W.T. Stead by Havelock Ellis

Quoted in Frederick Whyte, The Life of W.T. Stead(London: Johnathan Cape, 1925) vol.II, pp. 341-342

I am interested to hear that you are writing the biography of Stead; it is a large and fine subject; he was a great journalist, one might almost say a great man, and it is all the better that his life should be written by one who can look at him from a little distance, and so perhaps view him more truly. During recent years I have often wished that we had a journalist of his calibre, so honest and so forceful, to deal with the problems which have arisen. At the same time there were few questions on which I entirely agreed with him, and on many I had no sympathy whatever. There was, also, a certain coarseness of texture in his mind which, although I recognized that it was an inevitable part of his great qualities, always rather repelled me.

In reply to your query, I have written nothing about Stead. I knew him personally, but on one side only. When my "Studies in the Psychology of Sex" were prosecuted in 1898, he became interested in them, and he spoke frankly on the question in the Review of Reviews. He would write to me from time to time (sometimes with intervals of years), and now and again would invite me to spend the evening at Smith Square where we would talk in his study till eleven when his daughter would bring him a cup of tea, which was the sign for me to leave and for him to go to bed. The main subject was always sex. He told me that his friends considered him "mad on sex." He did not dispute that opinion. In his life and actions he was undoubtedly a rigid moral Puritan and his strong self-control kept him in the narrow path. But in his interests and emotions he was anything but a Puritan, and in the absence of that stern self-control he would have been quite a debauched person. The mastery of sexuality was a great problem with him. His repressed sexuality was, I consider, the motive force of many of his activities.


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