21 NOVEMBER 1914, Page 29

MR. McCLURE'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY.* WE are glad that Mr. McClure's autobiographical

reminis- cences, which originally appeared in his magazine, have been reprinted in book form. They are a plain and unvarnished record of a life of ceaseless effort, in which the goal of success was reached after some twenty-fiveyears of uninterrupted bodily and mental exertion and constant financial embarrassment, following on a childhood and youth from which privation was seldom absent.

Mr. McClure, who was born in Antrim fifty-seven years ago, came of that mixed Scoto-Hnguenot stock which has thrown up so many men of mark in the last two centuries. His father, a skilled carpenter, employed at Harland and Wolff's works and on the Clyde, died young of an accident at Greenock, leaving a widow and four young children. To his mother, a woman of undaunted courage and great energy, he owed much ; nor does he forget his debt to the Irish National School system or his earliest schoolmaster. Religious discussions were common in his home, for his parents, • Mu Autobiography. By S. S. McClure (Founder of McClure/ Magesino. With Innatrations, London; John Murray. [10a. 8d. nets1

Presbyterians originally, bad been submerged in a wave of Revivalism in 1859 :—

" We heard some discussion of the Civil War, too; but our notions about it wore vague. When Mr. Boyd, our schoolmaster, explained to us boys that the war was between the Northern and Southern States of North America, and not between North and South America, that was a great revelation to us. I can remember, when I was about eight years old, going into Patrick McKeever's country store one evening, and seeing a group of men standing close together in the dim candle-light, talking in an excited way. I listened, and heard them say that President Lincoln had been assassinated. I can remember the scene per- fectly—the people composing that group, their attitudes, and the expression on their faces. No piece of news from the outside world had ever moved me so much. It was the first of the world happenings, the first historical event, that had ever cast a shadow in my little world. Years afterward, when I was publishing Miss Tarbell's 'Life of Lincoln' in McCsuus's MAGAZINII, I interviewed a great many people, and I found that every one of them could remember minutely the circumstances under which he first heard of Lincoln's assassination : where he was, what be happened to be doing at the time, exactly how the news reached him. That day stood apart from other days in his life."

His childhood was spent in a small two-roomed stone house ; he was happy in his home, and happier at school, always expecting something pleasant to happen, until the sudden death of his father in 1866 prompted his mother to emigrate to Valparaiso, Indiana, where two of her married sisters were living. The years that followed their arrival at Valparaiso were years of acute poverty and unrelieved overwork. His mother, who worked the hardest of them all, remarried—her second husband being a kindly, but unsuccessful, farmer from Tyrone. At the age of eleven young McClure was doing a man's work on his stepfather's farm. When he went to the Valparaiso High School he kept himself by doing chores for a family, which involved rising at five every morning, lighting the fires, tending the cow and horses, and doing part of the marketing before school, working on the grounds in the afternoon, and helping with the washing every Monday. He had no over- coat : when it was cold he ran : " speed was my overcoat."

Between the ages of fourteen and sixteen he taught a country school, and was successively a printer's devil, a grocery clerk, a butcher, a road grader, and a workman in an iron foundry.

Fits of restlessness drove him occasionally out on the tramp, but thia seeming instability of purpose never interfered with his ruling passion—to get education. When his stepfather died he returned for a while to help his mother to run the farm, but, on the advice of an uncle, resolved to enter at Knox College,

Galesburg, where he arrived in home-made clothes with fifteen cents in his pocket. He was only seventeen, but full of self-

reliance, confident of being able to earn his keep, and "could only think about what a beautiful place this was, and that here I was going to learn Latin and Greek." The story of the next seven years is the most remarkable part of the book. For the first month he lived on grapes, bread, and soda crackers. Then he got a job as chore-boy to work for his board ; but for the rest of his time at Knox College he earned, whether as a farm baud or by teaching a country school—a task he tried three times with increasing distaste—but chiefly by peddling "notions," enough to keep him for the rest of the year. The curriculum at Knox College was mainly on the old-fashioned classical lines. There were no athletics or organized social activities. But three at least of the Professors, notably Professor Hurd, whose daughter Harriet Mr. McClure married after a patriarchal courtship of seven years, exerted a stimulating influence on the students. In 1876 he went to Ireland with his mother on a visit to their old home, but resolved to return to Galesburg in spite of her wish that he should settle in Ireland, and worked his passage back as cook's assistant to the officers' mess, reaching Galesburg with one dollar in his pocket. Starvation diet, overwork at his studies, and estrangement from Miss Hurd, whose father dis- couraged her suitor, brought him nearly to death's door. But some good Samaritans came to the rescue ; he learned how to live on eighteen cents a week, and his peddling campaigns, in which he covered thousands of miles on foot and in a waggon, restored his health and gave him a knowledge of the intellectual needs of the masses which he found of the greatest value as an editor. Of editing he had early experience in connexion with the Knox College magazine, and th ree of his associates subsequently entered into partnership with him, two of them for a large part of their lives.

Mr. McClure graduated with distinction in the class of '82,

and left the West for good that summer. What appeared to be a final estrangement from Miss Hurd drove him to Boston in a fit of despair. There he found employment first as manager of a bicycle rink—which he undertook before he knew how to ride a bicycle—then as editor of the Wheelman. In ]883 his constancy was rewarded, and, after starting married life at Cambridge, he soon migrated to New York. There he found work for a while with the De Vinne Printing Press and the Century Company, but soon started his long-cherished plan of syndicating stories in newspapers. He was utterly without resources when he launched it, but he had confidence in his scheme and a devoted helpmate in his wife. For years it was an uphill fight, with a balance-sheet that always showed a heavy deficit. But he was fortunate in his authors, and his old school friend Phillips, who joined him as a partner, brought a business aptitude which Mr. McClure declares he never possessed. We have not room to continue in detail the strange ups and downs of his enterprise, but may notice that he was twice rescued from grave embarrassment by the generous assistance of English authors, and that the turning-point in the fortunes of his magazine was the publication of Miss Tarbell's Life of Lincoln. There are many points on which we should have liked to dwell : such, for example, as Mr. McClure's views of editing and his test of authors—that the best of them had least to fear from condensation ; his pleasant relations with R. L. Stevenson, to whose modesty, kindliness, and inde- pendence he pays a fine tribute ; his frank comments on the jealousy of Stevenson's friends ; and his cordial acknowledg. ment of the assistance that he received throughout his career from his employers and clients. But our space is already filled, and we must content ourselves by cordially recom- mending to our readers these genial reminiscences of one whose adventures are supposed to have suggested the character of Pinkerton in The Wrecker, and adding that the impression we gain of the writer is so pleasant as to induce us to forgive him for having attempted to dissuade Stevenson from acknow- ledging his share in The Wrong Box.