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Stead, W T

Entry updated 18 September 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1849-1912) UK editor (from 1871) and author; brother of F Herbert Stead. He edited Borderland, a journal dealing with psychic phenomena, during 1893-1897, and founded and edited The Review of Reviews in 1890. His contribution to The Rajah's Sapphire (1896) uncredited with M P Shiel may not extend further than supplying the plot to Shiel. He is perhaps most notorious for an article, "Maiden Tribute to Modern Babylon" (9 July 1885 The Pall Mall Gazette), which, perhaps pruriently, details the deflowering of a child prostitute, but which did have some effect in raising the age of consent. His sustained defences of women, including prostitutes, shaped his controversial four months in Chicago, Illinois, where he made highly unpopular speeches and attended the 1893 World's Fair, a visit prefigured in From the Old World to the New; Or, a Christmas Story of the World's Fair, 1893 (1892); his appearance at the Fair is not registered in Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day (2006), though he is mentioned elsewhere in the book. The summatory If Christ Came to Chicago!: A Plea for the Union of All Who Love in the Service of All Who Suffer (1894) fails to entirely escape unctuousness, but its depiction of a religious co-operative Utopia on socialist lines has points of interest. Blastus, the King's Chamberlain: Being the Review of Reviews Annual for 1896 (1895; vt Blastus the King's Chamberlain: A Political Romance 1898) is a tale of Near Future political intrigue, the second half of which is set in 1900. The Americanization of the World; Or, the Trend of the Twentieth Century (1902), a nonfiction exercise in Futures Studies, accurately prophesies America's supplanting of the British Empire as the twentieth century's dominant empery. The Despised Sex [see Checklist for subtitle] (1903) is constructed as a 1902 report sent – by a visitor to England – to Dione, the queen of Xanthia, a matriarchy in central Africa, for whom Britain is a kind of Lost World.

Stead is treated as being on the wrong side of history in Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love (performed 1997; 1997). Along with John Jacob Astor, Jacques Futrelle and F D Millet, he went down on the Titanic. [JC]

William Thomas Stead

born Embleton, Northumberland: 5 July 1849

died at sea, following the wreck of the Titanic: 15 April 1912

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