W.T. Stead Journal Entry (January 5, 1879)
Quoted in J. W. Robertson Scott, The Life and Death of a Newspaper (1952) pp. 107-108
The most memorable and most trying year through which I have lived, and without an entry, a year in which the nation hung by a thread over the abyss of hell, and it depended upon you whether that thread should snap. Of course I was not the only one, but the responsibility was as great as if I had been. I marvel how I survived. God has given us another chance. We have not gone to Hell but we are being singed in Afghanistan, just to make us feel what it is like in order that we may avoid future Jingoism.
And what a year also or rather what an eighteen months in my own individual history. It was just after writing the 1877 entry that I first heard of Madame Novikoff. Since then how large a place she has occupied in my life. How my life has broadened, my views widened, and intensified. What friends have I not made, what work have I not done since then!
It is a marvel that I am alive. What with agonies of remorse, the reproaches more often implied than spoken of my wife, the intense absorption in politics to the exclusion of family, social or any other life, the misery of knowing that the life which you hoped to make gloriously happy you have made wretchedly miserable. The consciousness of all this, plus the wearing, exhausting strain of being almost alone in sounding the alarm – in the Afghan war I was quite alone for some time – it is a wonder that I live. And yet I not only live but I work as hard as ever and contemplate writing my book, History of the Nation in Revolt against Turkish Alliance. But for the goodness of God I had utterly perished.
And yet looking at the misery I have occasioned my wife, it would seem blasphemous to attribute anything to the Lord, for it seems wicked almost to have permitted me to live. I have had some terrible moments, when death, but for the poor children, seemed the only solution. God help me. It is almost as frightful to see a wrecked home as to look at a lost soul. Sometimes, I felt as if I had done Emma a cruel wrong by persuading her to marry me. I have seen no woman who would have been acceptable as a wife but her, but she might have found many a more suitable husband. More like herself, I mean, living on the same plane, and not absorbed by work with a passion for seclusion. I have treated her cruelly, not willfully, but because my whole soul was charged, to the exclusion of everything else, with political subjects with which she sympathised but languidly, and at the crisis of these three years I had not time nor patience nor strength to interest her.
So it came to pass that I met another soul as surcharged with kindred thoughts, and we met and our existences mingled. But I do not wish I had married O.K. I prefer and even in the height of the first excitement I never wavered in preferring Emma as a wife, the only possible wife to me on this planet and I have repaid her how? How dark the future looks. This new year must see a change. Either it restores my wife to me, or it consummates the shipwreck of what I had fondly, passionately hoped would be a Christian home.
But my head is very bad and it is time to go to chapel, at least to get tea before going to chapel. Oh God, almighty yet loving God, help me to live without torturing those who love me.