How to Survive the Titanic: The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay
Award-winning historian Frances Wilson delivers a gripping new account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, looking at the collision and its aftermath through the prism of the demolished life and lost honor of the ship’s owner, J. Bruce Ismay. In a unique work of history evocative of Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Lord Jim, Wilson raises provocative moral questions about cowardice and heroism, memory and identity, survival and guilt—questions that revolve around Ismay’s loss of honor and identity as his monolithic venture—a ship called “The Last Word in Luxury” and “The Unsinkable”—was swallowed by the sea and subsumed in infamy forever.
my pocket. According to Ismay, the reason he had put the Marconigram in his pocket was because he had it in my pocket. And you suggest that you put it in your pocket simply in a fit of absent-mindedness? Yes, entirely. And you still retained it in your pocket until it was asked for by Captain Smith late in the evening? Ten minutes past seven, I think it was, he asked me for it. That is to say, it had been in your possession for something like five hours? Yes, I should think so. (Ismay will have
holdings; passenger airlines crossing the Atlantic would soon be making steamships a thing of the past. Two years later White Star was bought by Lord Kylsant, chairman of the expanding Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. It was Kylsant, known as Lord of the Seven Seas, who finally sank the White Star Line; in 1931 he was found guilty of filing fraudulent financial reports, stripped of his title and sentenced to twelve months in Wormwood Scrubs. The government stepped in to save the company, forcing
an’ was still to the Birken’ead drill, soldier an’ sailor too.’ ‘An Ismay’, as journalists had noted of the family tendency, ‘never goes back’. For Bruce Ismay, keeping going was better than standing still;* advancing straight at the iceberg was better than trying to swerve around it; jumping into a lifeboat was better than remaining on the ship; pushing the wrong way on an oar was better than not rowing; returning to England was better than waiting around in New York; looking forward at the
implied, in ironical flashes, that though we hailed from different planets the same tastes animated us . . . there was a blend of caressing, almost feminine intimacy with masculine incisiveness’. When Marlow and Jim talk it becomes a sentimental education for them both: Jim’s story is less interesting than Marlow’s interest in Jim’s story; that Marlow is fascinated by Jim makes Marlow himself fascinating, and Jim’s words are rich because Marlow makes so much of them. More than any other writer,
here? All women should be off the boat.’ Having been told by an officer that there was ‘no immediate danger’ and that the Titanic’s sister, the Olympic, was on her way to pick up the remaining passengers, Edith Russell had been drifting calmly between the lounge and the boat deck cradling her ‘lucky pig’. Had Ismay not thrown her down the steps to A Deck, where she was shoved headfirst, in her hobble skirt and diamond-buckled slippers, through a porthole and into a lifeboat, she would doubtless