William T. Stead: Editor, Reformer

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William T. Stead: Editor, Reformer

The Gleaner (April 25, 1912)

William T. Stead, editor of the English Review of Reviews, was an international figure. He visited the United States in the early nineties, and soon afterward appeared the series of articles… these being his crusade against vice, and then became by turns the apostle of spiritualism and mysticism.

There were many who never regarded his views seriously, but most all agreed his was one of the unique and striking characters of the age.

Mr, Stead, the son of a Congregational minister, was born at Embleton July 5, 1849. He began his journalistic career as a reporter on the Northern Echo, a daily published at Newcastle. From reporter he soon rose to the post of editor, and when John Morley accepted the editorship of the Pall Mall Gazette he took Stead with him as his assistant. Stead remained with the Gazette until the establishment of the Review of Reviews, when he assumed the editorship of that publication.

Steads idea of reforming people, was early manifested. As a young man he was possessed of a certain credulity which once got him into serious trouble. “Filled with stories of the vice of London,” runs the story of this youthful crusade, “Stead entered into an expose of “the modern Babylon,” and in his zeal to prove that innocent girls were actually sold by their parents for immoral purposes he engaged a woman to purchase a girl in this way. The woman abducted Eliza Armstrong by representing to her mother that the girl was to go into service. The girl, however, was ill-treated, and when the story was published Stead was arrested. The affair made a great sensation. Stead was convicted and imprisoned for three months; but he never believed that the girl’s mother had not sold her.”

Described by an Intimate

One who was for a long time Stead’s intimate acquaintance thus describes him: “The personality of the man was very marked. His face was nervous and full of thought, his forehead forming a straight line with his nose; his eyes, direct, brilliant and changing with his mood; his mouth rather large and unattractive. He wore a full beard, somewhat ragged on the cheeks, of redish suggestion and beginning to turn gray. His thin, brown hair, brushed every way by his constantly moving hand, was long and curly, bending upward at the collar. His black clothes fitted him loosely and assumed every manner of wrinkle in turn as his person twisted and gathered and spread in its rapidly changing postures. It seemed impossible for the man to rest a single moment while he talked.”

Earnest Advocate of Peace

Mr. Stead visited the Czar in 1898 and thenceforth began to preach of peace. He founded and edited the paper War Against War, and in bitterly opposing the Transvaal war he wrote the papers, which attracted so much attention at the time—”Shall I Slay My Boer Brother?”

Among his numerous works were, “The Truth about the Navy”; “Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon” 1885; “The Truth About Russia,” 1888; “The Pope and the New Era,”- 1889; “The Story that Transformed the World”, 1890; “If Christ Came to Chicago,” 1893;”The Labour War in the United States,” 1894; “Her Majesty the Queen,” 1897: “Satan’s Invisible Work, a Study of Despairing Democracy,” 1897: “The United States of Europe,” 1899;” Mr. Carnegie’s Conundrum,” 1900; “Mrs. Booth, a Study,” 1900; “The Conference at The Hague” (in French, published at The Hague);”The Americanization of the World”; “The Last Will and Testament of Cecil John Rhodes”; “The Despised Sex,”