Page, journalist and diplomat was born at Cary, North Carolina of pioneer
farming stock. In 1871 he entered Trinity College, North Carolina (now Duke
University), but he transferred in 1873 to Randolph-Macon College, Ashland,
Virginia. At Randolph, Page came into contact with Thomas Randolph Price who
aroused a love of England and English literature. In 1876, Page became a fellow
at John Hopkins University, but had decided by 1878 that he did not want to
devote his life to Greek classicism and left university.
Page chose journalism as his profession and
in 1880 became a "cub" reporter on the St Joseph Gazette, Montana.
Within five months he was editor of the paper. By 1881he was on the move again,
this time to travel throughout the South and write about the economic and social
problems he encountered. With his unique style of writing he was soon offered a
roving commission on the New York World. He became an editor writer and
literary critic but resigned when John Pulitzer took over the World in
1883. He returned to the South and took over the Raleigh State Chronicle,
in his home state of North Carolina.
During his time in Raleigh he plunged himself
into numerous campaigns for the improvement of the South, which had suffered
greatly after the War for Southern Independence.
He was an advocate of decent education facilities for whites and blacks,
the promotion of local industries and the construction of better roads. Although
sound in his reforms he did stir considerable hostility in his fellow
Southerners and was not able to make a success of his newspaper. In 1887, after
the collapse of the Chronicle, he returned to New York and joined the
business staff of Forum, which was not a particularly lively or
successful monthly review. Within a number of years his enthusiasm and hard work
had changed the publication for the better and had become one of the most
entertaining and influential reviews in America.
The success of Forum brought Page a
good reputation and he went on to take over the editorial post at the Atlantic
Monthly and by 1899 had become a partner in the newly founded publishing
house Doubleday, Page and Company. The following year he founded the World's
Work, a magazine devoted to politics and practical affairs and probably
Page's most important contribution to American journalism. Page was resourceful
and ingenious and managed to achieve a great deal from his writers " He
made a friend of almost every contributor and a contributor out of almost every
friend". (Outlook, June 27, 1928)
Page was a humorous and sociable man, who had
many friends including Woodrow Wilson whom he supported for the presidency.
Wilson repaid his friendship by offering him the post of Ambassador to Great
Britain, which he accepted gladly in 1913. With his life long devotion to
Anglo-American relations and cultivation of British culture, he was dearly loved
by the British. He also worked harmoniously to iron out any friction that had
built up between Britain and the United States, especially after the Panama and
Mexican toll questions.
When the First World War broke out in 1914,
Wilson and Page gradually drifted apart owing to their different standpoints on
the war. Wilson stuck solidly to neutrality in thought and action, but Page
thought that the war was an assault on democratic civilization by Prussian
militarism and that the United States should support the Allies. Throughout the
neutrality period Page expressed himself with frankness in letters to Wilson and
the House and constantly pleaded for a close Anglo-American accord, but his
views were discounted as being pro British. It can not be disputed that Page was
devoted to his own country, its democracy and people, but when the United States
finally entered the war in 1917 he rejoiced. He was particularly pleased that
Wilson's war message took the same ground that he had taken earlier. He urged
the immediate dispatch of fleets to aid the Allies followed by a large and
powerful army. The strain of the work soon took its toll and by 1918 he was
gravely ill and had to resign. He returned to the United States and died just
two months later in Pinehurst, North Carolina, leaving a widow, Willa Alice,
three sons and a daughter.
His journalistic writing would fill many volumes and he wrote three books The Re-building of old Commonwealths (1902), A publishers confession (1905) and The Southerner (1909). However it is his letters, so rich in literary and human quality and so full of whimsical humour, that will stand as Page's most enduring contribution to American literature.