W.T. Stead & the Review of Reviews

The Review of Reviews was started in January, 1890 by W. T. Stead and Tit-Bits proprietor, George Newnes. It was originally to be called the Six Penny Monthly and Review of Reviews, but this was changed at the last minute. According to Stead, the Review of Reviews was "the maddest thing" he had yet done, on account that the venture had been decided on only a month before. The Review mirrored Stead's own restless imagination and was written almost exclusively by him. Along with the dozens of magazine and book reviews it contained, it also included a running commentary of world events entitled, "The Progress of the World", and a character sketch of a current "celebrity". The first issue was an instant success, and opened with numerous facsimiled welcome messages which Stead had courted from various dignitaries of the time. However, Stead's relationship with Newnes came under strain when the latter strongly objected to Stead's scathing character sketch of The Times newspaper (eventually published in March). Perhaps seeing this discord as a sign of things to come, Newnes severed ties, exclaiming that the whole venture was "turning his hair grey." After buying out Newnes' share, Stead shaped the Review after his own image. With article titles such as "Baby-killing as an Investment" and "Ought Mrs. Maybrick to be Tortured to Death?", Stead showed he had lost none of the sledge hammer force of his journalistic days. He also involved the Review in social work, setting up the "Association of of Helpers" and even an adoption agency called "The Baby Exchange". In 1891-92, Stead founded the equally successful American and Australian editions of the Review and, in London, he added to his success with other literary triumphs, such as Stead's Penny Poets and Books for the Bairns, all published under the Review's auspices. However, in spite of such successes, without the business-like Newnes to guide him, Stead frequently drove the Review to death's door, despite the best efforts of his business manager, Edwin H. Stout. This was particularly the case during the Boer War (1899-1902), when his pro-Boer stance caused sales to slump to critical levels. Stead's attempt to recoup his losses, with the launch of the ill-fated Daily Paper, was a complete failure and, almost bankrupt, he suffered a nervous breakdown. The Review somehow limped on, buoyed up by a narrow but devoted subscription base. But, just like the Northern Echo and the Pall Mall Gazette, the Review of Reviews lost much of its force with the loss of Stead (in the Titanic disaster) and, in c. 1917, it was sold for just £25000. It was eventually merged with World magazine and renamed the World Review in 1940.

© Owen Mulpetre 2012


Who is behind this website?

I founded this website in 2001 to assist me in my own research on W.T. Stead, little knowing then that it would become the largest online resource on Stead's life and career. Today this site is used by students, scholars and institutions around the world and has significantly contributed to the Study of W.T. Stead and the evils which he campaigned against.

If you have a question or query, feel free to Contact me and I will get back to you at my earliest convenience (but please don't ask me to do your research for you!).

Owen Mulpetre, BA (Hons) MPhil