Lord Milner on W. T. Stead

Quoted in The American Review of Reviews, (June, 1912), p. 696

The real truth was that he loved to develop his ideas dialectically, in discussion with someone personally congenial to him, but whose habit of mind was as dissimilar as possible to his own. How well I remember these daily conflicts. They were among the most vivid experiences of my life. It is impossible to give any idea of the force, the copiousness, the dexterity, the intellectual nimbleness, the range of readily available knowledge, the aptness of illustration, with which he would defend evn the most extravagant and paradoxical proposition. His instinct led him to provoke criticism, for it was only in reply to criticism that he could bring all his own forces into the field, and certainly no man less resented criticism or took a more keen delight in argumentative encounter. He would go on debating, with the printers screaming for "copy," till he sometimes left himself less than half an hour to write or dictate a leading article; then he would dash it off at top-speed and embody in it, with astonishing facility, the whole gist and essence of the preceding discussion.

It has been my good fortune in life to be brought into contact with an exceptional number of men of great and diverse ability. Among them all I cannot recall one who was anything like his equal in vitality. It is quite superfluous to dwell on his gifts as a writer; but his conversation was far more brilliant and stimulating than the best of his writing. I don't suppose any editor was ever so beloved by his staff, from the first lieutenant down to the office-boy. It was such fun to work with him. The tremendous "drive," the endless surprises, the red-hot pace at which everything was carried on, were rendered not only tolerable but delightful by his never-failing geniality and by that glorious gift of humor, not always apparent in his writing, which made him so fascinating a companion. His sympathy, his generosity, his kindliness were lavished on all who came within his reach.


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Owen Mulpetre, BA (Hons) MPhil