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A New Investment
by [?]

I am not so sure how far we ought to be grateful for it, but assuredly the fact is so, that nothing has so much tended to show the world with what little wisdom it is governed than the Telegraph. It is not merely that cabinets are no longer the sole possessors of early intelligence, though this alone was once a very great privilege; and there is no over-estimating the power conferred by the exclusive possession of a piece of important news–a battle won or lost, the outbreak of a revolution, the overthrow of a throne–even for a few hours before it became the property of the public. The telegraph, however, is the great disenchanter. The misty uncertainty, the cloud-like indistinctness that used of old to envelop all ministerial action, converting Downing Street into a sort of Olympus, and making a small mythology out of Precis-writers, is all gone, all dispersed. Three or four cold hard lines, thin and terse as the wire that conveyed them, are sworn enemies to all style, and especially to all the evasive cajoleries of those dissolving views of events diplomacy loves to revel in. What becomes of the graceful drapery in which statesmen used to clothe the great facts of the world, when a simple despatch, “fifteen words, exclusive of the address,” tells the whole story? and when we have read that “the insurgents are triumphant everywhere, the king left the capital at four o’clock, a provisional government was proclaimed this morning,” and suchlike, what do we care for the sonorous periods in which official priestcraft chants the downfall of a dynasty?

The great stronghold of statecraft was, however, Speculation–I mean that half-prophetic view of events which we always conceded to those who looked over the world from a higher window than ourselves. What has become of this now? Who so bold as to predict what, while he is yet speaking, may be contradicted? who is there hardy enough to forecast what the events of the last half-hour may have falsified, and five minutes more will serve to publish to the whole world?

It may be amusing to read the comments of the speech or the leading article, but the “despatch” is the substance: and however clever the variations, the original melody remains unaltered. Let any one imagine to himself a five-act drama, preceded by a telegraphic intimation of all its incidents–how insupportable would the slow procession of events become after such a revelation! Up to this, Ministers performed a sort of Greek chorus, chanting in ambiguous phrase the woes that invaded those who differed from them, and the heart-corroding sorrows that sat below the “gangway.” There has come an end to all this. All the dramatic devices of those days are gone, and we live in an age in which many men are their own priests, their lawyers, and their doctors, and where, certes, each man is his own prophet.

These reflections have been much impressed upon me by a ramble I took yesterday in company with one of the most agreeable of all our diplomatists–one of those men who seem to weld into their happy natures all the qualities which make good companionship, and blend with the polished manners of a courtier the dash of an Eton boy and the deep reflectiveness of a man of the world–a man to whom nothing comes wrong, and whom you would be puzzled to say whether he was more in his element at a cabinet council, or one of a shooting-party in the Highlands.

“I say, O’Dowd,” cried he, after a pause of some time in our conversation, “has it never struck you that those tall poles and wires are destined to be the end of both your trade and mine, and that within a very few years neither of our occupations will have a representative left? Take my word for it,” said he, more solemnly, “in less than ten years from the present date a penny-a-liner will be as rare as a posthorse, and a post-shay not more a curiosity than a minister-plenipotentiary.”