The Spectator is, arguably, the one organ for which every professional journalist aches to write. Those who do not feel that need are at best enthusiastic amateurs.
As well as being the oldest continuously published magazine in the English language, it is also the most relaxed and confident. Not the self-conscious ‘confidence’ of lifestyle titles, oh no. This is the indefinable confidence that comes from knowing that you have no superiors and damn few equals.
As it says about itself: “There is no party line to which our writers are bound – originality of thought and elegance of expression are the sole editorial constraints. The result, week after week, is that the best British journalists, critics, authors and cartoonists turn out their best work, to produce an extraordinarily wide-ranging title.”
As you may have read in Media Digest earlier, the Speccie has opened its archive – a simple phrase that fails to do justice even slightly to the work involved. But how magnificent that the magazine’s management sanctioned this investment.
I was alerted to the archive by a dear chum who sent me a link to this article from 1871 which contains this magnificent line about Charles Babbage, father of the difference engine (aka the computer): “… deficient in that indefinable somewhat that acts as a connecting medium between mind and mind.”
The cartoonist Sydney Padua, creator of the inestimable Ada Lovelace, knows all about Babbage and also why a Victorian lady’s fan is no substitute for Twitter. Intrigued? You should be.