Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2016, Volume 37

1867 Preface to The Young Idea

by A.D. McArthurEdited by Mary Isbell
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The Young Idea! what a funny name, what does it mean? I fancy I hear some one exclaim, as they take up this volume; and that reminds me that perhaps a few words of explanation as to the title and object of this work would not be amiss.
The good ship “Chesapeake”X
HMS Chesapeake was a Royal Navy screw frigate with fifty-one guns in the Forte (or Imperieuse) class, which was one of several classes including the thirty new wooden screw frigates completed between 1849 and 1865 (197). She was built in dry dock, launched on September 7, 1855, and her masting and fitting-out was completed on August 28, 1857. She was 212 feet long, 50 feet 2 inches at the broadest point, with a depth in the hold of 16 feet and 9 inches. She was built for a company of 515 men. The Chesapeake was sold in 1867 to be broken up for parts at Charlton (200). David Lyon and Rif Winfield, The Sail & Steam Navy List: All the Ships of the Royal Navy, 1815–1889 (London: Chatham Publishing), 2004.
, newly commissioned, was speeding on her way to the burning coasts of India in the last month of 1857, and all hands were shaken into their proper places by a voyage of 52 days from England to the Cape, where we had touched for a day or two; when a party of young Officers were skylarking outside the midshipmen’s berth, vainly endeavouring to dispel the monotony of the voyage, and suddenly one proposed that a newspaper should be got up, and amidst the roar of delight which greeted the proposal, it was further carried “nemine dissentiente” That I should be the Editor of the same. “What is it to be called?” asked one, ‘“Chesapeake Times”’ cried one; ‘Steerage Gazette’, shouted another, while various other appellations were offered, but all agreed that they were common, and this must be something uncommon - “What do you say to the “Young Idea”? at last proposed one, “Yes! Yes! that will do”, they shouted, “we’ll teach it to shoot.” and thus it was that the Chesapeake Journal was christened with the title of the “Young Idea.”X
The title for the newspaper is taken from James Thomson's Seasons, a collection of poems that was incredibly popular with Victorian readers. The particular line is from "Spring": "Delightful task! to rear the tender thought, /To teach the young idea how to shoot" (ll. 1149-50). McArthur explains the metaphor in the first issue of the paper as follows:
Everything must have a beginning; whether it be one to astonish by its grandeur, and perfectness; or to promote mere commonplace expressions of pleasure; or what is still more frequently the case, to receive a casual glance, and to be cast from our minds as unworthy a second thought: yet, how often do we see, that the latter class of endeavours, will, in the end, be more successful than those which promised so much at first, but which finally lose their power as they proceed.
Even so, let us hope, — altho’ our columns may contain naught of great promise, when first displayed to the criticising world; that every week we may gain greater strength, and afford greater pleasure, and amusement to our readers.
We may be allowed to compare the opening of this Journal to the sowing of a seed, which, when put into the ground is of no present worth, but which by due care and attention being paid to its culture, shoots up and increases in growth every day till its flowers burst forth and well repay the labour bestowed upon its infancy.
We, then, require that this “Young Idea” may be “taught to” “shoot” by all those who have any consideration for its advancement, and they will by assisting, and giving their valuable help, act as gardeners, in rearing from this feeble commencement, a source of never ending pastime.
To Critics, we would say one or two words; let them not nip the bud, and thus destroy the flower, but rather, repair any faults by adding their tribute to the pages of the “Young Idea.”
And now, as to its object. Newspapers are not generally regarded on board men-of-war, with a friendly eye by the Officers in command, on account of the opportunity which they afford the Juniors of quizzing them, and the Superior Officers, and making impertinent remarks upon their acts, thus setting discipline at defiance;— but when I took the editorial pen, it was my fixed determination to exclude all such emanations, and to fill the weekly sheet with nothing but what was amusing without being personal, with narratives of pleasure trips, descriptions of places visited, entertaining anecdotes and instructive information, and with such general matter as in future years should bring to remembrance the occurrences of by-gone days: in spite of my resolve, however, I found my paper met with much opposition at first, but through the aid of my dear friend the Reverend J.W. BampfieldX

John William Lewis Bampfield

Reverend John William Lewis Bampfield joined the Chesapeake on July 24, 1857 and was a regular contributor to and supporter of The Young Idea. While his age is not recorded in the muster book, census records reveal that Bampfield was born in June of 1823, so he was in his midthirties during the cruise. He was commissioned as chaplain aboard a different royal naval vessel in Port Royal, Jamaica before his arrival aboard the Chesapeake. His detailed journal provides an additional witness to The Young Idea, providing fascinating points of contrast from the facsimile edition that McArthur had printed in 1867 and offering hints about the authorship of contributions through his inclusion of the initials of authors (a marked list).
, the Chaplain, whose sole delight appeared to be in contributing to the pleasure of those around him, the paper gradually became a great favorite with all, and was eagerly looked for on the Saturday Evenings as the Daily Papers are at home on the morning of their publication. Far beyond the anticipation of many, this little Journal went on from week to week, at times hindered by some uncontrollable circumstances, but still progressing; when a change in my duties, on the occasion of the “Chesapeake” becoming the Flagship in ChinaX
McArthur was promoted to assistant paymaster and secretary clerk. "Muster Book of Her Majesty's Ship Chesapeake Commencing 1st April 1859 Ending 30th June 1859," held by the National Archives at Kew (ADM 38/2886).
, rendered it a matter of impossibility for one to continue its production, and it was with regret of no slight nature that I found myself under theView Page
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necessity of ceasing to issue it; the more especially as the new and varied scenes of the “Celestial Empire” opened up a never failing source of interest and amusement.
There will, doubtless, be found many terms and expressions herein, unintelligible to fair readers, (may there be many such) and others whose education has not been on the stormy deep, for an explanation of which I must refer them to the first Naval man they meet, as it would be more than I could undertake here; and some few other remarks which were only to be understood by those who were associated with them, I have endeavoured to explain in a short appendix at the end of the work.
And now, when some years have fled, and the events which these pages record have, perhaps, faded from recollection, I have yielded to the solicitation of friends, and have given it afresh to the world. I make no apology for its many faults, for I am content to leave it to the kindly criticism of those into whose hands it may fall, hoping that to them it may prove as great a source of pleasure as it did to those for whom its pages were first penned.
I cannot conclude without expressing my hearty thanks to those who have aided me in the reproducing this work; more especially to my kind friend, Admiral EdgellX

Harry Edmund Edgell

Harry Edmund Edgell joined the Chesapeake as commodore after the period chronicled in the issues included in this edition. He was an enthusiastic supporter of The Young Idea. In "Martello Tower" in China, and the Pacific in H.M.S. "Tribune," 1856-60 (London: George Allen, 1902), Francis Martin Norman recounts Edgell's enthusiastic support for a shipboard theatrical aboard H.M.S. Tribune in 1857, when he was captain of the ship. Edgell composed the prologue for the play and painted the drop scene (50). The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich (NMM) holds over 300 watercolors by Edgell, including some undertaken during the cruise chronicled in The Young Idea. The NMM's biographical note on Edgell reads as follows: "Edgell was promoted to lieutenant in 1828, to commander in 1837 and to captain in 1846. He was appointed to command the Tribune in 1855 when she was in the Crimea. During this commission she went to the Pacific and finally to China. In 1857 Edgell was the Senior Naval Officer at Hong Kong and he transferred into the Bittern tender commanding the gun boats on the Canton River during the hostilities with the Chinese. In 1858 he was given command of the squadron in Indian waters, during which time he commanded the Chesapeake and later the Retribution. The latter returned to England and was paid off in 1860. Edgell had no further active employment and was promoted on the retired list, reaching the rank of vice-admiral in 1871."
, CB, to whom I am greatly indebted not merely for much interest and trouble taken in endeavouring to obtain subscribers, but also for the aid he gave me with his own pen as a Contributor to the Journal. There is also one other to whom I must especially return my sincere thanks for his hearty co-operation and valuable assistance, without which my efforts must have been vain; to his pen may be traced much that is best worth reading in these pages,- and it is with great pleasure that I offer this tribute of my esteem and regard, to my dear friend the Revd John W.L. Bampfield.X

John William Lewis Bampfield

Reverend John William Lewis Bampfield joined the Chesapeake on July 24, 1857 and was a regular contributor to and supporter of The Young Idea. While his age is not recorded in the muster book, census records reveal that Bampfield was born in June of 1823, so he was in his midthirties during the cruise. He was commissioned as chaplain aboard a different royal naval vessel in Port Royal, Jamaica before his arrival aboard the Chesapeake. His detailed journal provides an additional witness to The Young Idea, providing fascinating points of contrast from the facsimile edition that McArthur had printed in 1867 and offering hints about the authorship of contributions through his inclusion of the initials of authors (a marked list).
And now, with these few prefatory remarks, I launch my “Young Idea” upon the sea of Public Opinion, — knowing full well the many storms which ruffle that vast expanse — and despatch it with these simple sailing directions, “Omnibus placeto.”
BalhamX

Balham is now known as Balham


July 1867