W.T. Stead Journal Entry (January 14, 1877)

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W.T. Stead Journal Entry (January 14, 1877)

Quoted in J. W. Robertson Scott, The Life and Death of a Newspaper (1952) pp. 104-106

I am apparently more useful than ever. The Bulgarian atrocity agitation was in a great measure my work. I have received the highest compliments from Gladstone, Freeman, W. E. Forster, John Bright and Lord Hartington. I have been praised beyond my utmost expectation. I believe that in God’s hands I have been instrumental in doing much to prevent a great national crime, a war with Russia on the side of the Turks. New possibilities of usefulness open out. Life is once more brilliant as in the heroic days. Our time is as capable of Divine service as Puritan times. The agitation of this Recess has rekindled my faith in my countrymen, renewed my faith in Liberalism, strengthened my trust in God. For the Bulgarian agitation was due to a Divine voice. I felt the clear call of God’s voice, “Arouse the nation or be damned”. If I did not do all I could, I would deserve damnation.

I had a terrible afternoon. It was like a Divine possession that shook me almost to pieces, wrung me and left me shuddering and weak in an agony of tears. I went out determined to do this and nothing else until such time as my mission was revoked. I knew not how it would he taken. Bell fortunately was away in Switzerland and I threw myself heart and soul, and the paper heart and soul, into the movement. I knew I might perish by overstrained excitement. I felt that like Jacob I had met the angel of God and I did not know but that I might have a lifelong limp in consequence of the meeting. There were minor considerations. It was with fear and trembling that I went to the first meeting at Darlington, but it was a great success. Others followed and, when Mr. Gladstone published his pamphlet, I felt that my work was crowned and assumed by other hands, more able than mine. I had written to Mr. Gladstone on the night of the meeting expressing my hope that he would justify the confidence reposed in him by all of us. I felt his pamphlet to be an answer to my letter. I am inclined to attribute some of Mr. Gladstone’s evident desire to please me to his consciousness that I was the first to sound in his ears the summons which God had already spoken to his soul. I look back with un­feigned joy to the strain and exertion of that exciting time. I wrote dozens of letters a day, appealing, exhorting, entreating and at last I roused the North. I felt that I was called to preach a new crusade. Not against Islam, which I reverenced, but against the Turks who disgraced Humanity. I realised the feelings of Peter the Hermit. God was with me.

But after a time came a lull, and once more we were threatened with a war for the Turks. This time I was hindered by Bell from doing my duty. But after Dizzy’s speech, I wrote in defiance of Bell’s views and got into a great row over it. It was a case of speaking out at a risk of losing my place. I was so near the latter that I wrote letters asking for a situation or hints as to how to get one. But I postponed sending them. In the meantime Bell cooled and all went well. I had a terrible walk home on the 10th of Novem.(sic) in early morning after receiving Dizzy’s speech. War once declared, all voices would be drowned in the war spirit.

I remember the images of wife and children rising up before me, destitute, widow and orphans. I thought of myself in gaol pining to death. I saw myself mobbed, murdered; and, I thought, all this may be, nay probably will be if you determine to resist the war passion with whole-souled energy. And then I thought the welfare of untold generations depends upon this. Millions of fellow creatures may be saved if you do your duty. You may lose but, to what extent you can, you must do it or betray your Christ. And then I thought of “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me”. Shame was it that I ever had faltered. I chose death.

I well remember how strange I felt as I went to bed and saw Emma and the baby and thought how soon they might be mourning me. I even thought of Emma’s means of livelihood, how much the sale of things would bring, and then I thought of the Father of the fatherless and these poor noble Russian volunteers. I read a chapter out of one of the minor prophets and was consoled. I never before found myself so distinctly and deliberately called upon to leave all and follow Him if He chose to call. Briefly, the results are:

(1) More confidence in God. (2) More faith in my countrymen. (3) More distrust of the newspapers. (4) More brotherly feeling towards the Church clergy as elements of the moral forces of the nation. (5) More intolerance of all that weakens the moral force whether it be Liberal crotchets, high falutin’ (sic) “patriotism”, sectarian divisions, mean jealousies, etc. (6) More intense conviction of the supreme importance of religious education, not merely of children but of adults. The honour of Bulgarian virgins is in the custody of the English voter. And what is true of Bulgaria is true of larger things. (7) More intense desire to stimulate all religious men and women, to inspire children and neighbours with sense of supreme sovereignty of duty, of the right. The safety of our Empire – which keeps the peace of one-sixth human race – depends upon our Sunday schools. (8) Realised more vividly than ever the incalculable importance of the individual. (9) Conviction that the keen sense of female honour is a more potent force to arouse man to generous action than any mere massacre. Hence lowering of sense of chastity the direct road to that apathy and selfishness which tends to national, imperial and individual ruin. Hence repeal C.D. Act and all that it implies a supreme duty, perhaps the most pressing duty of the time. (10) More earnest desire to make the profession of the Press the worthy leader of a regimented people. At present it does not lead, it follows, reluctantly. The higher element in the nation is badly represented in the Press.

A truth forcibly taught me is that all the joy of fame is to tell it to those you love. Reputation is a bubble, beautiful no doubt but it does little or nothing for you. I don’t suppose that I shall be more profoundly pleased with anything as with Mr. Gladstone’s letters, and yet how little they are to Emma’s love. I must devote more time to her and to my family. Methodise more. Make her more of a companion and spend more time on my bairns. I must not work so much out of doors. Losing hold of the Howdon lads is a bad sign. Win them back. Be more careful to make worship pleasant and instructive. And to relieve Emma of worry during pregnancy. Believe it would be better to have a lot of children. Breeding of good citizens is the first duty of a citizen. With God above I go forward, trusting in Him and fearing nothing excepting shame at times, a kind of lingering muffled, half-hidden dread lest something might happen to Emma. I could spare a child, I sometimes feel, but, oh God, not my wife! But in this as in all things, His Will be done and if He should see fit to lay that heavy cross upon me, altho’ (sic) I feel as if it would crush me outright, I doubt not but that He will give me strength to bear it.