Sir Arthur Conan Doyle VS George Bernard Shaw


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Bob Godfrey

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Adam, your question about Captain Rostron and the Carpathia is an interesting one which has been raised here in other threads - usually by the professional mariners among us. Perhaps Mike could provide some links if you want to contribute.

"Again, it's somewhat useless to play the blame game once the ship is on the bottom of the ocean."

And again (and again and again) the purpose of an inquiry following a tragedy is to establish what happened and why, with a view to reducing the possibility of more of the same. Establishing blame is no game. Except for us of course, 100 years on.
 
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BTW Adam, the Carpathia was making around 17 knots, and could run circles around the Titanic where maneuverability was concerned. Not to mention extra lookouts, daylight approaching, etc. She swerved around several bergs, but was more up to the task. I don't think Rostron was taking too many chances. He became a celebrity, deserved or not. On his many future westbound crossings on the Mauretania, I'll bet he thought of the Titanic every time he passed that area
 

Bob Godfrey

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Steven, 'excrement' is a nine-letter word. Please use four-letter words wherever possible so that the non-Sherlockians can follow the argument.
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Dec 2, 2000
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>>Excellent. Except that the analogy you were disagreeing with was in reference to road rules, therefore it's a car insurance company in this instance.<<

If you check, you'll find that the rules of the road for maritime traffic are notably different then for a land vehical. This is essential since the medium is the sort where you can't just slam on the brakes.

>>So therefore, is it your view that the likes of J. Bruce Ismay should have got away with the disaster with his reputation completely unharmed and no questions asked?<<

A strawman arguement since this is not even remotely what I said. It's also not even remotely what happened in the real world as Ismay would find to his everlasting regret.

The point you're missing or at least trying to obfuscate or misdirect on is the question of the master's responsibility both in custom and in law!

Smith had the essential information, had the final authority, and made the wrong decisions. If others influanced him inappropriately and even illegally, they have a burden of accountability as well, but this does not in any way take away from the master's responsibility which remains final and absolute regardless.

>>Doyle had a right to defend what he believed in, which he only did AFTER Shaw had already come out with his opinions - would you mind explaining to us how George Bernard Shaw was suitably qualified and experienced to comment on the Titanic sinking in the public domain?<<

Of course Doyle had the right and so did Shaw. They also both had the same professional maritime qualifications which is to say: None whatever.

That by and of itself is no barrier to making informed observations and expressing opinions based on whatever evidence one has to back it up. As a matter of fact, both Senator Smith and Lord Mersey did exactly the same thing and with the same professional maritime qualifications and practical experience.

None whatever.

HOWEVER, what all of these guys did was their homework on the matter, with the Senator and His Lordship consulting maritime experts and professionals. For all the mistakes we know that they made, if you read their reports, it's hard to get away from the fact that much of what they said was bang on the money!

There was no barrier to either Doyle or Shaw doing the same.

Further to the point, there's nothing like seeing the end result...1500 drowned and/or frozen corpses...to drive home to even the most ignorant layperson that there was something desperately wrong with the way business was being done, and it wasn't as if the warning signs weren't there for all to see.

When all else fails, the end result speaks volumns in a fashion that can't be debated or argued away.

>>If the Carpathia had also hit an iceberg and sunk while en route at top speed to the Titanic, would Captain Rostron also have been vilified?<<

I think that would depend on whether or not he would have had the sense to go down with his ship...and stay down.

I'm sure the romantics would have spun a story the way it was spun around Captain Smith, but that wouldn't make any of it right or realistic.

>>BTW Adam, the Carpathia was making around 17 knots<<

Actually, she didn't and couldn't. It helps to know that Titanic's position was off by a good 13 miles so she was closer then was believed at the time.
 
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>>Steven, 'excrement' is a nine-letter word. Please use four-letter words wherever possible so that the non-Sherlockians can follow the argument.<<
Believe me, I have made the attempt. The built-in cyber police stopped me in my tracks.

>>BTW Adam, the Carpathia was making around 17 knots<<
That number has been in my head for years, Thought I read it in ANTR, and it even surprised the crew of the Carpathia that she made that speed, as her top speed was something like 12 knots.... I will now have to look it up.
 
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Michael, thank you and funny you put that link up there, because that is exactly where I just was reading up on this. D Gittins set me straight. thank you all!
I am an admitted landlubber, I suppose this isn't the time to ask just when speedometers were installed on ocean-going ships...
 

Adam Went

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Bob, Michael, Steven:

Exactly, that's what the INQUEST was tasked with doing, discovering the causes for the sinking and determining who or what was responsible - I don't recall hearing anywhere that they asked George Bernard Shaw to chair the inquiry. So, that makes him an armchair critic, using his public profile to make comments about something he knew nothing about.

Actually, for the record, Doyle wasn't entirely ignorant of seafaring, as he worked with the navy during World War I when coming up with ideas for improving the safety of sailors in the war effort.

As for the Carpathia, it's of course a moot point because as we know, she made it there safely, rescued the survivors, and Rostron and the Carpathia personnel became heroes. Rightly so too. All i'm saying is that it would have been a very, very different story if something had happened to the Carpathia as well along the way. Instead of being a hero, Rostron would have been viciously criticised for endangering more lives when it was hopeless to try and make the distance before the Titanic went down anyway.

Michael, yes, as i've already said, if you stick strictly to the letter of the law, Smith is completely responsible. No doubt about it. But bearing all the surrounding factors in mind and looking at it objectively rather than being one of those annoying people who sticks to the rules no matter what, there are others who could and should have some blame as well.
 

Bob Godfrey

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So it was ok for Doyle (no expert) to commit his views to print because he was responding to the views that Shaw (no expert) had committed to print? Then you'd have to excuse Shaw on the same grounds. He too was responding - and objecting - to the inaccurate and fanciful accounts already committed to print by journalists who were again no experts, and moreover had shown themselves quite willing to fill in the gaps with lively invention at a time when clear information was available to nobody.
 

Adam Went

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Bob:

Again, if anything, Doyle knew more about seafaring than Shaw did. And, again, journalists and columnists got paid to create these "fancifil accounts" to get the interest of the public. Shaw, on the other hand, started this particular debate that we're talking about, and Doyle saw fit to counter it. I see no problem with that.
 
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>>I am an admitted landlubber, I suppose this isn't the time to ask just when speedometers were installed on ocean-going ships...<<

I wish I could answer that one. Every ship I've been on, to my knowladge, had some means of doing so, but I don't know how far back the development goes.

>>Exactly, that's what the INQUEST was tasked with doing, discovering the causes for the sinking and determining who or what was responsible - I don't recall hearing anywhere that they asked George Bernard Shaw to chair the inquiry. So, that makes him an armchair critic, using his public profile to make comments about something he knew nothing about.<<

Yes it does, and what gives him the right to comment and be an armchair critic? The same thing that gives us the right to be armchair critics: An interest in history, an interest in current events, and in his case somebody who was a potential customer of any passenger vessel of the age when it was the only way to cross. If anything, that singular point gives him a far greater right to be an armchair critic then we have since he would stand to be on the dirty end of the stick if somebody made a deadly mistake with a ship on which he was traveling. When you have a chance of ending up a corpse, that certainly gives you a vested interest no matter who you are.

Doyle, in fairness, had the same right to either be an armchair critic or an armchair champion, and for exactly the same reasons.

>>Actually, for the record, Doyle wasn't entirely ignorant of seafaring, as he worked with the navy during World War I when coming up with ideas for improving the safety of sailors in the war effort.<<

Score a few for the man in his favour then. I don't have a problem with that so long as they were good ideas. (Were any of them ever taken up? If they were workable and practical, I hope so.)

>>As for the Carpathia, it's of course a moot point because as we know, she made it there safely, rescued the survivors, and Rostron and the Carpathia personnel became heroes. Rightly so too. All i'm saying is that it would have been a very, very different story if something had happened to the Carpathia as well along the way.<<

Correct, and Rostron would have deserved it as well, and for the same reason that Captain Smith deserves the knocks for his mistakes.

By the way, in today's regulatory environment, Rostron would have had his license revoked regardless of how it all turned out. (NOTE: I'm not saying that such an action would be correct in any moral sense. I'm only pointing out that this would have been the outcome.)

>>Michael, yes, as i've already said, if you stick strictly to the letter of the law, Smith is completely responsible. No doubt about it.<<

That's right.

>>But bearing all the surrounding factors in mind and looking at it objectively rather than being one of those annoying people who sticks to the rules no matter what, there are others who could and should have some blame as well.<<

And I'm not asserting otherwise. What I'm saying is that as the master of the vessel, Captain Smith bears the same final and absolute responsibility. I've already gone over the reasons for it.

>>Shaw, on the other hand, started this particular debate that we're talking about, and Doyle saw fit to counter it. I see no problem with that.<<

Neither do I. What one has to understand is that this is a two way street.

Let's cut to the chase on this one, shall we?

When somebody...anybody...commits anything to the written record, whether in print or on line, they do it for a veriaty of reasons. Sometimes it's to entertain, sometimes to inform, sometimes to discuss and debate, and in the case of guys like both Doyle and Shaw, to influance and persuade.

This invites even demands discussion, debate, agreement, and disagreement. Doesn't matter if you're Doyle, Shaw, or people like us having a debate on an internet forum. Nothing any of us has penned here has gone unremarked on, and either differed with or agreed with. Nor should it. We all have a right to our say, but it doesn't follow from this that any of us has a right to our way.
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

I don't think the comparison between Shaw's right to his argument in the press is comparable to our debates on an internet forum. When we post on here, maybe a dozen people will see it, a couple might choose to respond to it and in a few days it'll be totally forgotten about - little harm or consequence can come of it.
Shaw, on the other hand, as evidenced by this very thread, is still having his opinions debated almost a century later because letters to the press from powerful men in society in that era carried a larger influence. Therefore, it was his responsibility to be able to back up his criticism with facts, personal knowledge, or both - i'm not convinced he had the former and he certainly didn't have the latter.

I understand and partially agree with you in theory, but there is a vast difference between the two.

"Score a few for the man in his favour then. I don't have a problem with that so long as they were good ideas. (Were any of them ever taken up? If they were workable and practical, I hope so.)"

Yes, they were. It was Doyle's suggestion to have all sailors equipped with floats around their necks which would help protect them in the event that their ship should be sunk, until they could be rescued. Many sailors were thankful and probably saved by this. I believe that there was one or two other ideas which he floated as well with varying degrees of success, though I cannot recall what they were off the top of my head. I know that an acquaintance of his was one who suggested designing mine-sweeper ships.

Back on land, he was also instrumental in setting up the civilian defence force, out of men who were either too old to fight on the front line or incapable of doing so for whatever reason - his idea was rejected by many but in typical Doyle fashion, he ploughed on and organised much of the training and events himself - we know now how useful the Home Guard (as it would become)was, particularly during World War II, and much of that owes to Doyle's efforts.
 
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Speaking as someone who has been anti-polemics from an early age (sample question from a dopey teacher when I was about 9 - "Which would you rather be? Poor and happy, or rich and miserable?" What sort of question is that?} .....
I think it is perfectly possible to be doctor who is dogged about military and seafaring safety and welfare, a writer of iconic detective fiction, a perfectly normal Imperialist Brit (for his time)who failed to recognise other moral issues, and a sentimentalist at heart who wanted to believe in life after death, and got carried away by silly fairy pictures.

Similarly, it is also perfectly possible to be a humanitarian socialist commentator and activist, atheist, intellectual and wit, writer of (some) enduring social commentaries and plays - and still be an irascible, impulsive, writer-to-the-quality-press, who really enjoyed crunching establishment and media toes underfoot regardless.

Both of them seem to be more forgiving to each other in the long run than you seem to be towards GBS, Adam. Personally, I'd have rather sat next to GBS at dinner on Saturday night, but for Sunday lunch I'd prefer to be with ACD. I can't explain this - I know it sounds daft.

As Bob said - time to move on. Or, maybe even off the subject?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Could be an idea there for a whole section of threads, Mon.

Dinner with ????
Down a few pints with ???
Trapped in a lift with ????
 

Bob Godfrey

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Mon, I have no problem with your punctuality when we meet in a pub - gives me something to do to pass the time. But to back up my extension to your suggestion, in Titanic terms I'd settle for dinner with Dr O'Laughlin, who knew everyone and seems to have been game for a laugh. I'd down my pints with Lawrence Beesley because he was a teacher, and teachers lose all inhibitions when they have a pint in one hand and a Woodbine in the other. And I'd hate to be trapped in a lift with Colonel Gracie. There's only so much one wants to know about the Battle of Chickamauga.
 
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>>I don't think the comparison between Shaw's right to his argument in the press is comparable to our debates on an internet forum. When we post on here, maybe a dozen people will see it, a couple might choose to respond to it and in a few days it'll be totally forgotten about...<<

Doesn't matter. The objectives of the commentators and partisans in any sort of debate are exactly the same.

>>little harm or consequence can come of it.
Shaw, on the other hand, as evidenced by this very thread, is still having his opinions debated almost a century later because letters to the press from powerful men in society in that era carried a larger influence.<<

Yes he did. So did Doyle.

>>Therefore, it was his responsibility to be able to back up his criticism with facts, personal knowledge, or both - i'm not convinced he had the former and he certainly didn't have the latter.<<

Of course he had the facts. Everybody at the time at least had the bare bones facts. The problem here is that what Doyle was defending was the legend. The mythos. While I'll grant that there was a place for that sort of thing then and even now...it's a cultural issue...what Shaw was going after was the hard and ugly reality of the disaster and what it would have taken to avoid it.

>>Yes, they were. It was Doyle's suggestion to have all sailors equipped with floats around their necks which would help protect them in the event that their ship should be sunk, until they could be rescued.<<

Ah yes. I've even seen those things on the kapok life preservers which are used by the U.S. Navy even to this day.

>>...I know that an acquaintance of his was one who suggested designing mine-sweeper ships.<<

Perhaps as a result of a conversation with Mr. Doyle? This wouldn't surprise me in the least. The First World War saw the quite extensive use of mine warfare. Not for the first time since mine barriers had been used for harbour defences for at least 30 years. (Ever seen the defences arranged for Charleston? I have and remotely detonated mines were part of the system.) World War One however was the first really extensive use for both offensive and defensive purposes and the consequences were there for all to see. ACD couldn't possibly have missed the news.

>>we know now how useful the Home Guard (as it would become)was, particularly during World War II, and much of that owes to Doyle's efforts.<<

Quite right, we do and this is another point in his favour in my book.

>>Personally, I'd have rather sat next to GBS at dinner on Saturday night, but for Sunday lunch I'd prefer to be with ACD. I can't explain this - I know it sounds daft.<<

I don't think it does, Mon. Shaw as I indicated was a realist, not a romantic and I've noticed in dinner table conversations in my house at least that subjects tend to be oriented more towards the serious. Maybe it has something to do with a long day at work rubbing one's nose in reality and not being in any particular mood for the light hearted. If there's any "light hearted" fantasy, it probably involves the summary execution of whatever politician you regret voting for in the last election.
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At breakfast, one is (hopefully) in a much better mood and inclined towards the more light hearted or the entertaining after a good night's sleep. Bring on Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Moriarty!
 
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In the interests of correcting an error, defensive mine warfare had been in use as a tactic since the American Civil War. One of the casualties was the monitor U.S.S. Techumseh which struck a Confederate mine during the assault on Mobile Bay. A lesser known victim was the monitor U.S.S. Patapsco which had been covering picket boats which were sweeping for mines in Charleston harbour.
 
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