W.T. Stead Journal Entry (July 4, 1880)

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W.T. Stead Journal Entry (July 4, 1880)

Quoted in J. W. Robertson Scott, The Life and Death of a Newspaper (1952) pp. 113-115

My 31st birthday entry. H. Yates Thompson, proprietor of the Pall Mall Gazette, wrote saying that he would like to know if there were any chance of enticing me to London. I replied saying I hated London, it was the grave of all earnestness, but that it was the centre of power and if he thought I would suit I would not feel justified in refusing. I told him also that I was a barbarian of the North, detesting conventionalities, and without other newspaper experience than that gained in 9 years’ editorship of the Northern Echo. Thompson consulted with Morley, the editor, and suggested an interview. I declined, owing to Mr. Bell’s absence and because I wanted to see father and Annand. Then they proposed Sunday (tonight). I declined “because Sunday was awkward for me to be from home” and suggested Friday or Monday. I objected to Sunday chiefly because I would have felt wicked going to discuss a business engagement on that day. I did not like to say so to Thompson by letter because it would have implied a censure upon him for proposing it. I thought I ought at least to try to avoid starting London life with a Sunday dinner party. If I see a fair chance I will tell him frankly that that was why. It was perfectly true it was awkward for me to be away over Sunday. Wife, nurse and children need me to drive them down twice a day to chapel, and in my absence they must stay at home if it is wet and tire themselves out if it is fine. Besides I had Monday’s leader to do, and the Monday leader for the London Echo. So it was arranged that I had to dine on Monday night.

What will be the issue I do not know. It is in the hands of the Lord, and He knows better than I. Looked at from a human point of view, it seems a most desirable opening. Looked at from the standpoint of signs and leadings, it seems as if it were likely to be an effectual call. These are so numerous and so apparently conclusive, that I feel little doubt that in a few months I will be assistant editor of the Pall Mall. I shall not feel any chagrin should they deem me unsuitable. I know I am unfit for the work when I compare my slender attainments, reading, and experience, with what are presupposed in even a very low ideal as to what should be possessed by a newspaper editor. I feel that I am not fit to edit the Northern Echo, let alone be left in charge of the Pall Mall, for that is to be my lot during Mr. Morley’s temporary absences. But it may be that I am the ablest assistant Morley can get. If there is a better man than I am I hope he may get the post. I am quite content here. I received (since July 17, 1880) £400 a year for editing the Northern Echo, £50 for only one leader a week for the Darlington Herald, and £60 per an. for liberty to say whatever I please one day a week in the London Echo. I have opportunity to contribute occasionally to the Pall Mall, and I have at last made an entry into magazine literature by writing in this month’s Fortnightly an article on the coercion of the Turk for which I received £15. My prospective earnings therefore are at least £550 per an. As I have hitherto lived slightly within £350, the income secured me is one of affluence.

As lieutenant of a chief who will probably be often absent, I would have more power in driving the machine of State and of reaching the ears of those who with tongue or pen reach others. I will have to sacrifice something of liberty but will unquesdonably gain in power. It is possible that Morley may not long remain there, or rather attenuate his editorship more and more to mere nominality, and if I am able to do the work, I may become more and more the Pall Mall Gazette, that is to say one of the half-dozen men in London whose advice is at least listened to by the rulers of the Empire on every subject that arises for settlement.

When I see the devil so strong and his assailants so timorous and half-hearted I long to be in a place where I can have a full slap at him. If, after having all along trusted in the Lord to guide my steps, He guides me to accept it, I think I shall be equal to the place, so long of course as I am amenable to the Divine Will and do, however feebly, my utmost to carry out what are revealed to me as the Divine purposes. The suitable arrangements are (i) Liberty to teach all my faith, excepting when it differs from the proprietor or chief editor, when I must have the luxury of silence. (2) Liberty to live in the country, for my own health and for the sake of the children who must not be reared in Babylon. (3) Not less salary than £500, with liberty to write elsewhere. I am in some doubt as to Morley’s irreligion. If the P.M.G. became an aggressive anti-Christian paper I could not remain on it.

The Lord help me to come to a right decision. “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” Even so, Amen, O Lord. Direct Thou me in the paths wherein Thou wouldst have me to walk and give me grace and strength to walk therein as Thou hast done in the past, and make me useful to help Thee in subduing the world with Thy Christ. Amen

After thanking Morley most cordially for his confidence, sympathy and extraordinary kindness, proceeded to explain what I meant by “prophetic” journalism: that any man who has to guide the opinions of other men ought ever to have before his eyes the fundamental fact that Right is Right and Wrong is Wrong.