Lawrence Beesley and Walter Lord

Pat Cook

This has been one of those red-letter days at the mailbox. As many of you know I have had the great pleasure of meeting and getting to know Lawrence Beesley's step-daughter, Dinah Quilter. At present, Dinah and her husband are in the throes of moving to another city. In the mail today, I received a note from her (she usually emails), saying she had run across some 'bits and pieces' which she thought I would like to have. In the envelope were two letters - one to her, thanking her for writing and another, a copy of a letter sent to Lawrence...both by Walter Lord.

I thought you all might enjoy this letter, dated June 21st, 1957

"Dear Mr. Beesley,

Not long ago your daughter, Dinah Quilter, dropped me a line, mentioning that your were alive and well. I answered her, begging for your address and she has now sent it on to me.

The result of this brief exchange is that I can at last write you and tell you what a supremely inspiring book you wrote about the TITANIC. As a small boy I remember vividly finding a copy in my aunt's bookcase in 1928. I recall being completely enthralled, and although I was already interested in the TITANIC, your account really welded me to the subject for life.

Years have passed and I too have now tried my hand at telling the story of the great liner. Writing my book has given me a great deal of personal satisfaction -- but nothing that will ever equal the first thrill I felt from discovering your own story.

With very best wishes to you for a long, rich, full life, I remain,

Walter Lord


Dear Mrs. Quilter,

Just thought you might like to have a copy of the note I just wrote your father the other day.

Thanks again for putting me in touch with him,

Walter Lord (hand signed)"

My personal note here: for years now, every so often, someone has asked me if Beesley's work had influenced Walter Lord. I always answered a flat "I don't think so, since Mr. Lord only mentions Beesley's book with a line or two in his ANTR acknowledgment page.

I hereby stand corrected!

Best regards, all around

Inger Sheil

Brilliant, Cookie! Absolutely top notch, first rate stuff - it would be a rich find if it were a kind courtesy note, but as you point out it also sheds new light on Lord's influences when he came to write his mastework. Congrats, and thank you for being kind enough to share it with us all here. Another piece of the picture you're putting together falls into place for you!

Jason D. Tiller

Hi Pat,

Thanks for posting that!

It's very interesting to see what Walter Lord wrote.

Best regards,

Dear Cook,

"Red letter day" indeed! Beesley's influence on a young Walter Lord is an important discovery. Plus we are treated again to Lord's beautiful use of the English language and to his impeccable manners.

Thank you so much for sharing your find with us.

Best regards,
How very special to have someone willing to send you such treasures! I couldn't think of anyone better to have these Beesley letters. Thank Mrs. Quilter for us, and bringing the thoughts of Mr. Lord to light, and answer a question we have had about his works.

Trent Pheifer

The letters were wonderful, and to find out that Mr Lord was influenced by Beesley! Thank so very much for sharing these!


You and I have talked about how meaningful (and unexpected) our close connections to "Titanic families" has been so I know what this means to you - not just as a research find but as a personal milestone in a special relationship.

I think it's thrilling to find that Walter, a hero to so many of us from an early age, found his own hero in Beesley! But that is only as it should be, isn't it?

Thanks for sharing the letter!

And best to you and Rose Ann.


Pat Cook

Thanks to all for your kind words. Glad to have this to share with you.

It's very interesting to me (and I'm sure you all as well) the more I consider this letter. I mean, how many of us (myself included) have a copy of a fan letter written TO Walter Lord but to actually find one written BY Lord...

Also, this fits nicely into what I've come to see as Beesley the man. He simply wrote his book and then stayed away from the subject, one way or another. Lord didn't contact him simply because he didn't know Beesley was still alive (he would've been almost 80 in June, 1957). And Beesley never answered (if he ever heard about) any of Lord's newspaper adverts for Titanic survivors when writing his book. Yes, Lawrence DID become one of the uncredited advisors on the filming of "A Night To Remember" but recently, when discussing the matter with his daughters, I was told, quite firmly, that his other daughter, Laurien, got him involved with this project - he, they said, would never have done it himself. Still, one can only wonder WHO'S idea it was to 'go down with the ship'?

Beesley had been contacted on many occasions by others. TEA, THS now, asked him to become an honorary member. Lawrence did not join but kept the letter and membership card nonetheless.

So, one can only wonder if or what he wrote back to Walter Lord...?

To Doug and Randy - don't worry, boys, I'll be bringing the letters along in October.

Best regards, all around,
Hi Cook,

What you've described I think makes a good argument for Beesley's having a touch of very belated "Survivor's Guilt."

I have the notion, based on my reading of his book and in speaking to you of his later years, that Beesley was innately modest and but for a powerful need to tell the truth of the disaster, he might never have written his book.

The book, by the way, must have been in the nature of therapy for him, its being completed and published so early. Maybe through that exercise he was able to deal with his feelings about his miraculous escape and so filed them safely away but, with the resurgence of interest in Titanic in the 1950s, was suddenly left to grapple with old insecurities, hence his near apathy for the subject.

A psychologist might also make a case for Beesley's need to "commune," if you will, with his compatriots who died by sneaking unsuccessfully onto the set of ANTR and joining those who were portraying the unfortunate men left stranded after the boats were gone. Through an artistic medium he was hoping perhaps to "die" the death he felt should have been his. But God had another plan and MacQuitty upheld His decision!

Just some jumbled musings.

Much look forward to seeing those letters!


Pat Cook

Hi Randy!

I must admit that I have had some thoughts along with yours, Randall. But exactly WHY Lawrence and Laurien got on the ship, I suppose, we'll never know...unless I can find another letter somewhere!

Hi Ben!

Your kinds words are welcome but, I have to admit, not totally earned. I have simply gotten to know the Beesley family (via Phil Gowan) and, thru them and their generosity, such bounties have emerged. Any revelations I find usually come from such diligent researchers as yourself. How does that phrase go? "If I can see wonders it's because I stand on the shoulders of giants"

Best regards, all around,

Hydie Cheung

That's super-duper cool. Ms. Quilter is really nice to send you these informations. Interesting indeed.