W.T. Stead Journal Entry (July 5, 1874)

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W.T. Stead Journal Entry (July 5, 1874)

Quoted in J. W. Robertson Scott, The Life and Death of a Newspaper (1952) pp. 99-102

I have employed these 25 years how? Our first-born refuses to be still on the sofa. He cried so long that I had to postpone writing. I have now a little time to collect my thoughts and indulge in the luxury of a birthday, the right to look back and to look forward with the consciousness that such retrospect and prospect are surveyed as a duty as well as a pleasure. Twenty-five years have given me a position upon the platform of the world, in the vineyard of the world with a reaping hook in my hand, and I recognise in the responsibility of the position a call to labour. By the lapse of another quarter of a century my lifework must be achieved. After fifty there is not much for a man to do, save as a statesman. Then his life may be said almost to begin. I wished when I was 15 to die at 30 because after 30, said I, men begin to grow old, the dreams and the splendid illusions of youth vanish. Yet I am not growing old. I am in a state of semi-torpor, as it were, from which I shall hereafter issue with new faiths, new ideals. At present I am so highly favoured by the Most High that I am almost unable to dream of any blessing which I have not got in abundance.

In everything worldly, behold me surrounded with everything that heart can desire. A house in the country, a horse, a little farm with livestock, goat, rabbits, bees, liquid manure in a tank, flowers, birds’ nests, shrubs, everything I ever dreamed of as a boy. My wife, the girl upon whom even at school I had poured out my love, my son, that I would have found such peace, such content, such tranquillity. It is not an inward peace arising from religion. It is an outward peace more complete than religion has ever afforded me. My religion hitherto has not been so much of a peace as of unrest. It has given me fiery, restless impulse. It made me uneasy unless I was working with the last pound of steam on. Only in that vehement labour could I find the semblance of rest. I have a dread that this complete satisfaction of every want may render me oblivious to the call of duty, to the ideal of faith, to the aspirations after a nobler and better future, that I may sink into a hulk rotting in port instead of being a God-sent messenger to the age in which I live.

The causes of this stupefaction of content are due to several things. First, the complete abandonment of all directly religious work. Secondly, the physical results of marriage. Thirdly, the gratification of almost every desire. Fourthly, the consciousness of my ability to do my work. Fifthly, the absorbing nature of that work, leaving me no time for reading anything beyond the requirements of the day. Sixthly, the placid temperament of my wife. Seventhly, the delightful calm of country life. These are good, but my fear is that they may lead to a clouding of the fair ideal of life. I think sometimes that I may trust God to call me out in time, but none the less ought I scrupulously to guard against that canker of the heart which a self-centred life is almost certain to engender. It costs me hardly any trouble to be good in the ordinary sense. There is no difficulty in preserving good temper and cheerfulness. Yet I am not always cheerful. This year I have to save £120 of an income of £300!

As editor, how easily a man may fall! Here am I only 3 years Editor, fresh and untrammelled by professionalism, already regarding the daily sermon to 10,000 persons as if it were a literary exercise, the chief point its creditable performance from a professional point of view. I am less of a prophet and more of a journalist than in 1871. It is as if Elijah thought more or his girdle’s polish than of his message to Ahab, or as if Jonah, instead of being filled with awe at the message to Nineveh, were chiefly concerned with its declamation, his rhetoric or his dramatic skill. O for me!

What is my message? That is what troubles me. I have not got a message. I am not by any means so ardent a Radical or as ardent in anything as I was. I have read so many newspapers on both sides that my old views have become so greatly modified that I no longer feel certain of anything. That is too strong, but it is true to a certain extent. Facts and existing circumstances prevent me being so enthusiastic as some are about remodelling the Universe. Even the disestablishment of the State Church, for instance, which I still believe in, seems no longer to me so clear as once it did. Then as to Republicanism and Democracy, I used once to chant hymns of joy over the advance. Now Democracy, altho’ (sic) inevitable, altho’ (sic) on the whole better than autocracy or monarchy, is no emancipator, no regenerator of the people. My faith in “the people” in general and in the Parisian people in particular was severely shaken by the Commune, and the faith which was tottering was not steadied by the result of the appeal to the people which marked the dictatorship of Castelar. I see more of good in my opponents, and the consciousness that I am naturally biassed (sic) in the old direction causes me to feel a species of doubt as to the certainty of many political and social problems which I before thought to be indisputable. The zeal which formerly distinguished me on behalf of the poor is now almost imperceptible. As for the emancipation of England resulting from any modification of the land laws, I doubt it. I doubt the degenerating influence of property in the soil. I doubt any solution of the social problem which is not based upon the regulation of the increase of the human race by law or by custom. I have hankerings after cumulative votes. I have a distrust of uneducated majorities. I used to believe in international arbitration as a substitute for War. I have been compelled to admit that it is hopeless. I advocated disarmament, but in the present state of Europe what can be done?

At present almost the only fixed principle which I possess, almost the only message which I have to deliver is the duty of England as a civilising power among the weaker, more degraded nations of the earth. The Anglo-Saxon idea has gained possession of my brain. I believe in education for all, but I have lost faith in the regenerative powers of education, of legislation, of almost everything save God’s spirit. I have laboured myself with educating, with evangelising, with civilising the ignorant masses, and I recoil almost in despair from the masses of vice, indifference, ignorance and brutishness which surround me. I do not despair. I simply don’t think about them. If I think about them it makes me ill, weak, tired, unfit for work.

I have now written over 1000 leading articles, nine-tenths of them fired off by events, written about because they had to be written about. I have, in 3,000 Notes, expressed opinions more or less hasty, more or less dogmatically, and so far I have a pretty clear conscience. Occasionally I have indulged in buncombe and sometimes I have written more like a partisan than I should have done. As for my so-called personal attacks upon Tory candidates, etc , my only qualms are felt because Liberal noodles were not equally pulled to pieces, but this is not to be done in a Liberal paper.

There should be more method in my work. To secure system would involve: 9 to 9.30, breakfast; 9.30 to 10, worship; 10 to 10.30, look round livestock, horse, baby, etc., and see that all is in order; 10.30 to 11, read bluebooks; 11 to 2, papers and write; 2 to 2.30, dinner; 2.30 to 3, with Emma for French and German or for other things; 3 to 5, papers, cut out and stick in, write letters, etc.; 5 to 6, garden; 6 to 6.30, tea; 6.30 to 7.30, worship and ques­tions; 7.30 to 9, read and write; 9 to 9.30, to office; 9.30 to 11, proofs, letters, etc.; I1.30, home; 11.30 to 12, supper; 12 bed. To get office righted up should be the first step to this reform.