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our power to fix it upon individuals; and fully agreeing with our contemporary as to the necessity that exists for increased interference with the proceedings of the railway companies, we only differ with him as to the mode in which that interference should be exercised. We have already stated that we think certain precautions should be rendered obligatory by force of law. For the rest, we should advocate no other than a betterinformed public interference; and we think that if any legislation be in future undertaken on the subject, it should be directed to the furtherance of this object. It is of course a great object with railway companies not to have a bad name with the Press; and any exposure, through this medium, of mismanagement or want of precaution does them much harm. When a railway accident occurs, the reporters for the press are obliged to trust principally to the officers of the railway companies for their information as to the causes of it; and there is not much time afforded to them for deliberate inquiry, even if they had the means of making it. Under these circumstances the reports upon such accidents are hasty and superficial, and naturally have a tendency to be favourable to the companies and their officers.
If an accident be fatal, the representatives of the press have an opportunity of hearing the evidence adduced before the coroner and his jury, and of recording the verdict to which it leads; but the special business of this tribunal is, not to investigate the causes of the accident, but to discover the cause of death only; and though in some cases a patient coroner and an intelligent jury may do much good, by eliciting information and inducing public discussion upon defects which are brought to light, yet in many more the inquiry is hurried over in a slovenly manner, and the truth does not appear. In others, again, the investigation degenerates into a mere instrument in the hands of the company for misleading people as to the real causes of the accident.
In cases where death does not ensue, no public inquiry takes place; and the press and the public have no means at the time, nor until all interest in the subject has passed away, of ascertaining accurately the causes by which it has been produced. We must here add, that the press does not always derive as much advantage as it might from the opportunities that are afforded to it. In one case, in which a driver was killed by the explosion of his engine, while travelling at speed with a mail train a few months since, the result of the inquest was kept, by some influence which we cannot pretend to fathom, out of the newspapers altogether. And yet reporters were present, a number of eminent scientific witnesses were brought forward, and the
evidence was of a character more interesting and more important than usual.
The inquiries which are instituted by the Board of Trade into such accidents as are brought under their notice are made without authority, and are conducted in private; and they can only be made public by being laid before Parliament, which is done at irregular intervals. These Reports contain much information on the subject of railway accidents; but appearing, as they do, long after all interest in the subjects of them has ceased, they form an uncondensable mass of detail, too bulky for criticism and too dry for perusal.
It is very easy to say with Sterne, that they order this matter better' in France. But in France the Government controls the batchers and bakers, as well as the press and the railways; and it is itself controlled by the mob, for whom it is obliged to find food in periods of comparative scarcity, and work in times of expected tumult. This state of things would not so well agree with the constitution and temperament of Mr. John Bull.
There is, however, one respect in which we might copy from the great French nation with advantage, and that is in the more equitable distribution of responsibilities and punishments between the higher officers of railway companies and their subordinates. Both our law and our practice are seriously at fault in this respect. An overworked, an inefficient, an unlucky servant, or one provided with insufficient appliances, may be punished severely for an accident which occurs more through his misfortune than his misconduct; whilst the officer who ought really to be considered responsible, may escape without punishment and even without blame.
In Scotland the engine-driver of a goods train was committed to prison not very long since, on the prosecution of the procurator fiscal, for running into a passenger train in a tunnel, although he could not have seen it in sufficient time to enable him to stop his own train; and he underwent, if we remember right, two months of imprisonment for an accident which was caused by a want of telegraphic communication for signalling the trains one at a time through the tunnel. In France, when a similar accident occurred some little time afterwards, the manager and engineer of the railway were severely punished for not having provided the tunnel with a telegraph for the protection of the trains.
While setting forth the reforms that might be made by the railway companies, we would also warn travellers that they are, in fact, more to blame in the matter of loss of life, though not in the matter of injury, than their carriers. The number of those who
are killed by the companies amounts to an annual average of 18, whilst the number of those who kill themselves, from imprudence or recklessness, is 21. On the other hand, the number of those who are annually injured from no fault of their own by the railway companies, averages 350, while the number of those who injure themselves is only 16. These are the averages, at least, which the returns before us afford.
We will not attempt to caution passengers against entering or leaving trains in motion, because we know how little effect it would have upon this foolish practice; but we would impress, if we could, the spirit of the lesson which we saw printed in different languages in a railway carriage in Holland, a few years since: You are requested not to put no heads nor arms out of te windows.' On some of our older railways the lines of rails are nearer to each other than on the more modern ones; and there are gate-posts, bridges, tunnels, sheds, walls, water-cranes, tanks, and signal-boxes, in different parts of the country, nearer to the carriages than is consistent with the safety of people who protrude their heads from the carriage windows. We would add, further, that the great and very natural disinclination that exists on the part of the public to make use of the foot-bridges which have been constructed at some stations, does much to prevent the multiplication of these bridges, which are, in spite of the extra trouble which they cause, very necessary in many instances to safety.
The sum of our conclusions may be stated in a very few words. The means of railway control which may best be made available for the benefit of the public are competition and publicity. Competition produces convenience, and publicity precaution. By a judicious encouragement of competition, or in other words, by preventing those further combinations from being made legal which would tend to neutralise this valuable resource, as much accommodation may be obtained for the public as they can reasonably expect, and more than they could get in any other way. Publicity would be gained by the Government's placing at once at the disposal of the press and the public that timely information as to the true causes of accident which they have a right to possess. Responsibility would then be attached to the higher officers of railway companies; error would be exposed, and truth proclaimed; warnings would be afforded, and instruction imparted; the lessons of experience would be prominently set forth, and would, in a greater degree than at present, be practically enforced; and an increased measure of PRECAUTION, upon which safety principally depends, would, without doubt, eventually be ensured.
ART. II.—Autobiography of Miss Cornelia Knight, Lady Companion to the Princess Charlotte of Wales: with Extracts from her Journals and Anecdote-Books. Two vols. London, 1861.
ORE than twenty years ago the world was scandalised by
George the Fourth,' which made public such strange revelations respecting the Court-history of the Regency. The book was condemned by public opinion, with an universal and righteous expression of disgust. The compiler, for the sake of earning a little money, had poured profusely out all the scandal hoarded in volumes of ill-natured note-books, and in numbers of confidential and careless letters, deeply affecting the character of some and the memory of many more, and in especial that of a benefactress. But it would probably have been dismissed with more of contempt than of hostile notice, had it not also deeply affronted two classes of readers, usually opposed to each other-those who thought Conservative principles engaged in the defence of the character of George IV., of which singular sect there were still a few living in 1838; and those, more powerful in that day, who had more or less committed themselves by their advocacy of the unfortunate Queen Caroline. Twenty years more have pretty nearly disposed of both these classes, and indeed of all who take any interest in the intrigues of Carlton House, and Warwick House, and Connaught Place, except as matters of historical gossip, or who care for the accurate distribution of posthumous contempt between the unhappy couple whose sordid quarrels were once affairs of State, and puzzled the wits and almost broke the hearts of statesmen who had nerve to confront Europe in arms. It is therefore with comparative indifference that we find the favourite tattle of our grandmothers once more revived by the publication of these relics of Miss Cornelia Knight, or Ellis Cornelia Knight, as she signs herself; Lady companion, as she ought to have been styled-under-governess, as people would persist in styling her-to the Princess Charlotte during the eventful years of her life 1813 and 1814. Not that we would commit the gross injustice of comparing Miss Knight to the diarist in question. We cannot believe that Miss Knight intended her so-called Autobiography for publication, though her editor, Mr. Kaye, gives reasons for thinking she did; and, at all events, she did not betray, or enable others to betray, the confidences made to her in correspondence, by keeping and docketing private letters. Nor are her remains satirical in style, nor very liberal in their revelations. Miss Knight had the character in her generation of being an extremely cautious person, and her cau
tion exhibits itself curiously enough in these volumes; for while at one time she notes down, in the most tranquil and matter-offact way, circumstances which any one who was interested in the personages concerned would forget if they could, or commit at all events to their memory alone, she seems at other times embarrassed by the delicacy of her own secrets, and chronicles them with much apparatus of mystery. She reminds us, occasionally, of that poor comrade of Thistlewood the traitor who wrote down some political sentiments in prison to please a fancier of autographs, but could not refrain, through habit, from designating Sidmouth and Castlereagh by initials and dashes, though he was going to be hanged next morning. But the general impression produced by the present diarist is only a trifle less painful than that left by her predecessor. She is constantly imputing, often by such quiet insinuation as is not readily detected, low or crooked motives to almost every person concerned in the Princess Charlotte's affairs. Traits of the worst description are recorded with such dispassionate tranquillity, that it is only on reflection and second reading that we become conscious how very base, and even shocking, are the conduct or sentiments thus calmly ascribed. It is therefore one of those books of scandal of which it is impossible not to regret the publication; such as do but cause unnecessary annoyance, if not to the living, to those who cherish the memories of their dead, while they add absolutely nothing to our knowledge of any fraction of history worth knowing. But as such books will always continue to be published while money is an object with 'families into whose hands they have got,' and will certainly be read when published (Miss Knight has already reached a third edition), we must content ourselves with entering this, our conventional protest, in opposition to the arguments by which Mr. Kaye justifies the publication, and proceed.
Miss Knight was the daughter of Admiral Sir Joseph Knight, an officer of well-deserved reputation. She made the acquaintance, as a girl, of 'Johnson, Goldsmith, Burke, and other celebrities of the age.' She attained in her day considerable reputation 'as a lady of extensive learning and manifold accomplishments.' Mrs. Piozzi calls her the far-famed Cornelia Knight.' She wrote 'Dinarbas, a Sequel to Rasselas,' and ' Marcus Flaminius, a View of the Military, Political, and Social Life of the Romans,' a novel in two volumes, which, as Mr. Kaye rather satirically remarks, being in the stately classical style, hit the taste of the age.' But judging from these remains alone, and not having read either Dinarbas or Marcus Flaminius, we should be inclined to suspect that the learning which gained her celebrity did not