorus in the newspapers of the day. Indeed, the most remarkable thing concerning how the war was read and written about is the way in which the papers provided a public forum for the expression of private experience, a forum in which public and private voices mixed. In newspapers, official “despatches” (as they were called) were printed alongside personal letters from soldiers at the front, and institutionally-backed leading editorials and news reportage that took the shape of letters from a paper’s “own correspondents” were surrounded by an unprecedented barrage of letters to the editor about the war. In The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Jürgen Habermas declared “the world fashioned by the mass media” to be “a public sphere in appearance only”: The mass press was based on the commercialization of the participation in the public sphere on the part of broad strata designed predominantly to give the masses in general access to the public sphere. This expanded public sphere, however, lost its political character to the extent that the means of “psychological facilitation” could become an end in itself for a commercially fostered consumer attitude. But the world fashioned by the mass media during the Crimean War, though doubtless the product of commercialization, functioned as a public sphere in reality as well as in appearance. Early on, The Times christened the conflict in the East “the people’s war” (Editorial Leader, 5 May 1854, 8). This claim, to the extent that it is true, depended upon the newspapers.
The central place of the papers in the British experience of the Crimean War was (and is) undisputed. In 1855, W. R. Greg declared the phenomenon of the increasing power of the Fourth Estate to be the “greatest FACT” of the day. The dominance of the press had a variety of technological and historical causes. By the time of the Crimean War, newspapers had become the acknowledged primary vehicle for the dissemination of political opinion (O. Anderson 82). Greg observes the “remarkable” “change of form” since the days of the French Revolution: “the substitution of newspapers for pamphlets”. In addition to expressing domestic opinion, the papers had also improved in their ability to publish accurate and speedy reports from abroad. Accuracy depended on the recent invention of the professional foreign correspondent. Speed resulted from Julius Reuter’s establishment of a telegraph agency in London in 1851, which allowed brief official dispatches from the Crimea and unofficial translations from the foreign presses to arrive within days. Mail boats took longer (Russell’s correspondence would usually be published about two weeks after the fact) but were still extraordinarily quick in comparison to the months needed to transmit news from the East during the Napoleonic Wars.But the dominance of the newspaper press also depended on an extraordinary freedom in reporting that allowed Russell and others to comment in detail on British organizational and strategic failures.
This right was well established by the time of the war. Arthur Aspinall points to the general perception, enshrined in William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–69), that a “free Press was ‘the birthright of Britons,’ the most valuable of all their privileges, ‘the great palladium of British freedom.’ It was, said Blackstone, ‘essential to the nature of a free State’”. Moreover, as Aspinall adds, “It is surely remarkable that during the Napoleonic wars there was neither an official nor a voluntary censorship” in Britain, while “on the Continent, the freedom of the Press was non-existent” (34n2). Indeed, throughout the Crimean War, all French reports were systematically subjected to censorship at the hands of the Ministry of War, a difference in policy much noted at the time (Royle 333). In contrast, as Olive Anderson remarks, in Britain, “the principle that the Press should not disclose information of military value was enunciated by the Government and accepted by the Press, although its application was left to the patriotism of individual editors and correspondents in a way thoroughly characteristic of that generation” (73). In the past, while the Duke of Wellington had complained of reports in the press (Aspinall 35), such unspoken rules had functioned relatively well, especially since news took so long to arrive from distant fronts. But now editors showed less and less desire to limit their correspondents—perhaps unsurprisingly, given how lucrative the reports from the war were proving to be.Nevertheless, the freedom of the press did not go uncontested; indeed, it spurred much debate. Politicians and military commanders remarked frequently on the dangers accompanying the technological advances that had brought about the success of the newspapers. While little might have been gained from hearing news of British weapons and positions months after the fact, it was a different matter for the enemy to hear of them within weeks, or even hours. Thus in September of 1854, Lord Clarendon, the British Foreign Secretary, wrote with dismay to his ambassador at Constantinople:
Our “own correspondents” have certainly contrived to keep our enemy informed of all he must want to know—his only disadvantage is 8 hours delay which is the time necessary for transmitting to St P[etersburg] all that the newspapers contain and they generally publish as much as the Gvt knows for in one way or another some correspondents at Hd Qrs generally discovers and transmits every secret order or intended movement as well as every disaster or disharmony and the patriotic editors never think of keeping back anything injurious to the public service. . . . The press and telegraph are enemies we had not taken into account but as they are invincible there is no use in complaining to them. (qtd. in Royle 178–79)
Clarendon’s sense of futility did not stop his objections from being voiced publicly by many in the military and the government.The press was quick to mount a defense against the threat to its inherited liberties. Countless editorial leaders and letters to the editor speak to the issue, as do Russell’s own reports. Significantly, the right to a free press became conflated in the debate with another major force of the war years: public opinion. As Habermas has argued, “the self-interpretation of the function of the bourgeois public sphere crystallized
in the idea of ‘public opinion’” ). So just as the newspapers—and especially The Times—claimed to be nothing more than organs for the expression of public opinion, so freedom of the press became freedom for the expression of public opinion. And of equal importance to the question of what professional correspondents like Russell should be allowed to publish were questions about the unprecedented amount of publication of private letters from the front. Consider, for example, a Times leader from 7 December 1854:
Strong objections have been expressed in quarters that claim our highest respect to the free publication of letters from the East containing news likely to be serviceable to the enemy. That we have gone to the verge of prudence in satisfying the curiosity or the scientific interest of our readers we cannot deny, and on a cursory perusal of our columns it might seem, at first sight, that we had conveyed a dangerous amount of information. . . . [B]ut the fact is, the letters of private correspondents contain quite as much detail, and in some instances more detail, of a military character than the more picturesque descriptions of our own correspondent [Russell]. . . . Indeed, when every mail from the East brings many thousand letters, when not only every subaltern pretends to be a tactician, but every corporal has his budget of military gossip, and when there are several hundred newspapers in this country ready to pick up every stray scrap of information that they can call their own, it is evident that the evil complained of is gigantic—that is, it is commensurate with the whole British public and people. In fact, it is nothing more nor less than that publicity which is the life not only of freedom, but equally of all political action in this country.
The private correspondence of soldiers thus comes to stand for the opinion of the people, an opinion to which the papers are merely giving voice. Even so, technological advances, a newfound assertiveness on the part of reporters and editors, and the growing publicity of soldiers’ letters together made the circulation of military information a matter of grave concern to the government. Predictably, then, the freedom of the press that had constituted the experience of the Crimean War was also a victim of it. When General William Codrington took over as Commander in-Chief of the forces in the East in the final days of the war, he issued an order (on 25 February 1856) that “forbade the publication of details of value to the enemy, authorised the ejection of a correspondent who, it was alleged, had published such details, and threatened future offenders with the same punishment” (Knightley 15). Codrington’s order ensured the uniqueness of the written experience of the Crimean War; as Knightley records, “when Britain next became involved in a major war— against the Boers—censorship was accepted as necessary and just, and it became the dominating feature of the reporting of the First World War, crushing correspondents into virtual silence” (15). As the preceding account of the newspaper industry has already intimated, The Times stood securely on top of the mountain of newspapers of the day: many called it “The Thunderer”; Anthony Trollope was to name it The Jupiter in his contemporary novels, The Warden (1855) and Barchester Towers (1857). While the dominance of The Times owed much to its circulation before the war, the war strengthened it.
For one thing, as the 7 December 1854 editorial leader suggests, the management of The Times had amassed an enormously talented staff of media-savvy editorial writers who made the best possible use of catchphrases (O. Anderson 75). Moreover, the leader writers’ fluent brandishing of the editorial “we” was supported by the popular perception that The Times did indeed speak for the people—that it was the true “Vox Populi,” as a leading article put it when defending the paper’s decision to take Queen Victoria to task for going on her usual holiday to the Scottish Highlands despite the present crisis: “We have but written that which is publicly uttered everywhere, and in far more explicit terms” (Editorial Leader, 9 Oct. 1854). While many objected to the resultant power of The Times, few denied its facility at giving voice to public opinion. So, for example, a man styling himself “A West Country Gentleman” begins a letter to the editor of the Morning Chronicle (the daily with the second largest circulation) by calling The Times “the Czar of the newspaper press” (7)—that is, a ruthless enemy dictator. He then goes on to explain the cause for the paper’s power: “I believe it will not be denied that this success has in part arisen from adroitly studying and expressing, without the smallest regard to consistency, the fluctuating passions of the upper and middle classes of this country. People like to see their confused and shadowy prejudices thrown into a clear and tangible shape” (7).
The leader writers were particularly adept at this embodiment. Even the angry “Gentleman” accepts that the results yield some documentary attractions: “Certainly, it is interesting, in a psychological point of view, to study so sensitive an index of the various emotions of English human nature; a photographic likeness of the passions and prejudices, nay, it must be admitted, at times the generous impulses of the people” (7). Others also had sinister views of the paper. As Greg remarked, while the role of the Fourth Estate as a whole may be benign, matters change when any one member of that estate becomes too dominant: “when from any cause one single journal has so far distanced its competitors as virtually to have extinguished them, when it has so completely monopolised the public ear, and filled the public eye, that other organs can scarcely be seen or heard,” then “the ‘republic of letters’ . . . becomes a despotism, and menaces us with the evils which attach to autocracy in all its forms” (492).
This power had accrued to The Times during the war: “It of itself forms, and is, the public opinion of the country” (493). David Urquhart put the matter succinctly: “The Times gave to the present war the name of ‘the people’s war.’ A contemporary replied by calling it ‘the Times war’” (282). Perhaps the paper was not just expressing public opinion but also dictating it. One writer of a letter to the editor made precisely this point in discussing the popular silence in response to the government’s delay in forming a new administration after the fall of the Aberdeen Ministry:
Common-sense people cannot understand this, but they are neither indifferent nor unimpassioned observers of these things, and though at present they have made but little public demonstration of their feelings, it is because they are not factitiously disposed—however some of our statesmen may be—because they have but one desire, to see a vigorous War Administration, and are not as yet able clearly to see the proper combination of parties to carry out a proper policy, and because the recent Administration has so compromised and neutralized political leaders. Let The Times dictate such a policy, and point out the men, and I venture to say the country will rally round them. (“B. B.” 9)
As Urquhart puts it, less sanguinely: “Heretofore the people had ‘leaders’ whom at least they knew; now they have columns of anonymous type [i.e., editorial leaders]” (279). As I have suggested, though, the most powerful single voice of the war belonged to Russell, whose letters from the front provided those at home with an ongoing story of the Crimean War, complete with a first-person everyman of a narrator/hero: the reporter himself. Nevertheless, Russell’s description of his own heroics was complicated by his recognition of the distance between him and the men whose lives (and, more troublingly, deaths) he was describing. It was also affected by his awareness that he was but one writer among many describing the war—and that many of those other writers were fighting in it as well. So just as Fred Dallas had to accept that his mother would be reading Russell’s correspondence and adjust the tone of his letters accordingly, Russell had to write under the burden (or on the foundations) of the thousands of private letters that were arriving from the front. Thus, for example, in the midst of his description of the Battle of Inkermann, Russell comments that “No doubt, there will be an abundance of private letters full of similar details” (4 Dec. 1854, 7). Appropriately, Inkermann had been christened “the soldiers’ battle” because the fog in which it was fought (meteorological, this time, as well as figurative) meant that the leaders of the army could not see well enough to command the action, leaving the fighters themselves, mostly privates, to make combat decisions. As the correspondence notes, Russell labored under the same difficulties as the generals in his efforts to put together a complete narrative:
The Battle of Inkermann admits of no description. It was a series of dreadful deeds of daring, of sanguinary hand-to-hand fights, of despairing rallies, of desperate assaults. . . . No one, however placed, could have witnessed even a small portion of this eventful day—for the vapours, fog, and drizzling mist obscured the ground where the struggle took place. (23 Nov. 1854, 6)
The soldiers would step in to remedy the situation here, too. A Times editorial leader describes the trend constituted by such unofficial correspondence (again in the context of the debate over freedom of the press):
Are we, or are we not, to publish the letters that pour in from the Crimea? The question no longer concerns the graphic narratives of “our Own Correspondent.” . . . The question now concerns letters long and many, some original, from sergeants and privates, some copied by fair and anxious hands, from officers of all ranks in the army, from old colonels to youthful lieutenants,—from everybody, in fact, excepting only the members of that faithful cordon that surrounds each General. Two months ago we could not have seen the letter of an officer containing some trifling reflections on the inevitable mishaps of an army on the march or in the field without being laid under the most solemn obligation not to publish it, or at least to disguise the source of our information. Now the whole army rushes into print. Parents, wives, brothers, the whole family circle, as if they no longer cared for promotion and had forgotten the Horse Guards, urge us to publish, and tell the whole truth. (30 Dec. 1854, 6)
And Dallas records proof of the phenomenon:
People at home seem certainly greedy of any information from here, and in many instances having been lent letters to read, have most unwarrantably published them. To my astonishment, I saw in a Liverpool paper, a note of mine to a poor Sergeant’s wife, whom I think I told you I had written to, about her husband. As it merely stated that her husband had been wounded and was unable to write, in a very few lines, I cannot conceive what interest anybody could have taken in publishing it. It is hardly safe to write an order to one’s Tailor now.
Dallas registers both distaste and astonishment at the occurrence, which he clearly takes to be a breach of privacy. And that “order to one’s Tailor” reminds me of the laundry list in Northanger Abbey (1818) upon which Catherine Morland pounces with such potentially dangerous interest, thinking it to be the incriminating document that will prove General Tilney to be a murderer. Both scraps of paper provide instances of a greedy desire not just to search through people’s closets but to do so out of an unreasonable hunger for new and exciting reading material. Of course, as readers of Austen’s novel have been arguing for years, her whole point in Northanger Abbey is that the gothic (the proof of Tilney’s guilt) and the quotidian (the laundry list) are often indistinguishable: Tilney may not be a murderer, but by the end of the novel, he has revealed himself to be a domestic tyrant. Similarly, during a war in which the inadequate uniforms of the soldiers became a cause célèbre, an officer’s tailor’s bill might indeed have held an almost gothic interest.
Actually, for all his derisiveness, Dallas was also guilty of reproducing private correspondence. In an earlier letter, he described—not publicly, perhaps, but still to a wider circle than the intended audience— the note from his Sergeant’s wife to which he was responding:
He himself told me that she was “a first rate woman,” but that her spelling was indifferent, & then showed me a letter from her, & insisted on my reading it from one end to the other, smoking a little pipe on his stretcher & making the quaintest comments on it. “Have you come to the part, where she says, Captain, she doesn’t care if I come home with no limbs”? She spelt it, poor dear woman, “lims,” & seemed to have a sort of idea that her husband would return a “torso.” I shall be quite sorry to part with him, when he goes, & he asked me if he might write to me when he goes away.
The passage provides evidence of the increasingly literate population that helped create the flood of correspondence about the war. Of course, there were limits to this trend, and large portions of the soldiers’ experience of the war must have remained unrecorded. A “Lady Volunteer” serving as a nurse in the East tells of her encounters with such voicelessness when she offered to write letters home for injured soldiers: “very often they had not a word to say, but trusted entirely to the lady. ‘What shall I say?’ we began with.—‘Just anything at all you like, Miss—just the same as you writes your own letters home. You knows how to make up a letter better than I do!’ ” ([Taylor] 123–24). Nevertheless, some of the published letters were private and they seem at least to be authentic expressions (they were clearly taken as such) of what had hitherto remained silent experiences. But the circumstances surrounding the publication of Dallas’s response also remind us that war always forces a confrontation between public and private perspectives and responsibilities. As Tricia Lootens has argued in relation to war poetry, the most reactionary Victorian patriotic fervor becomes interesting in its attempts “openly to unite developing conceptions of subjective identity, at its most intimate, private, and inescapable, with shifting definitions of the powers and duties of public political subjects” (276). The sergeant’s wife must have believed that Dallas’s note belonged not only to her, but in some sense to the whole British public: as an acknowledgement of her husband’s heroism and his officer’s kindness, as evidence of what was happening in the East. Even in Russell’s case the distinction between public and personal writing occasionally broke down. The substance of his private letters to Times editor John Thadeus Delane often made their way into the editorials, and the letters were published perhaps even against his wishes on occasion. Two weeks after having raged against a particularly harsh report from “Our Special Correspondent” accusing British military brass of incompetence in the disastrous attack on a fortification known as the Redan that formed the British contribution to the final assault on Sebastopol, Dallas records that Russell “has the decency to avow (with I don’t know what amount of truth) that the low personalities about Simpson, Airey & others in the trenches on the 8th were written in a private letter & not intended for publication” (197). But presumably Delane felt that the public deserved to know the contents of that letter, too. In fact, published private letters like Dallas’s to his sergeant’s wife served in the papers as supplementary narratives to those given by Russell and other “Own Correspondents.” They were often grouped under headings like “Private Letters from the Crimea,” and editors appear to have striven to assemble these groups to represent some range of military experience.
For example, a collection of letters published by The Times on 28 November 1854 consisted of missives from “a Scotch sergeant of artillery to his wife,” from “a young officer of the ‘Royal’ Regiment to his sister,” and from “a private soldier of the 63d Regiment . . . to his mother” (“Letters” 8). The letters would be introduced either by notes from the individuals who had sent them in (often, but not always, their original addressees) or by brief editorial comments. Thus the letter from the private, George Evans, was set up by a moving endorsement from the older gentleman who had initially urged Evans to enlist, the young man’s “having fallen into some of those youthful errors so common among our rural population.” The army had transformed him, and the proof comes in the private’s letter, which touchingly recounts the death of the endorser’s own son, a standard-bearer for the regiment. This private moment is offered up to the public not only as a memorial to his son’s bravery but also to show “that the British private soldier, while he entirely appreciates the gallant bearing of the officer who cheers him into action, is deeply influenced by early local attachments, and is not insensible of those sympathies which must render him capable of becoming a good citizen no less than a courageous and admirable soldier”. The most personal of letters—one describing the death of a son—therefore has public significance. Other letters offer private perspectives on the public events of the war. For instance, the officer whose letter appears in the same grouping describes one man’s experience of the chaos at the battle of Inkermann, beginning with the admission, “I can tell little more of it than what I was actually concerned in”:
I and some others, with about 200 men, had just come in from being 24 hours in the trenches, during the most of which it rained, and I was just getting warm in bed when we heard the bugles sound the assembly. We were marched over to where the fighting was going on, and were told to advance immediately and support the Guards, who were skirmishing in front, and to drive the Russians down the hill. . . . We killed numbers of them, and as we had no orders to halt, we continued keeping along the hill side, about half-way down, and firing at the retreating enemy. I then heard the bugle sound to retire, and set about trying to get the men back—no such easy matter, as by this time, from several regiments having been sent after each other, they were all mixed up. [A renewed Russian attack interrupts this effort.] Our soldiers returned their fire, but were at a disadvantage from being exposed at such a short distance. At this time Sir George Cathcart [the commander of the 4th Division, who died during the battle] rode up within a few steps of where I stood, but I heard no order given, and began to have visions of being shot through the head or going prisoner into Sebastopol, as we could scarcely muster a company, and the enemy had a large force above us. . . . They stopped firing at us and began to stone us, as it seemed to me with very large stones; but I don’t now understand what it could be, as one struck a man just in front of where I stood, knocked his head to pieces, and sent him back with such force as to knock over the man behind him. I saw that something was clearing the way in that line, and stepped aside, so as to give it a chance of passing me, and had scarcely done so when an officer who came into my place was killed at my elbow. I then saw we could do nothing where we were. (“Letters” 8)
The letter both confirms and personalizes the details of Russell’s report of the action, serving in the supplementary manner the “Special Correspondent” had predicted. It shares Russell’s focus on the disorder of the engagement, but it adds a note of individual horror, especially in its description of the officer who died, quite literally, in the writer’s place. The tone of the private correspondence could vary widely, though. A letter in the Morning Chronicle introduced by the editor as coming “from a young man who, a few years since, was one of the singing boys at Rye church” ends an opening paragraph detailing experiences at the Battle of the Alma and the deprivations of the march leading to it with, “Tell mother I shall want a stunning beefpudding, with all the vegetables in season” (“Letters” 3). Such homely touches abound in published private correspondence. The aforementioned “Scotch sergeant,” for example, worries about his wife’s finances: “How do you get your money; it is always in my mind?” (“Letters,” TheTimes 8).
One thing that emerges in much of the correspondence about the war is the degree to which reading has influenced members of the British public in their own writing. That is to say, one is frequently made aware that one is reading the writing of readers. The “rush into print” was no doubt eased by the fact that much of the published writing in the papers took the form of the most ubiquitous and democratic of genres, the letter. Even editorial leaders used a related first-person format. As Habermas reminds us, “the private activities of reading novels and writing letters” are “preconditions for participation in the public sphere of the world of letters” (172). The letter-writing contributors to the newspapers during the war years seem well primed for such participation. Thus Russell’s columns were subject to public commentary and amendment in the very newspaper in which he wrote, in a manner that translated them into part of a broader, interactive phenomenon— a participatory journalism.