Stead on his Editorship of the Northern Echo

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W.T. Stead on his Editorship of the Northern Echo (1893)

(Quoted in Estelle W. Stead, My Father: Personal & Spiritual Reminiscences (1913) pp. 107-109

When I was editing the Northern Echo I was a thorough-going Gladstonian of a very stalwart fighting kind, with a wholesome conviction that Tories were children of the Devil, and that the supreme duty of a Liberal journalist was to win as many seats as possible for the Liberal Party. We were very successful, and even in the dark hour of Conservatism in 1874 we achieved the almost unprecedented feat of carrying all the Durham seats for the Liberal Party. Unfortunately, we lost some of them on petition, but the return of the “Durham Thirteen,” as they were called, was a somewhat notable feat, in which I was very glad to have assisted. It was this which led me to publish my first book which was called The Durham Thirteen, which contained the biographies of the thirteen members who were returned in the Durham constituency. Unfortunately, the election petition spoilt the thirteen, and there has never been a “Durham Thirteen” since.

In the Northern Echo I preached just the same as I preach now, advocating Industrial Arbitration and Imperial Extension, much to the horror of the good Quakers, who found, I believe, the money with which the Echo was established. I was also a heretic on the subject of Capital Punishment, and was always a very strong opponent of the Permissive Bill.

On the other hand, I was, from the first, a supporter of Mrs. Josephine Butler in her Crusade against the C.D. Acts. I remember very well how my mother and my wife’s mother used to go canvassing our village for signatures against these Acts before I went into journalism at all. It is one of the subjects on which I have always been quite mad. I am ready to allow anybody to discuss anything in any newspaper that I edit: they may deny the existence of God or of the soul: they may blaspheme all the angels and all the saints: they may maintain that I am the latest authentic incarnation of the Devil. But one thing I have never allowed them to do, and that is to say a word in favour of the C.D. Acts, or of any modifications of the system which makes women the chattels and slaves of the administration for the purpose of administering to the worst passions of the other sex. That is the only subject upon which I never allow anybody to say a word upon the Devil’s side in any paper under my control.

It is very curious that I utterly failed to obtain any extraneous literary employment all the time that I was on the Northern Echo. I was shut down and kept down to my own halfpenny paper. My efforts to obtain literary work or external engagements were a total failure, and a very good thing it was for me too, although I did not think so at the time. What made me was the Bulgarian Atrocities.