The Life of Mr. W.T. Stead: Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette

John Kensit (1885)
His fame on all the winds had flown; 
His words had shaken crypt and throne; 
Like fire on camp and court and cell 
They dropped and kindled as they fell.

For peace or rest too well he saw
The fraud of priests, the wrong of law,
And felt how hard between the two
Their breath of pain the millions drew.

These lines, from the pen of Mr. J. Whittier, the celebrated American poet, are particularly applicable to Mr. William Thomas Stead, Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. To Mr. Stead may also be applied the following description given by himself of his father, the late Rev. William Stead:—"He was emphatically a healthy man— healthy and whole-souled—with a sovereign hatred of shams and fine phrases, which was kept from being rancorous by a fine spirit of charity and a hearty human sympathy... I think he was the heartiest laugher I ever knew.. There was a fine spirit of inflexibility about his notions of duty. It was not a question of 'ought' with him, but merely one of 'must.'" Thus wrote Mr. William Thomas Stead of his father, a few days after the death of the latter in February last year. Those who enjoy the acquaintance of the son can hardly fail to be struck by the description of the father just quoted, applying as it does with literal accuracy to the son himself.

"In that grimy spot, befouled and bemired, poisoned by chemical fumes, and darkened by the smoke of innumerable chimneys, known as 'Howdon-on-Tyne,'" as the subject of our notice calls it, the Rev. William Stead laboured for forty years as Congregational Minister. Writing on the Sunday after the death of his father, Mr. William Thomas Stead says:—

"Of his fidelity to his conception of the duties of the pastorate, all can speak whose lot has been cast for long or short time in that grimy spot, of his preaching and visiting, of his teaching and his counsels, of his quiet and unostentatious services on committees and public bodies, I will make no mention. Of his sermons, of which in the course of a forty years' ministry he had accumulated a store of several thousands, a holocaust was made a few days before his death, by his express request. Of all that voluminous pile of MSS., every page of which was penned with eager anxiety to benefit, to instruct, or to inspire the souls of men, there now remains not a single fragment. His message has been spoken. His sermons have gone up in flame, and such memory of them as still lingers in the minds of his hearers will soon pass away. But that which will never pass away is the effect of that spoken word, reinforced by the example of that faithful life, on the characters of those among whom he laboured, and especially on those of his children."" 

This beautiful tribute to his father's memory, written on the occasion referred to for the Jarrow Guardian, is not by any means the only testimony to the same effect that can be produced. "The true Church of England," Carlyle wrote some years ago," at this moment lies in the editors of its newspapers. These preach to the people daily, weekly—admonishing kings themselves; advising peace or war, with an authority which only the first Reformers, and a long-past class of Popes, were possessed of; inflicting moral censure, imparting moral encouragement, consolation, edification." Without committing ourselves to the proposition that the press has superseded the pulpit, it must be admitted that in some respects the functions of a journalist are analogous to those of a clergyman—unless the lowest view be taken of journalism. But the position of Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and that of a dissenting minister in a small provincial town, are sufficiently dissimilar in their surroundings, functions, and extent of influence, to render the resemblance of the son to the father an instance of heredity which sticklers for that principle should prize.

Mr. William Thomas Stead is the eldest son of a family of three sons and two daughters, and was born at Howden-on-Tyne thirty-five years ago. His brothers have, like himself, although in different spheres, already proved men of marked ability, the elder of them—Mr. John Edward Stead—being an eminent analytical chemist in the north of England, and one of the first authorities on the manufacture of iron and steel, while the younger brother—the Rev. Herbert Stead, M.A., late of Airedale College—was last year, after a successful collegiate career, ordained to his first charge— that of minister of Gallowtree Gate Congregational Church, Leicester.

Shy and timid as a child, mixing little with the other youngsters of the village, William Thomas Stead may, like Lord Beaconsfield, be said to have been born and brought up in a library. Here, in Mr. Stead's own words, extracted from his article on his father, is the story of his childhood:

One of my earliest recollections is that of constructing stables for my toy horses with Hume and Smollett's calf-bound History of England as building materials, under the table on which father was writing his sermons. One of the earliest traditions of the household is the lament that I raised when but two years old, when my father was from home, that there was " no yire in 'tuddy" (no fire in the study) and as a consequence, being shut out from my accustomed haunt, I was miserable. My father possessed a rare gift of concentration, and could write and study undisturbed by the noisy chatter of his children, who were making doll houses or riding a rocking-horse at the other end of the room. That rocking-horse—what memories it recalls! It was of his own making. Accustomed from youth to manual labour— he served his apprenticeship as a cutler in a Sheffield forge in the days when rattening was an ordinary incident of the cutler's life—he was never at a loss to make what he had not the means to buy. This rocking-horse was fearfully and wonderfully made, with four legs as straight as bedposts, a neck of unplaned deal, and a tail of rags; but it rocked as well as the best, and it only succumbed at last when some six of us attempted to ride it at once. My father taught me almost all that I ever learned, sitting on his knee at the table. I never went to school until I was twelve, and my two years' schooling, although invaluable in other things, added comparatively little to my grasp of the instruments of knowledge—except, perhaps, in algebra and mathematics. He taught us Latin almost as soon as we could read, and we were reading in the Old Testament before we were five. I learned the Latin grammar before the English, and well I remember my disgust when I first discovered that in the English the substantive had only three cases, as against the six of the Latin. My elder sister and I were taught together. In every respect we were educated alike.

The actual teaching was, however, but one branch of our education. To be with our father day after day, at every meal except supper, to play in his study when it was wet, to go out walking with him when it was fine, to live constantly under the stimulating and inspiring shadow of his presence, this was an education in itself. We were constantly encouraged to inquire. No question was too absurd to be disregarded; no theory too wild not to be treated with kindness. Our father could not sneer, least of all at the blunders of a child. Where other parents suppress their children's questionings as troublesome or impertinent, he was ever ready to encourage. We talked to him about everything, and he told us about everything. Always studious and fond of reading, and possessing a singularly retentive memory, he was to us a perfect library, the volumes of which always opened themselves at the right place whenever we sought information. When we had to wait for a train at a railway junction for a couple of hours, he used to while away the time by weaving out of his head fascinating and endless stories of the adventures of some imaginary hero, in whose career we were soon intensely interested, who in the most natural way in the world was always visiting places or making discoveries or happening misfortunes, which led to the imparting of immense stores of information.

But it was not merely in supplying information in a most attractive form that we found invaluable assistance in the development of our mental faculties. To educate is—philologically—to bring out far more than to pour in; and for promoting reflection and stimulating thought in his children I never knew his equal. To begin with, he made us feel absolutely on an equality with himself. Not one of us ever felt the least awe of him so as to be afraid to ventilate an opinion in his presence. No one was snubbed for ignorance, or silenced for presumption. Each one was taught that his opinion was worth having. In our little commonwealth every citizen had a right to a voice, the only unpardonable thing was not to have an opinion at all. To outsiders, admitted for the first time into the vehement democracy of our household, the first impression was naturally one of scandal.

Pre-eminent among the means by which he quickened our wits and familiarized us with dialectic was the Sunday morning breakfast. Each of us—and in those days there were six, besides father and mother, making eight in all—had to commit to memory one verse of Scripture, each selecting a chapter and taking the verses consecutively. At breakfast the youngest began by repeating his verse; every member of the family, from the youngest upwards, had to give his or her interpretation of the text; and so on until all the eight had said their texts, and given their explanation of their own and of each other's. Of course, the very young ones did not contribute much to the polemic, but father, mother, and the elder ones contrived to raise almost all the issues of religion and morality in these discussions at the breakfast table. There were two distinct tendencies. My sister represented that of Arminianism—the gospel and the miraculous; I led the party in favour of Calvinism—natural law and rationalism. The ramifications of these tendencies were infinite, and the younger disputants waxed as hot and fierce as if they had been mature theologians discussing in a synod or general assembly. Each one had to speak in turn, but the order of debate was frequently broken in upon by youthful impetuosity not to be restrained, and then the breakfast table for a time became a miniature bear garden, until the cheerful firmness and genial good nature of our father restored peace and order out of warring chaos. Whatever may be thought of the propriety of beginning the day of rest with so vehement a polemic, there can be no doubt as to its value as a means of stimulating thought, familiarizing the mind with the practice of debate, and training the intellect to detect flaws in argument. There was no beating about the bush. Each one went to the root of the matter with a zest. Since these old days I have had some little experience of discussions with all sorts and conditions of men. I have had to discuss face to face with the foremost men of our time the most pressing questions of our day. But never in all my recent experience have I ever had such consciousness of intense mental activity, such an eager strain of every intellectual faculty, as that which I used to feel when discussing in the old family circle the great problems of the world. The experience that came nearest to it— although it did not equal it—was that of the fierce half-hour in which my late editor and I used to discuss the affairs of the universe every morning before we settled down to work. But my editor was only one, whereas at home each had to hold his ground against half a dozen.

Another most useful habit which my father inculcated was that of remembering the leading points of whatever we heard, and repeating them over to him when he came home. Many a painful moment I have had when I forgot the heads of a sermon, but the training was most useful. Afterwards, when we grew older, we were set to take notes. My brother Herbie taught himself shorthand in this fashion. I, less fortunate, was confined to longhand; but the habit of taking a condensed précis of a speech or sermon stood me in good stead in after life. To this hour, if I want a condensed report of a speech, I would rather have my longhand summary than the cut-down report of the most efficient reporter. These reports at first were read over on Sunday night to the family—criticised, approved, or condemned, as the case might be.

Mr. Stead, after spending two years at school, under Dr. Bewglass, at Silcoates, was employed as a clerk at Newcastle-on-Tyne, by a merchant there—Mr. Smith—who was also vice-consul for Russia. It was while in this situation that Mr. Stead made one of his earliest efforts in journalism, by offering, in 1870, to the Northern Echo, an article urging the importance of the better organization of charity and the repression of mendicity. The article was accepted and printed by the acting editor. Some subsequent articles on Democracy and Christianity, and a series on America and the Americans, attracted the attention of the proprietor of the Northern Echo, Mr. J. Hyslop Bell, who recognised in them the work of a writer of rare ability for politics, remarkable capacity for obtaining facts, and analytical powers of no common order.

"I understand you," says Carlyle," to be able to worship the fame of talent, the power, the cash, or other success of talent, but talent itself you never saw with your eyes. The manliest and ablest man that ever you saw going in a ragged coat, did you ever reverence him? Did you so much as know that he was manly till his coat grew better?" It is to be feared that there are comparatively few who could truthfully answer these questions in the affirmative, for it is not only the case that, as the same writer says, "the true eye for talent presupposes the true reverence for it," but "the true eye for talent" is in itself talent; and this Mr. Bell displayed by "discovering" Mr. Stead, whom he hastened to call upon personally. An interview of considerable length confirmed Mr. Bell's favourable impression of the young writer, and before it had terminated he had persuaded Mr. Stead that journalism was his true sphere; but, said Mr. Bell in narrating the incident, "like the good boy he was," Mr. Stead would not accept an offer of employment on the literary staff of the Northern Echo till he had consulted his parents. Their consent does not appear to have been very readily obtained, for, in writing of his father, Mr. Stead says, "He doubted at first whether I should go on the press." The result of the interview referred to was, however, that Mr. Stead joined the literary staff of the Northern Echo, and both as editor and leader-writer more than realised Mr. Bell's most sanguine anticipations. Here Mr. Stead remained till 1880, when invited by Mr. John Morley to join the staff of the Pall Mall Gazette.

To revert to Mr. Stead, whose earliest triumphs were won on this journal, "never read on any subject till you have thought yourself hungry on it, and never write on it until you have read yourself full of it," is the advice of a famous author, and appears to have been at the outset taken to heart by Mr. Stead, whose articles, more especially those on political subjects, were singularly free from the imperfections which too often characterise the hurried productions thrown off at midnight by journalists who have to deal with all kinds of subjects. Bold and searching criticism, remarkable vigour and facility of expression,

Sound sense, deep feeling, 
passions strong, 
A hate of tyrant and of knave,
A love of right, a scorn of wrong,
Of coward and of slave.

Such were the distinguishing features of Mr. Stead's literary work in Darlington, which gradually placed him, long before he had obtained the age of thirty, in the foremost ranks of journalism. Mr. Stead's denunciations of the Bulgarian atrocities and of Turkish misrule generally, can be placed second only to the eloquence of Mr. Gladstone in arousing popular indignation on those subjects. At this period, Carlyle said, "Tell that good man, Stead, to get on with his work;" Untiring in his exposure of the ludicrous blunders committed by the London newspapers in attempting to palm off as the feeling of the country the feeling of the Metropolitan Clubs, Mr. Stead was abundantly justified by the results of the General Election of 1880, which surprised so many. Geraint's remark to the armourer, in Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King,

Ye think the rustic cackle of your bourg,
The murmur of the world, 

conveys a rebuke not applicable only to rustics. In the attachment to the little spot of earth to which we belong lies, no doubt (as Burke pointed out), the foundation of patriotism. It is a very natural error to mistake local for general opinion, particularly in the English capital; and still more particularly in London clubs, which, having members from all parts of the three kingdoms, and in some cases from all parts of the British Empire, may be supposed to be free from local prejudice. But the mistake referred to is one, which, in attempting to guage (sic) the public opinion of the country, as expressed at any rate by the constituencies, has so frequently upset the most elaborate calculations that the danger of its being repeated is now comparatively small. Under the extended franchise it is more true than ever, that to ascertain what the verdict of the constituencies is likely to be you must ascertain what the working classes are thinking. The centre of such hives of industry as are spread over the county of Durham, Darlington was a singularly favourable place in which to estimate the feeling of the masses.

The county of Durham was, and is, so thoroughly Radical in its political proclivities, that it was a congenial locality to Mr. Stead, who, marrying in 1873 the second daughter of Mr. H. W. Wilson, of Howdon-on-Tyne, cared little for society, and devoted most of his time to his work, his family, and his studies, but contrived to give some attention to the affairs of the Congregational Church, of which his father had been a respected minister, and himself from early life a devoted member and Sunday school teacher.

Late every evening, except that of Sunday—for although the publication of a paper on Monday morning necessitates a certain amount of Sunday work, Mr. Stead has ever held that "works of necessity and mercy," as distinguished from the routine of daily toil, should occupy the hours of that day—he was to be met riding into Darlington to the office, and in the small hours of the morning the hoofs of his pony could be heard clattering through the silent and deserted streets.

Mr. Stead's fame as a journalist had, as already indicated, spread far beyond the northern counties, and nobody was surprised when, on Mr. John Morley taking the editorial chair of the Pall Mall Gazette, in 1880, he invited Mr. Stead to assist him. That the North should have kept Mr. Stead so long is creditable to the North and to himself, the explanation being partly his warm attachment to his father, to whom he was near while there, partly his preference for the country, and partly that he was appreciated where he was. Mr. Stead's father, when consulted as to the invitation to join the Pall Mall Gazette, "doubted" whether it ought to be accepted, and Mr. Stead doubted himself. "Why can you not remain where you are? I don't see why you should be changing," said the parent, shaking his head. Speaking from one of the platforms at the recent demonstration in Hyde Park, Mr. Stead remarked, "I am a North country man, and North country men, as a rule, do not think much of Londoners. This is partly the fault of London; it is such a huge, amorphous, anarchic, multitudinous mass of houses and streets, that persons who think of London think of a place without a soul, without a heart, without a voice."

The Pall Mall Gazette entered upon a new era when Mr. Stead joined the staff towards the close of 1880. Mr. Stead added to the value of a feature which Mr. Gladstone has declared enabled him to estimate public opinion more correctly than he otherwise could without great and careful labour in collating. This feature was the epitome of London and Provincial press opinion, which was marked by an impartiality, a discrimination, a comprehensiveness of selection such as had never before been seen in London. This feature not only gave public men a more correct index of public opinion than they had ever had before, but, like the results of the General Election, showed that the opinion of the Metropolitan press is not to be depended upon as that of the country at large, the organs of the great centres of industry in the Provinces being in this respect more trustworthy. These features did not exhaust Mr. Stead's capacity for work. He virtually became Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette when Mr. John Morley was elected a member of Parliament for Newcastle-on-Tyne. Mr. Morley soon after resigned the Editorship of that paper altogether, and Mr. Stead became Editor in name as well as in fact. Articles signed by the most eminent men of the day, who were also, as a rule, the principal authorities on their respective subjects, now became another feature of the Pall Mall Gazette, which under Mr. Stead's guidance soon became in the opinion of the better educated Liberals, by far the most readable evening paper in London, while the Pall Mall Gazette "extras," in the form of small pamphlets, giving, for instance, an illustrated description of the Academy, the Inventions Exhibitions, &c., secured for the paper a welcome from men of every shade of politics and in every sphere of life.

The Christian Chronicle in an account of Mr. Stead says:—

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 cite, as an example of his dash and enterprise, his famous "discovery" of Gordon. But that is by no means an isolated instance. Conversing with an eminent member of the Belgian Government about the Congo scheme of the King of the Belgians, Mr. Stead asked, "Do you think the King would grant me an interview?" The reply was, "Undoubtedly." Without waiting in London for a reply to his telegram, Mr. Stead set off on a Saturday for Brussels, saw the King, and talked the matter over with him for two hours on Sunday forenoon; then off back again immediately, he crossed the sea, and was in the Pall Mall office on Monday morning. We may expect to hear a good deal more of a man capable of a journalistic feat like this. 

Mr. Mark Fooks, a well known North country journalist, who knows Mr. Stead well, and was for some time his colleague on the Northern Echo, and is beloved by all who know him as one of the most amiable and conscientious of men, has favoured us with the following:—

Until the advent of the Eastern Question Mr. Stead had not achieved more than a local reputation in connexion (sic) with the Northern Echo. The intensity of his political convictions, as shown by the fervour of his writings, had been previously manifest to Liberal political circles in Durham and Yorkshire and adjacent counties. The advent of the struggle between Russia and Turkey—the political pour-parlers and discussions which preceded and accompanied the war, and especially the conviction that the action was right which was taken by Mr. Gladstone in what was known as the Bulgarian atrocities, and in antagonism generally to the course pursued by Lord Beaconsfield's Government— first brought Mr. Stead into recognition amongst the leading statesmen of the Liberal party. On all those questions he wrote strongly and he wrote well. It was not only with Mr. Gladstone himself with whom the clever young editor was in frequent personal and epistolary communication, but he rapidly made the acquaintance of nearly all the Liberal leaders, who, while they recognised his high journalistic ability, were impressed, as all are who come into contact with him, by his singular earnestness and sincerity of character, and the candour, frankness, unconventionally and charm of his manner.

Though not devoid of the logical faculty, his forte is not so much in hard logic, as in a ready grasp of facts. With the facts before him, conclusions are formed almost simultaneously. Hence, the ordinary evolution of thought required to mature conclusions, which is common to nearly all public writers and thinkers, seems hardly to be requisite with Mr. Stead. The deduction is made, the opinion is formed, almost instanter upon the presentment of the fact, and a ready pen, rushing over folio after folio, presents in little over an hour from its inception, the idea of the writer in a column of leader. There is no hesitation shown—no doubt. The statement is authoritative, didactic, forceful. The style, judged by the very highest literary standards, may not be of the purest, but this is of secondary importance to this literary Vulcan, who beats out his sentences—frequently at white heat—in such clear, sharp, nervous English, that he who runs may read, and can never fail to understand. Mr. Stead does not write for the purpose of filling out an allotted space of the leading columns of his journal, in the laissez-faire, gingerly fashion of too many of his brethren of the press. He has something to say, and he says it. He is clearly not studying the convictions or prejudices of his reader. The reader must take his chance; and, as Mr. Stead would say, in his plain and vigorous Saxon, can like it or lump it. There is a lesson to be taught, a duty to be enforced, a government to be warned, an administrative weakness to be shown up, an evil to be exposed. The readiest means to the end are taken; there is no beating about the bush; the fewest words are employed; point and directness are visible through all that is written.

Everyone who has come into private or professional contact with Mr. Stead, from the time when, as a very young man in the country, working his way as an unknown editor, to his filling the editorial chair of one of the leading London journals, invariably has nothing but praise for his personal and official bearing. No man can be more considerate towards his colleagues and subordinates; no one more ready to give an encouraging word or a helping hand. His frankness, uniform kindness, equality and evenness of temper, place all who are associated with him at their ease, whilst they have nothing but admiration for his untiring and restless energy, which they may strive but vainly to emulate. At a fair computation, Mr. Stead is capacitated to do, and ordinarily does, the work of two or three men. Is a fact to be verified? a statement to be proved? none can equal the industry and ardour with which he sets about the task. Much that might be delegated to subordinates, of little more than mechanical labour of this description, is done by himself. He either will not wait, or cares not to delegate the duty. Hence, in the earlier stages of his connection with the Pall Mall Gazette, while Mr. Morley was editor, he gained the soubriquet throughout the office of the "irrepressible." When connected with the Northern Echo, at Darlington, there were critical occasions when he was known to have written half the paper himself.

Mr. Stead has what is of surpassing value to him as a journalist—an unusually retentive memory. On one occasion he was noticed at a meeting—his reporter being absent—to be listening to a speech of a member of Parliament. He is not a shorthand writer. He had only a half sheet of note paper, and filled but one side of it with less than a dozen lines, merely giving the subjects, and their order, upon which the speaker dwelt. Next day he had elaborated a speech of a column and a half entirely from memory. This, reading wonderfully like the utterances of which it purported to be a transcript, the question was asked of a professional shorthand reporter who was present whether it were an accurate report. The reply was, "Wonderfully so; I compared the more important portions with my notes, and found it just about verbatim." This marvellous reproductive power of memory is neither accidental nor exceptional. On another occasion some three or four columns of a leading statesman's speech were reproduced nearly all in the same manner from a few stray-notes. This retentivencss of memory seems to be equally-marked as regards remote as well as immediate events and occurrences. No leading politician can offer an opinion or announce a policy which does not seem to be for years after registered upon the mind of the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. Many a time are inconsistencies pointed out where public men have tripped, or swallowed their former professions, by means of this unfailing tablet upon which the data are recorded. Repeated instances of this surprising faculty on one occasion elicited from the former brilliant literary chief who presided over the Northumberland Street oracle—Mr. John Morley—the observation, "Why, Stead, you arc the most dangerous man to politicians in all London." That the Pall Mall Gazette has practically introduced the system of "interviewing" into-English journalism, had its inception, there is little doubt, in the extraordinary memory of Mr. Stead who it is well known has done the leading interviews himself, and from memory. This was the case with General Gordon who was intercepted at Southampton on the eve of what proved to be his last departure from English shores. Not a note, I believe, was taken, or but the merest fragment, at the time of the interview, and Mr. Stead on his return to London at midnight dictated with marvellous fidelity to a shorthand writer the very lengthy and intensely interesting communication of the opinions of the Soudan hero which shortly after adorned the pages of the Pall Mall.

It may easily be conceived that a man of this mould who believes in himself and in a higher power, who regards himself as a politico-moral daily teacher of, and a preacher to, men—one who has a mission to fulfil—who inherits in himself in some degree the sacred fire which animated the old Prophets, as the Rev. Price Hughes has said—who is moved to perform his work from motives in which personal and ordinarily material considerations have but so small a share, is one well cut out for a Reformer, and a martyr if need be. He does not court martyrdom, but few men could suffer it with such grace and placability should it befall as an accident or concomitant of his position or work. For him, "stone walls do not a prison make," especially with the knowledge he has of the sympathy and love of the great mass of the weakest and the poorest of the men and women of the land whose daughters he stretched forth his hand to save when there was none to succour. It is from such men that the world's heroes are made. Like the Apostle of old, or Garibaldi or Mazzini in modern times, they "counsel not with flesh and blood." "The call of duty is the call of God," said Mr. Stead in his speech in Hyde Park, "whenever a call comes home to your heart to do some unselfish thing for your sister or your brother be they never so poor, and miserable, and vile, remember that that call comes to you from the great heart of God, and if you turn a deaf ear you deny Him and are none of His."

Those who know Mr. Stead's character and inner life most intimately, are unanimous in the statement that no man or scarcely woman can be more sensitive even to idealism in all that relates to moral purity. Ever since his introduction to journalism he was one of the most pronounced advocates for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts. The journal of which he was the Editor at Darlington, was made conspicuous as a vehicle in promotion of repeal, and for everything which tended to the increase of moral purity. The honour of womanhood is with him a kind of Gospel. It was under the influence of such high moral sanctions that he was, doubtless, led to face the dangers—personal, professional, and otherwise—involved in the work of the "Secret Commission." Like Caesar's wife, above suspicion himself, he must have suffered deeply in exploring what he termed "The London Inferno." No pruriency of motive, no desire of notoriety, no expectation of profit from the extra sale of his journal entered into his calculations. Here was the road of duty. Hard and dark, hideous and dangerous though the way might be it must be traversed. Writing at the time, in a private letter, he made this characteristic remark, referring to the work of the revelations:—"But oh, the agony of the thing! You know what a woman I am in these things, and therefore can judge how I suffered."

Such is the testimony of Mr. Mark Fooks—a man whose veracity is unquestionable—and who, in reply to a letter about remuneration for the foregoing, writes to us, "I have not written it for pay, but out of love for Stead, who is a noble fellow—one of the few God-like men in this world." That Mr. Stead practises what he preaches, that he himself obeys what he has termed, in the passage quoted by Mr. Fooks, "the call of God," there is abundant evidence to prove.


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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.

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Owen Mulpetre, BA (Hons) MPhil