Skip to main content

Stead, William T.

(1849-1912). Journalist and editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and The Review of Reviews, two prestigious English journals. Stead was born in Embleton, Northumberland, England on July 5, 1849, the son of a Congregational minister, the Rev. William Stead and his wife, Isabella Dobson. He began his career in journalism with The Northern Echo, published in Darlington, Northumberland (1871-80) and soon attracted favorable attention which resulted in his appointment as assistant editor and editorial director of the Pall Mall Gazette in London (1880-90).

He is of interest to theosophists because of his association with Helena P. BLAVATSKY and Annie BESANT. Stead joined with Besant in establishing the Law and Liberty League in defense of civil liberties and to assist victims of police brutality. Blavatsky, who sent a review copy of her The Secret Doctrine to him, wrote in her covering letter to the effect that she believed Stead held her in small estimation. Stead replied:

You are a very great woman and I do not think that anyone but yourself (either man or woman) could have written The Secret Doctrine, nor do I feel competent, from the depths of my ignorance, even to express an opinion upon its extraordinary contents — but I think that so learned and so gifted a lady should not bear false witness against her neighbor even when that neighbor is such a far away little person as myself. You say you know I hold you in small estimation. Believe me when I say that therein you calumniate me. I do not profess to understand you, for you inhabit space of more dimensions than I can even conceive, but I am not so great a fool as to be unable to see that you have a genius quite transcendent and an extraordinary aptitude for both literature and propagandism, which the rest of your fellow-creatures may well envy. I have to thank you very much for your book. I have read only your preface and the chapter on Keely, in whose discoveries I am much interested, but I promise myself the pleasure of reading much more as time goes on. Thank you much for the promise of your second volume. (Quoted in H.P.B., S. Cranston, 1993, p. 413)

In the Spring of 1889 Stead asked Besant to review the (S.D.) and she was so impressed by it that she asked to meet the author. They met that year and Besant, as a result, joined the Theosophical Society (TS). Stead kept in touch with Blavatsky and in the February-July 1991 issue of The Review of Reviews wrote an excellent obituary for her.

Stead drowned at sea July 5, 1912, a victim of the sinking of the ocean liner, the Titanic, which struck an iceberg in the Atlantic.


© Copyright by the Theosophical Publishing House, Manila