But as long as gossip was oral, it spread, as regarded any one individual, over a very small area, and was confined to the immediate circle of his acquaintances. It did not reach, or but rarely reached, those who knew nothing of him. It did not make his name, or his walk, or his conversation familiar to strangers. And what is more to the purpose, it spared him the pain or mortification of knowing that he was gossiped about.
A man seldom heard of oral gossip about him which simply made him ridiculous, or trespassed on his lawful privacy, but made no positive attack on his reputation. His peace and comfort were, therefore, but slightly affected by it. In all this the advent of the newspapers, or rather of a particular class of newspapers, has made a great change. Of course, those victimized by village gossip had not experienced it this way, as mostly benign.
But later critics believed in the escalated hazard of printed gossip, which demanded bold action from responsible citizens and the legal system. Edward Lamson Henry Papers, H Dana as a pursuing pooch. Webster and Company, , p. On special occasions, papers were produced every hour until late in the night, amounting to up to nine or ten issues per day.
Miranda Lee | Romance Writers of Australia
As the news cycle dramatically accelerated, a common critique was that the breakneck tempo of news gathering and reporting scuttled responsible journalism. Many felt that the race of the papers for scoops had eclipsed their critical function. It is not wit, not wisdom, not humor, not clear thought and balanced ideas, that the journalist is ambitious of supplying. The Latest Village Scandal was displayed at several major exhibitions, including the National Academy of Design annual of and the Paris Universal Exposition of ; however, few contemporaneous reviews of the scene survive.
A farmer, driving his wife and baby on a visit, meets on a road which descends a hill a neighbor who is returning from the grist mill. Each pulls up to exchange salutations, and the neighbor relates the latest gossip of the village, which he has acquired upon his visit to the mill.
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The family man listens with an undisguised grin to the petty scandal, while even the expression of severity which his wife assumes does not conceal the interest she takes in the narration. Several details support this narrative of a wayside encounter en route from the village mill. The palette of burnt umbers and oranges indicates harvest season. Nineteenth-century writers also liked to recall the convivial days when villagers gathered in mills to swap stories and collect news of the day while awaiting the work of the stone. Then perhaps he would meet there two or three of his neighbors with similar intentions and this gave them an opportunity to talk and gossip over the affairs of the neighborhood and this made the mill a sort of rendezvous to hear and impart local news and happenings of the time.
As early as , an agriculturalist had invoked Richard B.
To Thurston, a specialist in steam power, wind- and water-powered mills were icons of a romantic but endangered past, disappearing with the rise of steam power. The Old Mill , fig. Its roofline blends into the forest canopy, and its palette repeats the autumnal tones of the plant and animal life encircling the building, entailing a harmony between man and nature. A flirtatious couple conveys the social cohesion and romance of village life centered on the mill. The setting sun bathes the scene in a celestial glow that implies divine sanction, while elegizing the agrarian way of life in its twilight by the s.
However, viewers may have also read such imagery as a distant echo of contemporary media practices closely associated with milling in the popular vernacular. The action of the mill described how the papers methodically churned out scandalous stories while grinding down the reputations of prominent persons like grist to the stone.
Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the vicious, but has become a trade, which is pursued with industry as well as effrontery. To satisfy a prurient taste the details of sexual relations are spread broadcast in the columns of the daily papers. Each crop of unseemly gossip, thus harvested, becomes the seed of more, and, in direct proportion to its circulation, results in a lowering of social standards and of morality.
The perennial cycle of the harvest, the way germ begets germ, and old crop yields new crop, resembled the way that newspaper gossip continually fed the public appetite for more, generating the continuous cycle of information propagation and consumption. No enthusiasm can flourish, no generous impulse can survive under its blighting influence. The actual scandal at the heart of the painting, and its cast of actors or malefactors, remains ambiguous. Who did what? To whom? When, and how? Such ambiguity generated lively conversation among art audiences at exhibitions and in the pages of papers and periodicals, speculating about the experiences, motives, emotions, and morals of the painted characters, as if they were real players in an unfolding scandal.
Consider more closely the party encountering the gossip. Authors had long counseled readers, especially women, to scorn the loose-lipped spreaders of scandal. Other details indicate that the gossip poses a direct and personal threat to the woman and her family. His wagon wheel casts a menacing shadow in the shape of a pitchfork aimed to skewer the family group. A brewing storm portends danger, as does the act of stopping in the roadway to chatter.
In the summer and autumn of , exactly as Henry painted the first version of The Latest Village Scandal, papers nationwide overflowed with stories accusing Grover Cleveland of fathering an illegitimate son.
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