LORD NORTHCLIFFE, FIRST VISCOUNT (ALFRED CHARLES WILLIAM HARMSWORTH)
Born, 1865, in Dublin. Educ.: in Trade Schools; trained as a book-seller, and worked in the establishment of George Newnes; LL.D., Rochester Univ., U.S.A.; Proprietor of the London Times, Daily Mail, and a number of other journals; Cr. Bart. in 1904; Viscount, 1917; Chairman of the British War Mission to the United States, 1917; Director of the Aerial Transport Committee, 1917; Director of Propaganda in Enemy Countries, 1918.
[Illustration: LORD NORTHCLIFFE]
” ... We cannot say that they have a great nature, or strong, or weak, or light; it is a swift and imperious imagination which reigns with sovereign power over all their beings, which subjugates their genius, and which prescribes for them in turn those fine actions and those faults, those heights and those littlenesses, those flights of enthusiasm and those fits of disgust, which we are wrong in charging either with hypocrisy or madness."—VAUVENARGUES.
A great surgeon tells me he has no doubt that Carlyle suffered all his life from a duodenal ulcer. “One may speculate,” he says, “on the difference there would have been in his writings if he had undergone the operation which to-day is quite common.”
This remark occurs to me when I think about Lord Northcliffe.
There is something wrong with his health. For a season he is almost boyish in high spirits, not only a charming and a most considerate host, but a spirit animated by the kindliest, broadest, and cheerfullest sympathies. Then comes a period of darkness. He seems to imagine that he may go blind, declares that he cannot eat this and that, shuts himself up from his friends, and feels the whole burden of the world pressing on his soul.
It is impossible to judge him as one would judge a perfectly healthy man.
The most conspicuous thing in his character is its transilience. One is aware in him of an anacoluthic quality, as if his mind suddenly stopped leaping in one direction to begin jumping in a quite contrary direction. It cannot be said that his mind works in any direction. It is not a trained mind. It does not know how to think and cannot support the burden of trying to think. It springs at ideas and goes off with them in haste too great for reflection. He drops these ideas when he sees an excuse for another leap. Sequence to Lord Northcliffe is a synonym for monotony. He has no esprit de suite. But he has leaps of real genius. An admirable title for his biography would be, “The Fits and Starts of a Discontinuous Soul.” There is something of St. Vitus in his psychology. You might call him the Spring-Heeled Jack of Journalism.