An Adventure With A Genius
Part 2 out of 3
editorial page is terseness, humor, descriptive power, satire,
originality, good literary style, clever condensation, and accuracy,
Mr. Pulitzer made this confession of faith with the warmth generated by
an unshakable faith. He spoke, as he always spoke when he was excited,
with vigor, emphasis and ample gesture. When he came to an end and asked
for another glass of water I found nothing to say. It would have been as
impertinent of me to agree with him as to differ from him.
After all, I had to remember that he had taken over The World when its
circulation was less than 15,000 copies a day; that he had been for
thirty years and still was its dominating spirit and the final authority
on every matter concerning its policy, its style, and its contents; that
he had seen its morning circulation go up to well over 350,000 copies a
day; that at times he had taken his stand boldly against popular clamor,
as when he kept up for months a bitter attack against the American
action in the Venezuelan boundary dispute, and at times had incurred the
hostility of powerful moneyed interests, as when he forced the Cleveland
administration to sell to the public on competitive bids a fifty-
million-dollar bond issue which it had arranged to sell privately to a
great banking house at much less than its market value.
Before leaving the subject of newspapers I may describe the method by
which Mr. Pulitzer kept in touch with the news and put himself in the
position to maintain a critical supervision over The World.
An elaborate organization was employed for this purpose. I will explain
it as it worked when we were on the yacht, but the system was maintained
at all times, whether we were cruising, or were at Cap Martin, at Bar
Harbor, at Wiesbaden, or elsewhere, merely a few minor details being
changed to meet local conditions.
In the Pulitzer Building, Park Row, New York, there were collected each
day several copies of each of the morning papers, including The World,
and some of the evening papers. These were mailed daily to Mr. Pulitzer
according to cabled instructions as to our whereabouts. In addition to
this a gentleman connected with The World, who had long experience of
Mr. Pulitzer's requirements, cut from all the New York papers and from a
number of other papers from every part of the United States every
article that he considered Mr. Pulitzer ought to see, whether because of
its subject, its tenor, or its style. These clippings were mailed by the
hundred on almost every fast steamer sailing for Europe. In order that
there might be the greatest economy of time in reading them, the
essential matter in each clipping was marked.
So far as The World was concerned a copy of each issue was sent, with
the names of the writers written across each editorial, big news story,
or special article.
As we went from port to port we got the principal French, German,
Austrian and Italian papers, and The World bureau in London kept us
supplied with the English dailies and weeklies.
Whenever we picked up a batch of American papers, each of the
secretaries got a set and immediately began to read it. My own method of
reading was adopted after much advice from Mr. Pulitzer and after
consultation with the more experienced members of the staff, and I do
not suppose it differed materially from that followed by the others.
I read The World first, going over the "big" stories carefully and with
enough concentration to give me a very fair idea of the facts. Then I
read the articles in the other papers covering the same ground, noting
any important differences in the various accounts. This task resolved
itself in practice into mastering in considerable detail about half a
dozen articles--a political situation, a murder, a railroad wreck, a
fire, a strike, an important address by a college president, for
example--and getting a clear impression of the treatment of each item in
With this done, and with a few notes scribbled on a card to help my
memory, I turned to the editorial pages, reading each editorial with the
closest attention, and making more notes.
The final reading of the news served to give me from ten to twenty small
topics of what Mr. Pulitzer called "human interest," to be used as
subjects of conversation as occasion demanded. As a rule, I cut these
items out of the paper and put them in the left-hand pocket of my coat,
for when we walked together J. P. always took my right arm, and my left
hand was therefore free to dip into my reservoir of cuttings whenever
conversation flagged and I needed a new subject.
The cuttings covered every imaginable topic--small cases in the
magistrates' courts, eccentric entertainments at Newport, the deaths of
centenarians, dinners to visiting authors in New York, accounts of
performing animals, infant prodigies, new inventions, additions to the
Metropolitan Museum, announcements of new plays, anecdotes about
prominent men and women, instances of foolish extravagance among the
rich, and so on.
Something of the kind was done by each of us, so that when Mr. Pulitzer
appeared on deck after breakfast we all had something ready for him. The
first man called usually had the easiest time, for Mr. Pulitzer's mind
was fresh and keen for news after a night's rest. The men who went to
him later in the morning suffered from two disadvantages, one that they
did not know what news or how much of it J. P. had already received, the
other that as the day advanced Mr. Pulitzer often grew tired, and his
attention then became difficult to hold.
I remember that on one occasion when he had complained of feeling
utterly tired out mentally I asked him if he would like me to stop
talking. "No, no," he replied at once; "never stop talking or reading, I
must have something to occupy my mind all the time, however exhausted I
This peculiarity of being unable to get any repose by the road of silent
abstraction must have been a source of acute suffering to him. It is
difficult to imagine a more terrible condition of mind than that in
which the constant flogging of a tired brain is the only anodyne for its
My own experience of a morning on the yacht, when Mr. Pulitzer's nerves
had been soothed by a good night's sleep, was that he walked up and down
the long promenade deck and got from me a brief summary of the news.
From time to time he pulled out his watch and, holding it toward me,
asked what o'clock it was. He was always most particular to know exactly
how long he had walked. We had arguments on many occasions as to the
exact moment at which we had commenced our promenade, and we would go
carefully over the facts--Mr. Craven had been walking with him from 9.30
to 10.05, then Dunningham had been in the library with him for fifteen
minutes, then Mr. Thwaites had walked with him for ten minutes, taking
notes for a letter to be written to the managing editor of The World;
well, that made it 10.30 when I joined him; but fifteen minutes had to
be taken out of the hour for the time he'd spent in the library, that
made three-quarters of an hour he'd been actually walking, well, we'd
walk for another fifteen minutes and round out the hour.
Often when the appointed moment came to stop walking Mr. Pulitzer felt
able to go on, and he would then either say frankly, "Let's have fifteen
minutes more," or he would achieve the same end by reopening the
discussion as to just how long he had walked, and keep on walking until
he began to feel tired, when he would say: "I dare say you are quite
right, well, now we will sit down and go over the papers."
The question of where Mr. Pulitzer was to sit on deck was not a simple
one to decide. He always wanted as much air as he could get; but as he
suffered a good deal of pain in his right eye, the one which had been
operated on, and as this was either started or made worse by exposure to
wind, a spot had to be found which had just the right amount of air
current. Five minutes might show, however, that there was a little too
much wind, when we would move to a more sheltered spot, or he might
think we'd been too cautious and that he could sit in a breezier spot,
or, after we had found the ideal place, the wind might change, and then
we had to move again.
Settled in a large cane armchair with a leather seat, a heavy rug over
his knees if the weather was at all chilly, Mr. Pulitzer took up the
serious consideration of the news which had been lightly skimmed over
during his walk.
An item was selected, and the account in The World was read aloud. Then
followed the discussion of it from the standpoint of its presentation in
the various papers. On what page was it printed in The World, in what
column, how much space did it fill, how much was devoted to headlines,
what was the size of the type, was the type varied in parts to give
emphasis to the more striking features of the story, what were the
cross-heads in the body of the article, were any boxes used, if so, what
was put in them, what about the illustrations? And so on for each
important item in each paper.
One of the by-products of this reading of the papers was a stream of
cables, letters and memoranda to various members of The World staff in
New York. None of these were ever sent through me, but it was a common
thing for J. P. to say: "Have you got your writing pad with you? Just
make a note: Indianapolis story excellent, insufficient details
lynching, who wrote City Hall story? and give it to Thwaites and tell
him to remind me of it this afternoon."
Mr. Pulitzer would take the matter up with Thwaites, and would send such
praise, blame, reward, criticism, or suggestion as the occasion
From time to time I was called upon to make a report on the day's
papers, a task which usually fell to some more experienced member of the
staff. My reports always covered the Sunday issues. They included an
analysis of The Sun, The Herald, The American, The Times, The Tribune
and The World, showing the number of columns of advertising, of news,
and of special articles, a classification of the telegrams according to
geographical distribution--how much from France, from Germany, from
England, from the Western States, from the Southern States, and so on; a
classification of the special articles on the basis of their topics--
medicine, sport, fashions, humor, adventure, children's interests,
This was by no means the only check which Mr. Pulitzer kept upon The
World and its contemporaries. He received regularly from New York a
statistical return showing, for The World and its two principal
competitors, the monthly and yearly figures for circulation and
advertising; and the advertising return showed not only the amount of
space occupied by advertising in each paper, but also the number of
advertisements each month under various heads, such as display
advertising, want ads., real estate, dry goods, amusements, hotels,
transportation, to let ads., summer resorts, and whatever other classes
of advertising might appear.
Whatever Mr. Pulitzer wished to do in the way of business, whether it
concerned the direction of the policy of The World, or the dictating of
an editorial, or the handling of correspondence, was almost always done
in the morning, and by lunch time he was ready to turn his attention to
something light or amusing, or to serious subjects not connected with
Mr. Pulitzer generally lunched and dined with the staff in the dining
saloon, unless he felt more than usually ill or nervous, when he had his
meals served in the library, one or at most two of us keeping him
When he sat with us he occupied the head of the table. At his side stood
the butler, who never attended to any one but his master. A stranger at
the table, if he were not actually sitting next to J. P., might very
well have failed to notice that his host was blind, so far as any
indication of blindness was afforded by the way he ate. His food was, of
course, cut up at a side table, but it was placed before him on an
ordinary plate, without any raised edge or other device to save it from
being pushed on to the tablecloth.
As soon as he was seated J. P. put his fingers lightly on the table in
front of him and fixed the exact position of his plate, fork, spoon,
water glass and wine glass. While he was doing this he generally spoke a
few words to one or another of us, and as he always turned his face in
the direction of the person he was addressing, the delicate movements of
his hands, even if they were observed, were only those of a man with his
sight under similar circumstances.
Sitting next to him, however, his blindness soon became apparent. As he
began to eat he simply impaled each portion of food on his fork, but
after he had got halfway through a course and the remaining morsels were
scattered here and there on his plate, he explored the surface with the
utmost niceness of touch until he felt a slight resistance. He had then
located a morsel, but in order that he might avoid an accident in
transferring it to his mouth he felt the object carefully all over with
almost imperceptible touches of his fork, and, having found the thickest
or firmest part of it secured it safely.
At times, if he became particularly interested in the conversation, he
put his fork down, and when he picked it up again he was in difficulties
for a moment or two, having lost track of the food remaining on his
plate. On these occasions the ever-watchful butler would either place
the food with a fork in the track of J. P.'s systematic exploration, or
guide Mr. Pulitzer's hand to the right spot.
Like many people in broken health Mr. Pulitzer had a very variable
appetite. Sometimes nothing could tempt his palate, sometimes he ate
voraciously; but at all times the greatest care had to be exercised in
regard to his diet. Not only did he suffer constantly from acute
dyspepsia, but also from diabetes, which varied in sympathy with his
general state of health.
He took very little alcohol, and that only in the form of light wines,
such as claret or hock, seldom more than a single small glass at lunch
and at dinner. Whenever he found a vintage which specially appealed to
him he would tell the butler to send a case or two to some old friend in
America, to some member of his family or to one of the staff of The
After lunch Mr. Pulitzer always retired to his cabin for a siesta. I use
the word siesta, but as a matter of fact it is quite inadequate to
describe the peculiar function for which I have chosen it as a label.
What took place on these occasions was this: Mr. Pulitzer lay down on
his bed, sometimes in pyjamas, but more often with only his coat and
boots removed, and one of the secretaries, usually the German secretary,
sat down in an armchair at the bedside with a pile of books at his
At a word from Mr. Pulitzer the secretary began to read in a clear,
incisive voice some historical work, novel or play. After a few minutes
Mr. Pulitzer would say "Softly," and the secretary's voice was lowered
until, though it was still audible, it assumed a monotonous and soothing
quality. After a while the order came, "Quite softly." At this point the
reader ceased to form his words and commenced to murmur indistinctly,
giving an effect such as might be produced by a person reading aloud in
an adjoining room, but with the connecting door closed.
If, after ten minutes of this murmuring, J. P. remained motionless it
was to be assumed that he was asleep; and the secretary's duty was to go
on murmuring until Mr. Pulitzer awoke and told him to stop or to
commence actual reading again. This murmuring might last for two hours,
and it was a very difficult art to acquire, for at the slightest change
in the pitch of the voice, at a sneeze, or a cough, Mr. Pulitzer would
wake with a start, and an unpleasant quarter of an hour followed.
This murmuring was not, however, without its consolations to the
murmurer, for as soon as the actual reading stopped he could take up a
novel or magazine and, leaving his vocal organs to carry on the work,
concentrate his mind upon the preparation of material against some
The siesta over, the afternoon was taken up with much the same kind of
work as had filled the morning. By six o'clock Mr. Pulitzer was ready to
sit in the library for an hour before he dressed for dinner. This time
was generally devoted to novels, plays and light literature of various
kinds. J. P. often assured me that no man had ever been able to read a
novel or a play to him satisfactorily without having first gone over it
carefully at least twice; and on more than one occasion I was furnished
with very good evidence that even this double preparation was not always
a guarantee of success.
There appeared to be two ways of getting Mr. Pulitzer interested in a
novel or play. One, and this, I believe, was the most successful, was to
draw a striking picture of the scene where the climax is reached--the
wife crouching in the corner, the husband revolver in hand, the Tertium
Quid calmly offering to read the documents which prove that he and not
the gentleman with the revolver is really the husband of the lady--and
then to go back to the beginning and explain how it all came about.
The other method was to set forth the appearance and disposition of each
of the characters in the story, so that they assumed reality in Mr.
Pulitzer's mind, then to condense the narrative up to about page two
hundred and sixty, and then begin to read from the book. If in the
course of the next three minutes you were not asked in a tone of utter
weariness, "My God! Is there much more of this?" there was a reasonable
chance that you might be allowed to read from the print a fifth or
possibly a fourth of what you had not summarized.
Dinner on the yacht passed in much the same way as lunch, except that
serious subjects and especially politics were taboo.
The meal hours were really the most trying experiences of the day. Each
of us went to the table with several topics of conversation carefully
prepared, with our pockets full of newspaper cuttings, notes and even
small reference books for dates and biographies.
But there was seldom any conversation in the proper sense; that is to
say, we were hardly ever able to start a subject going and pass it from
one to the other with a running comment or amplification, partly because
any expression of opinion, except when he, J. P., asked for it, usually
bored him to extinction, and partly because the first statement of any
striking fact generally inspired Mr. Pulitzer to undertake a searching
cross-examination of the speaker into every detail of the matter brought
forward, and in regard to every ramification of the subject.
I may relate an amusing instance of this: A gentleman who had been on
the staff, but had been absent through illness, joined us at Mentone for
a cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean. At dinner the first night out he
incautiously mentioned that during the two months of his convalescence
he had taken the opportunity of reading the whole of Shakespeare's
Too late he realized his mistake. Mr. Pulitzer took the matter up, and
for the next hour and a half we listened to the unfortunate ex-invalid
while he gave a list of the principal characters in each of the
historical plays, in each of the tragedies, and in each of the comedies,
followed by an outline of each plot, a description of a scene here and
there, and an occasional quotation from the text.
At the end of this heroic exploit, which was helped out now and then by
a note from one of the rest of us, scribbled hastily on a card and
handed silently to the victim, Mr. Pulitzer merely said, "Well, go on,
go on, didn't you read the sonnets?" But this was too much for our
gravity, and in a ripple of laughter the sitting was brought to a close.
The trouble with the meals, however, was not only that we were all kept
at a very high strain of alertness and attention, singularly inconducive
to the enjoyment of food or to the sober business of digestion, but that
they were of such interminable length. The plain fact was that by
utilizing almost every moment between eight o'clock in the morning and
nine o'clock at night we could fortify ourselves with enough material to
fill in the hour or two spent with Mr. Pulitzer, hours during which we
had to supply an incessant stream of information, or run through a
carefully condensed novel or play.
Under such circumstances an hour for lunch or dinner had to be accepted
as an unfortunate necessity; but when it came, as it often did, to an
hour and a half or two hours, the encroachment on our time became a
At about nine o'clock Mr. Pulitzer went to the library. One of the
secretaries accompanied him and read aloud until, on the stroke of ten,
Dunningham came and announced that it was bedtime.
An extraordinary, and in some respects a most annoying feature of this
final task of the day, viewed from the secretary's standpoint, was that
from nine to ten, almost without cessation, Mr. Mann, the German
secretary, played the piano in the dining saloon, the doors
communicating with the library being left open.
In a direct line the piano cannot have been more than ten feet from the
reader's chair; and the strain of reading aloud for an hour against a
powerful rendering of the most vigorous compositions of Liszt, Wagner,
Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin was a most trying ordeal for voice, brain
and nerves. Mr. Pulitzer could apparently enjoy the music and the
reading at the same time. Often, when something was played of which he
knew the air, he would follow the notes by means of a sort of subdued
whistle, beating time with his hand; but this did not take his mind off
the reading, and if you allowed your attention to wander for a moment
and failed to read with proper emphasis he would say: "Please read that
last passage over again, and do try and read it distinctly."
Such was the routine of life on the yacht. It was little affected by our
occasional visits to Naples, Ajaccio and other ports. Some one always
landed to inquire for mail and to procure newspapers, one or two of us
got shore leave for a few hours, but so far as I was concerned, being
still in strict training and under close observation, my rare landings
were made only for the purpose of having my observation and memory
I brought back minute descriptions of Napoleon's birthplace at Ajaccio,
of his villa in Elba, of the tapestries, pictures and statues in the
National Museum at Naples, of the Acropolis, of the monument of
Lysicrates, of the Greek Theater and of the Roman Amphitheater at
Syracuse, and of whatever else I was directed to observe.
Mr. Pulitzer had had these things described to him a score of times. He
knew which block of seats in the Greek theater at Neapolis bore the
inscription of Nereis, daughter-in-law of King Heiro the Second; he knew
up what stairs and through what rooms and passages you had to go to see
the marble bath in Napoleon's villa near Portoferraio; he knew from
precisely what part of the Acropolis the yacht was visible when it was
at anchor at the Piraeus; he knew the actual place of the more important
pictures on the walls of each room of the Naples Museum--such a one to
the right, such a one to the left as you entered--he knew practically
everything, but specially he knew the thing you had forgotten.
My exhibitions of memory always ended, as they were no doubt intended to
end, in a confession of ignorance. If I described five pictures, Mr.
Pulitzer said: "Go on"; when I had described ten, he said: "Go on"; when
I had described fifteen he said: "Go on"; and this was kept up until I
could go on no more. At this point Mr. Pulitzer had discovered just what
he wanted to know--how much I could see in a given time, and how much of
it I could remember with a fair degree of accuracy. It was simply the
game of the jewels which Lurgan Sahib played with Kim, against a
different background but with much the same object.
In the foregoing description of Mr. Pulitzer's daily life it has been
made abundantly clear that his secretaries were worked to the limit of
their endurance. It remains to add that Mr. Pulitzer never made a demand
upon us which was greater than the demand he made upon himself.
He was a tremendous worker; and in receiving our reports no vital fact
ever escaped him. If we missed one he immediately "sensed" it, and his
untiring cross-examination clung to the trail until he unearthed it.
We had youth, health and numbers on our side, yet this man, aged by
suffering, tormented by ill-health, loaded with responsibility, kept
pace with our united labors, and in the final analysis gave more than he
We brought a thousand offerings to his judgment; many of them he
rejected with an impatient cry of "Next! Next! For God's sake!" But if
any subject, whether from its intrinsic importance or from its style,
reached the standard of his discrimination he took it up, enlarged upon
it, illuminated it, until what had come to him as crude material for
conversation assumed a new form, everything unessential rejected,
everything essential disclosed in the clear and vigorous English which
was the vehicle of his lucid thought.
When I recall the capaciousness of his understanding, the breadth of his
experience, the range of his information, and set them side by side with
the cruel limitations imposed upon him by his blindness and by his
shattered constitution, I forget the severity of his discipline, I
marvel only that his self-control should have served him so well in the
tedious business of breaking a new man to his service.
GETTING TO KNOW MR. PULITZER
As time passed, my relations with Mr. Pulitzer became more agreeable. He
had given me fair warning that the first few weeks of my trial would be
more or less unpleasant; a month at Cap Martin and a month on the yacht
had amply verified his prediction.
But this period of probation, laborious and nerve-racking as it was,
enabled me to appreciate how important it was for J. P. to put to a
severe test of ability, tact and good temper any one whom he intended to
attach to his personal staff.
His total blindness placed him completely in the hands of those around
him, and, in order that he might enjoy that sense of perfect security
without which his life would have been intolerable, it was necessary
that he should be able to repose absolute confidence in the loyalty and
intelligence of his companions.
It was not with reference to his blindness alone that the qualifications
of his secretaries were measured. Indeed, to the loss of his sight he
had become, in some measure, reconciled; what really dominated every
other consideration was the need of being able to meet the peculiar
conditions which had arisen through the complete breakdown of his
I have spoken of his extreme sensitiveness to noise. It is impossible to
give any description of this terrible symptom which shall be in any way
adequate. Many of us suffer torment through the hideous clamor which
appears to be inseparable from modern civilization; but to Mr. Pulitzer
even the sudden click of a spoon against a saucer, the gurgle of water
poured into a glass, the striking of a match, produced a spasm of
suffering. I have seen him turn pale, tremble, break into a cold
perspiration at some sound which to most people would have been scarcely
When we were on the yacht every one was compelled to wear rubber-soled
shoes. When Mr. Pulitzer was asleep that portion of the deck which was
over his bedroom was roped off so that no one could walk over his head;
and each door which gave access to the rooms above his cabin was
provided with a brass plate on which was cut the legend: "This door must
not be opened when Mr. Pulitzer is asleep."
With every resource at his command which ingenuity could suggest and
money procure, the one great unsolved problem of his later years was to
obtain absolute quietness at all times. At his magnificent house in New
York, at his beautiful country home at Bar Harbor he had spent tens of
thousands of dollars in a vain effort to procure the one luxury which he
prized above all others. On the yacht the conditions in this respect
were as nearly perfect as possible; but some noise was inseparable from
the ship's work--letting go the anchor, heaving it up again, blowing the
foghorn, and so on--though most of the ordinary noises had been
As an instance of the constant care which was taken to save Mr. Pulitzer
from noise I remember that for some days almonds were served with our
dessert at dinner, but that they suddenly ceased to form part of our
menu. Being fond of almonds, I asked the chief steward why they had
stopped serving them. After a little hesitation he said that it had been
done at the suggestion of the butler, who had noticed that I broke the
almonds in half before I ate them and that the noise made by their
snapping was very disagreeable to Mr. Pulitzer.
With the best intentions in the world, our meals were now and then
disturbed by noise. A knife suddenly slipped with a loud click against a
plate, a waiter dropped a spoon on a silver tray, or some one knocked
over a glass. We were all in such a state of nervous tension that
whenever one of these little accidents occurred we jumped in our chairs
as though a pistol had been fired, and looked at J. P. with horrified
There could be no doubt whatever as to the effect these noises had upon
him. He winced as a dog winces when you crack a whip over him; the only
question was whether by a powerful effort he could regain his composure
or whether his suffering would overcome his self-restraint to the extent
of making him gloomy or querulous during the rest of the meal.
The effect by no means ceased when we rose from table. If by bad luck
two or three noises occurred at dinner--and our excessive anxiety in the
matter was sometimes our undoing--Mr. Pulitzer was so upset that he
would pass a sleepless night. This in its turn meant a day during which
his tortured body made itself master of his mind, and plunged him into a
state of profound dejection.
Like most people who suffer acutely from noise Mr. Pulitzer was very
differently affected by different kinds of noise. To any noise which was
necessary, such as that caused by letting go the anchor, he could make
himself indifferent; but very few noises were included in this category.
What caused him the most acute suffering was a noise which, while it
inflicted pain upon him, neither gave pleasure to any one else nor
achieved a useful purpose. Loud talking, whistling, slamming doors,
carelessness in handling things, the barking of dogs, the "kick" of
motor boats, these were the noises which made his existence miserable.
At the back of his physical reaction was a mental reaction which
intensified every shock to his nerves. He complained, and with justice,
that, leaving out of consideration an occasional noise which was purely
the result of accident, his life was made a burden by the utter
indifference of the majority of human beings to the rights of others.
What right, he asked, had any one to run a motor boat with a machine so
noisy that it destroyed the peace of a whole harbor? Above all, what
right had such a person to come miles out to sea and cruise around the
yacht, merely to gratify idle curiosity?
He applied the same test to people who shout at one another in the
streets, who whistle at the top of their lungs, or leave doors to slam
in the faces of those behind them.
His resentment against these practices was made the more bitter by the
knowledge that he was absolutely helpless in the matter whenever he came
within hearing distance of an ill-bred person.
There was yet another element in this which added to his misery. He said
to me once, when we had been driven off the plage at Mentone by two
American tourists of the worst type, who at a hundred yards' distance
from each other were yelling their views as to which hotel they proposed
to meet at for lunch, "I can never forget that when I was a young man in
the full vigor of my health I used to regard other people's complaints
about noise as being merely an affectation. I would even make a noise
deliberately in order to annoy any one who forced the absurd pretense
upon my notice. Well, Mr. Ireland, I swear my punishment has been heavy
To revert, however, to Mr. Pulitzer's dependence on those around him, it
must be remembered that nothing could reach him except through the
medium of speech. The state of his bank account, the condition of his
investments, the reports about The World, his business correspondence,
the daily news in which he was so deeply interested, everything upon
which he based his relation with the affairs of life he had to accept at
It might be supposed that under these circumstances Mr. Pulitzer was
easily deceived, that when there was no evil intention, for instance,
but simply a desire to spare him annoyance, the exercise of a little
ingenuity could shield him from anything likely to wound his feelings or
excite his anger. As a matter of fact I have never known a man upon whom
it would not have been easier to practice a deception. His blindness, so
far from being a hindrance to him in reaching the truth, was an aid.
Two instances will serve to illustrate the point. Suppose that I found
in the morning paper an article which I thought would stir J. P. up and
spoil his day: when I was called to read to him I had no means of
knowing whether the man whom I replaced had taken the same view as
myself and had skipped the article or whether he had, deliberately or
inadvertently, read it to him. The same argument applied to the man who
was to follow me. If I read the article to him I might find out later
that my predecessor had omitted it, or, if I omitted it, that my
successor had read it.
In either event one of us would be in the wrong; and it was impossible
to tell in advance whether the man who read it would be blamed for lack
of discretion or praised for his good judgment, as everything depended
upon the exact mood in which Mr. Pulitzer happened to be.
It was an awkward dilemma for the secretary, for, if he did not read it
and another man did, Mr. Pulitzer might very well interpret the first
man's caution as an effort to hoodwink him, or the second man's boldness
as an exhibition of indifference to his feelings, or, what was more
likely still, fasten one fault upon one man and the other upon the
The same problem presented itself from a different direction. Often, Mr.
Pulitzer would take out of his pocket a bundle of papers--newspaper
clippings, letters, statistical reports, and memoranda of various kinds.
Handing them to his companion he would say:
"Look through these and see if there is a letter with the London post
mark, and a sheet of blue paper with some figures on it."
You could never tell what was behind these inquiries. Sometimes he was
content to know that the papers were there, sometimes he asked you to
read them, and as he might very well have them read to him by several
people during the day he had a perfect check on all printed or written
matter once it was in his hands.
In addition to all this his exquisite sense of hearing enabled him to
detect the slightest variation in your tone of voice. If you hesitated
or betrayed the least uneasiness his suspicions were at once aroused and
he took steps to verify from other sources any statement you made under
It will be readily understood that with his keen and analytic mind Mr.
Pulitzer very soon discovered exactly what kind of work was best suited
to the capacities of each of his secretaries. Thus to Mr. Paterson was
assigned the reading of history and biography, to Mr. Pollard, a Harvard
man and the only American on the personal staff during my time, novels
and plays in French and English, to Herr Mann German literature of all
kinds. Thwaites was chiefly occupied with Mr. Pulitzer's correspondence,
and Craven with the yacht accounts, though they, as well as myself, had
roving commissions covering the periodical literature of France,
Germany, England, and America.
This division of our reading was by no means rigid; it represented Mr.
Pulitzer's view of our respective spheres of greatest utility; but it
was often disturbed by one or another of us going on sick leave or
falling a victim to the weather when we were at sea.
Subject to such chances Pollard always read to Mr. Pulitzer during his
breakfast hour, and Mann during his siesta, while the reading after
dinner was pretty evenly divided between Pollard, Paterson, and myself.
If Mr. Pulitzer once got it into his head that a particular man was
better than any one else for a particular class of work nothing could
reconcile him to that man's absence when such work was to be done.
An amusing instance of this occurred on an occasion when Pollard was
sea-sick and could not read to J. P. at breakfast. I was hurriedly
summoned to take his place. I was dumbfounded, for I had never before
been called upon for this task, and Mr. Pulitzer had often held it up to
me as the last test of fitness, the charter of your graduation. I had
nothing whatever prepared of the kind which J. P. required at that time,
and I knew that upon the success of his breakfast might very well depend
the general complexion of his whole day.
In desperation I rushed into Pollard's cabin, and its unhappy occupant,
with a generosity which even seasickness could not chill, gave me a
bundle of Spectators, Athenaeums, and Literary Digests, with pencil
marks in the margins indicating exactly what he had intended to read in
the ordinary course of things. I breathed a sigh of relief and hastened
to the library, where I found J. P. very nervous and out of sorts after
a bad night.
He immediately began to deplore Pollard's absence, on the ground that it
was impossible for anyone to know what to read to him at breakfast
without years of experience and training. I said nothing, feeling secure
with Pollard's prepared "breakfast food," as we called it, in front of
me. I awaited only his signal to begin reading, confident that I could
win laurels for myself without robbing Pollard, whose wreath was firmly
fixed on his brow.
Alas for my hopes! My very first sentence destroyed my chances, for I
had the misfortune to begin reading something which he had already
heard. Nothing annoyed him more than this; and we all made a habit of
writing "Dead" across any article in a periodical as soon as J. P. had
had it, so that we could keep off each other's trails. I am willing to
believe that this was the first and only time that Pollard ever forgot
to kill an article after he had read it, but it was enough, in the
deplorable state of Mr. Pulitzer's nerves that morning, to inflict a
wound upon my reputation as a breakfast-time reader which months did not
suffice to heal.
With such a bad start Mr. Pulitzer immediately concluded that I was
useless, and he worked himself up into such a state about it that
passage after passage, carefully marked by Pollard, was greeted with,
"Stop! Stop! For God's sake!" or,
"Next! Next!" or,
"My God! Is there much more of that?" or,
"Well, Mr. Ireland, isn't there ANYTHING interesting in all those
I bore up manfully against this until he made the one remark I could not
"Now, Mr. Ireland," he said, his voice taking on a tone of gentle
reproach, "I know you've done your best, but it is very bad. If you
don't believe me, just take those papers to Mr. Pollard when he feels
better; don't disturb him now when he's ill; and show him what you read
to me. Now, just for fun, I'd like you to do that. He will tell you that
there is not a single line which you have read that he would have read
had he been in your place. I hope I haven't been too severe with you;
but I hold up my hands and swear that Mr. Pollard wouldn't have read me
a line of that rubbish."
This was too much! Carefully controlling my voice so that no trace of
malice should be detected in it, I replied:
"I took these papers off Mr. Pollard's table a moment before I came to
you, and the parts I have read are the parts he had marked, with the
intention of reading them to you himself."
I thought I had J. P. cornered. It was before I learned that there was
no such thing as cornering J. P.
Leaning toward me, and putting a hand on my shoulder, he said:
"Now, boy, don't be put out about this. I do believe, honestly, that you
did your best; but you should not make excuses. When you are wrong,
admit it, and try and benefit by my advice. You will find a very natural
explanation of your mistake. Perhaps the passages Mr. Pollard marked
were the ones he did NOT intend to read to me, or perhaps you took the
wrong set of papers; some perfectly natural explanation I am sure."
That night at dinner, when I was still smarting under the sense of
injustice born of my morning's experience, J. P. gave me an opening
which I could not allow to pass unused.
Turning to me during a pause in the conversation, he asked:
"And what have YOU been doing this afternoon, Mr. Ireland?"
A happy inspiration flashed across my mind, and I replied:
"I've been making a rough draft of a play, sir."
"Well, my God! I didn't know you wrote plays."
"Very seldom, at any rate; but I had an idea this morning that I
"What is it to be called?" inquired J. P.
"'The Importance of being Pollard,'" I answered, whereupon J. P. and
everyone else at the table had a good laugh. They had all been through a
breakfast with J. P. when Pollard was away, and could sympathize with my
Mr. Pulitzer was very sensible of the difficulties which lay in
everybody's path at the times when lack of sleep or a prolonged attack
of pain had made him excessively irritable; and when he had recovered
from one of these periods of strain, and was conscious of having been
rough in his manner, he often took occasion to make amends.
Sometimes he would do this when we were at table, adopting a humorous
tone as he said, "I'm afraid so-and-so will never forgive me for the way
I treated him this afternoon; but I want to say that he really read me
an excellent story and read it very well, and that I am grateful to him.
I was feeling wretchedly ill and had a frightful headache, and if I said
anything that hurt his feelings I apologize."
Once, during my weeks of probation, when J. P. felt that he had carried
his test of my good temper beyond reason, he stopped suddenly in our
walk, laid a hand on my shoulder, and asked:
"What do you feel when I am unreasonable with you? Do you feel angry? Do
you bear malice?"
"Not at all," I replied. "I suppose my feeling is very much like that of
a nurse for a patient. I realize that you are suffering and that you are
not to be held responsible for what you do at such times."
"I thank you for that, Mr. Ireland," he replied. "You never said
anything which pleased me more. Never forget that I am blind, and that I
am in pain most of the time."
A matter which I had reason to notice at a very early stage of my
acquaintance with Mr. Pulitzer was that when he was in a bad mood it was
the worst possible policy to offer no resistance to his pressure. It was
part of his nature to go forward in any direction until he encountered
an obstacle. When he reached one he paused before making up his mind
whether he would go through it or round it. The further he went the more
interested he became, his purpose always being to discover a boundary,
whether of your knowledge, of your patience, of your memory, or of your
He never respected a man who did not at some point stand up and resist
him. After the line had once been drawn at that point, and his curiosity
had been gratified, he was always careful not to approach it too
closely; and it was only on the rare occasions when he was in
exceptionally bad condition that any clash occurred after the first one
had been settled.
I put off my own little fight for a long time, partly because I was very
much affected by the sight of his wretchedness, and partly because I did
not at first realize how necessary it was for him to find out just how
far my self-control could be depended upon. As soon as this became clear
to me I determined to seize the first favorable opportunity which
presented itself of getting into my intrenchments and firing a blank
cartridge or two.
It was after I had been with him about a month that my chance came. I
had noticed that his manner toward me was slowly but steadily growing
more hostile, and I had been expecting daily to receive my dismissal
from the courteous hands of Dunningham, or to find myself unable to go
further with the ordeal.
Finally, I consulted Dunningham, and was informed by him, to my great
surprise, that I was doing very well and that Mr. Pulitzer was pleased
with me. This information cleared the ground in front of me, and that
afternoon when I was called to walk with Mr. Pulitzer I decided to put
out a danger signal if I was hard pressed.
Everything favored such a course. J. P. had enjoyed a good siesta and
was feeling unusually well; if, therefore, he was very disagreeable I
would know that it was from design and not from an attack of nerves.
Furthermore, he selected a subject of conversation in regard to which I
was as well, if not better, informed than he was--a question relating to
British Colonial policy.
The moment I began to speak I saw that his object was to drive me to the
wall. He flatly contradicted me again and again, insinuated that I had
never met certain statesmen whose words I repeated, and, finally, after
I had concluded my arguments in support of the view I was advancing, he
said in an angry tone, assumed for the occasion, of course:
"Mr. Ireland, I am really distressed that we should have had this
discussion. I had hoped that, with years of training and advice, I might
hare been able to make something out of you; but any man who could
seriously hold the opinion you have expressed, and could attempt to
justify it with the mass of inaccuracies and absurdities that you have
given me, is simply a damned fool."
"I am sorry you said that, Mr. Pulitzer," I replied in a very serious
"Why, for God's sake, you don't mind my calling you a damned fool, do
"Not in the least, sir. But when you call me a damned fool you shatter
an ideal I held about you."
"What's that? An ideal about me? What do you mean?"
"Well, sir, years before I met you I had heard that if there was one
thing above all others which distinguished you from all other
journalists it was that you had the keenest nose for news of any man
"What has that to do with my calling you a damned fool?"
"Simply this, that the fact that I'm a damned fool hasn't been news to
me any time during the past twenty years."
He saw the point at once, laughed heartily and, putting an arm round my
shoulders, as was his habit with all of us when he wished to show a
friendly feeling or take the edge off a severe rebuke, said:
"Now, boy, you're making fun of me, and you must not make fun of a poor
old blind man. Now, then, I take it all back; I shouldn't have called
you a damned fool."
It was from this moment that my relations with Mr. Pulitzer began to
A few days after the incident which I have just related we dropped
anchor in the Bay of Naples, and Mr. Pulitzer announced his intention of
sailing for New York by a White Star boat the following afternoon. He
asked me to go with him; and I accepted this invitation as the sign that
my period of probation was over.
Everything was prepared for our departure. Dunningham worked
indefatigably. He went aboard the White Star boat, arranged for the
accommodation of our party, had partitions knocked down so that Mr.
Pulitzer could have a private diningroom and a library, and convoyed
aboard twenty or thirty trunks and cases containing books, mineral
waters, wines, cigars, fruit, special articles of diet, clothes, fur
coats, rugs, etc., for J. P.
We all packed our belongings, telegraphed to our friends, sent ashore
for the latest issues of the magazines, and sat around in deck chairs
waiting for the word to follow our things aboard the liner.
After half an hour of suspense Dunningham came out of the library, where
he had been in consultation with J. P., and as he advanced toward us we
rose and made our way to the gangway, where one of the launches was
swinging to her painter.
Dunningham, smiling and imperturbable as ever, raised his hand and said,
"No, gentlemen, Mr. Pulitzer has changed his mind; we are not going to
America. We remain on the yacht and sail this afternoon for Athens."
He disappeared over the side, and an hour or two later returned with the
chef and the butler and one of the saloon stewards, who had gone aboard
the liner to make things ready, and some tons of baggage.
We sailed just as the White Star boat cleared the end of the mole. When
she passed us, within a hundred yards, she dipped her flag. I was
walking with Mr. Pulitzer at the time and mentioned the exchange of
salutes. He was silent for a few minutes. Then he asked, "Has she passed
us?" "Yes," I replied, "she's half-a-mile ahead of us now." "Have you
got your pad with you? Just make a note to ask Thwaites to cable to New
York from the next port we call at and tell someone to send two hundred
of the best Havana cigars to the captain. That man has some sense. Most
captains would have blown their damned whistle when they dipped their
flag. Have a note written to the captain telling him that I appreciated
Our voyage to Athens and thence, through the Corinth Canal, back to
Mentone, was free from incident. J. P. discussed the possibility of
going to Constantinople or to Venice, but our cabled inquiries about the
weather brought discouraging replies describing an unusually cold
season, and these projects were abandoned.
About this time Mr. Pulitzer's health showed a marked improvement, which
was reflected in the most agreeable manner in the general conditions of
life on the yacht. He had been worried for some weeks about his plans
for going to New York, and this had interfered with his sleep, had
increased his nervousness and aggravated every symptom of his physical
weakness. With this matter finally disposed of he could look forward to
a peaceful cruise, during which he would be able to catch up with his
careful reading of the marked file of The World, and thus remove a
weight from his mind.
He detested having work accumulate on his hands, but when his health was
worse than usual this was unavoidable. He always drove himself to the
last ounce of his endurance, and it was only when his condition
indicated an imminent collapse that he would consent to drop everything
except light reading, and to spend a few days out at sea without calling
anywhere for letters, papers, or cables.
It was during this, our last, cruise in the Mediterranean that I
discovered that Mr. Pulitzer was one of the best and most fascinating
talkers I had ever heard. Once in a while, when he was feeling cheerful
after a good night's rest and a pleasant day's reading, he monopolized
the conversation at lunch or dinner. He was generally more willing to
talk when we took our meals at a large round table on deck, for he loved
the sea breeze and was soothed by it.
When he talked he simply compelled your attention. I often felt that, if
he had not made his career otherwise, he might have been one of the
world's greatest actors, or one of its most popular orators. In
flexibility of tone, in variety of gesture, in the change of his facial
expression he was the peer of anyone I have seen on the stage.
To an extraordinary flow of language he added a range of information and
a vividness of expression truly astonishing. His favorite themes were
politics and the lives of great men. To his monologues on the former
subject he brought a ripe wisdom, based upon the most extensive reading
and the shrewdest observation, and quickened by the keenest enthusiasm.
He was by no means a political bigot; and there was not a political
experiment, from the democracy of the Greeks to the referendum in
Switzerland, with the details of which he was not perfectly familiar.
Although he was a convinced believer in the Republican form of
government, having, as he expressed it, "no use for the King business,"
he was fully alive to the peculiar dangers and difficulties with which
modern progress has confronted popular institutions.
When the publication of some work like Rosebery's Chatham or Monypenny's
Disraeli afforded an occasion, Mr. Pulitzer would spend an hour before
we left the table in giving us a picture of some exciting crisis in
English politics, the high lights picked out in pregnant phrases of
characterization, in brilliant epitome of the facts, in spontaneous
epigram, and illustrative anecdote. Whether he spoke of the Holland
House circle, of the genius of Cromwell, of Napoleon's campaigns, or
sought to point a moral from the lives of Bismarck, Metternich, Louis
XI, or Kossuth, every sentence was marked by the same penetrating
analysis, the same facility of expression, the same clearness of
On rare occasions he talked of his early days, telling us in a charming,
simple, and unaffected manner of the tragic and humorous episodes with
which his youth had been crowded. Of the former I recall a striking
description of a period during which he filled two positions in St.
Louis, one involving eight hours' work during the day, the other eight
hours during the night. Four of the remaining eight were devoted to
His first connection with journalism arose out of an experience which he
related with a wealth of detail which showed how deeply it had been
burned into his memory.
When he arrived in St. Louis he soon found himself at the end of his
resources, and was faced with the absolute impossibility of securing
work in that city. In company with forty other men he applied at the
office of a general agent who had advertised for hands to go down the
Mississippi and take up well-paid posts on a Louisiana sugar plantation.
The agent demanded a fee of five dollars from each applicant, and, by
pooling their resources, the members of this wretched band managed to
meet the charge. The same night they were taken on board a steamer which
immediately started down river. At three o'clock in the morning they
were landed on the river bank about forty miles below St. Louis, at a
spot where there was neither house, road, nor clearing. Before the
marooned party had time to realize its plight the steamer had
A council of war was held, and it was decided that they should tramp
back to St. Louis, and put a summary termination to the agent's career
by storming his office and murdering him. Whether or not this reckless
program would have been carried out it is impossible to say, for when,
three days later, the ragged army arrived in the city, worn out with
fatigue and half dead from hunger, the agent had decamped.
A reporter happened to pick up the story, and by mere chance met
Pulitzer and induced him to write out in German the tale of his
experiences. This account created such an impression on the mind of the
editor through whose hands it passed that Pulitzer was offered, and
accepted, with the greatest misgivings, as he solemnly assured us, a
position as reporter on the Westliche Post.
The event proved that there had been no grounds for J. P.'s modest
doubts. After he had been some time on the paper, things went so badly
that two reporters had to be got rid of. The editor kept Pulitzer on the
staff, because he felt that if anyone was destined to force him out of
the editorial chair it was not a young, uneducated foreigner, who could
hardly mumble half-a-dozen words of English. The editor was mistaken.
Within a few years J. P. not only supplanted him but became half-
proprietor of the paper.
Another interesting anecdote of his early days, which he told with great
relish, related to his experience as a fireman on a Mississippi
ferryboat. His limited knowledge of English was regarded by the captain
as a personal affront, and that fire-eating old-timer made it his
particular business to let young Pulitzer feel the weight of his
authority. At last the overwork and the constant bullying drove J. P.
into revolt, and he left the boat after a violent quarrel with the
Whenever J. P. reached this point in the story, and I heard him tell it
several times, his face lighted up with amusement, and he had to stop
until he had enjoyed a good laugh.
"Well, my God!" he would conclude, "about two years later, when I had
learned English and studied some law and been made a notary public, this
very same captain walked into my office in St. Louis one day to have
some documents sealed. As soon as he saw me he stopped short, as if he
had seen a ghost, and said, "Say, ain't you the damned cuss that I fired
off my boat?"
"I told him yes, I was. He was the most surprised man I ever saw, but
after he had sworn himself hoarse he faced the facts and gave me his
Mr. Pulitzer always declared that the proudest day of his life, the
occasion on which his vanity was most tickled, was when he was elected
to the Missouri Legislature. Things were evidently run in a rather
happy-go-lucky fashion in those early days, since, as he admitted with a
reminiscent smile, he was absolutely disqualified for election, being
neither an American citizen nor of age.
Mr. Pulitzer's anecdotes about himself always ended in one way. He would
break off suddenly and exclaim, "For Heaven's sake, why do you let me
run on like this; as soon as a man gets into the habit of talking about
his past adventures he might just as well make up his mind that he is
growing old and that his intellect is giving way."
It was this strong disinclination for personal reminiscence which
prevented Mr. Pulitzer, despite many urgent appeals, from writing his
autobiography. It is a thousand pities that he adhered to this
resolution, for his career, as well in point of interest as in
achievement and picturesqueness, would have stood the test of comparison
with that of any man whose life-story has been preserved in literature.
WIESBADEN AND AN ATLANTIC VOYAGE
At last the time came when we had to leave the yacht and make a
pilgrimage to Wiesbaden, in order that Mr. Pulitzer might submit to a
cure before sailing for New York.
The first stage of our journey took us from Genoa to Milan. Here we
stayed for five hours so that J. P. could have his lunch and his siesta
comfortably at an hotel. Paterson had been sent ahead two or three days
in advance to look over the hotels and to select the one which promised
to be least noisy. On our arrival in Milan J. P. was taken to an
automobile, and in ten minutes he was in his rooms.
Simple as these arrangements appear from the bald statement of what
actually happened they really involved a great deal of care and
forethought. It was not enough that Paterson should visit half-a-dozen
hotels and make his choice from a cursory inspection. After his choice
had been narrowed down by a process of elimination he had to spend
several hours in each of two or three hotels, in the room intended for
J. P., so that he could detect any of the hundred noises which might
make the room uninhabitable to its prospective tenant.
The room might be too near the elevator, it might be too near a
servants' staircase, it might overlook a courtyard where carpets were
beaten, or a street with heavy traffic, it might be within earshot of a
dining-room where an orchestra played or a smoking-room with the
possibility of loud talking, it might open off a passage which gave
access to some much frequented reception-room.
Most of these points could be determined by merely observing the
location of the room. But other things were to be considered. Did the
windows rattle, did the floor creak, did the doors open and shut
quietly, was the ventilation good, were there noisy guests in the
This last difficulty was, I understand, usually overcome by Mr. Pulitzer
engaging, in addition to his own room, a room on either side of it,
three rooms facing it, the room above it and the room beneath it.
Even the question of the drive from the station to the hotel had to be
thought out. A trial trip was made in an automobile. If the route
followed a car line or passed any spot likely to be noisy, such as a
market place or a school playground, or if it led over a roughly paved
road on which the car would jolt, another route had to be selected,
which, as far as possible, dodged the unfavorable conditions.
Our carefully arranged journey passed without incident. We had a private
car from Milan to Frankfort and another for the short run to Wiesbaden,
where we arrived in time for lunch on the day after our departure from
Genoa. Everything had been prepared for our reception by some one who
had made similar arrangements on former occasions. We occupied the whole
of a villa belonging to one of the large hotels, and situated less than
a hundred yards from it.
In the main our life was modeled upon that at the Cap Martin villa; but
part of Mr. Pulitzer's morning was devoted to baths, massage, and the
drinking of waters. Our meals were taken, as a rule, either in a private
dining-room at the hotel or in the big restaurant of the Kurhaus; but
when Mr. Pulitzer was feeling more than usually tired the table was laid
in the dining-room of the villa.
Our dinners at the Kurhaus were a welcome change from our ordinary meals
with their set routine of literary discussions. Mr. Pulitzer was
immensely interested in people; but it was impossible for him to meet
them, except on rare occasions, because the excitement was bad for his
health. Whenever he dined in a crowded restaurant, however, our time was
fully occupied in describing with the utmost minuteness the men, women,
and children around us.
The Kurhaus was an excellent place for the exercise of our descriptive
powers. In addition to the ordinary crowd of pleasure-seekers and
health-hunters there were, during a great part of our visit, a large
number of military men, for the Kaiser spent a week at Wiesbaden that
year and reviewed some troops, and this involved careful preparation in
advance by a host of court officials and high army officers.
Under these circumstances the dining-room of the Kurhaus presented a
scene full of color and animation. Sometimes J. P. said to one of us:
"Look around for a few minutes and pick out the most interesting-
looking man and woman in the room, examine them carefully, try and catch
the tone of their voices, and when you are ready describe them to me."
Or he might say: "I hear a curious, sharp, incisive voice somewhere over
there on my right. There it is now--don't you hear it?--s s s s s, every
s like a hiss. Describe that man to me; tell me what kind of people he's
talking to; tell me what you think his profession is." Or it might be:
"There are some gabbling women over there. Describe them to me. How are
they dressed, are they painted, are they wearing jewels, how old are
In whatever form the request was made its fulfilment meant a description
covering everything which could be detected by the eye or surmised from
any available clew.
Describing people to J. P. was by no means an easy task. It was no use
saying that a man had a medium-sized nose, that he was of average
height, and that his hair was rather dark. Everything had to be given in
feet and inches and in definite colors. You had to exercise your utmost
powers to describe the exact cast of the features, the peculiar texture
and growth of the hair, the expression of the eyes, and every little
trick of gait or gesture.
Mr. Pulitzer was very sceptical of everybody's faculty of description.
He made us describe people, and specially his own children and others
whom he knew well, again and again, and his unwillingness to accept any
description as being good rested no doubt upon the wide divergence
between the different descriptions he received of the same person.
There were few things which Mr. Pulitzer enjoyed more than having a face
described to him, whether of a living person or of a portrait, and as
our table-talk was often about men and women of distinction or
notoriety, dead or living, any one of us might be called upon at any
time to portray feature by feature some person whose name had been
By providing ourselves with illustrated catalogues of the Royal Academy
exhibitions and of the National Portrait Gallery, and by cutting out the
portraits with which the modern publisher so lavishly decorates his
announcements, we generally managed, by pulling together, to cover the
ground pretty well. I have sat through a meal during which one or
another of us furnished a microscopic description of the faces of Warren
Hastings, Lord Clive, President Wilson, the present King and Queen of
England, the late John W. Gates, Ignace Paderewski, and an odd dozen
current murderers, embezzlers, divorce habitues, and candidates for
The delicate enjoyment of this game was not reached, however, until, at
the following meal, one of us, who had been absent at the original
delineation, was asked to cover some of the ground that had been gone
over a few hours earlier. Mr. Pulitzer would say: "Is Mr. So-and-So
here? Well, now, just for fun, let us see what he has to say about the
appearance of some of the people we spoke about at lunch."
The result was almost always an astonishing disclosure of the inability
of intelligent people to observe closely, to describe accurately, and to
reach any agreement as to the significance of what they have seen. It
was bad enough when the latest witness had before him the actual
pictures on which the first description had been based; even then
crooked noses became straight, large mouths small, disdain was turned to
affability and ingenuousness to guile; but where this guide was lacking
the descriptions were often ludicrously discrepant.
While we were at Wiesbaden we seldom spent much time at the dinner
table, as J. P. usually took his choice between walking in the garden of
the Kurhaus and listening to the orchestra and going to the opera. One
night we motored over to Frankfort to hear Der Rosenkavalier, but the
excursion was a dismal failure. We had to go over a stretch of very bad
road, and with J. P. shaken into a state of extreme nervousness the very
modern strains of the opera failed to please.
At the end of the second act J. P., who had been growing more and more
dismal as the music bumped along its disjointed course, either in vain
search or in careful avoidance of anything resembling a pleasant sound,
turned to me and said: "My God! I can't stand any more of this. Will you
please go and find the automobile and bring it round to the main
entrance. I want to go home."
I saw a great deal of Mr. Pulitzer while we were at Wiesbaden, owing to
the circumstance that Paterson was called to England on urgent private
affairs and Pollard was away on leave. The absence of these two men was
as much regretted by the staff as it was by J. P. himself. Paterson was,
from his extraordinary erudition, seldom at a loss for a topic of
conversation which would rivet J. P.'s attention, and Pollard, who had
been a number of years with J. P., was not only, on his own subjects,
the conversational peer of Paterson, but was in addition, from his
soothing voice and manner and from his long and careful study of J. P.,
invaluable as a mental and nervous sedative.
It was at Wiesbaden that I first began to read books regularly to J. P.
I read him portions of the biographies of Parnell, of Sir William Howard
Russell, of President Polk (very little of this), of Napoleon, of Martin
Luther, and at least a third of Macaulay's Essays.
He was a great admirer of Lord Macaulay's writings and read them
constantly, as he found in them most of the qualities which he admired--
great descriptive power, political acumen, satire, neatness of phrase,
apt comparisons and analogies, and shrewd analysis of character. Many
passages he made me read over and over again at different times. I
reproduce a few of his favorite paragraphs for the purpose of showing
what appealed to his taste.
From the Essay on Sir William Temple, the following lines referring to
the Right Hon. Thomas Peregrine Courtenay, who, after his retirement
from public life, wrote the Memoirs of Temple and stated in his preface
that experience had taught him the superiority of literature to politics
for developing the kindlier feelings and conducing to an agreeable life:
He has little reason, in our opinion, to envy any of those who are still
engaged in a pursuit from which, at most, they can only expect that, by
relinquishing liberal studies and social pleasures, by passing nights
without sleep and summers without one glimpse of the beauty of nature,
they may attain that laborious, that invidious, that closely watched
slavery which is mocked with the name of power.
More often than any others I read him the following passages from the
Essay on Milton:
The final and permanent fruits of liberty are wisdom, moderation, and
mercy. Its immediate effects are often atrocious crimes, conflicting
errors, scepticism on points the most clear, dogmatism on points the
most mysterious. It is just at this crisis that its enemies love to
exhibit it. They pull down the scaffolding from the half-finished
edifice: they point to the flying dust, the falling bricks, the
comfortless rooms, the frightful irregularity of the whole appearance;
and then ask in scorn where the promised splendor and comfort is to be
found. If such miserable sophisms were to prevail there would never be a
good house or a good government in the world.
There is only one cure for the evils which newly acquired freedom
produces; and that cure is freedom.
The blaze of truth and liberty may at first dazzle and bewilder nations
which have become half blind in the house of bondage. But let them gaze
on, and they will soon be able to bear it. In a few years men learn to
reason. The extreme violence of opinion subsides. Hostile theories
correct each other. The scattered elements of truth cease to contend,
and begin to coalesce. And at length a system of justice and order is
educed out of the chaos.
If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in
slavery, they may indeed wait forever.
I was surprised one day on returning to the villa after a walk in the
Kurhaus gardens with J. P. to find an addition to our company in the
person of the second gentleman who had examined me in London at the time
I had applied for the post of secretary to Mr. Pulitzer.
This gentleman occupied what I imagine must have been the only post of
its kind in the world. He was, in addition to whatever other duties he
performed, Mr. Pulitzer's villa-seeker.
It was Mr. Pulitzer's custom to talk a good deal about his future plans,
not those for the immediate future, in regard to which he was usually
very reticent, but those for the following year, or for a vague
"someday" when many things were to be done which as yet were nothing
more than the toys with which his imagination delighted to play.
As he always spent a great part of the year in Europe, a residence had
to be found for him, it might be in Vienna, or London, or Berlin, or
Mentone, or in any other place which emerged as a possibility out of the
long discussions of the next year's itinerary.
Whenever the arguments in favor of any place had so far prevailed that a
visit there had been accepted in principle as one of our future
movements it became the duty of the villa-seeker to go to the locality,
to gather a mass of information about its climate, its amenities, its
resident and floating population, its accessibility by sea and land, the
opportunities for hearing good music, and to report in the minutest
detail upon all available houses which appeared likely to suit Mr.
These reports were accompanied by maps, plans, and photographs, and they
were considered by J. P. with the utmost care. Particular attention was
paid to the streets and to the country roads in the neighborhood, as it
was necessary to have facilities for motoring, for riding, and for
The next step was to secure a villa, and after that had been done the
alterations had to be undertaken which would make it habitable for J. P.
These might be of a comparatively simple nature, a matter of fitting
silencers to the doors and putting up double windows to keep out the
noise; but they might extend much further and involve more or less
elaborate changes in the interior arrangements. Even after all this had
been done a sudden shift of plans might send the villa-seeker scurrying
across Europe to begin the whole process over again in order to be
prepared for new developments.
At the time I left London to join J. P. at Mentone I had stipulated
that, if I should chance to be selected to fill the vacant post, I
should not be called upon to take up my duties until I had returned to
London and spent a fortnight there in clearing up my private affairs.
After we had been a few weeks at Wiesbaden it became absolutely
necessary for me to go to London for that purpose; and this led to a
struggle with J. P. which nearly brought our relations to an end.
As soon as I broached the subject of a fortnight's leave of absence J.
P. set his face firmly against the proposal. This was due not so much to
any feeling on his part that my absence would be an inconvenience to
him, for both Paterson and Pollard had returned to duty, but to an
almost unconquerable repugnance he had to any one except himself
initiating any plan which would in the slightest degree affect his
arrangements. His sensitiveness on this point was so delicate that it
was impossible, for instance, for any of us to accept an invitation to
lunch or dine with friends who might happen to be in our neighborhood,
or to ask for half a day off for any purpose whatever.
I do not mean to say that we never got away for a meal or that we were
never free for a few hours; as a matter of fact, J. P. was by no means
ungenerous in such things once a man had passed the trial stage; but,
although J. P. might say to you, "Take two days off and amuse yourself,"
or "Take the evening off, and don't trouble to get back to work until
lunch-time to-morrow," it was out of the question for you to say to J.
P.: "An old friend of mine is here for the day, would you mind my taking
lunch with him?"
No one, I am sure, ever made a suggestion of that kind to J. P. more
than once--the effect upon him was too startling.
J. P.'s favors in the way of giving time off were always granted subject
to a change of mind on his part; and these changes were often so sudden
that it was our custom as soon as leave was given to disappear from the
yacht or the villa at the earliest possible moment. But at times even an
instant departure was too slow, for it might happen that before you were
out of the room J. P. would say: "Just a moment, Mr. So-and-So, you
wouldn't mind if I asked you to put off your holiday till to-morrow,
would you? I think I would like you to finish that novel this evening; I
am really interested to see how it comes out."
This, of course, was rather disappointing; but the great disadvantage of
not getting away was that Mr. Pulitzer's memory generally clung very
tenaciously to the fact that he had given you leave, and lost the
subsequent act of rescinding it. The effect of this was that for the
practical purpose of getting a day off your turn was used up as soon as
J. P. granted it, without any reference to whether you actually got it
or not; and the phrase, "until to-morrow," was not to be interpreted
literally or to be acted upon without a further distinct permission.
The only "right" any of us had to time off was to our annual vacation of
two weeks, which we had to take whenever J. P. wished. If, for any
reason, one of us wanted leave of absence for a week or so, the matter
had to be put into the hands of the discreet and diplomatic Dunningham;
and so when the time came when I simply had to go to London it was to
Dunningham I went for counsel.
Judging by the results, his intercession on my behalf was not very
successful, for, on the occasion of our next meeting, J. P. made it
clear to me that if I insisted on going to London it would be on pain of
his displeasure and at the peril of my post. As I look back upon the
incident, however, it is quite clear to me that the whole of his
arguments and his dark hints were launched merely to test my sense of
duty to those persons in London whom I had promised to see.
A day or two later J. P. told me that as I was going to London I might
as well stay there for a month or two before joining him in New York. He
outlined a course of study for me, which included lessons in speaking
(my voice being harsh and unpleasant) and visits to all the principal
art galleries, theaters and other places of interest, with a view to
describing everything when I rejoined him.
On the eve of my departure Dunningham handed me, with Mr. Pulitzer's
compliments, an envelope containing a handsome present, in the most
acceptable form a present can take.
It was not until I was in the train, and the train had started, that I
was able to realize that I was free. During the journey to London my
extraordinary experiences of the past three months detached themselves
from the sum of my existence and became cloaked with that haze of
unreality which belongs to desperate illness or to a tragedy looked back
upon from days of health and peace. Walking down St. James's Street
twenty-four hours after leaving Wiesbaden, J. P. and the yacht and the
secretaries invaded my memory not as things experienced but as things
seen in a play or read in a story long ago.
I lost no time in making myself comfortable in London. Inquiries
directed to the proper quarter soon brought me into touch with a
gentleman to whose skill, I was assured, no voice, however disagreeable,
could fail to respond. I saw my friends, my business associates, my
tailor. I went to see Fanny's First Play three times, the National
Portrait Gallery twice, the National Gallery once, and laid out my plans
to see all the places in London (shame forbidding me to enumerate them)
which every Englishman ought to have seen and which I had not seen.
This lasted for about two weeks, during which I saw something of Craven,
who had left us in Naples to study something or other in London, and who
was under orders to hold himself in readiness to go to New York with J.
P. We dined at my club one night, and when I returned to my flat I found
a telegram from Mr. Tuohy, instructing me to join J. P. in Liverpool the
next day in time to sail early in the afternoon on the Cedric, as it had
been decided to leave Craven in London for the present.
The voyage differed but little from our cruises in the yacht. J. P. took
his meals in his own suite, and as Mrs. Pulitzer and Miss Pulitzer were
on board they usually dined with him, one of the secretaries making a
fourth at table.
In the matter of guarding J. P. from noise, extraordinary precautions
were taken. Heavy mats were laid outside his cabin, specially made a
dozen years before and stored by the White Star people waiting his call;
that portion of the deck which surrounded his suite was roped off so
that the passengers could not promenade there; and a close-fitting green
baize door shut off the corridor leading to his quarters. His meals were
served by his own butler and by one of the yacht stewards; and his daily
routine went on as usual.
During the voyage I was broken in to the task of reading the magazines
to J. P. So far as current issues were concerned I had to take the ones
he liked best--The Atlantic Monthly, The American Magazine, The
Quarterly Review, The Edinburgh Review, The World's Work, and The North
American Review--and thoroughly master their contents.
While I was engaged on this sufficiently arduous labor I made, on cards,
lists of the titles of all the articles and abstracts of all the more
important ones. I have by me as I write a number of these lists, and I
reproduce one of them.
The following list of articles represents what Mr. Pulitzer got from me
in a highly condensed form during ONE HOUR: "The Alleged Passing of
Wagner," "The Decline and Fall of Wagner," "The Mission of Richard
Wagner," "The Swiftness of Justice in England and in the United States,"
"The Public Lands of the United States," "New Zealand and the Woman's
Vote," "The Lawyer and the Community," "The Tariff Make-believe," "The
Smithsonian Institute," "The Spirit and Letter of Exclusion," "The
Panama Canal and American Shipping," "The Authors and Signers of the
Declaration of Independence," "The German Social Democracy," "The
Changing Position of American Trade," "The Passing of Polygamy."
I remember very well the occasion on which I gave him these articles. We
were walking on one of the lower promenade decks of the Cedric, and J.
P. asked me if I had any magazine articles ready for him. I told him,
having the list of articles in my left hand, that I had fifteen ready.
He pulled out his watch, and holding it toward me said:
"What time is it?"
"Twelve o'clock," I replied.
"Very good; that gives us an hour before lunch. Now go on with your
articles; I'll allow you four minutes for each of them."
He did not actually take four minutes for each, for some of them did not
interest him after my summary had run for a minute or so, but we just
got the fifteen in during the hour.
After all that was possible had been done in the way of reducing the
number of magazine articles, by rejecting the unsuitable ones, and their
length by careful condensation, we were unable to keep pace with the
supply. When a hundred or so magazines had accumulated Mr. Pulitzer had
the lists of contents read to him, and from these he selected the
articles which he wished to have read; and these arrears were disposed
of when an opportunity presented itself.
At times Mr. Pulitzer did not feel well enough to take this concentrated
mental food, and turned for relief to novels, plays and light
literature; at times, when he was feeling unusually well, he occupied
himself for several days in succession with matters concerning The
World--in dictating editorials, letters of criticism, instruction and
inquiry, or in considering the endless problems relating to policy,
business management, personnel, and the soaring price of white paper.
An interesting feature of his activity on behalf of The World was his
selection of new writers. Although his supervision of the paper extended
to every branch, from advertising to news, from circulation to color-
printing, it was upon the editorial page that he concentrated his best
energies and his keenest observation.
It is no exaggeration to say that the editorial page of The World was to
J. P. what a child is to a parent. He had watched it daily for a quarter
of a century. During that time, I am told, he had read to him seventy-
five per cent. of all the editorials which were printed on it, and had
every cartoon described. Those who are interested in the editorial page
of The World should read Mr. John L. Heaton's admirable History of a
Page, published last year.
J. P.'s theory of editorial writing, which I heard him propound a dozen
times, called for three cardinal qualities--brevity, directness and
style--and, as these could not be expected to adorn hasty writing, he
employed a large staff of editorial writers and tried to limit each man
to an average of half a column a day, unless exceptional circumstances
called for a lengthy treatment of some important question.
He watched the style of each man with the closest attention, examining
the length of the paragraphs, of the sentences, of the words, the
variety of the vocabulary, the choice of adjectives and adverbs, the
employment of superlatives, the selection of a heading, the nicety of
adjustment between the thought to be expressed and the language employed
for its expression.
If he chanced in the course of his reading to run across any apt phrase
in regard to literary style he would get one of us to type a number of
copies and send one to each of the editorial writers on The World. The
following were sent from Wiesbaden:
"Thiers compares a perfect style to glass through which we look without
being conscious of its presence between the object and the eye." (From
Abraham Hayward's "Essay on Thiers.")
"Lessing, Lichtenberger, and Schopenhauer agreed in saying that it is
difficult to write well, that no man naturally writes well, and that one
must, in order to acquire a style, work STRENUOUSLY ... I have tried to
J. P. was never tired of discussing literary style, of making
comparisons between one language and another from the point of view of
an exact expression of an idea, or of the different SOUND of the same
idea expressed in different languages. For instance, he asked us once
during an argument about translations of Shakespeare to compare the
"You are my true and honorable wife,
As dear to me as are the ruddy drops
That visit my sad heart."
with the German:
"Ihr seid mein echtes, ehrenwertes Weib,
So teuer mir, als wie die Purpurtropfen
Die um mein trauernd Herz sich drangen."
and the opening words of Hamlet's soliloquy with the German:
"Sein oder Nichtsein, das ist hier die Frage."
Of the former pair he greatly preferred the English, of the latter the
Sometimes we discussed at great length the exact English equivalent of
some German or French word. I remember one which he came back to again
and again, the word leichtsinnig. We suggested as translations,
frivolous, irresponsible, hare-brained, thoughtless, chicken-witted,
foolish, crazy; but we never found an expression which suited him.
But I have wandered away from the subject of editorial writers. During
the time I was with J. P. he selected two, and his method of selection
is of interest in view of the great importance he attached to the
editorial page of The World.
As I have said elsewhere, J. P. got practically all the important
articles from every paper of consequence in the United States. If he
read an editorial which impressed him, possibly from a Chicago or a San
Francisco paper, he put it on one side and told Pollard, who read all
this kind of material to him, to watch the clippings from that paper and
to pick out any other editorials which he could identify as the work of
the same man. Five years with J. P. had made Pollard an expert in
penetrating the disguise of the editorial "We."
As soon as a representative collection of the unknown man's writings had
been made J. P. instructed some one on The World to find out who the
author was and to request that he would supply what he considered to be
a fair sample of his work, a dozen or more articles, and a brief
biography of himself.
If Mr. Pulitzer was satisfied with these an offer would be made to the
man to join the staff of The World. Sometimes even these gentlemen were
summoned to New York, to Bar Harbor, to Wiesbaden, or to Mentone,
according to circumstances. I have met several of them, and they all
agree in saying that the hardest work they ever did in their lives was
to keep pace with Mr. Pulitzer while they were running the gauntlet of
There are few men highly placed on The World to-day who have not been
through such an ordeal. I doubt if any man was ever served by a staff
whose individual ability, temper, resources and limitations were so
minutely known to their employer. He knew them to the last ounce of
their endurance, to the last word of their knowledge, beyond the last
veil which enables even the most intelligent man to harbor, mercifully,
a few delusions about himself.
To those who did not know Mr. Pulitzer it may appear that I exaggerate
his powers in this direction. As a matter of fact I believe that it
would be impossible to do so.
When he had his sight he judged men as others judge them, and, making
full allowance for his genius for observation and analysis, he was no
doubt influenced to some extent by appearance, manners and associations.
But after he became blind and retired from contact with all men, except
a circle which cannot have exceeded a score in number, his judgment took
on a new measure of clearness and perspective.
As a natural weapon of self-defense he developed a system of searching
examination before which no subterfuge could stand. It was minute,
persistent, comprehensive and ingenious in the last degree. It might
begin to-day, reach an apparent conclusion, and be renewed after a
month's silence. In the meantime, while the whole matter was becoming
dim in your mind, inquiries had been made in a dozen directions in
regard to the points at issue; and when the subject was reopened you
were confronted not only with J. P.'s perfect memory of what you had
said but with a detailed knowledge of matters which you had passed by as
unimportant, or deliberately avoided for any one of a dozen perfectly
J. P.'s questions covered names, places, dates, motives, the chain of
causation, what you said, what you did, what you felt, what you thought,
the reasons why you felt, thought, acted as you did, the reasons why
your thought and action had not been such-and-such, your opinion of your
own conduct, in looking back upon the episode, your opinion of the
thoughts, actions and feelings of everybody else concerned, your
conjectures as to THEIR motives, what you would do if you were again
faced with the same problem, why you would do it, why you had not done
it on the previous occasion.
Starting at any point in your career Mr. Pulitzer worked backward and
forward until all that you had ever thought or done, from your earliest
recollection down to the present moment, had been disclosed to him so
far as he was interested to know it, and your memory served you.
This process varied in length according to the nature of the experiences
of the person subjected to it, and to the precise quality of Mr.
Pulitzer's interest in him. In my own case it lasted about three months
and was copiously interspersed with written statements by myself of
facts about myself, opinions by myself about myself, and endless
references to people I had known during the past twenty-five years.
Mr. Pulitzer's attitude toward references was the product of vast
experience. He complained that scores of men had come to him with
references from some of the most distinguished people living, references
so glowing that one man should have been ashamed to write them and the
other ashamed to receive them, references of such a character that their
happy possessors might, without being guilty of immodesty, have applied
for the Chief Justiceship of the United States, the Viceroyalty of
India, the Archbishopric of Canterbury, the Presidency of the Royal
College of Surgeons, or the Mastership of Baliol, but that the great
majority of these men had turned out to be ignorant, lazy and stupid to
an unbelievable degree.
When the question of my own references came up I begged in a humorous
way that, having heard J. P.'s views about the value of testimonials, my
friends should be spared the useless task of eulogizing me.
"No, my God!" exclaimed J. P. "None of them shall be spared. What I said
about testimonials is all perfectly true; but it only serves to show
what sort of person a man must be who can't even get testimonials. No,
no; if a man brings references it proves nothing; but if he can't, it
proves a great deal."
Our voyage to New York was marred by but one distressing feature, the
behavior of two infants, one of whom cried all day and the other all
night. J. P. stood it very well. I think he regarded it as one of the
few necessary noises. He suffered from it, of course, but the only
remark he ever made to me about it was:
"I really think that one of the most extraordinary things in the world
is the amount of noise a child can make. Here we are with a sixty-mile
gale blowing and some ten thousand horse-power engines working inside
the ship, and yet that child can make itself heard from one end of the
boat to the other. I think there must be two of them; the sound is not
quite the same at night. Now, Mr. Ireland, do, just for the fun of it,
find out about that. Don't let the mother know--I wouldn't like to hurt
her feelings; but ask one of the stewards about it."
In due course we reached New York. The Liberty, which had crossed
directly from Marseilles, met us at quarantine, and Mr. Pulitzer was
transferred to her without landing. The rest of us joined the yacht the
same evening. That night we sailed for Bar Harbor.
BAR HARBOR AND THE LAST CRUISE
During the forenoon of the following day we dropped anchor opposite the
water-front of Mr. Pulitzer's Bar Harbor estate. The house was situated
right on the rocky foreshore, and was backed by extensive grounds which
completely cut it off from the noise of the traffic on the main road.
By means of a flight of granite steps, leading down from a lawn laid
along the whole of the house-front, within containing walls, access was
had to a pier to the end of which was attached a floating pontoon
affording an easy means of boarding the yacht's boats or the launches
which were kept at Chatwold for use when the house was occupied.
Chatwold was a big, rambling place, which had been added to from time to
time until it was capable of accommodating about twenty people in
addition to J. P., whose quarters were in a large granite structure,
specially designed with a view to securing complete quietness. This
building was in the form of a tower about forty feet square and four
stories high. On the ground floor was a magnificent room, occupying the
whole length of the tower and two-thirds of its breadth, which served as
a library and dining-room for J. P. On the side facing the sea there was
a large verandah where Mr. Pulitzer took his breakfast and where he sat
a great deal during the day when he was transacting business or being
The whole of the basement of the tower was taken up by a swimming pool
and dressing rooms. The water was pumped in from the sea and could be
heated by a system of steam pipes. The upper floors of the tower were
given over to bedrooms, for J. P., for the major-domo and for several of
Most of the servants were housed in a large building some distance from
the main residence, and there were separate quarters for the grooms and
stablemen, and for the heard gardener and his assistants.
While we were at Chatwold there was a gathering of the Pulitzer family--
Mrs. Joseph Pulitzer, a cousin of Jefferson Davis and a belle of
Washington in her day, who married Mr. Pulitzer years before his success
in life had been made and when the fight for his place in journalism was
still in its early stages; Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Pulitzer and their young
son, Ralph; Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Miss Edith Pulitzer, Miss
Constance Pulitzer and Mr. Pulitzer's youngest child, Herbert, a boy of
The presence of the family had little effect upon the routine of Mr.
Pulitzer's daily life. He saw as much of his wife and children as he
could; but the intensity of his family emotions was such that they could
only be given rein at the price of sleepless nights, savage pain, and
desperate weariness. His interest in everything concerning the family
was overwhelming, his curiosity inexhaustible. Everybody had to be
described over and over again, but especially young Master Ralph, a
bright and handsome child, born long after his grandfather had become
totally blind, and Master Herbert, of whose appearance he retained only
a memory of the dim impressions he had been able to gather years before
when a little sight yet remained to him.
It was at lunch and at dinner that Mr. Pulitzer saw most of the family.
He almost always took his meals in the library at a table seating four;
and the party usually included Mrs. Pulitzer, one of the other ladies or
Master Herbert, and a secretary. I was present at a great many of these
gatherings, partly because J. P. had gradually acquired a taste for such
humor as I was able to contribute to the conversation, and partly
because he relished a salad-dressing which represented my only
accomplishment in the gastronomic field.
A feature of the Bar Harbor life which Mr. Pulitzer enjoyed greatly and
which he could not indulge in elsewhere were the long trips he made in a
big electric launch on the sheltered waters of Frenchman's Bay. When the
weather was fine these trips occupied two or three hours each day. J. P.
sat in an armchair amidships, with two companions, very often his two
older sons, to read to him or to discuss business affairs.
On the occasions when I formed one of the party I had the opportunity of
observing that so far as the quantity and the quality of work were
concerned it was an easier task to be one of Mr. Pulitzer's secretaries
than to be one of his sons. I have never seen men put to a more severe
test of industry, concentration, and memory than were Mr. Ralph and Mr.
Joseph, Jr., while they were at Bar Harbor or on the yacht.
It is a pleasure to bear witness to the affectionate solicitude, the
patience, and the good will with which they met the exacting demands of
their father. They realized, of course, as every one who worked for J.
P. realized it, that the weight of the burden he placed upon you and the
strictness of the account to which you were called were the truest
measure of his regard.
Next to politics there was nothing which interested J. P. more than
molding and developing the people around him; and what was no more than
a strong interest when it concerned his employees became a passion when
it concerned his sons. His activities in this direction ministered alike
to his love of power and to his horror of wasted talents; they gratified
his ever-present desire to discover the boundaries of human character
and intellect, to explore the mazes of human temperament and emotion.
What you knew and what you were able to do, once you had reached a
certain standard, became secondary in his interest to what you could be
made to know and what you could be taught to do. He was never content
that a man should stand upon his record; growth and development were the
chief aims of his discipline.
His method was well illustrated in my own case. One of his earliest
injunctions to me was that I should never introduce any subject of
conversation connected, in however remote a degree, with my travels or
with my studies in relation to the government of tropical dependencies.
When, for instance, he happened to need some information about India or
the West Indies, he always directed one of the other men to find it for
him. This arrangement had, from his standpoint, the double advantage of
making the other man learn something of which he was ignorant, and of
leaving me free to work at something of which I was ignorant. Thus J. P.
killed two intellectual birds with one stone.
It was not only in regard to mental accomplishments, however, that J. P.
pursued his plan of educating everybody around him. He insisted, among
other things, that I should learn to ride, not because there was any
lack of people who could ride with him, but because by means of
application I could add a new item to the list of things I could do.
After a dozen lessons from a groom I progressed so far that, having
acquired the ability to stay more or less in the saddle while the horse
trotted, Mr. Pulitzer frequently took me riding with him.
We always rode three abreast--a groom on J. P.'s right and myself on his
left; and conversation had to be kept up the whole time. This presented
no peculiar difficulties when the horses were walking, but when they
trotted I found it no easy task to keep my seat, to preserve the precise
distance from J. P. which saved me from touching his stirrup and yet
allowed me to speak without raising my voice, and to leave enough of my
mind unoccupied to remember my material and to present it without
betraying the discomfort of my position.
During these rides, and especially when we were walking our horses along
a quiet, shady stretch of road, J. P. sometimes became reminiscent. On
one of these occasions he told me the story of how he lost his sight. As
I wrote it down as soon as we got back to the house, I can tell it
almost in his own words.
We had been discussing the possibility of his writing an autobiography,
and he said, throwing his head back and smiling reflectively:
"Well, I sometimes wish it could be done. It would make an interesting
book; but I do not think I shall ever do it. My God! I work from morning
to night as it is. When would I get the time?" Then suddenly changing
his mood: "It won't do any harm for you to make a few notes now and
then, and some day, perhaps, we might go through them and see if there
is anything worth preserving. Has any one ever told you how I lost my
sight? No? Well, it was in November, 1887. The World had been conducting
a vigorous campaign against municipal corruption in New York--a campaign
which ended in the arrest of a financier who had bought the votes of
aldermen in order to get a street railroad franchise."
At this point he paused. His jaws set, and his expression became stern,
almost fierce, as he added: "The man died in jail of a broken heart, and
I .. and I ..." He took a deep breath and continued as though he were
reciting an experience which he had heard related of some stranger.
"I was, of course, violently attacked; and it was a period of terrible
strain for me. What with anxiety and overwork I began to suffer from
insomnia, and that soon produced a bad condition of my nerves. One
morning I went down to The World and called for the editorials which
were ready for me to go over. I always read every line of editorial
copy. When I picked up the sheets I was astonished to find that I could
hardly see the writing, let alone read it. I thought it was probably due
to indigestion or to some other temporary cause, and said nothing about
it. The next morning on my way downtown I called in at an oculist's. He
examined my eyes and then told me to go home and remain in bed in a
darkened room for six weeks. At the end of that time he examined me
again, said that I had ruptured a blood vessel in one of my eyes, and
ordered me to stop work entirely and to take six months' rest in
"That was the beginning of the end. Whatever my trouble had been at
first, it developed into separation of the retina in both eyes. From the
day on which I first consulted the oculist up to the present time, about
twenty-four years, I have only been three times in The World building.
Most people think I'm dead, or living in Europe in complete retirement.
Now go on and give me the morning's news. I've had practically nothing,
so you can just run over it briefly, item by item."
On another occasion he told me an amusing story of an experience he had
had out in Missouri just after the end of the Civil War. He had spent
some weeks riding from county-seat to county-seat securing registration
for a deed making title for a railroad. One evening he was nearly
drowned through his horse stumbling in the middle of a ford. When he
dragged himself up the bank on the other side, drenched to the skin and
worried by the prospect of having to catch his mount, which had started
off on a cross-country gallop, he saw an elderly farmer sitting on a
tree stump, and watching him with intense interest and perfect
This man put J. P. up for the night. They got along famously for a
while, but presently all was changed.
"The first thing he did," said J. P., "was to take me to the farmhouse
and hand me a tumbler three parts full of whisky. When I refused this he
looked at me as though he thought I was mad. 'Yer mean ter tell me yer
don't drink?' he said. (It was one of the rare occasions when I heard
Mr. Pulitzer try to imitate any one's peculiarities of speech.) When I
told him no, I didn't, he said nothing, but brought me food.
"After I had eaten he pulled out a plug of tobacco, bit off a large
piece, and offered the plug to me. I thanked him, but declined. It took
him some time to get over that, but at last he said: 'Yer mean ter tell
me yer don't chew?' I said no, I didn't. He dropped the subject, and for
an hour or so we talked about the war and the crops and the proposed
"That man was a gentleman. He didn't take another drink or another chew
of tobacco all that time. The only sign he gave of his embarrassment was
that every now and then during a pause in the conversation he fell to
shaking his head in a puzzled sort of way. Finally, before he went to
bed, he produced a pipe, filled it, and handed the tobacco to me; but I
failed him again, and he put his own pipe back in his pocket, firmly but
"Well, my God! it was nearly half an hour before he spoke again, and I
was beginning to think that I had really wounded his feelings by
declining his hospitable offers, when he came over and stood in front of
me and looked down on me with an expression of profound pity. I shall
never forget his words. 'Young feller,' he said, 'you seem to be right
smart and able for a furriner, but let me tell YOU, you'll never make a
successful American until yer learn to drink, and chew, and smoke.'"
Chatwold being within telephone distance of New York, J. P. was
constantly subjected to the temptation of ringing up The World in order
to discuss editorial or business matters. He yielded too often, and the
additional excitement and work incident to these conversations (which
were always carried on through a third person) were a severe strain on
his vitality. When he was absolutely worn out he would take refuge on
the yacht and steam out to sea for the purpose of enjoying a few days of
There is a matter which I may mention in connection with J. P.'s life on
the yacht which, trivial as it seems when told at this distance of time,
never failed to make a profound impression upon me. Of all the trying
moments which were inseparable from attendance upon a blind man with a
will of iron and a nervous system of gossamer, no moment was quite so
full of uneasiness as that in which J. P. used the gangway in boarding
or in leaving the yacht.
Take the case of his going ashore. The yacht lies at anchor in a gentle
swell; the launch comes up to the gangway; two or three men with boat-
hooks occupy themselves in trying to keep it steady. First over the side
goes Dunningham, backward, then Mr. Pulitzer facing forward, one hand on
the gang-rail, the other on Dunningham's shoulder; then an officer and
one of the secretaries, close behind J. P. and ready to clutch him if he
Dunningham reaches the grating at the foot of the gangway, then J. P.,
then there is a pause while the latter is placed in the exact position
where one step forward will carry him into the launch, where the officer
in charge is ready to receive him.
In the meantime the launch is bobbing up and down, its gunwale at one
instant level with the gangway-grating, at another, two or three feet
below it. At the precise moment when the launch is almost at the top of
its rise Dunningham says: "Now, step, please, Mr. Pulitzer." But J. P.
waits just long enough to allow the launch to drop a couple of feet, and
then suddenly makes up his mind and tries to step off onto nothing.
Dunningham, the officer and the secretary seize him as he cries: "My
God! What's the matter? You told me to step."
Then follows a long argument as to what Dunningham had meant precisely
when he said "Step!" This whole process might be repeated several times
before he actually found himself in the launch.
The whole thing inspired me with a morbid curiosity; and whenever J. P.
was going up or down the gangway I always found myself, in common, I may
add, with a considerable proportion of the ship's company, leaning over
the side watching this nerve-racking exhibition.
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