Oliver Goldsmith: War and its servile press
From Citizen of the World (1762)
But, perhaps, you may find more satisfaction in a real newspaper, than in my description of one; I therefore send a specimen, which may serve to exhibit the manner of their being written, and distinguish the characters of the various nations which are united in its composition…
VIENNA. We have received certain advices that a party of twenty thousand Austrians, having attacked a much superior body of Prussians, put them all to flight, and took the rest prisoners of war.
BERLIN. We have received certain advices that a party of twenty thousand Prussians having attacked a much superior body of Austrians, put them to flight, and took a great number of prisoners, with their military chest, cannon, and baggage.
Though we have not succeeded this campaign to our wishes; yet, when we think of him who commands us, we rest in security: while we sleep, our king is watchful for our safety.
PARIS. We shall soon strike a signal blow. We have seventeen flat-bottom’d boats at Havre. The people are in excellent spirits, and our ministers make no difficulty of raising the supplies.
We are all undone; the people are discontented to the last degree; the ministers are obliged to have recourse to the most rigorous methods to raise the expenses of the war.
Our distresses are great; but Madame Pompadour continues to supply our king, who is now growing old, with a fresh lady every night. His health, thank heaven, is still pretty well; nor is he in the least unfit, as was reported, for any kind of royal exercitation. He was so frighted at the affair of Damiens, that his physicians were apprehensive lest his reason should suffer, but that wretch’s tortures soon composed the kingly terrors of his breast.
ENGLAND. Wanted an usher to an academy. N. B. He must be able to read, dress hair, and must have had the small pox.
DUBLIN. We hear that there is a benevolent subscription on foot among the nobility and gentry of this kingdom, who are great patrons of merit, in order to assist Black and All Black, in his contest with the Paddereen mare.
We hear from Germany that Prince Ferdinand has gained a complete victory, and taken twelve kettle drums, five standards, and four waggons of ammunition prisoners of war.
After I had crossed the great wail, the first objects that presented were the remains of desolated cities, and all the magnificence of venerable ruin. There were to be seen temples of beautiful structure, statues wrought by the hand of a master, and around a country of luxuriant plenty; but not one single inhabitant to reap the bounties of nature. These were prospects that might humble the Pride of kings, and repress human vanity. I asked my guide the cause of such desolation. These countries, says he, were once the dominions of a Tartar prince; and these ruins the seat of arts, elegance, and ease. This prince waged an unsuccessful war with one of the emperors of China; he was conquered, his cities plundered, and all his subjects carried into captivity. Such are the effects of the ambition of Kings! Ten dervises, say the Indian proverb, shall sleep in peace upon a single carpet, while two kings shall quarrel though they have kingdoms to divide them. Sure, my friend, the cruelty and the pride of man have made more deserts than nature ever made! she is kind, but man is ungrateful!