London, Saturday, February 13, 1864The Illustrated London News, vol. 44, no. 1244, p. 146.
February 13, 1864
We consider ourselves fortunate in being but rarely compelled to address the public upon matters affecting the interests of this Journal, or in defence of any portion of its conduct; but some expressions which were used by Mr. Layard in the debate on Tuesday night, upon the subject of the burning of Kagosima, demand a few words from the conductors of the Illustrated London News. In Mr. Buxton's speech in support of his resolution condemnatory of the destruction of Kagosima, the honourable member for Maidstone read an extract from an article accompanying a Sketch of the bombardment of that city transmitted to us by our Special Artist in Japan. The object of the reference and of the quotation was to show the great amount of ruin that had been effected by the British squadron. In his reply, on behalf of the Government, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs "did not wish to say anything against that admirable and useful publication the Illustrated London News; but those who were in the secret knew how drawings were made of places at the other end of the world, and he doubted whether any person connected with the News was at Kagosima when the engagement took place. It was not impossible, indeed, that a picture of a town in South America had been furbished up to represent a town in Japan."
Whatever pictorial value may attach to the Engravings of distant scenery and events which appear in this Journal, their greatest value is, undoubtedly, in their genuineness and authenticity. To secure these qualities, the Conductors spare no cost or exertion; and incessant tributes from all parts of the world to the fidelity of the representations which we offer give us the amplest assurance that we are well served by the gentlemen who undertake the troublesome, and often dangerous, mission of sketching for us. Remarks, therefore, like those which escaped Mr. Layard in the heat of a debate, would scarcely have required notice from us had they proceeded from a less distinguished man than the accomplished Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. We felt it due to him, no less than to ourselves, to convince him that the evidence brought forward by Mr. Buxton from our pages was of the highest order, and we had the satisfaction of showing Mr. Layard, not only the original sketch, transmitted by Mr. Charles Wirgman, our Artist in Japan, but some evidence in unintended but complete corroboration of the accuracy of Mr. Wirgman's drawing. Mr. Layard's frankness and courtesy are proverbial, and we have no reason to doubt that he will be glad, upon fitting occasion, to do us the justice which we were denied amid the excitement of an energetic debate. We also thought it our duty to place the sketches and papers in the hands of the honourable member for Maidstone, that he might be satisfied of the truthfulness of the extract he had quoted from this journal.
Whilst adverting to the subject, it seems scarcely out of place to mention, lest any similar misconception should arise in regard to other Engravings which are just now sought after with the utmost interest, that in Schleswig-Holstein Mr. Landells is present on the scene of the strife there raging, entirely engaged with his pencil and pen in our service; and that Mr. F. Vizetelly is in Richmond, as we learned not an hour ago from one of high authority just returned to England from the Southern States viâ the "underground." Sketches from the latter gentleman have to make their way through the blockade, and such as escape the hands of the Federals appear at once in this Paper. To this system of procuring, under great risks and at almost any cost, faithful representations of the scenes we propose to depict, is due the greater part of the favour by which the Illustrated London News is received by the public.