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.