Research Exercise 1: the Dictionary of National Biography and the Times

While Trollope insisted in his Autobiography (1883) that the character of Tom Towers was NOT intended to be taken for a “personality” of or veiled reference to real life Times editor John Delane, their personalities bear more than a passing resemblance. In this exercise, we’ll learn more about John Delane and the Times, which was indisputably the most powerful and influential newspaper in England at the time the Warden was published.

This research exercise has two parts; first, find out more about John Delane by looking him up in the new online Dictionary of National Biography. (The DNB can be accessed from the “subject portal” section of the McCabe website.)

Choose a year of the Times which appeared during the time of Delane’s long editorship (the exact dates of which appear in the DNB), and familiarize yourself with it via Historical Newspapers (available through the “subject portal” section of the McCabe website). The original version of this assignment asked you to choose a single issue and examine it closely, but as far as I can tell Historical Newspapers doesn’t let you browse and McCabe doesn’t have the relevant years of the times on microform – but if you can solve this problem and figure out how to page through a single issue in either medium, please do it!

In any case, look at the newspaper, paying extra attention to aspects of it that seem interesting to you – you might do this by looking at topics within a given year and reading around in the various types of articles. How does the newspaper differ from the Times that the Warden’s thinly veiled representation of the Jupiter might lead you to expect? How does it differ from newspapers today – and what are its similarities to our newspapers? What types of categories do the articles and features of your issue of the newspaper seem to fall into? What can you tell, if anything, about the bias or slant of any of the articles? What kind of tone and voice do the writers of the various articles employ? More generally, how does the Times represent itself, its writers, and its audience?

Finally – this is the only written aspect of the assignment – choose three interesting types of features of the newspaper (such as reviews, leading articles, business columns, reports from correspondents, etc) or specific articles and use them to think through these questions by some notes (for your reference in class discussion, not to turn in) on each article or type of article.