Joseph Pulitzer and His World

By James Wyman Barrett
MR. BARRETT was a city editor of the World, and its last — an almost inconceivable adjective in this bearing on an institution that literate Americans not under forty think of to this day as World without end. Their thought is not mere sentimental nostalgia, either, or at least it need not be. Every surviving American newspaper that is good at all is better and knows that it is better because the history of our journalism includes what Joseph Pulitzer made of the World, which missed survival. It lasted, as a direct projection of his will and personality, for just under twenty years beyond his death; but those twenty years have their own projection in forms of liveliness, initiative, courage, and disinterestedness that are more widely expected of first-rate journalism today, and hence come more easily to it, by reason of what the World at its best achieved and was. This diffused and shadowy kind of immortality-onceremoved is not, to be sure, exactly what Joseph Pulitzer demanded tor his greatest creation, but who is to assert that his reconciliation to it would have been too grudging if his prescience had been as strong as his will?
This generously documented book tells the full story of the man, followed by the full story of the twenty years’ projection. There are painstakingly thorough, yet lively studies of the men other than Pulitzer who gave the World its special color — notably Herbert Bayard Swope and Frank Cobb. There is an equally thorough, unexpectedly testy portrait of Heywood Broun. Momentous passages record Pulitzer’s prolonged duel with Dana and the Sun, his direction in absentia of the defense against Theodore Roosevelt’s pet libel suit against the World in connection with the Panama revolution and the purchase of the Canal Zone, and, after Pulitzer’s death, the World’s fight for Woodrow Wilson. The greatest passage of all is probably the chronicle of Pulitzer’s fantastic, interminable, never really completed fight to make his written will perpetuate the requirements of his human will. The book resorts to some irritating Hearst-paper mannerisms in its thick-and-thin pursuit of vividness; there is, for example, a chronic excess of the historical or hysterical present tense. But the vividness is achieved, and achieved throughout.
W. F.