Blogging in the 19th century

Nineteenth-century American newspapers were highly bloglike in their habit of reprinting their peers’ squibs, in order to rebut or amplify them. For example, on 12 November 1848, the New York Atlas reprinted this paragraph from the Salem Observer:

Can the New York Atlas be correct in the statement, that four-sixths of the female patients in the lunatic asylums of our country are wives of clergymen?—Salem Observer.

In response, the Atlas insisted that it had “received its information from a gentleman, who is a preacher of the gospel, who has paid great attention to the subject, and who is unquestionably correct.” And then the Atlas editor explained why the claim was not just plausible, but to be expected:

The woman does not live, who can be happy in seeing her husband freely mingle with other women—pressing their hands, smiling on them, and receiving, in return, their flatteries and caresses. Even if that husband be a clergyman, . . . it makes no difference. The wife . . . knows that her husband is like other men—that he has passions and weakness; and she becomes the victim of jealousy, and either dies of a broken heart, or becomes the inmate of a madhouse.

Substitute cascading style sheets for spousal sanity, and replace clerical chastity with copy protection, and it’s the sort of exchange that happens in the blogosphere hourly.