W.T. Stead & The Pall Mall Gazette

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W.T. Stead & The Pall Mall Gazette (1880-1890)

Therefore we say quite frankly to-day that all those who are squeamish, and all those who are prudish, and all those who prefer to live in a fool’s paradise of imaginary innocence and purity, selfishly oblivious to the horrible realities which torment those whose lives are passed in the London Inferno, will do well not to read the Pall Mall Gazette of Monday and the three following days.

W. T. Stead (The Pall Mall Gazette, July 4, 1885)

The Pall Mall Gazette was founded in London in 1865 by George Murray Smith. The brainchild of Frederick Greenwood, who became its first editor, the Pall Mall took its name from the fictional newspaper in William Thackeray’s novel, The History of Pendennis. In 1880, the newspaper came under the control of Smith’s son-in-law, Henry Yates Thompson, whose Liberal stance made Greenwood’s position as editor untenable and the latter resigned, with some bitterness, and was replaced by John Morley. Under Morley, the Pall Mall quickly became a dull and ponderous organ that soon began losing money; and within months of Morley taking up the reins, Thompson took the decision to bring in radical Northern Echo editor, W. T. Stead to assist him in his struggling editorship. When Morley resigned in 1883 to enter parliament, Stead took over and immediately set about involving the Pall Mall in numerous sensational political crusades, most notably, “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon” (1885), which subsequently landed him in prison (see the Eliza Armstrong case).

Such crusades consolidated Stead’s journalistic power and, for a time, made the Pall Mall one of the most influential newspapers in London, with literary contributors that included George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. But Stead’s methods often put him at odds with Thompson and, in 1889, he resigned his editorship to found the Review of Reviews. Stead’s departure took some of the life out of the Pall Mall, and despite returning to its Conservative roots in the 1890s, it never again reached the heights of Stead’s editorship. In 1921 it was merged with The Globe, and two years later, the fifty-eight-year history of the Pall Mall Gazette came to a close when it was absorbed into the Evening Standard.

Crime & Social

The Eliza Armstrong Case – Proceedings at Bow Street (PMG Supplement)