On his return the successful explorer found himself famous. Princes and scientific societies vied with one another in honoring him. King Edward VII of England, who was then Prince of Wales, sent him his personal congratulations; Humbert, the king of Italy, sent him his portrait; the khedive of Egypt decorated him with the grand commandership of the Order of the Medjidie; the Geographical Societies of London, Paris, Italy, and Marseilles sent him their gold medals; while in Berlin, Vienna, and many other large European cities, he was elected an honorary member of their most learned and most distinguished associations.
What pleased the explorer most of all, though, was the honor paid him by America. “The government of the United States,” he says, “has crowned my success with its official approval, and the unanimous vote of thanks passed in both houses of the legislature has made me proud for life of the expedition and its achievements.”
Honored to-day as the greatest explorer of his age, and esteemed alike for his scholarship and the immense services he has rendered mankind, Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the once friendless orphan lad whose only home was a Welsh poorhouse, may well be proud of the career he has carved out for himself.
“I heard that a neighbor three miles off, had borrowed from a still more distant neighbor, a book of great interest. I started off, barefoot, in the snow, to obtain the treasure. There were spots of bare ground, upon which I would stop to warm my feet. And there were also, along the road, occasional lengths of log fence from which the snow had melted, and upon which it was a luxury to walk. The book was at home, and the good people consented, upon my promise that it should be neither torn nor soiled, to lend it to me. In returning with the prize, I was too happy to think of the snow on my naked feet.”
This little incident, related by Thurlow Weed himself, is a sample of the means by which he gained that knowledge and power which made him not only the “Nestor of American Journalists,” but rendered him famous in national affairs as the “American Warwick” or “The King Maker.”
There were no long happy years of schooling for this child of the “common people,” whose father was a struggling teamster and farmer; no prelude of careless, laughing childhood before the stern duties of life began.
Thurlow Weed was born at Catskill, Greene County, New York, in 1797, a period in the history of our republic when there were very few educational opportunities for the children of the poor. “I cannot ascertain,” he says, “how much schooling I got at Catskill, probably less than a year, certainly not a year and a half, and this was when I was not more than five or six years old.”
At an early age Thurlow learned to bend circumstances to his will and, ground by poverty, shut in by limitations as he was, even while contributing by his earning to the slender resources of the family, he gathered knowledge and pleasure where many would have found but thorns and bitterness.