Stead by Various
“It is not difficult to predict the place which this vital and original personality will hold in the history of his time. He will live as the man who made of modern journalism in England a powerful personal force. He found it a thing of conventions and respectabilities, buried in anonymity, and fettered by party ties. The newspaper was a collective ‘organ of opinion.’ He made it the instrument of one intensely individual mind. Stead’s main conception of an editor’s duty was to be himself. He realized as no one before him had done, and as few who have come after him have dared to do, the power which a newspaper gave him to record himself with headlines and bold type, with recitative and chorus, on a pedestal of fact and news once in every four-and-twenty hours. His temperament was that of the great pamphleteers. In his boldness and versatility, in his faith in the constructive power of the pen, in many of his opinions, even in his championship of women, he resembled Defoe.” H. W. Massingham, quoted in The American Review of Reviews, (June, 1912), p. 698.
“Many of us, perhaps most of us, think of William T. Stead as a journalist, brilliant, rapid, unconventional, accomplished, his mind a fountain ever fresh and full of original ideas, his resources apparently exhaustless, and his energy without bounds. To me he was as a prophet who had come straight out of the Old Testament into our modern storm-swept life. I recognize his primacy among the editors of the eighties and nineties of the last century; but for him the press was a sword to cut down the foes of righteousness, a platform from which to hearten and inspire the armies of the Lord, a pulpit from, which to preach his crusades, a desk at which he could expound his policy for making a new heaven and a new earth. He was a man with a mission, and journalism was the organ through which he wrought at it. He wrote to get things done – done, and not merely talked about.” Rev. Dr. Clifford, quoted in The American Review of Reviews, (June, 1912), p. 698.
“It was in sheer vitality and vitalizing power that he excelled. As a living and energizing personal force, giving vivid being to the paper stuff that may so easily become waste, dead matter, and into which no man can put more than he can take out of himself, I doubt whether he ever had an equal in journalism. More than anyone else he realized that though it works with words, it is a matter of action, not merely a chorus to contemporary life expressing the comments of passive witnesses. Stead was splendidly the journalist as a man of action holding his own with men of action, from the top down in all the other spheres. He was the only journalist who has been an international figure in his own right apart from any particular newspaper. He was not only a man of genius; he was possessed by ideas as only a man of strong genius can be. That was his hindrance in several ways, but it was that which made him.” J. L. Garvin, quoted in The American Review of Reviews, (June, 1912), p. 697.
“He was a man of extraordinary precision and grasp of detail. Hardly ever have I known him wrong about a fact, and his power of reducing masses of detail to brief and lucid statements was unequalled. Give him the biggest Blue-Book, and he would have the heart out of it in half an hour and a luminous summary, omitting nothing of any importance, going to press within an hour. His articles were like the hewing of a straight path through a tangled forest. There might be woods and bogs to right and left, but he troubled nothing about them, so long as his own path was clear. His talk made much more allowance than his writing for the complexity of things, and there was no better critic in London of other people’s views. Pose a question, and he would talk it out from a dozen points of view with the keenest sense of its complications.” J. A. Spender, quoted in The American Review of Reviews, (June, 1912), pp. 697-698.
“…The British Premier appears to have employed that mass of vanity, Mr. W. T. Stead, to perambulate the Courts and Chanceries of Europe and waste the time of foreign sovereigns and statesmen in pursuance of that will-of-the-wisp, International Disarmament. At any rate, this crank masqueraded abroad as the unofficial mouthpiece of the British Premier, and obtained access to various personages who would not otherwise have wasted their time in listening to his nonsense. This egregious emissary so managed his mission as to unite all Europe against us…” The National Review, quoted in The Review of Reviews, April, (1907), p. 389.
“Stead amused me to begin with… I found that this provincial editor of an obscure paper was corresponding with kings and emperors all over the world and receiving long letters from statesmen of every nation. This struck me as odd and interesting. Later on, I discovered that the man was a sincere patriot, with a fervent desire to make things better and a keen sense, too, of the value of the Empire. I used to go long walks with him, talking about the state of the people in England and discussing the best ways of improving their condition. He was perfectly sane in those days. That dreadful craze of his about departed spirits had not begun to show itself. I got a great many good ideas from him. On the whole he was a fine fellow and quite honest..” Albert, Fourth Earl Grey, quoted in Frederick Whyte, The Life of W. T. Stead, (1925).
“Although often profoundly differing from his views, I have always regarded with affection and esteem his chivalrous and Quixotic character, and have admired him, certainly during the early eighties, as the first of journalists. I remember how, in the early eighties, he forced by his articles entitled ‘The Truth of the Navy, by One Who Knows,’ Mr. Gladstone, the most powerful minister of our time, to spend most grudgingly an additional £6,000,000 on the strengthening of our navy[.] I remember how he forced the same reluctant minister to send out Gordon to Khartoum, and I never shall forget his heroic exertions to secure the expedition of a relief column to Gordon’s assistance at a time when there was good reason to believe it would have been successful. I remember how he again practically single-handed literally forced upon the statute book the Criminal Law Amendment Act.” Albert, Fourth Earl Grey, quoted in The American Review of Reviews, (June, 1912), p. 697.
“All great abuses kindled a volcanic fire in the heart of Mr. Stead, and all great reform schemes electrified him. No sacrifice was too great to suppress the one or to further the other. And once he set out upon a chivalrous campaign of this kind, he idealized every thing and every person capable of advancing the cause…His end, like his life, was grandiose, heroic. The tidings, at once mournful and soul-stirring, when flashed across the wires, evoked a heartfelt response from one end of Russia to the other. Members of all parties, of all classes, of all creeds and nationalities, commemorated Stead with gratitude and pride. ‘The prince of European journalists,’ one publicist calls him; ‘the soul of social reform’ is the term applied to him by another, and ‘the genuine friend of Russia’ by all. In the remotest towns his name is familiar. In parts of Finland it is a household word. It will live in the world’s history.” Dr. E. J. Dillon, quoted in The American Review of Reviews, (June, 1912), p. 697.
“The editor of the Pall Mall Gazette is somewhat under the average height. He has a reddish beard, and his light blue eyes give a singularly frank and youthful appearance to a face which would otherwise have an old and careworn look. His manner corresponds with his expression; it is frank and simple almost to childlikeness. He begins to talk about the subject uppermost in his mind almost before he has got well inside the room, and anyone who listens to him is at once convinced that he is saying exactly what he thinks…” London Correspondent of the North Eastern News, July 17, (1885).
“People watched to see what Stead would do next. Whatever came into his head he had to say. The result was that the closest observer could never quite make out whether he was a fraud, a maniac, or an inspired evangelist. A more self-conscious man never lived. His emotions, fancies, beliefs, whims, passing sensations, were all sacred things to him. When he was angry, he took it for granted that everybody shared his rage. When he was in hysterics, it was quite obvious to him that the whole world was weeping tremulously..” An unnamed contemporary, quoted in Alison Plowden, The Case of Eliza Armstrong, (1974), p. 42.
“Mr. Stead refuses to be chained in the beaten track of journalism, but boldly takes up and thoroughly investigates whatever subject the public is interested in. He has dared to make an effective use of interviewing… We may expect to hear a good deal more of a man capable of a journalistic feat like this..” The Christian Chronicle, quoted in John Kensit, The Life of Mr. W. T. Stead: Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette (1885)
“That man has done more harm to Journalism than any other individual ever known..” W.E. Gladstone, quoted in Richard Shannon, Gladstone: Heroic minister, 1865-1898, (1999), p. 450n.