An Adventure With A Genius
Part 1 out of 3
Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading
AN ADVENTURE WITH A GENIUS
Recollections of JOSEPH PULITZER.
BY ALLEYNE IRELAND
"DEMOCRACY AND THE HUMAN EQUATION"
BY KIND PERMISSION
WITH SINCERE REGARD
MRS. JOSEPH PULITZER
In the course of my wanderings about the labyrinth of life it has been
my good fortune to find awaiting me around every corner some new
adventure. If these have generally lacked that vividness of action which
to the eye of youth is the very test of adventure, they have been rich
in a kind of experience which to a mature and reflective mind has a
value not to be measured in terms of dramatic incident.
My adventures, in a word, have been chiefly those of personal contact
with the sort of men whose lives are the material around which history
builds its story, and from which fiction derives all that lends to it
the air of reality.
I have had friends and acquaintances in a score of countries, and in
every station of society--kings and beggars, viceroys and ward-
politicians, judges and criminals, men of brain and men of brawn.
My first outstanding adventure was with a stern and formidable man, the
captain of a sailing vessel, of whose ship's company I was one in a
voyage across the Pacific; one of my most recent was with a man not less
stern or formidable, with the man who is the central figure in the
The tale has been told before in a volume entitled "Joseph Pulitzer:
Reminiscences of a Secretary." The volume has been out of print for some
time, but the continued demand for it has called for its re-issue. The
change in title has been made in response to many suggestions that the
character of the material is more aptly described as "An Adventure with
New York, 1920.
I. In a Casting Net
II. Meeting Joseph Pulitzer
III. Life at Cap Martin
IV. Yachting in the Mediterranean
V. Getting to Know Mr. Pulitzer
VI. Weisbaden and an Atlantic Voyage
VII. Bar Harbor and the Last Cruise
IN A CASTING NET
A long illness, a longer convalescence, a positive injunction from my
doctor to leave friends and business associates and to seek some spot
where a comfortable bed and good food could be had in convenient
proximity to varied but mild forms of amusement--and I found myself in
the autumn of the year 1910 free and alone in the delightful city of
All my plans had gone down wind, and as I sat at my table in the Cafe
Ziechen, whence, against the background of the glittering blue of the
Alster, I could see the busy life of the Alter Jungfernstieg and the
Alsterdamm, my thoughts turned naturally to the future.
It is not the easiest thing in the world to reconstruct at forty years
of age the whole scheme of your life; but my illness, and other
happenings of a highly disagreeable character, had compelled me to
abandon a career to which I had devoted twenty years of arduous labor;
and the question which pressed for an immediate answer was: What are you
going to do now?
Various alternatives presented themselves. There had been a suggestion
that I should take the editorship of a newspaper in Calcutta; an
important financial house in London had offered me the direction of its
interests in Western Canada; a post in the service of the Government of
India had been mentioned as a possibility by certain persons in
My own inclination, the child of a weary spirit and of the lassitude of
ill health, swayed me in the direction of a quiet retreat in Barbados,
that peaceful island of an eternal summer cooled by the northeast
trades, where the rush and turmoil of modern life are unknown and where
a very modest income more than suffices for all the needs of a simple
I shall never know to what issue my reflections upon these matters would
have led me, for a circumstance, in the last degree trivial, intervened
to turn my thoughts into an entirely new channel, and to guide me,
though I could not know it at the time, into the service of Joseph
My waiter was extremely busy serving a large party of artillery officers
at an adjoining table. I glanced through The Times and the Hamburger
Nachrichten, looked out for a while upon the crowded street, and then,
resigning myself to the delay in getting my lunch, picked up The Times
again and did what I had never done before in my life--read the
advertisements under the head "Professional Situations."
All except one were of the usual type, the kind in which a prospective
employer flatters a prospective employee by classing as "professional"
the services of a typewriter or of a companion to an elderly gentleman
who resides within easy distance of an important provincial town.
One advertisement, however, stood out from the rest on account of the
peculiar requirements set forth in its terse appeal. It ran something
after this fashion: "Wanted, an intelligent man of about middle age,
widely read, widely traveled, a good sailor, as companion-secretary to a
gentleman. Must be prepared to live abroad. Good salary. Apply, etc."
My curiosity was aroused; and at first sight I appeared to meet the
requirements in a reasonable measure. I had certainly traveled widely,
and I was an excellent sailor--excellent to the point of offensiveness.
Upon an unfavorable construction I could claim to be middle-aged at
forty; and I was prepared to live abroad in the unlikely event of any
one fixing upon a country which could be properly called "abroad" from
the standpoint of a man who had not spent twelve consecutive months in
any place since he was fifteen years old.
As for intelligence, I reflected that for ninety-nine people out of a
hundred intelligence in others means no more than the discovery of a
person who is in intellectual acquiescence with themselves, and that if
the necessity arose I could probably affect an acquiescence which would
serve all the purposes of a fundamental identity of convictions.
Two things, however, suggested possible difficulties, the questions of
what interpretations the advertiser placed upon the terms "widely read"
and "good salary." I could not claim to be widely read in any
conventional sense, for I was not a university graduate, and the very
extensive reading I had done in my special line of study--the control
and development of tropical dependencies--though it might entitle me to
some consideration as a student in that field had left me woefully
ignorant of general literature. Would the ability to discuss with
intelligence the Bengal Regulation of 1818, or the British Guiana
Immigration Ordinance of 1891 be welcomed as a set-off to a complete
unfamiliarity with Milton's "Comus" and Gladstone's essay on the
epithets of motion in Homer?
On the subject of what constituted a "good salary" experience had taught
me to expect a very wide divergence of view, not only along the natural
line of cleavage between the person paying and the person receiving the
salary, but also between one employer and another and between one
employee and another; and I recalled a story, told me in my infancy, in
which a certain British laboring man had been heard to remark that he
would not be the Czar of Russia, no, not for thirty shillings a week.
But that element in the situation might, I reflected, very well be left
to take care of itself.
I finished my lunch, and then replied to the advertisement, giving my
English address. My letter, a composition bred of the conflicting
influences of pride, modesty, prudence, and curiosity, brought forth in
due course a brief reply in which I was bidden to an interview in that
part of London where fashion and business prosperity seek to ape each
Upon presenting myself at the appointed hour I was confronted by a
gentleman whose severity of manner I learned later to recognize as the
useful mask to a singularly genial and kindly nature.
Our interview was long and, to me at any rate, rather embarrassing,
since it resolved itself into a searching cross-examination by a past-
master in the art. Who were my parents? When and where had I been born?
Where had I been educated? What were my means of livelihood? What
positions had I filled since I went out into the world? What countries
had I visited? What books had I read? What books had I written? To what
magazines and reviews had I contributed? Who were my friends? Was I fond
of music, of painting, of the drama? Had I a sense of humor? Had I a
good temper or a good control of a bad one? What languages could I speak
or read? Did I enjoy good health? Was I of a nervous disposition? Had I
tact and discretion? Was I a good horseman, a good sailor, a good
talker, a good reader?
When it came to asking me whether I was a good horseman AND a good
sailor, I realized that anyone who expected to find these two qualities
combined in one man was quite capable of demanding that his companion-
secretary should be able to knit woollen socks, write devotional verse,
and compute the phases of the moon.
I remember chuckling to myself over this quaint conceit; I was to learn
later that it came unpleasantly near the truth.
Under this close examination I felt that I had made rather a poor
showing. This was due in some measure, no doubt, to the fact that my
questioner abruptly left any topic as soon as he discovered that I knew
something about it, and began to angle around, with disturbing success,
to find the things I did not know about.
At one point, however, I scored a hit. After I had been put through my
paces, a process which seemed to me to end only at the exact point where
my questioner could no longer remember the name of anything in the
universe about which he could frame an interrogation, it was my turn to
Was the person I was addressing the gentleman who needed the companion?
No, he was merely his agent. As a matter of fact the person on whose
behalf he was acting was an American.
I nodded in a non-committal way.
He was also a millionaire.
I bowed the kind of bow that a Frenchman makes when he says Mais
Furthermore he was totally blind.
"Joseph Pulitzer," I said.
"How in the world did you guess that?" asked my companion.
"That wasn't a guess," I replied. "You advertised for an intelligent
man; and this is simply where my intelligence commences to show itself.
An intelligent man couldn't live as long as I have in the United States
without hearing a good deal about Joseph Pulitzer; and, after all, the
country isn't absolutely overrun with blind millionaires."
At the close of the interview I was told that I would be reported upon.
In the meantime would I kindly send in a written account of the
interview, in the fullest possible detail, as a test of my memory, sense
of accuracy, and literary style.
Nor was this all. As I prepared to take my departure I was handed the
address of another gentleman who would also examine me and make a
report. Before I got out of the room my inquisitor said, "It may
interest you to know that we have had more than six hundred applications
for the post, and that it may, therefore, take some time before the
matter is definitely settled."
I was appalled. Evidently I had been wasting my time, for I could have
no doubt that the gallant six hundred would include a sample of every
kind of pundit, stationary or vagrant, encompassed within the seven
seas; and against such competition I felt my chances to be just
My companion observed my discomfiture. and as he shook hands he said,
"Oh, that doesn't really mean very much. As a matter of fact we were
able to throw out more than five hundred and fifty applications merely
for self-evident reasons. A number of school teachers and bank clerks
applied, and in general these gentlemen said that although they had not
traveled they would have no objection to living abroad, and that they
might venture to hope that if they DID go to sea they would prove to be
"Most of them appeared to think that the circumstance of being middle-
aged would off-set their deficiencies in other directions. There are
really only a few gentlemen whom we can consider as being likely to meet
Mr. Pulitzer's requirements, and the selection will be made finally by
Mr. Pulitzer himself. It is very probable that you will be asked to go
to Mentone to spend a fortnight or so on Mr. Pulitzer's yacht or at his
villa at Cap Martin, as he never engages anybody until he has had the
candidate with him for a short visit.
"And, by the way, would you mind writing a short narrative of your life,
not more than two thousand words? It would interest Mr. Pulitzer and
would help him to reach a decision in your case. You might also send me
copies of some of your writings."
Thus ended my interview with Mr. James M. Tuohy, the London
correspondent of the New York World.
My next step was to call upon the second inquisitor, Mr. George Ledlie.
I found him comfortably installed at an hotel in the West End. He was an
American, very courteous and pleasant, but evidently prepared to use a
probe without any consideration for the feelings of the victim.
As my business was to reveal myself, I wasted no time, and for about an
hour I rambled along on the subject of my American experiences. I do not
know to this day what sort of an impression I created upon this
gentleman, but I felt at the time that it ought to have been a favorable
We had many friends in common; I had recently been offered a lectureship
in the university from which he had graduated; some of my books had been
published in America by firms in whose standing he had confidence; I
paraded a slight acquaintance with three Presidents of the United
States, and produced from my pocketbook letters from two of them; we
found that we were both respectful admirers of a charming lady who had
recently undergone a surgical operation; he had been a guest at my club
in Boston, I had been a guest at his club in New York. When I left him I
thought poorly of the chances of the remnant of the six hundred.
Some weeks passed and I heard nothing more of the matter. During this
time I had leisure to think over what I had heard from time to time
about Joseph Pulitzer, and to speculate, with the aid of some
imaginative friends, upon the probable advantages and disadvantages of
the position for which I was a candidate.
Gathered together, my second-hand impressions of Joseph Pulitzer made
little more than a hazy outline. I had heard or read that he had landed
in New York in the early sixties, a penniless youth unable to speak a
word of English; that after a remarkable series of adventures he had
become a newspaper proprietor and, later, a millionaire; that he had
been stricken blind at the height of his career; that his friends and
his enemies agreed in describing him as a man of extraordinary ability
and of remarkable character; that he had been victorious in a bitter
controversy with President Roosevelt; that one of the Rothschilds had
remarked that if Joseph Pulitzer had not lost his eyesight and his
health he, Pulitzer, would have collected into his hands all the money
there was; that he was the subject of one of the noblest portraits
created by the genius of John Sargent; and that he spent most of his
time on board a magnificent yacht, surrounded by a staff of six
This was enough, of course, to inspire me with a keen desire to meet Mr.
Pulitzer; it was not enough to afford me the slightest idea of what life
would be like in close personal contact with such a man.
The general opinion of my friends was that life with Mr. Pulitzer would
be one long succession of happy, care-free days spent along the
languorous shores of the Mediterranean--days of which perhaps two hours
would be devoted to light conversation with my interesting host, and the
remainder of my waking moments to the gaities of Monte Carlo, to rambles
on the picturesque hillsides of Rapallo and Bordighera, or to the genial
companionship of my fellow-secretaries under the snowy awnings of the
We argued the matter out to our entire satisfaction. Mr. Pulitzer, in
addition to being blind, was a chronic invalid, requiring a great deal
of sleep and repose. He could hardly be expected to occupy more than
twelve hours a day with his secretaries. That worked out at two hours
apiece, or, if the division was made by days, about one day a week to
The yacht, I had been given to understand, cruised for about eight
months in the year over a course bounded by Algiers and the Piraeus, by
Mentone and Alexandria, with visits to the ports of Italy, Sicily,
Corsica, and Crete. The least imaginative of mortals could make a very
fair and alluring picture of what life would be like under such
circumstances. As the event turned out it was certainly not our
imaginations that were at fault.
As time passed without bringing any further sign from Mr. Tuohy my hopes
gradually died out, and I fixed in my mind a date upon which I would
abandon all expectations of securing the appointment. Scarcely had I
reached this determination when I received a telegram from Mr. Tuohy
asking me to lunch with him the next day at the Cafe Royal in order to
meet Mr. Ralph Pulitzer, who was passing through London on his way back
to America after a visit to his father.
I leave my readers to imagine what sort of a lunch I had in the company
of two gentlemen whose duty it was to struggle with the problem of
discovering the real character and attainments of a guest who knew he
was under inspection.
I found Mr. Ralph Pulitzer to be a slender, clean-cut, pale gentleman of
an extremely quiet and self-possessed manner. He was very agreeable, and
he listened to my torrent of words with an interest which, if it were
real, reflected great credit on me, and which, if it were feigned,
reflected not less credit on him.
As we parted he said, "I shall write to my father to-day and tell him of
our meeting. Of course, as you know, the decision in this matter rests
entirely with him."
After this incident there was another long silence, and I again fixed
upon a day beyond which I would not allow my hopes to flourish. The day
arrived, nothing happened, and the next morning I went down to the
offices of the West India Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and made
inquiries about the boats for Barbados. I spent the afternoon at my club
making out a list of things to be taken out as aids to comfortable
housekeeping in a semi-tropical country--a list which swelled amazingly
as I turned over the fascinating pages of the Army and Navy Stores
By dinner time I had become more than reconciled to the new turn of
affairs, and when I reached my flat at midnight I found myself impatient
of the necessary delay before I could settle down to a life of easy
literary activity in one of the most delightful climates in the world
and in the neighborhood of a large circle of charming friends and
On the table in the hall I found a telegram from Mr. Tuohy instructing
me to start next morning for Mentone, where Mr. Pulitzer would entertain
me as his guest for a fortnight, either at his villa or aboard his yacht
Liberty, and informing me that I would find at my club early in the
morning an envelope containing a ticket to Mentone, with sleeper and
parlor-car accommodation, and a check to cover incidental expenses.
The tickets and the check were accompanied by a letter in which I was
told that I was to consider this two weeks' visit as a trial, that
during that time all my expenses would be paid, that I would receive an
honorarium of so much a day from the time I left London until I was
engaged by Mr. Pulitzer or had arrived back in London after rejection by
him, and that everything depended upon the impression I made on my host.
I left London cold, damp, and foggy; and in less than twenty-four hours
I was in the train between Marseilles and Mentone, watching the surf
playing among the rocks in the brilliant sunshine of the Cote d'Azur. In
the tiny harbor of Mentone I found, anchored stern-on to the quay, the
steam yacht Liberty--a miracle of snowy decks and gleaming brass-work--
tonnage 1,607, length over all 316 feet, beam 35.6 feet, crew 60, all
A message from Mr. Pulitzer awaited me. Would I dine at his villa at Cap
Martin? An automobile would call for me at seven o'clock.
I spent the day in looking over the yacht and in trying to pick up some
information as to the general lay of the land, by observing every detail
of my new surroundings.
The yacht itself claimed my first attention. Everything was new and
fascinating to me, for although I had had my share of experiences in
barques, and brigs, and full-rigged ships, in mail boats and tramp
steamers, only once before had I had an opportunity to examine closely a
large private yacht. Ten years before, I had spent some time cruising
along the northern coast of Borneo in the yacht of His Highness Sir
Charles Brooke, Raja of Sarawak; but with that single exception yachting
was for me an unknown phase of sea life.
The Liberty--or, as the secretarial staff, for reasons which will become
apparent later, called her, the Liberty, Ha! Ha!--was designed and built
on the Clyde. I have never seen a vessel of more beautiful lines.
Sailors would find, I think, but one fault in her appearance and one
peculiarity. With a white-painted hull, her bridge and the whole of her
upper structure, except the masts and funnel, were also white, giving to
her general features a certain flatness which masked her fine
proportions. Her bridge, instead of being well forward, was placed so
far aft that it was only a few feet from the funnel. The object of this
departure from custom was to prevent any walking over Mr. Pulitzer's
head when he sat in his library, which was situated under the spot,
where the bridge would have been in most vessels.
The boat was specially designed to meet Mr. Pulitzer's peculiar
requirements. She had a flush deck from the bows to the stern, broken
only, for perhaps twenty feet, by a well between the forecastle head and
the fore part of the bridge.
Running aft from the bridge to within forty feet of the stern was an
unbroken line of deck houses. Immediately afore the bridge was Mr.
Pulitzer's library, a handsome room lined from floor to ceiling with
books; abaft of that was the dining saloon, which could accommodate in
comfort a dozen people; continuing aft there were, on the port side, the
pantry, amidships the enclosed space over the engine room, and on the
starboard side a long passage leading to the drawing-room and writing-
room used by the secretaries and by members of Mr. Pulitzer's family
when they were on the yacht.
The roof and sides of this line of deck houses were extended a few feet
beyond the aftermost room, so as to provide a sheltered nook where Mr.
Pulitzer could sit when the wind was too strong for his comfort on the
Between the sides of the deck houses and the sides of the ship there ran
on each side a promenade about nine feet broad, unbroken by bolt or nut,
stanchion or ventilator, smooth as a billiard table and made of the
finest quality of seasoned teak. The promenade continued across the fore
part of Mr. Pulitzer's library and across the after part of the line of
deck houses, so that there was an oblong track round the greater part of
the boat, a track covered overhead with double awnings and protected
inboard by the sides of the deck houses, and outboard by adjustable
canvas screens, which could be let down or rolled up in a few minutes.
About thirty feet from the stern a heavy double canvas screen ran
'thwartships from one side of the boat to the other, shutting off a
small space of deck for the use of the crew. The main deck space was
allotted as follows: under the forecastle head accommodation for two
officers and two petty officers, abaft of that the well space, of which
I have spoken; under the library was Mr. Pulitzer's bedroom, occupying
the whole breadth of the ship and extending from the bulkhead at the
after part of the well space as far aft as the companion way leading
down between the library and the saloon, say twenty-five feet.
A considerable proportion of the sides of this bedroom was given up to
books; in one corner was a very high wash-hand-stand, so high that Mr.
Pulitzer, who was well over six feet tall, could wash his hands without
stooping. The provision of this very high wash-hand-stand illustrates
the minute care with which everything had been foreseen in the
construction and fitting-up of the yacht. When a person stoops there is
a slight impediment to the free flow of blood to the head, such an
impediment might react unfavorably on the condition of Mr. Pulitzer's
eyes, therefore the wash-hand-stand was high enough to be used without
In the forward bulkhead of the cabin were two silent fans, one drawing
air into the room, the other drawing it out. The most striking feature
of the room was an immense four-poster bed which stood in the center of
the cabin, with a couch at the foot and one or two chairs at one side.
Hanging at the head of the bed was a set of electric push-bells, the
cords being of different lengths so that Mr. Pulitzer could call at will
for the major-domo, the chief steward, the captain, the officer on
watch, and so on.
The bedroom was heavily carpeted and was cut off from the rest of the
ship by double bulkheads, double doors, and double portholes, with the
object of protecting Mr. Pulitzer as much as possible from all noise, to
which he was excessively sensitive. A large bathroom opened immediately
off the bedroom, and a flight of steps led down to a gymnasium on the
Abaft of Mr. Pulitzer's bedroom there were, on the port side, the cabins
of the major-domo, the captain, the head butler, the chief engineer, an
officers' mess room, the ship's galley, a steward's mess room, and the
cabins of the chief steward and one or two officers.
Corresponding with these there were, on the starboard side, the cabins
of the secretaries and the doctor, "The Cells," as we called them. They
were comfortable rooms, all very much on one pattern, except that of the
business secretary, which was a good deal larger than the others. He
needed the additional space for newspaper files, documents,
correspondence, and so on. Each cabin contained a bed, a wash-hand-
stand, a chest of drawers, a cupboard for clothes, a small folding
table, some book shelves, an arm chair, an ordinary chair, an electric
fan, and a radiator. Each cabin had two portholes, and there were two
bathrooms to the six cabins.
The center of the ship, between these cabins and the corresponding space
on the port side, was occupied by the engine room; and the entrance to
the secretaries' quarters was through a companionway opening on to the
promenade deck, with a door on each side of the yacht, and leading down
a flight of stairs to a long fore-and-aft passage, out of which all the
secretaries' cabins opened.
Abaft the secretaries' cabins, and occupying the whole breadth of the
boat, were a number of cabins and suites for the accommodation of Mrs.
Pulitzer, other members of the family, and guests; and abaft of these,
cut off by a 'thwartships bulkhead, were the quarters of the crew.
The lower deck was given over chiefly to stores, coal bunkers, the
engine room, the stoke-hold, and to a large number of electric
accumulators, which kept the electric lights going when the engines were
not working. There were, however, on this deck the gymnasium, and a
large room, directly under Mr. Pulitzer's bedroom, used to take the
overflow from the library.
The engines were designed rather for smooth running than for speed, and
twelve knots an hour was the utmost that could be got out of them, the
average running speed being about eight knots. The yacht had an ample
supply of boats, including two steam launches, one burning coal, the
During my inspection of the yacht I was accompanied by my cabin-steward,
a young Englishman who had at one time served aboard the German
Emperor's yacht, Meteor. Nothing could have been more courteous than his
manner or more intelligent than his explanations; but the moment I tried
to draw him out on the subject of life on the yacht he relapsed into a
vagueness from which I could extract no gleam of enlightenment. After
fencing for some time with my queries he suggested that I might like to
have a glass of sherry and a biscuit in the secretaries' library, and,
piloting me thither, he left me.
The smoking-room was furnished with writing tables, some luxurious arm
chairs, and a comfortable lounge, and every spare nook was filled with
book shelves. The contents of these shelves were extremely varied. A
cursory glance showed me Meyer's Neues Konversations-Lexicon, The Yacht
Register, Whitaker's Almanack, Who's Who, Burke's Peerage, The Almanack
de Gotha, the British and the Continental Bradshaw, a number of
Baedeker's "Guides," fifty or sixty volumes of the Tauchnitz edition, a
large collection of files of reviews and magazines--The Nineteenth
Century, Quarterly, Edinburgh, Fortnightly, Contemporary, National,
Atlantic, North American, Revue de Deux Mondes--and a scattering of
volumes by Kipling, Shaw, Hosebery, Pater, Ida Tarbell, Bryce, Ferrero,
Macaulay, Anatole France, Maupassant, "Dooley," and a large number of
French and German plays. I was struck by the entire absence of books of
travel and scientific works.
I spent part of the afternoon in the drawing-room playing a large
instrument of the gramophone type. There were several hundred records--
from grand opera, violin solos by Kreisler, and the Gilbert and Sullivan
operas, to rag-time and the latest comic songs.
Before the time came to dress for dinner I had met the captain and some
of the officers of the yacht. They were all very civil; and my own
experience as a sailor enabled me to see that they were highly efficient
men. I was a good deal puzzled, however, by something peculiar but very
elusive in their attitude toward me, something which I had at once
detected in the manner of my cabin-steward.
With their courtesy was mingled a certain flavor of curiosity tinged
with amusement, which, so far from being offensive, was distinctly
friendly, but which, nevertheless, gave me a vague sense of uneasiness.
In fact the whole atmosphere of the yacht was one of restlessness and
suspense; and the effect was heightened because each person who spoke to
me appeared to be on the point of divulging some secret or delivering
some advice, which discretion checked at his lips.
I felt myself very much under observation, a feeling as though I was a
new boy in a boarding school or a new animal at the zoo--interesting to
my companions not only on account of my novelty, but because my personal
peculiarities would affect the comfort of the community of which I was
to become a member.
At seven o'clock my cabin-steward announced the arrival of the
automobile, and after a swift run along the plage and up the winding
roads on the hillsides of Cap Martin I found myself at the door of Mr.
Pulitzer's villa. I was received by the major-domo, ushered into the
drawing-room, and informed that Mr. Pulitzer would be down in a few
MEETING JOSEPH PULITZER
Before I had time to examine my surroundings Mr. Pulitzer entered the
room on the arm of the major-domo. My first swift impression was of a
very tall man with broad shoulders, the rest of the body tapering away
to thinness, with a noble head, bushy reddish beard streaked with gray,
black hair, swept back from the forehead and lightly touched here and
there with silvery white. One eye was dull and half closed, the other
was of a deep, brilliant blue which, so far from suggesting blindness,
created the instant effect of a searching, eagle-like glance. The
outstretched hand was large, strong, nervous, full of character, ending
in well-shaped and immaculately kept nails.
A high-pitched voice, clear, penetrating, and vibrant, gave out the
strange challenge: "Well, here you see before you the miserable wreck
who is to be your host; you must make the best you can of him. Give me
your arm into dinner."
I may complete here a description of Mr. Pulitzer's appearance, founded
upon months of close personal association with him. The head was
splendidly modeled, the forehead high, the brows prominent and arched;
the ears were large, the nose was long and hooked; the mouth, almost
concealed by the mustache, was firm and thin-lipped; the jaws showed
square and powerful under the beard; the length of the face was much
emphasized by the flowing beard and by the way in which the hair was
brushed back from the forehead. The skin was of a clear, healthy pink,
like a young girl's; but in moments of intense excitement the color
would deepen to a dark, ruddy flush, and after a succession of sleepless
nights, or under the strain of continued worry, it would turn a dull,
I have never seen a face which varied so much in expression. Not only
was there a marked difference at all times between one side and the
other, due partly to the contrast between the two eyes and partly to a
loss of flexibility in the muscles of the right side, but almost from
moment to moment the general appearance of the face moved between a
lively, genial animation, a cruel and wolf-like scowl, and a heavy and
hopeless dejection. No face was capable of showing greater tenderness;
none could assume a more forbidding expression of anger and contempt.
The Sargent portrait, a masterpiece of vivid character-painting, is a
remarkable revelation of the complex nature of its subject. It discloses
the deep affection, the keen intelligence, the wide sympathy, the
tireless energy, the delicate sensitiveness, the tearing impatience, the
cold tyranny, and the flaming scorn by which his character was so
erratically dominated. It is a noble and pathetic monument to the
suffering which had been imposed for a quarter of a century upon the
intense and arbitrary spirit of this extraordinary man.
The account which I am to give of Mr. Pulitzer's daily life during the
months immediately preceding his death would be unintelligible to all
but the very few who knew him in recent years if it were not prefaced by
a brief biographical note.
Joseph Pulitzer was born in the village of Mako, near Buda Pesth in
Hungary, on April 10, 1847. His father was a Jew, his mother a
Christian. At the age of sixteen he emigrated to the United States. He
landed without friends, without money, unable to speak a word of
English. He enlisted immediately in the First New York (Lincoln) Cavalry
Regiment, a regiment chiefly composed of Germans and in which German was
the prevailing tongue.
Within a year the Civil War ended, and Pulitzer found himself, in common
with hundreds of thousands of others, out of employment at a time when
employment was most difficult to secure. At this time he was so poor
that he was turned away from French's Hotel for lack of fifty cents with
which to pay for his bed. In less than twenty years he bought French's
Hotel, pulled it down, and erected in its place the Pulitzer Building,
at that time one of the largest business buildings in New York, where he
housed The World.
What lay between these two events may be summed up in a few words. At
the close of the Civil War Mr. Pulitzer went to St. Louis, and in 1868,
after being engaged in various occupations, he became a reporter on the
Westliche Post. In less than ten years he was editor and part
proprietor. His amazing energy, his passionate interest in politics, his
rare gift of terse and forcible expression, and his striking personality
carried him over or through all obstacles.
After he had purchased the St. Louis Dispatch, amalgamated it with the
Post, and made the Post-Dispatch a profitable business enterprise and a
power to be reckoned with in politics, he felt the need of a wider field
in which to maneuver the forces of his character and his intellect.
He came to New York in 1883 and purchased The World from Jay Gould. At
that time The World had a circulation of less than twelve thousand
copies a day, and was practically bankrupt. From this time forward Mr.
Pulitzer concentrated his every faculty on building up The World. He was
scoffed at, ridiculed, and abused by the most powerful editors of the
old school. They were to learn, not without bitterness and wounds, that
opposition was the one fuel of all others which best fed the triple
flame of his courage, his tenacity, and his resourcefulness.
Four years of unremitting toil produced two results. The World reached a
circulation of two hundred thousand copies a day and took its place in
the front rank of the American press as a journal of force and ability,
and Joseph Pulitzer left New York, a complete nervous wreck, to face in
solitude the knowledge that he would never read print again and that
within a few years he would be totally blind.
Joseph Pulitzer, as I knew him twenty-four years after he had been
driven from active life by the sudden and final collapse of his health,
was a man who could be judged by no common standards, for his feelings,
his temper, and his point of view had been warped by years of suffering.
Had his spirit been broken by his trials, had his intellectual power
weakened under the load of his affliction, had his burning interest in
affairs cooled to a point where he could have been content to turn his
back upon life's conflict, he might have found some happiness, or at
least some measure of repose akin to that with which age consoles us for
the loss of youth. But his greatest misfortune was that all the active
forces of his personality survived to the last in their full vigor,
inflicting upon him the curse of an impatience which nothing could
appease, of a discontent which knew no amelioration.
My first meeting with Mr. Pulitzer is indelibly fixed in my memory. As
we entered the dining-room the butler motioned to me to take a seat on
Mr. Pulitzer's right hand, and as I did so I glanced up and down the
table to find myself in the presence of half-a-dozen gentlemen in
evening dress, who bowed in a very friendly manner as Mr. Pulitzer said,
with a broad sweep of his hand, "Gentlemen, this is Mr. Alleyne Ireland;
you will be able to inform him later of my fads and crotchets; well,
don't be ungenerous with me, don't paint the devil as black as he is."
This was spoken in a tone of banter, and was cut short by a curious,
prolonged chuckle, which differed from laughter in the feeling it
produced in the hearer that the mirth did not spring from the open,
obvious humor of the situation, but from some whimsical thought which
was the more relished because its nature was concealed from us. I felt
that, instead of my host's amusement having been produced by his
peculiar introduction, he had made his eccentric address merely as an
excuse to chuckle over some notion which had formed itself in his mind
from material entirely foreign to his immediate surroundings.
I mention this because I found later that one of Mr. Pulitzer's most
embarrassing peculiarities was the sudden revelation from time to time
of a mental state entirely at odds with the occupation of the moment. In
the middle of an account of a play, when I was doing my best to
reproduce some scene from memory, with appropriate changes of voice to
represent the different characters, Mr. Pulitzer would suddenly break
in, "Did we ever get a reply to that letter about Laurier's speech on
reciprocity? No? Well, all right, go on, go on."
Or it might be when I was reading from the daily papers an account of a
murder or a railroad wreck that Mr. Pulitzer would break out into a peal
of his peculiar chuckling laughter. I would immediately stop reading,
when he would pat me on the arm, and say, "Go on, boy, go on, don't mind
me. I wasn't laughing at you. I was thinking of something else. What was
it? Oh, a railroad wreck, well, don't stop, go on reading."
As soon as we were seated Mr. Pulitzer turned to me and began to
question me about my reading. Had I read any recent fiction? No? Well,
what had I read within the past month?
I named several books which I had been re-reading--Macaulay's Essays,
Meredith Townsend's Asia and Europe, and Lowes Dickinson's Modern
"Well, tell me something about Asia and Europe" he said.
I left my dinner untasted, and for a quarter of an hour held forth on
the life of Mohammed, on the courage of the Arabians, on the charm of
Asia for Asiatics, and on other matters taken from Mr. Townsend's
fascinating book. Suddenly Mr. Pulitzer interrupted me.
"My God! You don't mean to tell me that anyone is interested in that
sort of rubbish. Everybody knows about Mohammed, and about the bravery
of the Arabs, and, for God's sake, why shouldn't Asia be attractive to
the Asiatics! Try something else. Do you remember any plays?"
Yes, I remembered several pretty well. Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra for
"Go on, then, try and tell me about that."
My prospects of getting any dinner faded away as I began my new effort.
Fortunately I knew the play very well, and remembered a number of
passages almost word for word. I soon saw that Mr. Pulitzer was
interested and pleased, not with the play as anything new to him, for he
probably knew it better than I did, but with my presentation of it,
because it showed some ability to compress narrative without destroying
its character and also gave some proof of a good memory.
When I reached the scene in which Caesar replies to Britannus's protest
against the recognition of Cleopatra's marriage to her brother, Ptolemy,
by saying, "Pardon him, Theodotus; he is a barbarian, and thinks that
the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature," Mr. Pulitzer burst
into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
I was about to continue, and try to make good better, when Mr. Pulitzer
raised his hands above his head in remonstrance.
"Stop! Stop! For God's sake! You're hurting me," very much as a person
with a cracked lip begs for mercy when you are in the middle of your
most humorous story.
I found out later that, in order to keep in Mr. Pulitzer's good graces,
it was as necessary to avoid being too funny as it was to avoid being
too dull, for, while the latter fault hurt his intellectual
sensitiveness, the former involved, through the excessive laughter it
produced, a degree of involuntary exertion which, in his disordered
physical condition, caused him acute pain.
Mr. Pulitzer's constant use of the exclamations "My God!" and "For God's
sake!" had no relation whatever to swearing, as the term is usually
understood; they were employed exactly as a French lady employs the
exclamation Mon Dieu! or a German the expression Ach, du liebe Gott! As
a matter of fact, although Mr. Pulitzer was a man of strong and, at
times, violent emotions, and, from his deplorable nervous state,
excessively irritable, I do not think that in the eight months I was
with him, during the greater part of which time he was not under any
restraining influence, such as might be exerted by the presence of
ladies, I heard him use any oath except occasionally a "damn," which
appealed to him, I think, as a suitable if not a necessary qualification
of the word "fool." For Mr. Pulitzer there were no fools except damned
After the excitement about Caesar and Cleopatra had subsided, Mr.
Pulitzer asked me if I had a good memory. I hesitated before replying,
because I had seen enough of Mr. Pulitzer in an hour to realize that a
constant exercise of caution would be necessary if I wished to avoid
offending his prejudices or wounding his susceptibilities; and whereas
on the one hand I did not wish to set a standard for myself which I
would find it impossible to live up to, on the other hand I was anxious
to avoid giving any description of my abilities which would be followed
later by a polite intimation from the major-domo that Mr. Pulitzer had
enjoyed my visit immensely but that I was not just the man for the
So I compromised and said that I had a fairly good memory.
"Well, everybody thinks he's got a good memory," replied Mr. Pulitzer.
"I only claimed a fairly good one," I protested.
"Oh! that's just an affectation; as a matter of fact you think you've
got a splendid memory, don't you? Now, be frank about it; I love people
to be frank with me."
My valor got the better of my discretion, and I replied that if he
really wished me to be frank I was willing to admit that I had no
particular desire to lay claim to a good memory, for I was inclined to
accept the view which I had once heard expressed by a very wise man of
my acquaintance that the human mind was not intended to remember with
but to think with, and that one of the greatest benefits which had been
conferred on mankind by the discovery of printing was that thousands of
things could be recorded for reference which former generations had been
compelled to learn by rote.
"Your wise friend," he cried, "was a damned fool! If you will give the
matter a moment's thought you'll see that memory is the highest faculty
of the human mind. What becomes of all your reading, all your
observation, your experience, study, investigations, discussions--in a
rushing crescendo--if you have no memory?"
"I might reply," I said, "by asking what use it is to lumber up your
mind with a mass of information of which you are only going to make an
occasional use when you can have it filed away in encyclopedias and
other works of reference, and in card indexes, instantly available when
you want it."
I spoke in a light and rather humorous tone in order to take the edge
off my dissent from his opinion, reflecting that even between friends
and equals a demand for frankness is most safely to be regarded as a
danger signal to impulsiveness; but it was too late, I had evidently
overstepped the mark, for Mr. Pulitzer turned abruptly from me without
replying, and began to talk to the gentleman on his left.
This had the twofold advantage of giving me time to reconsider my
strategy, and to eat some dinner, which one of the footmen, evidently
the kind with a memory for former experiences, had set on one side and
kept warm against the moment when I would be free to enjoy it.
As I ate I listened to the conversation. It made my heart sink. The
gentleman to whom Mr. Pulitzer had transferred his attentions was a
Scotchman, Mr. William Romaine Paterson. I discovered later that he was
the nearest possible approach to a walking encyclopedia. His range of
information was--well, I am tempted to say, infamous. He appeared to
have an exhaustive knowledge of French, German, Italian, and English
literature, of European history in its most complicated ramifications,
and of general biography in such a measure that, in regard to people as
well known as Goethe, Voltaire, Kossuth, Napoleon, Garibaldi, Bismarck,
and a score of others, he could fix a precise day on which any event or
conversation had taken place, and recall it in its minutest details.
It was not simply from the standpoint of my own ignorance that
Paterson's store of knowledge assumed such vast proportions, for it was
seldom opened except in the presence of Mr. Pulitzer, in whom were
combined a tenacious memory, a profound acquaintance with the subjects
which Paterson had taken for his province, an analytic mind, and a zest
for contradiction. Everything Paterson said was immediately pounced upon
by a vigorous, astute, and well-informed critic who derived peculiar
satisfaction from the rare instances in which he could detect him in an
The conversation between Mr. Pulitzer and Paterson, or, rather,
Paterson's frequently interrupted monologue, lasted until we had all
finished dinner, and the butler had lighted Mr. Pulitzer's cigar. In the
middle of an eloquent passage from Paterson, Mr. Pulitzer rose, turned
abruptly toward me, held out his hand, and said, "I'm very glad to have
met you, Mr. Ireland; you have entertained me very much. Please come
here to-morrow at eleven o'clock, and I'll take you out for a drive.
Good-night." He took Paterson's arm and left the room.
The door, like all the doors in Mr. Pulitzer's various residences, shut
automatically and silently; and after one of the secretaries had drawn a
heavy velvet curtain across the doorway, so that not the faintest sound
could escape from the room, I was chaffed good-naturedly about my debut
as a candidate. To my great surprise I was congratulated on having done
"You made a great hit," said one, "with your account of Shaw's play."
"I nearly burst out laughing," said another, "when you gave your views
about memory. I think you're dead right about it; but J. P.--Mr.
Pulitzer was always referred to as J. P.--is crazy about people having
good memories, so if you've really got a good memory you'd better let
him find it out."
I was told that, so far as we were concerned, the day's work, or at
least that portion of it which involved being with J. P., was to be
considered over as soon as he retired to the library after dinner. His
object then was to be left alone with one secretary, who read to him
until about ten o'clock, when the major-domo came and took him to his
rooms for the night. As a rule, J. P. made no further demand on the
bodily presence of his secretaries after he had gone to bed, but
occasionally, when he could not sleep, one of them would be called,
perhaps at three in the morning, to read to him.
This meant in practice that, when we were ashore, one, or more usually
two of us, would remain in the house in case of emergency. This did not
by any means imply that we were always free from work after ten o'clock
at night, in fact the very opposite was true, for it was J. P.'s custom
to say, during dinner, that on the following day he would ride, drive,
or walk with such a one or such a one, naming him; and the victim--a
term frequently used with a good deal of surprisingly frank enjoyment by
J. P. himself--had often to work well into the night preparing material
I saw something of what this preparation meant before I left the villa
after my first meeting with J. P. Two of the secretaries said they would
go over to Monte Carlo, and they asked me to go with them; but I
declined, preferring to remain behind for a chat with one of the
secretaries, Mr. Norman G. Thwaites, an Englishman, who was secretary in
a more technical sense than any of the rest of us, for he was a
shorthand writer and did most of J. P.'s correspondence.
After the others had gone he showed me a table in the entrance hall of
the villa, on which was a big pile of mail just arrived from London. It
included a great number of newspapers and weeklies, several copies of
each. There were The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The
Morning Post, The Daily News, The Westminster Gazette, Truth, The
Spectator, The Saturday Review, The Nation, The Outlook, and some other
London publications, as well as the Paris editions of the New York
Herald and The Daily Mail.
Thwaites selected a copy of each and then led the way to his bedroom, a
large room on the top floor, from which we could see across the bay the
brilliant lights of Monte Carlo.
He then explained to me that he had been selected to read to J. P.
whilst the latter had his breakfast and his after-breakfast cigar the
next morning. In order to do this satisfactorily he had to go over the
papers and read carefully whatever he could find that was suited to J.
P.'s taste at that particular time of the day. During the breakfast hour
J. P. would not have anything read to him which was of an exciting
nature. This preference excluded political news, crime, disaster, and
war correspondence, and left practically nothing but book reviews,
criticisms of plays, operas, and art exhibitions, and publishers'
The principal sources of information on these topics were the literary
supplement of the London Times, the Literary Digest, and the literary,
dramatic, and musical columns of the Athenaeum, The Spectator, and the
These had to be "prepared," to use J. P.'s phrase, which meant that they
were read over rapidly once and then gone over again with some
concentration so that the more important articles could be marked for
actual reading, the other portions being dealt with conversationally,
everything being boiled down to its essence before it reached Mr.
As it was getting late, and as I knew that Thwaites would be on tap
early in the morning, for J. P. usually breakfasted before nine, and the
"victim" was supposed to have had his own breakfast by eight, I left the
villa and went back to the yacht.
As he said good-night, Thwaites gave me a copy of The Daily Telegraph
and advised me to read it carefully, as J. P. might ask me for the day's
news during the drive we were to take the following morning.
Before going to sleep I glanced through The Daily Telegraph and came
across an article which gave me an idea for establishing my reputation
for memory. It was a note about the death duties which had been
collected in England during 1910, and it gave a list of about twenty
estates on which large sums had been paid. The list included the names
of the deceased and also the amounts on which probate duty had been
paid. I decided to commit these names and figures to memory and to take
an occasion the next day to reel them off to J. P.
Punctually at eleven o'clock I presented myself at the villa to find, to
my dismay, J. P. seated in his automobile in a towering rage. What sort
of consideration had I for him to keep him waiting for half an hour!
I protested that eleven o'clock was the hour of the appointment. I was
absolutely wrong, he said, half-past-ten was the time, and he remembered
perfectly naming that hour, because he wanted a long drive and he had an
engagement with Mr. Paterson at noon.
"I'm awfully sorry," I began, "if I misunderstood you, but really..."
He dismissed the matter abruptly by saying, "For God's sake, don't argue
about it. Get in and sit next to me so that I can hear you talk."
As soon as we had got clear of the village, and were spinning along at a
good rate on the Corniche road, which circles the Bay of Monaco, high on
the mountain side, Mr. Pulitzer began to put me through my paces.
"Now, Mr. Ireland," he began, "you will understand that if any
arrangement is to be concluded between us I must explore your brain,
your character, your tastes, your sympathies, your prejudices, your
temper; I must find out if you have tact, patience, a sense of humor,
the gift of condensing information, and, above all, a respect, a love, a
passion for accuracy."
I began to speak, but he interrupted me before I had got six words out
of my mouth.
"Wait! Wait!" he cried, "let me finish what I have to say. You'll find
this business of being a candidate a very trying and disagreeable one;
well, it's damned disagreeable to me, too. What I need is rest, repose,
quiet, routine, understanding, sympathy, friendship, yes, my God! the
friendship of those around me. Mr. Ireland, I can do much, I can do
everything for a man who will be my friend. I can give him power, I can
give him wealth, I can give him reputation, the power, the wealth, the
reputation which come to a man who speaks to a million people a day in
the columns of a great paper. But how am I to do this? I am blind, I'm
an invalid; how am I to know whom I can trust? I don't mean in money
matters; money's nothing to me; it can do nothing for me; I mean
morally, intellectually. I've had scores of people pass through my hands
in the last fifteen years--Englishmen, Scotchmen, Irishmen, Welshmen,
Germans, Frenchmen, Americans, men of so-called high family, men of
humble birth, men from a dozen universities, self-taught men, young men,
old men, and, my God! what have I found? Arrogance, stupidity,
ingratitude, loose thinking, conceit, ignorance, laziness, indifference;
absence of tact, discretion, courtesy, manners, consideration, sympathy,
devotion; no knowledge, no wisdom, no intelligence, no observation, no
memory, no insight, no understanding. My God! I can hardly believe my
own experience when I think of it."
Set down in cold print, this outburst loses almost every trace of its
intensely dramatic character. Mr. Pulitzer spoke as though he were
declaiming a part in a highly emotional play. At times he turned toward
me, his clenched fists raised above his shoulders, at times he threw
back his head, flung his outstretched hands at arms' length in front of
him, as though he were appealing to the earth, to the sea, to the air,
to the remote canopy of the sky to hear his denunciation of man's
inefficiency; at times he paused, laid a hand on my arm, and fixed his
eye upon me as if he expected the darkness to yield him some image of my
thought. It was almost impossible to believe at such a moment that he
was totally blind, that he could not distinguish night from day.
"Mind!" he continued, raising a cautionary finger, "I'm not making any
criticism of my present staff; you may consider yourself very lucky if I
find you to have a quarter of the good qualities which any one of them
has; and let me tell you that while you are with me you will do well to
observe these gentlemen and to try and model yourself on them.
"However, all that doesn't matter so much in your case, because there's
no question of your becoming one of my personal staff. I haven't any
vacancy at present, and I don't foresee any. What I want you for is
something quite different."
Imagine my amazement. No vacancy on the staff! What about the
advertisement I had answered? What about all the interviews and
correspondence, in which a companionship had been the only thing
discussed? What could the totally different thing be of which Mr.
In the midst of my confusion Mr. Pulitzer said, "Look out of the window
and tell me what you see. Remember that I am blind, and try and make me
get a mental picture of everything--everything, you understand; never
think that anything is too small or insignificant to be of interest to
me; you can't tell what may interest me; always describe everything with
the greatest minuteness, every cloud in the sky, every shadow on the
hillside, every tree, every house, every dress, every wrinkle on a face,
I did my best, and he appeared to be pleased; but before I had half
exhausted the details of the magnificent scene above and below us he
stopped me suddenly with a request that I should tell him exactly what
had occurred from the time I had answered his advertisement up to the
moment of my arrival at the villa.
This demand placed me in rather an awkward predicament, for I had to try
and reconcile the fact that the advertisement itself as well as all my
conversations with his agents and with his son had been directed toward
the idea of a companionship, with his positive assertion that there was
no vacancy on his personal staff and that he wanted me for another, and
an undisclosed purpose. Here was a very clear opportunity for destroying
my reputation, either for tact or for accuracy.
There was, of course, only one thing to do, and that was to tell him
exactly what had taken place. This I did, and at the end of my recital
he said, "It's simply amazing how anyone can get a matter tangled up the
way you have. There was never a question of your becoming one of my
companions. What I want is a man to go out to the Philippines and write
a series of vigorous articles showing the bungle we've made of that
business, and paving the way for an agitation in favor of giving the
Islands their independence. There'll be a chance of getting that done if
we elect a Democratic President in 1912."
"Well, sir," I replied, "if the bungle has been as bad as you think I
certainly ought to be able to do the work to your satisfaction. I'm
pretty familiar with the conditions of tropical life, I've written a
good deal on the subject, I've been in the Philippines and have
published a book and a number of articles about them, and, although I
don't take as gloomy a view as you do about the administration out
there, I found a good deal to criticize, and if I go out I can certainly
describe the conditions as they are now, and your editorial writers can
put my articles to whatever use they may wish."
"You're going too fast," he said, "and you're altogether too cock-sure
of your abilities. You mustn't think that because you've written
articles for the London Times you are competent to write for The World.
It's a very different matter. The American people want something terse,
forcible, picturesque, striking, something that will arrest their
attention, enlist their sympathy, arouse their indignation, stimulate
their imagination, convince their reason, awaken their conscience. Why
should I accept you at your own estimate? You don't realize the
responsibility I have in this matter. The World isn't like your Times,
with its forty or fifty thousand educated readers. It's read by, well,
say a million people a day; and it's my duty to see that they get the
truth; but that's not enough, I've got to put it before them briefly so
that they will read it, clearly so that they will understand it,
forcibly so that they will appreciate it, picturesquely so that they
will remember it, and, above all, accurately so that they may be wisely
guided by its light. And you come to me, and before you've been here a
day you ask me to entrust you with an important mission which concerns
the integrity of my paper, the conscience of my readers, the policy of
my country, no, my God! you're too cock-sure of yourself."
By this time Mr. Pulitzer had worked himself up into a state of painful
excitement. His forehead was damp with perspiration, he clasped and
unclasped his hands, his voice became louder and higher-pitched from
moment to moment; but when he suddenly stopped speaking he calmed down
"You shouldn't let me talk so much," he said, without, however,
suggesting any means by which I could stop him. "What time is it? Are we
nearly home? Well, Mr. Ireland, I'll let you off for the afternoon; go
and enjoy yourself and forget all about me." Then, as the auto drew up
at the door of the villa, "Come up to dinner about seven and try to be
amusing. You did very well last night. I hope you can keep it up. It's
most important that anyone who is to live with me should have a sense of
humor. I'd be glad to keep a man and pay him a handsome salary if he
would make me laugh once a day. Well, good-by till to-night."
LIFE AT CAP MARTIN
There was no lack of humor in Mr. Pulitzer's suggestion that I should go
and enjoy myself and forget him. I went down to the yacht, had lunch in
solitary state, and then, selecting a comfortable chair in the smoking-
room, settled down to think things over.
It soon became clear to me that J. P. was a man of a character so
completely outside the range of my experience that any skill of judgment
I might have acquired through contact with many men of many races would
avail me little in my intercourse with him.
That he was arbitrary, self-centered, and exacting mattered little to
me; it was a combination of qualities which rumor had led me to expect
in him, and with which I had become familiar in my acquaintance with men
of wide authority and outstanding ability. What disturbed me was that
his blindness, his ill health, and his suffering had united to these
traits an intense excitability and a morbid nervousness.
My first impulse was to attribute his capriciousness to a weakening of
his brain power; but I could not reconcile this view with the vigor of
his thought, with the clearness of his expression, with the amplitude of
his knowledge, with the scope of his memory as they had been disclosed
the previous night in his conversation with Paterson. No, the fact was
that I had not found the key to his motives, the cipher running through
the artificial confusion of his actions.
I could not foresee the issue of the adventure. In the meantime,
however, the yacht was a comfortable home, the Cote d'Azur was a new
field of observation, J. P. and his secretaries were extremely
interesting, the honorarium was accumulating steadily, and in the
background Barbados still slept in the sunshine, an emerald in a
During the afternoon I had a visit from Jabez E. Dunningham, the major-
domo. I pay tribute to him here as one of the most remarkable men I have
ever met, an opinion which I formed after months of daily intercourse
with him. He was an Englishman, and he had spent nearly twenty years
with Mr. Pulitzer, traveling with him everywhere, hardly ever separated
from him for more than a few hours, and he was more closely in his
confidence than anyone outside the family.
He was capable and efficient in the highest degree. His duties ranged
from those of a nurse to those of a diplomat. He produced, at a moment's
notice, as a conjuror produces rabbits and goldfish, the latest hot-
water bottle from a village pharmacy in Elba, special trains from
haughty and reluctant officials of State railways, bales of newspapers
mysteriously collected from clubs, hotels, or consulates in remote and
microscopic ports, fruits and vegetables out of season, rooms, suites,
floors of hotels at the height of the rush in the most crowded resorts,
or a dozen cabins in a steamer.
He could open telegraph stations and post offices when they were closed
to the native nobility, convert the eager curiosity of port officials
into a trance-like indifference, or monopolize the services of a whole
administration, if the comfort, convenience, or caprice of his master
More than this; if, any of these things having been done, they should
appear undesirable to Mr. Pulitzer, Dunningham could undo them with the
same magician-like ease as had marked their achievement. A wave of Mr.
Pulitzer's hand was translated into action by Dunningham, and the whole
of his arrangements disappeared as completely as if they had never
existed. The slate was wiped clean, ready in an instant to receive the
new message from Mr. Pulitzer's will.
Dunningham had come to offer me advice. I must not be disturbed by the
apparent eccentricity of Mr. Pulitzer's conduct; it was merely part of
Mr. Pulitzer's fixed policy to make things as complicated and difficult
as possible for a candidate. By adopting this plan he was able to
discover very quickly whether there was any possibility that a new man
would suit him. If the candidate showed impatience or bad temper he
could be got rid of at once; if he showed tact and good humor he would
graduate into another series of tests, and so on, step by step, until
the period of his trying out was ended and he became one of the staff.
A man of my intelligence would, of course, appreciate the advantages of
such a method, even from the standpoint of the candidate, for once a
candidate had passed the testing stage he would find his relations with
Mr. Pulitzer much pleasanter and his work less exacting, whereas if he
found at the outset that the conditions were not pleasing to him he
could retire without having wasted much time.
One thing I must bear in mind, namely, that each day which passed
without Mr. Pulitzer having decided against a candidate increased the
candidate's chances. If a man was to be rejected it was usually done
inside of a week from his first appearance on the scene.
And, by the way, had I ever noticed how people were apt to think that
blind people were deaf? A most curious thing; really nothing in it. Take
Mr. Pulitzer, for example, so far from his being deaf he had the most
exquisite sense of hearing, in fact he heard better when people spoke
below rather than above their ordinary tone.
Thus, Dunningham, anxious, in his master's interest, to allay my
nervousness, which reacted disagreeably on Mr. Pulitzer, and to make me
lower my voice.
I went up to the villa during the afternoon to look at the house and, if
possible, to have a talk with some of the secretaries.
The villa lay on the Western slope of Cap Martin, a few hundred yards
from the Villa Cyrnos, occupied by the Empress Eugenie. Seen from the
road there was nothing striking in its appearance, but seen from the
other side it was delightful, recalling the drop scene of a theater.
Situated on a steep slope, embowered in trees, its broad stone veranda
overhung a series of ornamental terraces decorated with palms, flowers,
statuary, and fountains; and where these ended a jumble of rocks and
stunted pines fell away abruptly to the blue water of the bay.
The house was large and well designed, but very simple in its furniture
and decorations. The upper rooms on the Western side commanded a superb
view of the Bay of Monaco, and of the rugged hillsides above La Turbie,
crowned with a vague outline of fortifications against the sky.
In a room at the top of the house I found one of the secretaries, an
Englishman, Mr. George Craven, formerly in the Indian Civil Service in
Rajputana. He was engaged in auditing the accounts of the yacht, but he
readily fell in with my suggestion that we should take a stroll.
"Right-ho!" he said. "I'm sick of these beastly accounts. But we must
find out what J. P.'s doing first."
It appeared that J. P. had motored over to Monte Carlo to hear a
concert, and that he wasn't expected back for an hour or more. As we
stopped in the entrance hall to get our hats I struck a match on the
sole of my shoe, intending to light a cigarette.
"By Jove! Don't do that, for Heaven's sake," said Craven, "or there'll
be a frightful row when J. P. comes in. He can't stand cigarette smoke,
and he's got a sense of smell as keen as a setter's."
We went into the garden and followed a narrow path which led down to the
waterside. We talked about J. P. As a matter of fact, J. P. was the
principal topic of conversation whenever two of his secretaries found
Craven, however, had only been with J. P. for a few weeks, having been
one of the batch sifted out of the six hundred who had answered the
Times advertisement. He was almost as much in the dark as I was in
regard to the real J. P. that existed somewhere behind the mask which
was always held out in front of every emotion, every thought, every
The life was difficult, he found, and extremely laborious. When it
suited his book J. P. could be one of the most fascinating and
entertaining of men, but when it didn't, well, he wasn't. The truth was
that you could never tell what he really thought at any moment; it made
you feel as though you were blind and not he; you found yourself groping
around all the time for a good lead and coming unexpectedly up against a
"I've been with him a couple of months," he said, "and I haven't the
slightest idea whether he thinks me a good sort or a silly ass, and I
don't suppose I ever shall know. By Jove, there he is now!" as we heard
the crunch of tires on the drive. "Excuse me if I make a run for it; he
may want me any minute. See you later."
At dinner that night Mr. Pulitzer devoted his whole attention to laying
bare the vast areas of ignorance on the map of my information. He
carried me from country to country, from century to century, through
history, art, literature, biography, economics, music, the drama, and
current politics. Whenever he hit upon some small spot where my
investigations had lingered and where my memory served me he left it
immediately, with the remark, "Well, I don't care about that; that
doesn't amount to anything, anyhow."
It was worse than useless to make any pretense of knowing things, for if
you said you knew a play, for instance, J. P. would say, "Good! Now
begin at the second scene of the third act, where the curtain rises on
the two conspirators in the courtyard of the hotel; just carry it along
from there"--and if you didn't know it thoroughly you were soon in
His method was nicely adjusted to his needs, for he was concerned most
of the time to get entertainment as well as information; and he was,
therefore, amused by exposing your ignorance when he was not informed by
uncovering your knowledge. Indeed, nothing put him in such good humor as
to discover a cleft in your intellectual armor, provided that you really
possessed some talent, faculty, or resource which was useful to him.
My dinner, considered as a dinner, was as great a failure as my
conversation, considered as an exhibition of learning. I got no more
than a hasty mouthful now and again, and got that only through a device
often resorted to by the secretaries under such circumstances, but which
seldom met with much success.
J. P. himself had to eat, and from time to time the butler, who always
stood behind J. P.'s chair, and attended to him only, would take
advantage of an instant's pause in the conversation to say, "Your fish
is getting cold, sir."
This would divert J. P.'s attention from his victim long enough to allow
one of the other men to break in with a remark designed to draw J. P.'s
fire. It worked once in a while, but as a rule it had no effect whatever
beyond making J. P. hurry through the course so that he could renew his
attack at the point where he had suspended it.
On the particular occasion I am describing I was fortunate enough toward
the end of dinner to regain some of the ground I had lost in my
disorderly flight across the field of scholarship. One of the
secretaries seized an opportunity to refer to the British death duties.
I had intended to arrange for the introduction of this topic, but had
forgotten to do so. It was just sheer good luck, and I made signs to the
gentleman to keep it up. He did so, and the moment he ceased speaking I
took up the tale. It was a good subject, for J. P. was interested in the
question of death duties.
After a preliminary flourish I began to reel off the figures I had
committed to memory the previous night. Before I had got very far Mr.
"Stop! Are you reading those figures?"
"No," I replied. "I read them over last night in the Daily Telegraph."
"My God! Are you giving them from memory? Haven't you got a note of them
in your hand? Hasn't he? Hasn't he? ..." appealing to the table.
Reassured on this point he said, "Well, go on, go on. This interests
As soon as I had finished he turned to Craven and said, "Go and get that
paper, and find the article."
When Craven returned with it, he continued, "Now, Mr. Ireland, go over
those figures again; and you, Mr. Craven, check them off and see if
they're correct. Now, play fair, no tricks!"
I had made two mistakes, which were reported as soon as they were
spoken. At the end Mr. Pulitzer said:
"Well, you see, you hadn't got them right, after all. But that's not so
bad. With a memory like that you might have known something by now if
you'd only had the diligence to read."
My second score was made just at the end of dinner, or rather when
dinner had been finished some time and J. P. was lingering at table over
his cigar. The question of humor came up, and someone remarked how
curious it was that one of the favorite amusements of the American
humorist should be to make fun of the Englishman for his lack of humor--
"Laugh, and all the world laughs with you, except the Englishman," and
so on. The usual defenses were made--Hood, Thackeray, Gilbert,
Calverley, etc.--and then Punch was referred to.
This gave me the chance of repeating, more or less accurately, a
paragraph which appeared in Punch some years ago, and which I always
recite when that delightful periodical is slandered in my hearing. It
ran something after this fashion:
"One of our esteemed contemporaries is very much worked up in its mind
about Mr. Balfour's foreign policy, which it compares to that of the
camel, which, when pursued, buries its head in the sand. We quite agree
with our esteemed contemporary about Mr. Balfour's foreign policy, but
we fear it is getting its metaphors mixed. Surely it is not thinking of
the camel which, when pursued, buries its head in the sand, but of the
ostrich which, when pursued, runs its eye through a needle."
It was a lucky hit. No one had heard it before, and our party broke up
with Mr. Pulitzer in high good humor.
So the days passed. I saw a great deal of Mr. Pulitzer and went through
many agonizing hours of cross-examination; but gradually matters came
round to the point where we discussed the possibility of my becoming a
member of his personal staff. He thought that there was some hope that,
if he put me through a rigorous training, I might suit him, but before
it could even be settled that such an attempt should be made many things
would have to be cleared up.
In the first place, I would understand what extreme caution was
necessary for him in making a selection. There was not only the question
of whether I could make myself useful to him, and the question of
whether I could be trusted in a relationship of such a confidential
nature, there remained the very important question of whether I was a
fit person to associate with the lady members of his family, who spent
some portion of each year with him.
This matter was discussed very frankly, and was then shelved pending a
reference to a number of people in England and America at whose homes I
had been a guest, and where the household included ladies.
At the end of a week the yacht was sent to Marseilles to coal in
preparation for a cruise, and I went to stay at an hotel near the villa.
It was a change for the worse.
By the time the yacht returned I had had some opportunity of observing
the routine of life at the villa. After breakfast Mr. Pulitzer went for
a drive, accompanied by one, or occasionally by two, of the secretaries.
During this drive he received a rough summary of the morning's news, the
papers having been gone over and marked either the night before or while
he was having his breakfast.
As he seldom let us know in advance which of us he would call upon for
the first presentation of the news, and as he was liable to change his
mind at the last minute when he had named somebody the previous night,
we had all of us to go through the papers with great care, so that we
might be prepared if we were called upon.
On returning from his drive Mr. Pulitzer would either sit in the library
and dictate letters and cablegrams, or he would have the news gone over
in detail, or, if the state of his health forbade the mental exertion
involved in the intense concentration with which he absorbed what was
read to him from the papers, he would go for a ride, accompanied by a
groom and by one of the secretaries. When he went to Europe he usually
sent over in advance some horses from his own stable, as he was very
fond of riding and could not trust himself on a strange horse.
After the ride, lunch, at which the conversation generally took a more
serious turn than at dinner, for at night Mr. Pulitzer disliked any
discussion of matters which were likely to arouse his interest very much
or to stir his emotions, for he found it difficult to get his mind
calmed down so that he could sleep. Even in regard to lunch we were
sometimes warned in advance, either by Dunningham or by the secretary
who had left him just before lunch was served, that Mr. Pulitzer wished
the conversation to be light and uncontroversial.
Immediately after lunch Mr. Pulitzer retired to his bedroom with Herr
Friederich Mann, the German secretary, and was read to, chiefly German
plays, until he fell asleep, or until he had had an hour or so of rest.
By four o'clock he was ready to go out again, riding, if he had not had
a ride in the morning, or driving, with an occasional walk for perhaps
half-an-hour, the automobile always remaining within call. As a rule he
spent an hour before dinner listening to someone read, a novel, a
biography, or what not, according to his mood.
At dinner the conversation usually ran along the lines of what was being
read to him by the various secretaries or of such topics in the day's
news as were of an unexciting nature. The meal varied greatly in length.
If J. P. was feeling tired, or out of sorts, he eat his dinner quickly
and left us, taking somebody along to read to him until he was ready to
go to bed. But, if he was in good form, and an interesting topic was
started, or if he was in a reminiscent mood and wanted to talk, dinner
would last from half-past-seven to nine, or even later.
I shall deal in another place with the different phases of the
conversation and reading which formed so large a part of our duties, but
I may refer here to various incidents of our routine and to some things
by which our routine was occasionally disturbed.
Mr. Pulitzer was very fond of walking. His usual practice was to leave
the villa in the automobile and drive either down to the plage at
Mentone or up the hill to a point about midway between Cap Martin and
the Tower of Augustus. When he reached the spot he had selected he took
the arm of a secretary and promenaded backward and forward over a
distance of five hundred yards, until he felt tired, when the automobile
was signaled and we drove home.
Each of his favorite spots for walking had its peculiar disadvantages
for his companion. Speaking for myself I can say that I dreaded these
walks more than any other of my duties.
If we went on the hillside I had to keep the most alert and unrelaxing
lookout for automobiles. They came dashing round the sharp curves with a
roar and a scream, and these distracting noises always made Mr. Pulitzer
stop dead still as though he were rooted to the ground.
I understand that Mr. Pulitzer was never actually hit by an automobile,
and, of course, his blindness saved him from the agony of apprehension
which his companion suffered, for he could not see the narrowness of his
escape. But I was out with him one day on the Upper Corniche road when
two automobiles going in opposite directions at reckless speed came upon
us at a sharp turn, and I may frankly confess that I was never so
frightened in my life. Had we been alone I am certain we would have been
killed, but fortunately Mann was with us, and it was on his arm that J.
P. was leaning at the critical moment. Mann, who had the advantage of
long experience, acted instantly with the utmost presence of mind. He
made a quick sign to me to look out for myself, and then pushed Mr.
Pulitzer almost off his feet up against the high cliff which rose above
the inner edge of the road.
The machines were out of sight before we could realize that we were
safe. I expected an explosion from J. P. Nothing of the kind! He acted
then, as I always saw him act when there was any actual danger or real
trouble of any kind, with perfect calmness and self-possession.
The intolerable nervous strain of these walks on the hillside was
accompanied by a mental strain almost as distressing. It would have been
bad enough if one's only responsibility had been to keep Mr. Pulitzer
from being crushed against the hillside, or being run over; but this was
only half the problem. The other half was to keep up a continual stream
of conversation--not light, airy nothings, but a solid body of carefully
prepared facts--in a tone of voice which should fail to convey to J. P.
the slightest indication of your nervousness.
When we walked on the plage at Mentone, the difficulties were of another
kind. Here there was always more or less of a crowd, and as the paved
promenade was narrow, and as very few people had the intelligence to
realize that the tall, striking figure leaning on his companion's arm
was that of a blind man, and as fewer still had the courtesy to step
aside if they did realize it, our walk was a constant dodging in and out
among curious gazers interested in staring at the gaunt, impressive
invalid with the large black spectacles.
Conversation was, of course, extremely difficult under such
circumstances; and occasionally things were made worse by some stranger
stopping squarely in front of us and addressing Mr. Pulitzer by name,
for he was a notable personage in the place and was well known by sight.
When accosted in this manner, Mr. Pulitzer always showed signs of
extreme nervousness. He would stamp his foot, raise the clenched fist of
his disengaged arm menacingly, and cry, "My God! What's this? What's
this? Tell him to go away. I won't tolerate this intrusion. Tell him
I'll have him arrested."
More than once I had to push a man off the promenade and make faces at
him embodying all that was possible by such means in the way of threats
to do him bodily injury. It was impossible to argue with these impudent
intruders, because anything like an altercation on a public road would
have meant two or three days of misery for Mr. Pulitzer, in consequence
of the excitement and apprehension he would suffer in such an affair. It
was always with a feeling of intense relief that I saw J. P. safely back
at the villa after our walks.
Although Mr. Pulitzer's intellectual interests covered almost every
phase of human life, there was nothing from which he derived more
pleasure than from music. Once, or perhaps twice a week, he motored over
to Monte Carlo, or even as far as Nice, to attend a concert. On such
occasions he always took at least two companions with him, so that he
never sat next to a stranger.
He preferred a box for his party, but, failing that, the seats were
always secured on the broad cross-aisle, so that he would not have to
rise when anyone wished to pass in front of him. He liked to arrive a
few minutes before the concert commenced, and one of us would read the
program to him. He had an excellent memory for music, and his taste was
broad enough to embrace almost everything good from Bach to Wagner. He
was a keen critic of a performance, and in the intervals between the
pieces he criticized the playing from the standpoint of his musical
One movement was played too loud, another too fast; in one the brass had
drowned a delightful passage for the violas, which he had heard and
admired the year before in Vienna; in another the brasses had been
subdued to a point where the theme lost its distinction.
It was his habit to beat time with one hand and to sway his head gently
backward and forward when he heard a slow, familiar melody. When
something very stirring was played, the Rakoczy March, for instance, or
the overture to Die Meistersinger, he would mark the down beat with his
clenched fist, and throw his head back as if he were going to shout.
I was tempted at first to believe that, in the concert room, when one of
his favorite pieces was being played, and his hand rose and fell in
exact accord with the conductor's baton, or when, with his head in the
air and his mouth half open, he thumped his knee at the beginning of
each bar, he was absorbed in the music to the exclusion of all his
worries, perplexities, and suffering.
But, after he had once or twice turned to me in a flash as the last note
of a symphony lingered before the outburst of applause and asked, "Did
you remember to tell Dunningham to have dinner served a quarter of an
hour later this evening?" or "Did Thwaites say anything to you about
when he expected those cables from New York?"--I learned that even at
such times J. P. never lost the thread of his existence, never freed
himself from the slavery of his affairs.
Twice during the ten days immediately preceding our long promised cruise
in the Mediterranean we made short trips on the yacht. We went to bed
some nights with all our plans apparently settled for a week ahead. At
eight o'clock the next morning Dunningham would bring J. P. down to
breakfast and then announce that everybody was to be on board the yacht
by midday, as J. P. had slept badly and felt the need of sea air and the
complete quiet which could be had only on board the Liberty.
There would be a great packing of trunks, not only those devoted to the
personal belongings of the staff, but trunks for newspaper files,
encyclopedias, magazines, novels, histories, correspondence, and so on.
The chef and his assistants, the butler and his assistants, the major
domo, and the secretaries would leave the villa in a string of
carriages, followed by cartloads of baggage, and install themselves on
Or the cause of our sudden departure might be that Mr. Pulitzer was
feeling nervous and out of sorts and was expecting important letters or
cables which were sure to excite him and make him worse. On such
occasions Dunningham, who was one of the few people who had any
influence whatever over Mr. Pulitzer, would urge an instant flight on
the yacht as the only means of safeguarding J. P.'s health. He knew that
if we stayed ashore no power on earth could prevent Mr. Pulitzer from
reading his cables and letters when they arrived. Once out at sea we
were completely cut off from communication with the shore, for we had no
wireless apparatus, and Mr. Pulitzer would settle down and get some
More than once, however, I saw all the preparations made for a short
cruise, everybody on board, the captain on the bridge, the table laid
for lunch, a man stationed at the stem to report the automobile as soon
as it came in sight, and at the last moment a messenger arrive
countermanding everything and ordering everybody back to the villa as
fast as they could go.
These sudden changes were sometimes reversed. We would arrive at Mentone
in the morning. J. P. would announce his intention of spending a week
there. With this apparently settled, J. P. goes ashore for a ride, the
procession makes its way to the villa, the trunks are unpacked, the chef
begins to ply his art, the captain of the yacht goes ahead with such
washing down and painting as are needed, the chief engineer seizes the
chance of making some small engine-room repairs--no ordinary ship's work
of any kind was allowed when J. P. was on board, the slightest noise or
the faintest odor of paint being strictly forbidden--and later in the
day the news comes that Mr. Pulitzer will be aboard again in two hours
and will expect everything to be ready to make an immediate start.
These short cruises might last only for a night, or they might extend to
a day or two, Our custom was to steam straight out to sea and then
patrol the coast backward and forward between Bordighera and Cannes,
without losing sight of land.
The life at Cap Martin was sufficiently arduous, even for those who had
after long experience with J. P. learned to get through the day with
some economy of effort. To me, new to the work, constantly under the
double pressure of Mr. Pulitzer's cross-examinations and of the task of
supplying, however inefficiently, the place of a secretary who was away
on sick leave, the whole thing was a nightmare. I was in a dazed
condition; everything impressed itself upon me with the vividness of a
dream, and eluded my attempts at analysis, just as the delusive order of
our sleeping visions breaks up into topsyturvydom as soon as we try to
reconstruct it in the light of day.
I spent in all about a month at Cap Martin, staying sometimes on the
yacht and sometimes at an hotel, and during that time I worked
practically every day from eight in the morning until ten or eleven at
night. I use the word "work" to include the hours spent with Mr.
Pulitzer as well as those devoted to preparing material for him. Indeed,
the time given to meals and to drives and walks with J. P. was much more
exhausting than that spent in reading and in making notes.
The only recreation I had during this period was one day on leave at
Nice and half a day at Monaco; but there was very little enjoyment to be
got out of these visits, because I was under orders to bring back minute
descriptions of Nice and of the Institute of Marine Biology at Monaco.
Engaged on such missions, the passers-by, the houses, the shops, the
fishes and marine vegetables in their tanks, the blue sky overhead, the
blue sea at my feet assumed a new aspect to me. They were no longer
parts of my own observation, to be remembered or forgotten as chance
determined, they belonged to some one else, to the blind man in whose
service I was pledged to a vicarious absorption of "material."
I found myself counting the black spots on a fish's back, the steps
leading up to Monaco on its hill, the number of men and women in the
Grand Salon at Monte Carlo, of men with mustaches, of clean-shaven men,
of men with beards in the restaurants, of vessels in sight from the
terrace, of everything, in fact, which seemed capable of furnishing a
sentence or of starting up a discussion.
Once or twice I ran over late at night to Monte Carlo, and occasionally
Thwaites and I met after ten o'clock at the Casino of Mentone to play
bowls or try our luck at the tables; but the spirit of J. P. never
failed to attend upon these dismal efforts at amusement. If I heard an
epigram, witnessed an interesting incident, or observed any curious
sight, out came my note book and pencil and the matter was dedicated to
the service of the morrow's duties.
Finally, after several false starts, we all found ourselves on the yacht
with the prospect of spending most of our time aboard until Mr. Pulitzer
sailed for his annual visit to America.
YACHTING IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
Taken at its face value a month in the Mediterranean, on board one of
the finest yachts afloat, with visits to Corsica, Elba, Nice, Cannes,
Naples, Genoa, Syracuse, and the Pirams, should give promise of a
picturesque and entertaining record of sight-seeing, the kind of journal
in which the views of Baedeker and of your local cab driver are blended,
in order that the aroma of foreign travel may be wafted to the nostrils
of your fresh-water cousins.
What my narrative lacks of this flavor of luxurious vagrancy must be
supplied by the peculiar interest of a cruise which violated every
tradition of the annals of yachting, and created precedents which in all
human probability will never be followed so long as iron floats on
It was part of Mr. Pulitzer's scheme of nautical life to shroud all his
movements in mystery. One result of this was that when we were on the
yacht we never knew where we were going until we got there. The compass-
course at any moment betrayed nothing of Mr. Pulitzer's intentions, for
we might turn in at night with the ship heading straight for Naples and
wake up in the morning to find ourselves three miles south of the Genoa
Apart from Mr. Pulitzer's fancy, our erratic maneuvers were affected by
our need to make good weather out of whatever wind we encountered, on
the one hand because J. P., though an excellent sailor, disliked the
rolling produced by a beam sea, since it interfered with his walking on
deck, and on the other hand, because several of the secretaries suffered
from sea-sickness the moment we were off an even keel.
Mr. Pulitzer was not a man prone to be placated by excuses; but he had
come to realize that neither a sense of duty nor the hope of reward,
neither fear nor courage, can make an agreeable companion out of a man
who is seasick. So, unless there was an important reason why we should
reach port, we always made a head-wind of anything stronger than a light
breeze, and followed the weather round the compass until it was fair for
As soon as we left Mentone Mr. Pulitzer began the process of education
which was designed to fit me for his service.
"When you were in New York," he asked, "what papers did you read?"
"The Sun and The Times in the morning and The Evening Sun and The
Evening Post at night," I replied.
"My God! Didn't you read The World?"
"Nothing but the editorial page."
"Why not? What's the matter with it?"
I explained that I was not interested in crime and disaster, to which
The World devoted so much space, that I wanted more foreign news than
The World found room for, and that I was offended by the big headlines,
which compelled me to know things I didn't want to know.
"Go on," he said; "your views are not of any importance, but they're
"Well," I continued, "I think The World was excellently described a few
years ago in Life. There was a poem entitled, 'New York Newspaper
Directory, Revised,' in which a verse was devoted to each of the big New
York papers. I believe I can remember the one about The World, if you
care to hear it, for I cut the poem out and have kept it among my
"Certainly, go ahead."
"A dual personality is this,
Part yellow dog, part patriot and sage;
When't comes to facts the rule is hit or miss,
While none can beat its editorial page.
Wise counsel here, wild yarns the other side,
Page six its Jekyll and page one its Hyde;
At the same time conservative and rash,
The World supplies us good advice and trash."
"That's clever," said Mr. Pulitzer, "but it's absolute nonsense, except
about the editorial page. Have you got the clipping with you? I would
like to hear what that smart young man has got to say about the other
I went to my cabin, got the poem, and read the whole of it to him--witty
characterizations of The Evening Post, The Sun, The Journal, The
Tribune, The Times and The Herald. As soon as I had finished reading,
Mr. Pulitzer said:
"The man who wrote those verses had his prejudices, but he was clever.
I'm glad you read them to me; always read me anything of that kind,
anything that is bright and satirical. Now, I'm going to give you a
lecture about newspapers, because I want you to understand my point of
view. It does not matter whether you agree with it or not, but you have
got to understand it if you are going to be of any use to me. But before
I begin, you tell me what YOUR ideas are about running a newspaper for
I pleaded that I had never given the matter much thought, and that I had
little to guide me, except my own preferences and the memory of an
occasional discussion here and there at a club or in the smoking room of
a Pullman. He insisted, however, and so I launched forth upon a
discourse in regard to the functions, duties and responsibilities of an
American newspaper, as I imagined they would appear to the average
The chief duty of a managing editor, I said, was to give his readers an
interesting paper, and as an angler baits his hook, not with what HE
likes, but with what the fish like, so the style of the newspaper should
be adjusted to what the managing editor judged to be the public
A sub-stratum of truth should run through the news columns; but since a
million-dollar fire is more exciting than a half-million-dollar fire,
since a thousand deaths in an earthquake are more exciting than a
hundred, no nice scrupulosity need be observed in checking the insurance
inspector's figures or in counting the dead. What the public wanted was
a good "story," and provided it got that there would be little
disposition in any quarter to censure an arithmetical generosity which
had been invoked in the service of the public's well-known demands.
So far as politics were concerned, it seemed to me that any newspaper
could afford the strongest support to its views while printing the truth
and nothing but the truth, if it exercised some discretion as to
printing the WHOLE truth. The editorial, I added, might be regarded as a
habit rather than as a guiding force. People no longer looked to the
editorial columns for the formation of their opinions. They formed their
judgment from a large stock of facts, near-facts and nowhere near-facts,
and then bought a paper for the purpose of comfortable reassurance. I
had no doubt that a newspaper run to suit my own taste--a combination of
The World's editorial page with The Evening Post's news and make-up--
would lack the influence with which circulation alone can endow a paper,
and would end in a bankruptcy highly creditable to its stockholders.
This somewhat cynical outburst brought down upon me an overwhelming
torrent of protest from Mr. Pulitzer.
"My God!" he cried, "I would not have believed it possible that any one
could show such a complete ignorance of American character, of the high
sense of duty which in the main animates American journalism, of the
foundations of integrity on which almost every successful paper in the
United States has been founded. You do not know what it costs me to try
and keep The World up to a high standard of accuracy--the money, the
time, the thought, the praise, the blame, the constant watchfulness.
"I do not say that The World never makes a mistake in its news column; I
wish I could say it. What I say is that there are not half a dozen
papers in the United States which tamper with the news, which publish
what they know to be false. But if I thought that I had done no better
than that I would be ashamed to own a paper. It is not enough to refrain
from publishing fake news, it is not enough to take ordinary care to
avoid the mistakes which arise from the ignorance, the carelessness, the
stupidity of one or more of the many men who handle the news before it
gets into print; you have got to do much more than that; you have got to
make every one connected with the paper--your editors, your reporters,
your correspondents, your rewrite men, your proof-readers--believe that
accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a woman.
"When you go to New York ask any of the men in the dome to show you my
instructions to them, my letters written from day to day, my cables; and
you will see that accuracy, accuracy, accuracy, is the first, the most
urgent, the most constant demand I have made on them.
"I do not say that The World is the only paper which takes extraordinary
pains to be accurate; on the contrary, I think that almost every paper
in America tries to be accurate. I will go further than that. There is
not a paper of any importance published in French, German or English,
whether it is printed in Europe or in America, which I have not studied
for weeks or months, and some of them I have read steadily for a quarter
of a century; and I tell you this, Mr. Ireland, after years of
experience, after having comparisons made by the hundred, from time to
time, of different versions of the same event, that the press of America
as a whole has a higher standard of accuracy than the European press as
a whole. I will go further than that. I will say that line for line the
American newspapers actually ATTAIN a higher standard of news accuracy
than the European newspapers; and I will go further than that and say
that although there are in Europe a few newspapers, and they are chiefly
English, which are as accurate as the best newspapers in America, there
are no newspapers in America which are so habitually, so criminally
stuffed with fake news as the worst of the European papers."
Mr. Pulitzer paused and asked me if there was a glass of water on the
table--we were seated in his library--and after I had handed it to him
and he had drained it nearly to the bottom at one gulp, he resumed his
lecture. I give it in considerable detail, because it was the longest
speech he ever addressed to me, because he subsequently made me write it
out from memory and then read it to him, and because it was one of the
few occasions during my intercourse with him on which I was persuaded
beyond a doubt that he spoke with perfect frankness, without allowing
his words to be influenced by any outside considerations.
"As a matter of fact," he continued, "the criticisms you hear about the
American press are founded on a dislike for our headlines and for the
prominence we give to crime, to corruption in office, and to sensational
topics generally; the charge of inaccuracy is just thrown in to make it
look worse. I do not believe that one person in a thousand who attacks
the American press for being inaccurate has ever taken the trouble to
investigate the facts.
"Now about this matter of sensationalism: a newspaper should be
scrupulously accurate, it should be clean, it should avoid everything
salacious or suggestive, everything that could offend good taste or
lower the moral tone of its readers; but within these limits it is the
duty of a newspaper to print the news. When I speak of good taste and of
good moral tone I do not mean the kind of good taste which is offended
by every reference to the unpleasant things of life, I do not mean the
kind of morality which refuses to recognize the existence of immorality-
-that type of moral hypocrite has done more to check the moral progress
of humanity than all the immoral people put together--what I mean is the
kind of good taste which demands that frankness should be linked with
decency, the kind of moral tone which is braced and not relaxed when it
is brought face to face with vice.
"Some people try and make you believe that a newspaper should not devote
its space to long and dramatic accounts of murders, railroad wrecks,
fires, lynchings, political corruption, embezzlements, frauds, graft,
divorces, what you will. I tell you they are wrong, and I believe that
if they thought the thing out they would see that they are wrong.
"We are a democracy, and there is only one way to get a democracy on its
feet in the matter of its individual, its social, its municipal, its
State, its National conduct, and that is by keeping the public informed
about what is going on. There is not a crime, there is not a dodge,
there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which
does not live by secrecy. Get these things out in the open, describe
them, attack them, ridicule them in the press, and sooner or later
public opinion will sweep them away.
"Publicity may not be the only thing that is needed, but it is the one
thing without which all other agencies will fail. If a newspaper is to
be of real service to the public it must have a big circulation, first
because its news and its comment must reach the largest possible number
of people, second, because circulation means advertising, and
advertising means money, and money means independence. If I caught any
man on The World suppressing news because one of our advertisers
objected to having it printed I would dismiss him immediately; I
wouldn't care who he was.
"What a newspaper needs in its news, in its headlines, and on its
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