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The Titanic


It is with a certain bitterness that one must admit to oneself that the
late _S.S. Titanic_ had a "good press." It is perhaps because I have no
great practice of daily newspapers (I have never seen so many of them
together lying about my room) that the white spaces and the big lettering
of the headlines have an incongruously festive air to my eyes, a
disagreeable effect of a feverish exploitation of a sensational God-send.
And if ever a loss at sea fell under the definition, in the terms of a
bill of lading, of Act of God, this one does, in its magnitude,
suddenness and severity; and in the chastening influence it should have
on the self-confidence of mankind.

I say this with all the seriousness the occasion demands, though I have
neither the competence nor the wish to take a theological view of this
great misfortune, sending so many souls to their last account. It is but
a natural _reflection_. Another one flowing also from the phraseology of
bills of lading (a bill of lading is a shipping document limiting in
certain of its clauses the liability of the carrier) is that the "King's
Enemies" of a more or less overt sort are not altogether sorry that this
fatal mishap should strike the prestige of the greatest Merchant Service
of the world. I believe that not a thousand miles from these shores
certain public prints have betrayed in gothic letters their
satisfaction--to speak plainly--by rather ill-natured comments.

In what light one is to look at the action of the American Senate is more
difficult to say. From a certain point of view the sight of the august
senators of a great Power rushing to New York and beginning to bully and
badger the luckless "Yamsi"--on the very quay-side so to speak--seems to
furnish the Shakespearian touch of the comic to the real tragedy of the
fatuous drowning of all these people who to the last moment put their
trust in mere bigness, in the reckless affirmations of commercial men and
mere technicians and in the irresponsible paragraphs of the newspapers
booming these ships! Yes, a grim touch of comedy. One asks oneself what
these men are after, with this very provincial display of authority. I
beg my friends in the United States pardon for calling these zealous
senators men. I don't wish to be disrespectful. They may be of the
stature of demi-gods for all I know, but at that great distance from the
shores of effete Europe and in the presence of so many guileless dead,
their size seems diminished from this side. What are they after? What
is there for them to find out? We know what had happened. The ship
scraped her side against a piece of ice, and sank after floating for two
hours and a half, taking a lot of people down with her. What more can
they find out from the unfair badgering of the unhappy "Yamsi," or the
ruffianly abuse of the same.

"Yamsi," I should explain, is a mere code address, and I use it here
symbolically. I have seen commerce pretty close. I know what it is
worth, and I have no particular regard for commercial magnates, but one
must protest against these Bumble-like proceedings. Is it indignation at
the loss of so many lives which is at work here? Well, the American
railroads kill very many people during one single year, I dare say. Then
why don't these dignitaries come down on the presidents of their own
railroads, of which one can't say whether they are mere means of
transportation or a sort of gambling game for the use of American
plutocrats. Is it only an ardent and, upon the whole, praiseworthy
desire for information? But the reports of the inquiry tell us that the
august senators, though raising a lot of questions testifying to the
complete innocence and even blankness of their minds, are unable to
understand what the second officer is saying to them. We are so informed
by the press from the other side. Even such a simple expression as that
one of the look-out men was stationed in the "eyes of the ship" was too
much for the senators of the land of graphic expression. What it must
have been in the more recondite matters I won't even try to think,
because I have no mind for smiles just now. They were greatly exercised
about the sound of explosions heard when half the ship was under water
already. Was there one? Were there two? They seemed to be smelling a
rat there! Has not some charitable soul told them (what even schoolboys
who read sea stories know) that when a ship sinks from a leak like this,
a deck or two is always blown up; and that when a steamship goes down by
the head, the boilers may, and often do break adrift with a sound which
resembles the sound of an explosion? And they may, indeed, explode, for
all I know. In the only case I have seen of a steamship sinking there
was such a sound, but I didn't dive down after her to investigate. She
was not of 45,000 tons and declared unsinkable, but the sight was
impressive enough. I shall never forget the muffled, mysterious
detonation, the sudden agitation of the sea round the slowly raised
stern, and to this day I have in my eye the propeller, seen perfectly
still in its frame against a clear evening sky.

But perhaps the second officer has explained to them by this time this
and a few other little facts. Though why an officer of the British
merchant service should answer the questions of any king, emperor,
autocrat, or senator of any foreign power (as to an event in which a
British ship alone was concerned, and which did not even take place in
the territorial waters of that power) passes my understanding. The only
authority he is bound to answer is the Board of Trade. But with what
face the Board of Trade, which, having made the regulations for 10,000
ton ships, put its dear old bald head under its wing for ten years, took
it out only to shelve an important report, and with a dreary murmur,
"Unsinkable," put it back again, in the hope of not being disturbed for
another ten years, with what face it will be putting questions to that
man who has done his duty, as to the facts of this disaster and as to his
professional conduct in it--well, I don't know! I have the greatest
respect for our established authorities. I am a disciplined man, and I
have a natural indulgence for the weaknesses of human institutions; but I
will own that at times I have regretted their--how shall I say it?--their
imponderability. A Board of Trade--what is it? A Board of . . . I
believe the Speaker of the Irish Parliament is one of the members of it.
A ghost. Less than that; as yet a mere memory. An office with adequate
and no doubt comfortable furniture and a lot of perfectly irresponsible
gentlemen who exist packed in its equable atmosphere softly, as if in a
lot of cotton-wool, and with no care in the world; for there can be no
care without personal responsibility--such, for instance, as the seamen
have--those seamen from whose mouths this irresponsible institution can
take away the bread--as a disciplinary measure. Yes--it's all that. And
what more? The name of a politician--a party man! Less than nothing; a
mere void without as much as a shadow of responsibility cast into it from
that light in which move the masses of men who work, who deal in things
and face the realities--not the words--of this life.

Years ago I remember overhearing two genuine shellbacks of the old type
commenting on a ship's officer, who, if not exactly incompetent, did not
commend himself to their severe judgment of accomplished sailor-men. Said
one, resuming and concluding the discussion in a funnily judicial tone:

"The Board of Trade must have been drunk when they gave him his

I confess that this notion of the Board of Trade as an entity having a
brain which could be overcome by the fumes of strong liquor charmed me
exceedingly. For then it would have been unlike the limited companies of
which some exasperated wit has once said that they had no souls to be
saved and no bodies to be kicked, and thus were free in this world and
the next from all the effective sanctions of conscientious conduct. But,
unfortunately, the picturesque pronouncement overheard by me was only a
characteristic sally of an annoyed sailor. The Board of Trade is
composed of bloodless departments. It has no limbs and no physiognomy,
or else at the forthcoming inquiry it might have paid to the victims of
the _Titanic_ disaster the small tribute of a blush. I ask myself
whether the Marine Department of the Board of Trade did really believe,
when they decided to shelve the report on equipment for a time, that a
ship of 45,000 tons, that _any_ ship, could be made practically
indestructible by means of water-tight bulkheads? It seems incredible to
anybody who had ever reflected upon the properties of material, such as
wood or steel. You can't, let builders say what they like, make a ship
of such dimensions as strong proportionately as a much smaller one. The
shocks our old whalers had to stand amongst the heavy floes in Baffin's
Bay were perfectly staggering, notwithstanding the most skilful handling,
and yet they lasted for years. The _Titanic_, if one may believe the
last reports, has only scraped against a piece of ice which, I suspect,
was not an enormously bulky and comparatively easily seen berg, but the
low edge of a floe--and sank. Leisurely enough, God knows--and here the
advantage of bulkheads comes in--for time is a great friend, a good
helper--though in this lamentable case these bulkheads served only to
prolong the agony of the passengers who could not be saved. But she
sank, causing, apart from the sorrow and the pity of the loss of so many
lives, a sort of surprised consternation that such a thing should have
happened at all. Why? You build a 45,000 tons hotel of thin steel
plates to secure the patronage of, say, a couple of thousand rich people
(for if it had been for the emigrant trade alone, there would have been
no such exaggeration of mere size), you decorate it in the style of the
Pharaohs or in the Louis Quinze style--I don't know which--and to please
the aforesaid fatuous handful of individuals, who have more money than
they know what to do with, and to the applause of two continents, you
launch that mass with two thousand people on board at twenty-one knots
across the sea--a perfect exhibition of the modern blind trust in mere
material and appliances. And then this happens. General uproar. The
blind trust in material and appliances has received a terrible shock. I
will say nothing of the credulity which accepts any statement which
specialists, technicians and office-people are pleased to make, whether
for purposes of gain or glory. You stand there astonished and hurt in
your profoundest sensibilities. But what else under the circumstances
could you expect?

For my part I could much sooner believe in an unsinkable ship of 3,000
tons than in one of 40,000 tons. It is one of those things that stand to
reason. You can't increase the thickness of scantling and plates
indefinitely. And the mere weight of this bigness is an added
disadvantage. In reading the reports, the first reflection which occurs
to one is that, if that luckless ship had been a couple of hundred feet
shorter, she would have probably gone clear of the danger. But then,
perhaps, she could not have had a swimming bath and a French cafe. That,
of course, is a serious consideration. I am well aware that those
responsible for her short and fatal existence ask us in desolate accents
to believe that if she had hit end on she would have survived. Which, by
a sort of coy implication, seems to mean that it was all the fault of the
officer of the watch (he is dead now) for trying to avoid the obstacle.
We shall have presently, in deference to commercial and industrial
interests, a new kind of seamanship. A very new and "progressive" kind.
If you see anything in the way, by no means try to avoid it; smash at it
full tilt. And then--and then only you shall see the triumph of
material, of clever contrivances, of the whole box of engineering tricks
in fact, and cover with glory a commercial concern of the most
unmitigated sort, a great Trust, and a great ship-building yard, justly
famed for the super-excellence of its material and workmanship.
Unsinkable! See? I told you she was unsinkable, if only handled in
accordance with the new seamanship. Everything's in that. And,
doubtless, the Board of Trade, if properly approached, would consent to
give the needed instructions to its examiners of Masters and Mates.
Behold the examination-room of the future. Enter to the grizzled
examiner a young man of modest aspect: "Are you well up in modern
seamanship?" "I hope so, sir." "H'm, let's see. You are at night on
the bridge in charge of a 150,000 tons ship, with a motor track, organ-
loft, etc., etc., with a full cargo of passengers, a full crew of 1,500
cafe waiters, two sailors and a boy, three collapsible boats as per Board
of Trade regulations, and going at your three-quarter speed of, say,
about forty knots. You perceive suddenly right ahead, and close to,
something that looks like a large ice-floe. What would you do?" "Put
the helm amidships." "Very well. Why?" "In order to hit end on." "On
what grounds should you endeavour to hit end on?" "Because we are taught
by our builders and masters that the heavier the smash, the smaller the
damage, and because the requirements of material should be attended to."

And so on and so on. The new seamanship: when in doubt try to ram
fairly--whatever's before you. Very simple. If only the _Titanic_ had
rammed that piece of ice (which was not a monstrous berg) fairly, every
puffing paragraph would have been vindicated in the eyes of the credulous
public which pays. But would it have been? Well, I doubt it. I am well
aware that in the eighties the steamship Arizona, one of the "greyhounds
of the ocean" in the jargon of that day, did run bows on against a very
unmistakable iceberg, and managed to get into port on her collision
bulkhead. But the _Arizona_ was not, if I remember rightly, 5,000 tons
register, let alone 45,000, and she was not going at twenty knots per
hour. I can't be perfectly certain at this distance of time, but her sea-
speed could not have been more than fourteen at the outside. Both these
facts made for safety. And, even if she had been engined to go twenty
knots, there would not have been behind that speed the enormous mass, so
difficult to check in its impetus, the terrific weight of which is bound
to do damage to itself or others at the slightest contact.

I assure you it is not for the vain pleasure of talking about my own poor
experiences, but only to illustrate my point, that I will relate here a
very unsensational little incident I witnessed now rather more than
twenty years ago in Sydney, N.S.W. Ships were beginning then to grow
bigger year after year, though, of course, the present dimensions were
not even dreamt of. I was standing on the Circular Quay with a Sydney
pilot watching a big mail steamship of one of our best-known companies
being brought alongside. We admired her lines, her noble appearance, and
were impressed by her size as well, though her length, I imagine, was
hardly half that of the _Titanic_.

She came into the Cove (as that part of the harbour is called), of course
very slowly, and at some hundred feet or so short of the quay she lost
her way. That quay was then a wooden one, a fine structure of mighty
piles and stringers bearing a roadway--a thing of great strength. The
ship, as I have said before, stopped moving when some hundred feet from
it. Then her engines were rung on slow ahead, and immediately rung off
again. The propeller made just about five turns, I should say. She
began to move, stealing on, so to speak, without a ripple; coming
alongside with the utmost gentleness. I went on looking her over, very
much interested, but the man with me, the pilot, muttered under his
breath: "Too much, too much." His exercised judgment had warned him of
what I did not even suspect. But I believe that neither of us was
exactly prepared for what happened. There was a faint concussion of the
ground under our feet, a groaning of piles, a snapping of great iron
bolts, and with a sound of ripping and splintering, as when a tree is
blown down by the wind, a great strong piece of wood, a baulk of squared
timber, was displaced several feet as if by enchantment. I looked at my
companion in amazement. "I could not have believed it," I declared.
"No," he said. "You would not have thought she would have cracked an

I certainly wouldn't have thought that. He shook his head, and added:
"Ah! These great, big things, they want some handling."

Some months afterwards I was back in Sydney. The same pilot brought me
in from sea. And I found the same steamship, or else another as like her
as two peas, lying at anchor not far from us. The pilot told me she had
arrived the day before, and that he was to take her alongside to-morrow.
I reminded him jocularly of the damage to the quay. "Oh!" he said, "we
are not allowed now to bring them in under their own steam. We are using

A very wise regulation. And this is my point--that size is to a certain
extent an element of weakness. The bigger the ship, the more delicately
she must be handled. Here is a contact which, in the pilot's own words,
you wouldn't think could have cracked an egg; with the astonishing result
of something like eighty feet of good strong wooden quay shaken loose,
iron bolts snapped, a baulk of stout timber splintered. Now, suppose
that quay had been of granite (as surely it is now)--or, instead of the
quay, if there had been, say, a North Atlantic fog there, with a full-
grown iceberg in it awaiting the gentle contact of a ship groping its way
along blindfold? Something would have been hurt, but it would not have
been the iceberg.

Apparently, there is a point in development when it ceases to be a true
progress--in trade, in games, in the marvellous handiwork of men, and
even in their demands and desires and aspirations of the moral and mental
kind. There is a point when progress, to remain a real advance, must
change slightly the direction of its line. But this is a wide question.
What I wanted to point out here is--that the old _Arizona_, the marvel of
her day, was proportionately stronger, handier, better equipped, than
this triumph of modern naval architecture, the loss of which, in common
parlance, will remain the sensation of this year. The clatter of the
presses has been worthy of the tonnage, of the preliminary paeans of
triumph round that vanished hull, of the reckless statements, and
elaborate descriptions of its ornate splendour. A great babble of news
(and what sort of news too, good heavens!) and eager comment has arisen
around this catastrophe, though it seems to me that a less strident note
would have been more becoming in the presence of so many victims left
struggling on the sea, of lives miserably thrown away for nothing, or
worse than nothing: for false standards of achievement, to satisfy a
vulgar demand of a few moneyed people for a banal hotel luxury--the only
one they can understand--and because the big ship pays, in one way or
another: in money or in advertising value.

It is in more ways than one a very ugly business, and a mere scrape along
the ship's side, so slight that, if reports are to be believed, it did
not interrupt a card party in the gorgeously fitted (but in chaste style)
smoking-room--or was it in the delightful French cafe?--is enough to
bring on the exposure. All the people on board existed under a sense of
false security. How false, it has been sufficiently demonstrated. And
the fact which seems undoubted, that some of them actually were reluctant
to enter the boats when told to do so, shows the strength of that
falsehood. Incidentally, it shows also the sort of discipline on board
these ships, the sort of hold kept on the passengers in the face of the
unforgiving sea. These people seemed to imagine it an optional matter:
whereas the order to leave the ship should be an order of the sternest
character, to be obeyed unquestioningly and promptly by every one on
board, with men to enforce it at once, and to carry it out methodically
and swiftly. And it is no use to say it cannot be done, for it can. It
has been done. The only requisite is manageableness of the ship herself
and of the numbers she carries on board. That is the great thing which
makes for safety. A commander should be able to hold his ship and
everything on board of her in the hollow of his hand, as it were. But
with the modern foolish trust in material, and with those floating
hotels, this has become impossible. A man may do his best, but he cannot
succeed in a task which from greed, or more likely from sheer stupidity,
has been made too great for anybody's strength.

The readers of _The English Review_, who cast a friendly eye nearly six
years ago on my Reminiscences, and know how much the merchant service,
ships and men, has been to me, will understand my indignation that those
men of whom (speaking in no sentimental phrase, but in the very truth of
feeling) I can't even now think otherwise than as brothers, have been put
by their commercial employers in the impossibility to perform efficiently
their plain duty; and this from motives which I shall not enumerate here,
but whose intrinsic unworthiness is plainly revealed by the greatness,
the miserable greatness, of that disaster. Some of them have perished.
To die for commerce is hard enough, but to go under that sea we have been
trained to combat, with a sense of failure in the supreme duty of one's
calling is indeed a bitter fate. Thus they are gone, and the
responsibility remains with the living who will have no difficulty in
replacing them by others, just as good, at the same wages. It was their
bitter fate. But I, who can look at some arduous years when their duty
was my duty too, and their feelings were my feelings, can remember some
of us who once upon a time were more fortunate.

It is of them that I would talk a little, for my own comfort partly, and
also because I am sticking all the time to my subject to illustrate my
point, the point of manageableness which I have raised just now. Since
the memory of the lucky _Arizona_ has been evoked by others than myself,
and made use of by me for my own purpose, let me call up the ghost of
another ship of that distant day whose less lucky destiny inculcates
another lesson making for my argument. The _Douro_, a ship belonging to
the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, was rather less than one-tenth the
measurement of the _Titanic_. Yet, strange as it may appear to the
ineffable hotel exquisites who form the bulk of the first-class Cross-
Atlantic Passengers, people of position and wealth and refinement did not
consider it an intolerable hardship to travel in her, even all the way
from South America; this being the service she was engaged upon. Of her
speed I know nothing, but it must have been the average of the period,
and the decorations of her saloons were, I dare say, quite up to the
mark; but I doubt if her birth had been boastfully paragraphed all round
the Press, because that was not the fashion of the time. She was not a
mass of material gorgeously furnished and upholstered. She was a ship.
And she was not, in the apt words of an article by Commander C.
Crutchley, R.N.R., which I have just read, "run by a sort of hotel
syndicate composed of the Chief Engineer, the Purser, and the Captain,"
as these monstrous Atlantic ferries are. She was really commanded,
manned, and equipped as a ship meant to keep the sea: a ship first and
last in the fullest meaning of the term, as the fact I am going to relate
will show.

She was off the Spanish coast, homeward bound, and fairly full, just like
the _Titanic_; and further, the proportion of her crew to her passengers,
I remember quite well, was very much the same. The exact number of souls
on board I have forgotten. It might have been nearly three hundred,
certainly not more. The night was moonlit, but hazy, the weather fine
with a heavy swell running from the westward, which means that she must
have been rolling a great deal, and in that respect the conditions for
her were worse than in the case of the _Titanic_. Some time either just
before or just after midnight, to the best of my recollection, she was
run into amidships and at right angles by a large steamer which after the
blow backed out, and, herself apparently damaged, remained motionless at
some distance.

My recollection is that the _Douro_ remained afloat after the collision
for fifteen minutes or thereabouts. It might have been twenty, but
certainly something under the half-hour. In that time the boats were
lowered, all the passengers put into them, and the lot shoved off. There
was no time to do anything more. All the crew of the _Douro_ went down
with her, literally without a murmur. When she went she plunged bodily
down like a stone. The only members of the ship's company who survived
were the third officer, who was from the first ordered to take charge of
the boats, and the seamen told off to man them, two in each. Nobody else
was picked up. A quartermaster, one of the saved in the way of duty,
with whom I talked a month or so afterwards, told me that they pulled up
to the spot, but could neither see a head nor hear the faintest cry.

But I have forgotten. A passenger was drowned. She was a lady's maid
who, frenzied with terror, refused to leave the ship. One of the boats
waited near by till the chief officer, finding himself absolutely unable
to tear the girl away from the rail to which she dung with a frantic
grasp, ordered the boat away out of danger. My quartermaster told me
that he spoke over to them in his ordinary voice, and this was the last
sound heard before the ship sank.

The rest is silence. I daresay there was the usual official inquiry, but
who cared for it? That sort of thing speaks for itself with no uncertain
voice; though the papers, I remember, gave the event no space to speak
of: no large headlines--no headlines at all. You see it was not the
fashion at the time. A seaman-like piece of work, of which one cherishes
the old memory at this juncture more than ever before. She was a ship
commanded, manned, equipped--not a sort of marine Ritz, proclaimed
unsinkable and sent adrift with its casual population upon the sea,
without enough boats, without enough seamen (but with a Parisian cafe and
four hundred of poor devils of waiters) to meet dangers which, let the
engineers say what they like, lurk always amongst the waves; sent with a
blind trust in mere material, light-heartedly, to a most miserable, most
fatuous disaster.

And there are, too, many ugly developments about this tragedy. The rush
of the senatorial inquiry before the poor wretches escaped from the jaws
of death had time to draw breath, the vituperative abuse of a man no more
guilty than others in this matter, and the suspicion of this aimless fuss
being a political move to get home on the M.T. Company, into which, in
common parlance, the United States Government has got its knife, I don't
pretend to understand why, though with the rest of the world I am aware
of the fact. Perhaps there may be an excellent and worthy reason for it;
but I venture to suggest that to take advantage of so many pitiful
corpses, is not pretty. And the exploiting of the mere sensation on the
other side is not pretty in its wealth of heartless inventions. Neither
is the welter of Marconi lies which has not been sent vibrating without
some reason, for which it would be nauseous to inquire too closely. And
the calumnious, baseless, gratuitous, circumstantial lie charging poor
Captain Smith with desertion of his post by means of suicide is the
vilest and most ugly thing of all in this outburst of journalistic
enterprise, without feeling, without honour, without decency.

But all this has its moral. And that other sinking which I have related
here and to the memory of which a seaman turns with relief and
thankfulness has its moral too. Yes, material may fail, and men, too,
may fail sometimes; but more often men, when they are given the chance,
will prove themselves truer than steel, that wonderful thin steel from
which the sides and the bulkheads of our modern sea-leviathans are made.


I have been taken to task by a friend of mine on the "other side" for my
strictures on Senator Smith's investigation into the loss of the
_Titanic_, in the number of _The English Review_ for May, 1912. I will
admit that the motives of the investigation may have been excellent, and
probably were; my criticism bore mainly on matters of form and also on
the point of efficiency. In that respect I have nothing to retract. The
Senators of the Commission had absolutely no knowledge and no practice to
guide them in the conduct of such an investigation; and this fact gave an
air of unreality to their zealous exertions. I think that even in the
United States there is some regret that this zeal of theirs was not
tempered by a large dose of wisdom. It is fitting that people who rush
with such ardour to the work of putting questions to men yet gasping from
a narrow escape should have, I wouldn't say a tincture of technical
information, but enough knowledge of the subject to direct the trend of
their inquiry. The newspapers of two continents have noted the remarks
of the President of the Senatorial Commission with comments which I will
not reproduce here, having a scant respect for the "organs of public
opinion," as they fondly believe themselves to be. The absolute value of
their remarks was about as great as the value of the investigation they
either mocked at or extolled. To the United States Senate I did not
intend to be disrespectful. I have for that body, of which one hears
mostly in connection with tariffs, as much reverence as the best of
Americans. To manifest more or less would be an impertinence in a
stranger. I have expressed myself with less reserve on our Board of
Trade. That was done under the influence of warm feelings. We were all
feeling warmly on the matter at that time. But, at any rate, our Board
of Trade Inquiry, conducted by an experienced President, discovered a
very interesting fact on the very second day of its sitting: the fact
that the water-tight doors in the bulkheads of that wonder of naval
architecture could be opened down below by any irresponsible person. Thus
the famous closing apparatus on the bridge, paraded as a device of
greater safety, with its attachments of warning bells, coloured lights,
and all these pretty-pretties, was, in the case of this ship, little
better than a technical farce.

It is amusing, if anything connected with this stupid catastrophe can be
amusing, to see the secretly crestfallen attitude of technicians. They
are the high priests of the modern cult of perfected material and of
mechanical appliances, and would fain forbid the profane from inquiring
into its mysteries. We are the masters of progress, they say, and you
should remain respectfully silent. And they take refuge behind their
mathematics. I have the greatest regard for mathematics as an exercise
of mind. It is the only manner of thinking which approaches the Divine.
But mere calculations, of which these men make so much, when unassisted
by imagination and when they have gained mastery over common sense, are
the most deceptive exercises of intellect. Two and two are four, and two
are six. That is immutable; you may trust your soul to that; but you
must be certain first of your quantities. I know how the strength of
materials can be calculated away, and also the evidence of one's senses.
For it is by some sort of calculation involving weights and levels that
the technicians responsible for the _Titanic_ persuaded themselves that a
ship _not divided_ by water-tight compartments could be "unsinkable."
Because, you know, she was not divided. You and I, and our little boys,
when we want to divide, say, a box, take care to procure a piece of wood
which will reach from the bottom to the lid. We know that if it does not
reach all the way up, the box will not be divided into two compartments.
It will be only partly divided. The _Titanic_ was only partly divided.
She was just sufficiently divided to drown some poor devils like rats in
a trap. It is probable that they would have perished in any case, but it
is a particularly horrible fate to die boxed up like this. Yes, she was
sufficiently divided for that, but not sufficiently divided to prevent
the water flowing over.

Therefore to a plain man who knows something of mathematics but is not
bemused by calculations, she was, from the point of view of
"unsinkability," not divided at all. What would you say of people who
would boast of a fireproof building, an hotel, for instance, saying, "Oh,
we have it divided by fireproof bulkheads which would localise any
outbreak," and if you were to discover on closer inspection that these
bulkheads closed no more than two-thirds of the openings they were meant
to close, leaving above an open space through which draught, smoke, and
fire could rush from one end of the building to the other? And,
furthermore, that those partitions, being too high to climb over, the
people confined in each menaced compartment had to stay there and become
asphyxiated or roasted, because no exits to the outside, say to the roof,
had been provided! What would you think of the intelligence or candour
of these advertising people? What would you think of them? And yet,
apart from the obvious difference in the action of fire and water, the
cases are essentially the same.

It would strike you and me and our little boys (who are not engineers
yet) that to approach--I won't say attain--somewhere near absolute
safety, the divisions to keep out water should extend from the bottom
right up to the uppermost deck of _the hull_. I repeat, the _hull_,
because there are above the hull the decks of the superstructures of
which we need not take account. And further, as a provision of the
commonest humanity, that each of these compartments should have a
perfectly independent and free access to that uppermost deck: that is,
into the open. Nothing less will do. Division by bulkheads that really
divide, and free access to the deck from every water-tight compartment.
Then the responsible man in the moment of danger and in the exercise of
his judgment could close all the doors of these water-tight bulkheads by
whatever clever contrivance has been invented for the purpose, without a
qualm at the awful thought that he may be shutting up some of his fellow
creatures in a death-trap; that he may be sacrificing the lives of men
who, down there, are sticking to the posts of duty as the engine-room
staffs of the Merchant Service have never failed to do. I know very well
that the engineers of a ship in a moment of emergency are not quaking for
their lives, but, as far as I have known them, attend calmly to their
duty. We all must die; but, hang it all, a man ought to be given a
chance, if not for his life, then at least to die decently. It's bad
enough to have to stick down there when something disastrous is going on
and any moment may be your last; but to be drowned shut up under deck is
too bad. Some men of the _Titanic_ died like that, it is to be feared.
Compartmented, so to speak. Just think what it means! Nothing can
approach the horror of that fate except being buried alive in a cave, or
in a mine, or in your family vault.

So, once more: continuous bulkheads--a clear way of escape to the deck
out of each water-tight compartment. Nothing less. And if specialists,
the precious specialists of the sort that builds "unsinkable ships," tell
you that it cannot be done, don't you believe them. It can be done, and
they are quite clever enough to do it too. The objections they will
raise, however disguised in the solemn mystery of technical phrases, will
not be technical, but commercial. I assure you that there is not much
mystery about a ship of that sort. She is a tank. She is a tank ribbed,
joisted, stayed, but she is no greater mystery than a tank. The
_Titanic_ was a tank eight hundred feet long, fitted as an hotel, with
corridors, bed-rooms, halls, and so on (not a very mysterious arrangement
truly), and for the hazards of her existence I should think about as
strong as a Huntley and Palmer biscuit-tin. I make this comparison
because Huntley and Palmer biscuit-tins, being almost a national
institution, are probably known to all my readers. Well, about that
strong, and perhaps not quite so strong. Just look at the side of such a
tin, and then think of a 50,000 ton ship, and try to imagine what the
thickness of her plates should be to approach anywhere the relative
solidity of that biscuit-tin. In my varied and adventurous career I have
been thrilled by the sight of a Huntley and Palmer biscuit-tin kicked by
a mule sky-high, as the saying is. It came back to earth smiling, with
only a sort of dimple on one of its cheeks. A proportionately severe
blow would have burst the side of the _Titanic_ or any other "triumph of
modern naval architecture" like brown paper--I am willing to bet.

I am not saying this by way of disparagement. There is reason in things.
You can't make a 50,000 ton ship as strong as a Huntley and Palmer
biscuit-tin. But there is also reason in the way one accepts facts, and
I refuse to be awed by the size of a tank bigger than any other tank that
ever went afloat to its doom. The people responsible for her, though
disconcerted in their hearts by the exposure of that disaster, are giving
themselves airs of superiority--priests of an Oracle which has failed,
but still must remain the Oracle. The assumption is that they are
ministers of progress. But the mere increase of size is not progress. If
it were, elephantiasis, which causes a man's legs to become as large as
tree-trunks, would be a sort of progress, whereas it is nothing but a
very ugly disease. Yet directly this very disconcerting catastrophe
happened, the servants of the silly Oracle began to cry: "It's no use!
You can't resist progress. The big ship has come to stay." Well, let
her stay on, then, in God's name! But she isn't a servant of progress in
any sense. She is the servant of commercialism. For progress, if
dealing with the problems of a material world, has some sort of moral
aspect--if only, say, that of conquest, which has its distinct value
since man is a conquering animal. But bigness is mere exaggeration. The
men responsible for these big ships have been moved by considerations of
profit to be made by the questionable means of pandering to an absurd and
vulgar demand for banal luxury--the seaside hotel luxury. One even asks
oneself whether there was such a demand? It is inconceivable to think
that there are people who can't spend five days of their life without a
suite of apartments, cafes, bands, and such-like refined delights. I
suspect that the public is not so very guilty in this matter. These
things were pushed on to it in the usual course of trade competition. If
to-morrow you were to take all these luxuries away, the public would
still travel. I don't despair of mankind. I believe that if, by some
catastrophic miracle all ships of every kind were to disappear off the
face of the waters, together with the means of replacing them, there
would be found, before the end of the week, men (millionaires, perhaps)
cheerfully putting out to sea in bath-tubs for a fresh start. We are all
like that. This sort of spirit lives in mankind still uncorrupted by the
so-called refinements, the ingenuity of tradesmen, who look always for
something new to sell, offers to the public.

Let her stay,--I mean the big ship--since she has come to stay. I only
object to the attitude of the people, who, having called her into being
and having romanced (to speak politely) about her, assume a detached sort
of superiority, goodness only knows why, and raise difficulties in the
way of every suggestion--difficulties about boats, about bulkheads, about
discipline, about davits, all sorts of difficulties. To most of them the
only answer would be: "Where there's a will there's a way"--the most wise
of proverbs. But some of these objections are really too stupid for
anything. I shall try to give an instance of what I mean.

This Inquiry is admirably conducted. I am not alluding to the lawyers
representing "various interests," who are trying to earn their fees by
casting all sorts of mean aspersions on the characters of all sorts of
people not a bit worse than themselves. It is honest to give value for
your wages; and the "bravos" of ancient Venice who kept their stilettos
in good order and never failed to deliver the stab bargained for with
their employers, considered themselves an honest body of professional
men, no doubt. But they don't compel my admiration, whereas the conduct
of this Inquiry does. And as it is pretty certain to be attacked, I take
this opportunity to deposit here my nickel of appreciation. Well,
lately, there came before it witnesses responsible for the designing of
the ship. One of them was asked whether it would not be advisable to
make each coal-bunker of the ship a water-tight compartment by means of a
suitable door.

The answer to such a question should have been, "Certainly," for it is
obvious to the simplest intelligence that the more water-tight spaces you
provide in a ship (consistently with having her workable) the nearer you
approach safety. But instead of admitting the expediency of the
suggestion, this witness at once raised an objection as to the
possibility of closing tightly the door of a bunker on account of the
slope of coal. This with the true expert's attitude of "My dear man, you
don't know what you are talking about."

Now would you believe that the objection put forward was absolutely
futile? I don't know whether the distinguished President of the Court
perceived this. Very likely he did, though I don't suppose he was ever
on terms of familiarity with a ship's bunker. But I have. I have been
inside; and you may take it that what I say of them is correct. I don't
wish to be wearisome to the benevolent reader, but I want to put his
finger, so to speak, on the inanity of the objection raised by the
expert. A bunker is an enclosed space for holding coals, generally
located against the ship's side, and having an opening, a doorway in
fact, into the stokehold. Men called trimmers go in there, and by means
of implements called slices make the coal run through that opening on to
the floor of the stokehold, where it is within reach of the stokers'
(firemen's) shovels. This being so, you will easily understand that
there is constantly a more or less thick layer of coal generally shaped
in a slope lying in that doorway. And the objection of the expert was:
that because of this obstruction it would be impossible to close the
water-tight door, and therefore that the thing could not be done. And
that objection was inane. A water-tight door in a bulkhead may be
defined as a metal plate which is made to close a given opening by some
mechanical means. And if there were a law of Medes and Persians that a
water-tight door should always slide downwards and never otherwise, the
objection would be to a great extent valid. But what is there to prevent
those doors to be fitted so as to move upwards, or horizontally, or
slantwise? In which case they would go through the obstructing layer of
coal as easily as a knife goes through butter. Anyone may convince
himself of it by experimenting with a light piece of board and a heap of
stones anywhere along our roads. Probably the joint of such a door would
weep a little--and there is no necessity for its being hermetically
tight--but the object of converting bunkers into spaces of safety would
be attained. You may take my word for it that this could be done without
any great effort of ingenuity. And that is why I have qualified the
expert's objection as inane.

Of course, these doors must not be operated from the bridge because of
the risk of trapping the coal-trimmers inside the bunker; but on the
signal of all other water-tight doors in the ship being closed (as would
be done in case of a collision) they too could be closed on the order of
the engineer of the watch, who would see to the safety of the trimmers.
If the rent in the ship's side were within the bunker itself, that would
become manifest enough without any signal, and the rush of water into the
stokehold could be cut off directly the doorplate came into its place.
Say a minute at the very outside. Naturally, if the blow of a
right-angled collision, for instance, were heavy enough to smash through
the inner bulkhead of the bunker, why, there would be then nothing to do
but for the stokers and trimmers and everybody in there to clear out of
the stoke-room. But that does not mean that the precaution of having
water-tight doors to the bunkers is useless, superfluous, or impossible.

And talking of stokeholds, firemen, and trimmers, men whose heavy labour
has not a single redeeming feature; which is unhealthy, uninspiring,
arduous, without the reward of personal pride in it; sheer, hard,
brutalising toil, belonging neither to earth nor sea, I greet with joy
the advent for marine purposes of the internal combustion engine. The
disappearance of the marine boiler will be a real progress, which anybody
in sympathy with his kind must welcome. Instead of the unthrifty,
unruly, nondescript crowd the boilers require, a crowd of men _in_ the
ship but not _of_ her, we shall have comparatively small crews of
disciplined, intelligent workers, able to steer the ship, handle anchors,
man boats, and at the same time competent to take their place at a bench
as fitters and repairers; the resourceful and skilled seamen--mechanics
of the future, the legitimate successors of these seamen--sailors of the
past, who had their own kind of skill, hardihood, and tradition, and
whose last days it has been my lot to share.

One lives and learns and hears very surprising things--things that one
hardly knows how to take, whether seriously or jocularly, how to
meet--with indignation or with contempt? Things said by solemn experts,
by exalted directors, by glorified ticket-sellers, by officials of all
sorts. I suppose that one of the uses of such an inquiry is to give such
people enough rope to hang themselves with. And I hope that some of them
won't neglect to do so. One of them declared two days ago that there was
"nothing to learn from the catastrophe of the _Titanic_." That he had
been "giving his best consideration" to certain rules for ten years, and
had come to the conclusion that nothing ever happened at sea, and that
rules and regulations, boats and sailors, were unnecessary; that what was
really wrong with the _Titanic_ was that she carried too many boats.

No; I am not joking. If you don't believe me, pray look back through the
reports and you will find it all there. I don't recollect the official's
name, but it ought to have been Pooh-Bah. Well, Pooh-Bah said all these
things, and when asked whether he really meant it, intimated his
readiness to give the subject more of "his best consideration"--for
another ten years or so apparently--but he believed, oh yes! he was
certain, that had there been fewer boats there would have been more
people saved. Really, when reading the report of this admirably
conducted inquiry one isn't certain at times whether it is an Admirable
Inquiry or a felicitous _opera-bouffe_ of the Gilbertian type--with a
rather grim subject, to be sure.

Yes, rather grim--but the comic treatment never fails. My readers will
remember that in the number of _The English Review_ for May, 1912, I
quoted the old case of the _Arizona_, and went on from that to prophesy
the coming of a new seamanship (in a spirit of irony far removed from
fun) at the call of the sublime builders of unsinkable ships. I thought
that, as a small boy of my acquaintance says, I was "doing a sarcasm,"
and regarded it as a rather wild sort of sarcasm at that. Well, I am
blessed (excuse the vulgarism) if a witness has not turned up who seems
to have been inspired by the same thought, and evidently longs in his
heart for the advent of the new seamanship. He is an expert, of course,
and I rather believe he's the same gentleman who did not see his way to
fit water-tight doors to bunkers. With ludicrous earnestness he assured
the Commission of his intense belief that had only the _Titanic_ struck
end-on she would have come into port all right. And in the whole tone of
his insistent statement there was suggested the regret that the officer
in charge (who is dead now, and mercifully outside the comic scope of
this inquiry) was so ill-advised as to try to pass clear of the ice. Thus
my sarcastic prophecy, that such a suggestion was sure to turn up,
receives an unexpected fulfilment. You will see yet that in deference to
the demands of "progress" the theory of the new seamanship will become
established: "Whatever you see in front of you--ram it fair. . ." The
new seamanship! Looks simple, doesn't it? But it will be a very exact
art indeed. The proper handling of an unsinkable ship, you see, will
demand that she should be made to hit the iceberg very accurately with
her nose, because should you perchance scrape the bluff of the bow
instead, she may, without ceasing to be as unsinkable as before, find her
way to the bottom. I congratulate the future Transatlantic passengers on
the new and vigorous sensations in store for them. They shall go
bounding across from iceberg to iceberg at twenty-five knots with
precision and safety, and a "cheerful bumpy sound"--as the immortal poem
has it. It will be a teeth-loosening, exhilarating experience. The
decorations will be Louis-Quinze, of course, and the cafe shall remain
open all night. But what about the priceless Sevres porcelain and the
Venetian glass provided for the service of Transatlantic passengers?
Well, I am afraid all that will have to be replaced by silver goblets and
plates. Nasty, common, cheap silver. But those who _will_ go to sea
must be prepared to put up with a certain amount of hardship.

And there shall be no boats. Why should there be no boats? Because Pooh-
Bah has said that the fewer the boats, the more people can be saved; and
therefore with no boats at all, no one need be lost. But even if there
was a flaw in this argument, pray look at the other advantages the
absence of boats gives you. There can't be the annoyance of having to go
into them in the middle of the night, and the unpleasantness, after
saving your life by the skin of your teeth, of being hauled over the
coals by irreproachable members of the Bar with hints that you are no
better than a cowardly scoundrel and your wife a heartless monster. Less
Boats. No boats! Great should be the gratitude of passage-selling
Combines to Pooh-Bah; and they ought to cherish his memory when he dies.
But no fear of that. His kind never dies. All you have to do, O
Combine, is to knock at the door of the Marine Department, look in, and
beckon to the first man you see. That will be he, very much at your
service--prepared to affirm after "ten years of my best consideration"
and a bundle of statistics in hand, that: "There's no lesson to be
learned, and that there is nothing to be done!"

On an earlier day there was another witness before the Court of Inquiry.
A mighty official of the White Star Line. The impression of his
testimony which the Report gave is of an almost scornful impatience with
all this fuss and pother. Boats! Of course we have crowded our decks
with them in answer to this ignorant clamour. Mere lumber! How can we
handle so many boats with our davits? Your people don't know the
conditions of the problem. We have given these matters our best
consideration, and we have done what we thought reasonable. We have done
more than our duty. We are wise, and good, and impeccable. And whoever
says otherwise is either ignorant or wicked.

This is the gist of these scornful answers which disclose the psychology
of commercial undertakings. It is the same psychology which fifty or so
years ago, before Samuel Plimsoll uplifted his voice, sent overloaded
ships to sea. "Why shouldn't we cram in as much cargo as our ships will
hold? Look how few, how very few of them get lost, after all."

Men don't change. Not very much. And the only answer to be given to
this manager who came out, impatient and indignant, from behind the plate-
glass windows of his shop to be discovered by this inquiry, and to tell
us that he, they, the whole three million (or thirty million, for all I
know) capital Organisation for selling passages has considered the
problem of boats--the only answer to give him is: that this is not a
problem of boats at all. It is the problem of decent behaviour. If you
can't carry or handle so many boats, then don't cram quite so many people
on board. It is as simple as that--this problem of right feeling and
right conduct, the real nature of which seems beyond the comprehension of
ticket-providers. Don't sell so many tickets, my virtuous dignitary.
After all, men and women (unless considered from a purely commercial
point of view) are not exactly the cattle of the Western-ocean trade,
that used some twenty years ago to be thrown overboard on an emergency
and left to swim round and round before they sank. If you can't get more
boats, then sell less tickets. Don't drown so many people on the finest,
calmest night that was ever known in the North Atlantic--even if you have
provided them with a little music to get drowned by. Sell less tickets!
That's the solution of the problem, your Mercantile Highness.

But there would be a cry, "Oh! This requires consideration!" (Ten years
of it--eh?) Well, no! This does not require consideration. This is the
very first thing to do. At once. Limit the number of people by the
boats you can handle. That's honesty. And then you may go on fumbling
for years about these precious davits which are such a stumbling-block to
your humanity. These fascinating patent davits. These davits that
refuse to do three times as much work as they were meant to do. Oh! The
wickedness of these davits!

One of the great discoveries of this admirable Inquiry is the fascination
of the davits. All these people positively can't get away from them.
They shuffle about and groan around their davits. Whereas the obvious
thing to do is to eliminate the man-handled davits altogether. Don't you
think that with all the mechanical contrivances, with all the generated
power on board these ships, it is about time to get rid of the hundred-
years-old, man-power appliances? Cranes are what is wanted; low, compact
cranes with adjustable heads, one to each set of six or nine boats. And
if people tell you of insuperable difficulties, if they tell you of the
swing and spin of spanned boats, don't you believe them. The heads of
the cranes need not be any higher than the heads of the davits. The lift
required would be only a couple of inches. As to the spin, there is a
way to prevent that if you have in each boat two men who know what they
are about. I have taken up on board a heavy ship's boat, in the open sea
(the ship rolling heavily), with a common cargo derrick. And a cargo
derrick is very much like a crane; but a crane devised _ad hoc_ would be
infinitely easier to work. We must remember that the loss of this ship
has altered the moral atmosphere. As long as the _Titanic_ is
remembered, an ugly rush for the boats may be feared in case of some
accident. You can't hope to drill into perfect discipline a casual mob
of six hundred firemen and waiters, but in a ship like the _Titanic_ you
can keep on a permanent trustworthy crew of one hundred intelligent
seamen and mechanics who would know their stations for abandoning ship
and would do the work efficiently. The boats could be lowered with
sufficient dispatch. One does not want to let rip one's boats by the run
all at the same time. With six boat-cranes, six boats would be
simultaneously swung, filled, and got away from the side; and if any sort
of order is kept, the ship could be cleared of the passengers in a quite
short time. For there must be boats enough for the passengers and crew,
whether you increase the number of boats or limit the number of
passengers, irrespective of the size of the ship. That is the only
honest course. Any other would be rather worse than putting sand in the
sugar, for which a tradesman gets fined or imprisoned. Do not let us
take a romantic view of the so-called progress. A company selling
passages is a tradesman; though from the way these people talk and behave
you would think they are benefactors of mankind in some mysterious way,
engaged in some lofty and amazing enterprise.

All these boats should have a motor-engine in them. And, of course, the
glorified tradesman, the mummified official, the technicians, and all
these secretly disconcerted hangers-on to the enormous ticket-selling
enterprise, will raise objections to it with every air of superiority.
But don't believe them. Doesn't it strike you as absurd that in this age
of mechanical propulsion, of generated power, the boats of such ultra-
modern ships are fitted with oars and sails, implements more than three
thousand years old? Old as the siege of Troy. Older! . . . And I know
what I am talking about. Only six weeks ago I was on the river in an
ancient, rough, ship's boat, fitted with a two-cylinder motor-engine of
7.5 h.p. Just a common ship's boat, which the man who owns her uses for
taking the workmen and stevedores to and from the ships loading at the
buoys off Greenhithe. She would have carried some thirty people. No
doubt has carried as many daily for many months. And she can tow a
twenty-five ton water barge--which is also part of that man's business.

It was a boisterous day, half a gale of wind against the flood tide. Two
fellows managed her. A youngster of seventeen was cox (and a first-rate
cox he was too); a fellow in a torn blue jersey, not much older, of the
usual riverside type, looked after the engine. I spent an hour and a
half in her, running up and down and across that reach. She handled
perfectly. With eight or twelve oars out she could not have done
anything like as well. These two youngsters at my request kept her
stationary for ten minutes, with a touch of engine and helm now and then,
within three feet of a big, ugly mooring buoy over which the water broke
and the spray flew in sheets, and which would have holed her if she had
bumped against it. But she kept her position, it seemed to me, to an
inch, without apparently any trouble to these boys. You could not have
done it with oars. And her engine did not take up the space of three
men, even on the assumption that you would pack people as tight as
sardines in a box.

Not the room of three people, I tell you! But no one would want to pack
a boat like a sardine-box. There must be room enough to handle the oars.
But in that old ship's boat, even if she had been desperately
overcrowded, there was power (manageable by two riverside youngsters) to
get away quickly from a ship's side (very important for your safety and
to make room for other boats), the power to keep her easily head to sea,
the power to move at five to seven knots towards a rescuing ship, the
power to come safely alongside. And all that in an engine which did not
take up the room of three people.

A poor boatman who had to scrape together painfully the few sovereigns of
the price had the idea of putting that engine into his boat. But all
these designers, directors, managers, constructors, and others whom we
may include in the generic name of Yamsi, never thought of it for the
boats of the biggest tank on earth, or rather on sea. And therefore they
assume an air of impatient superiority and make objections--however sick
at heart they may be. And I hope they are; at least, as much as a grocer
who has sold a tin of imperfect salmon which destroyed only half a dozen
people. And you know, the tinning of salmon was "progress" as much at
least as the building of the _Titanic_. More, in fact. I am not
attacking shipowners. I care neither more nor less for Lines, Companies,
Combines, and generally for Trade arrayed in purple and fine linen than
the Trade cares for me. But I am attacking foolish arrogance, which is
fair game; the offensive posture of superiority by which they hide the
sense of their guilt, while the echoes of the miserably hypocritical
cries along the alley-ways of that ship: "Any more women? Any more
women?" linger yet in our ears.

I have been expecting from one or the other of them all bearing the
generic name of Yamsi, something, a sign of some sort, some sincere
utterance, in the course of this Admirable Inquiry, of manly, of genuine
compunction. In vain. All trade talk. Not a whisper--except for the
conventional expression of regret at the beginning of the yearly
report--which otherwise is a cheerful document. Dividends, you know. The
shop is doing well.

And the Admirable Inquiry goes on, punctuated by idiotic laughter, by
paid-for cries of indignation from under legal wigs, bringing to light
the psychology of various commercial characters too stupid to know that
they are giving themselves away--an admirably laborious inquiry into
facts that speak, nay shout, for themselves.

I am not a soft-headed, humanitarian faddist. I have been ordered in my
time to do dangerous work; I have ordered, others to do dangerous work; I
have never ordered a man to do any work I was not prepared to do myself.
I attach no exaggerated value to human life. But I know it has a value
for which the most generous contributions to the Mansion House and
"Heroes" funds cannot pay. And they cannot pay for it, because people,
even of the third class (excuse my plain speaking), are not cattle. Death
has its sting. If Yamsi's manager's head were forcibly held under the
water of his bath for some little time, he would soon discover that it
has. Some people can only learn from that sort of experience which comes
home to their own dear selves.

I am not a sentimentalist; therefore it is not a great consolation to me
to see all these people breveted as "Heroes" by the penny and halfpenny
Press. It is no consolation at all. In extremity, in the worst
extremity, the majority of people, even of common people, will behave
decently. It's a fact of which only the journalists don't seem aware.
Hence their enthusiasm, I suppose. But I, who am not a sentimentalist,
think it would have been finer if the band of the _Titanic_ had been
quietly saved, instead of being drowned while playing--whatever tune they
were playing, the poor devils. I would rather they had been saved to
support their families than to see their families supported by the
magnificent generosity of the subscribers. I am not consoled by the
false, written-up, Drury Lane aspects of that event, which is neither
drama, nor melodrama, nor tragedy, but the exposure of arrogant folly.
There is nothing more heroic in being drowned very much against your
will, off a holed, helpless, big tank in which you bought your passage,
than in dying of colic caused by the imperfect salmon in the tin you
bought from your grocer.

And that's the truth. The unsentimental truth stripped of the romantic
garment the Press has wrapped around this most unnecessary disaster.

Joseph Conrad