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- An Adventure With A Genius - 19/21 -
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 his judgment.
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 honest reasons.
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 read to.
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 the secretaries.
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 fifteen.
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
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