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Origin Of Newspapers
by [?]


[Footnote 1: Since the appearance of the eleventh edition of this work, the detection of a singular literary deception has occurred. The evidence respecting The English Mercurie rests on the alleged discovery of the literary antiquary, George Chalmers. I witnessed, fifty years ago, that laborious researcher busied among the long dusty shelves of our periodical papers, which then reposed in the ante-chamber to the former reading-room of the British Museum. To the industry which I had witnessed, I confided, and such positive and precise evidence could not fail to be accepted by all. In the British Museum, indeed, George Chalmers found the printed English Mercurie; but there also, it now appears, he might have seen the original, with all its corrections, before it was sent to the press, written on paper of modern fabric. The detection of this literary imposture has been ingeniously and unquestionably demonstrated by Mr. Thomas Watts, in a letter to Mr. Panizzi, the keeper of the printed books in the British Museum. The fact is, the whole is a modern forgery, for which Birch, preserving it among his papers, has not assigned either the occasion or the motive. Mr. Watts says–“The general impression left on the mind by the perusal of the Mercurie is, that it must have been written after the Spectator”; that the manuscript was composed in modern spelling, afterwards antiquated in the printed copy; while the type is similar to that used by Caslon in 1766. By this accidental reference to the originals, “the unaccountably successful imposition of fifty years was shattered to fragments in five minutes.” I am inclined to suspect that it was a jeu d’esprit of historical antiquarianism, concocted by Birch and his friends the Yorkes, with whom, as it is well known, he was concerned in a more elegant literary recreation, the composition of the Athenian Letters. The blunder of George Chalmers has been repeated in numerous publications throughout Europe and in America. I think it better to correct the text by this notice than by a silent suppression, that it may remain a memorable instance of the danger incurred by the historian from forged documents; and a proof that multiplied authorities add no strength to evidence, when nil are to be traced to a single source.]