Sir Arthur Conan Doyle VS George Bernard Shaw


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Good to know your conversations round the dinner table are similar to mine, Mike. Makes one wonder when we see again the old saw that we are two nations divided by a common language.
 

Adam Went

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Monica:

I can understand where you're coming from, they are after all two vastly different people. Overall I agree with what you've said there.

I haven't read too much of Shaw's work, but from what I have read, I simply like Doyle's style of writing much more. It might not be technically as perfect but it's more entertaining and...well, just better IMO, but once again it comes to individual taste.

It's not that I don't like GBS, full credit to him for the career he had, I just don't necessarily like certain aspects of him and and his writings, and in this particular instance, his Titanic debate.

Michael:

See, where was Shaw's letter to the press before the Titanic set sail saying "Why aren't there enough lifeboats?". Where was Shaw's letter saying "Captain Smith shouldn't be commanding this maiden voyage?". Where was Shaw's letter saying "The ship is not unsinkable", and so on? I keep saying this but it's true, it's very easy to criticise once the ship is on the bottom of the ocean. Had Shaw voiced his opinion earlier on, he's then in a much better position to write an "I told you so" letter than a "Here's what I think, i'm no expert but i'm going to offer my opinion because of my status anyway".... it's true that there was nothing stopping him from doing so, but again, the consequences of such a letter are far more long-term than a post on an internet forum or something similar.

As for Doyle and his ideas, he was actually in quite close contact with a lot of military leaders during World War I, as he had arranged that in order to compile his history of the war (which came out after the war finished), so I believe he might have used his contacts in the military with whom he was involved to push for some of these changes. Whatever his methods were, some clearly had a lasting effect and he rightly does deserve credit for this.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>See, where was Shaw's letter to the press before the Titanic set sail saying "Why aren't there enough lifeboats?". <<

Where was anybody's letter? Icluding Mr. Doyle's?

Which isn't to say that warning bells weren't being sounded long before the event. They were. Morgan Robertson's otherwise forgettable "Futility" was an example at least of a man who did have professional maritime experience, who saw where the dangerous navigation practices was going, and the lifeboat issue as well, and he wasn't the only one.

Harland And Wolff also read the tealeaves and at least provided weight and space on the Olympics in anticipation of the regulations getting a badly needed overhaul.

That said, it wouldn't surprise me if there were letters written by Doyle, Shaw and others. Lots of others. There was a chorus and it was getting louder. Unfortunately, it was drowned out by "Practically unsinkable." The wake up call which finally came was brutal.

Just as a little aside, getting back to the issue of mines and the defenses of Charleston which I mentioned, it might help if one takes a look at This Map of the harbour itself to see why it was easily defended and why mines made the job a lot easier.

There's really only one way in and it wasn't possible to do an end run to the southwest of Fort Sumter unless one wanted to end up grounded on the mud flat which is lying in wait there. (I've seen it.)

That means any warships trying to kick in the door had to pass the overlapping guns of both Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie...the shipping channel then as now is only a mile wide...which would have subjected any intruder to a murderous crossfire.

Any not picked off by the guns of the fortifications would still have to face the mines which were arranged in the shipping channel and which could be set off by a remote control from Fort Sumter.
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

You might well be right about the writing, although I don't recall any such letters being written by Shaw or Doyle prior to the sinking - whether or not they had concerns in private without actually voicing them is another matter.

The point all along though has been that Shaw was the one who decided to take up the reins and criticise, which makes him the instigator, whereas Doyle was simply the one who responded. His knowledge of Shaw as a friend of his may well have also played a part in his decision to respond.
 
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>>You might well be right about the writing, although I don't recall any such letters being written by Shaw or Doyle prior to the sinking <<

Letters to the Editor which get round filed because nobody believes the concerns of the writer seldom ever see daylight. It may also have been that the matter was simply off their radar screens.

>>The point all along though has been that Shaw was the one who decided to take up the reins and criticise, which makes him the instigator, whereas Doyle was simply the one who responded.<<

Perhaps, but the point which Jim and I have been trying to make is that Shaw was the realist. I can't say as I care much about who instigated what at whom or why.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>See, where was Shaw's letter to the press before the Titanic set sail saying "Why aren't there enough lifeboats?". Where was Shaw's letter saying "Captain Smith shouldn't be commanding this maiden voyage?". Where was Shaw's letter saying "The ship is not unsinkable", and so on? I keep saying this but it's true, it's very easy to criticise once the ship is on the bottom of the ocean.

Adam, this is pointless logic. If you were to accept this line of reasoning as true, then using a parallel situation:

______________________________________________


~NYC had a strict fire code, dating to 1938, involving such things as structural streel enclosed in terra-cotta; remote staircases; staircases enclosed in concrete; a concrete stair tower with smoke-reducing vestibules...etc. Real Estate developers hated this law because it reduced the maximum amount of rentable space per floor to about 51%. They lobbied to change it, stating that advances in fireproofing had rendered the old code obsolete.

~The World Trade Center, designed in 1965, was built to 1968 code specs, everyone knowing that in the go-go-go corporate world of the era, the proposed amendments to the code WOULD go thru. The Fire Department was opposed but there wasnt Rockefellers on the Fire Department.

~The Twin Towers were seen as a miracle of functionalism, by some. As opposed to the old "51% rentable" number, 75% of each floor was revenue-producing.

~The new law changed "remote" staircases (meaning, stairs in far corners of the building, so that a fire in one area cant block access to all the exits) to "As remote as practical." Which, in this case, was interpreted as "All staircases grouped in a tight cluster in the least rentable part of each floor." The number of staircases required was reduced from 8 to 3, and the concrrete and terra cotta cladding and the fire tower with smoke-diffusing vestibules were eliminated. Instead of thick, heavy, fireproof materials, the stairs were encased in gypsum board.

~A "mistake" was made, and a legally required fourth staircase was not included. Windows on the World (Tower 1), and the Observation Deck complex (Tower 2) each held over a thousand people and required their own staircases. Neither got one.

~The structural steel was no longer encased in terra cotta. Spray on fireproofing was applied to a 1/2 inch thickness. This was based on a guess, apparently; it was never tested. The architects for the buildings took the unusual step of denouncing the fireproofing methods, which they had not specified.

THEN

~A 1975 fire burns thru parts of 9 floors. Floors buckle and sag, despite the fact that they are allegedly fire resistant for a minimum of three hours.

~The three staircases prove to be catastrophically inadequate to evacuate 50,000 people in the 1993 bombing. It takes hours to evacuate everyone, and the staircases channel smoke upward aggressively.

~It is discovered that the 1/2 inch thick fireproofing has been flaking off as the building flexes, and in some places seems never to have been applied. The thickness is ordered tripled BUT gutting and fireproofing two 110 story buildings would be costly and so it is done piecemeal. When an office comes up for rent, it is re-fireproofed during the renovations. Which means that on 9/11/2001 some portions of the building have 1.5 inch fireproofing, some have flaking, chipping, .5 inch and, apparently, some parts dont have it at all.

~On September 11, about 600-800 people are killed upon impact in Tower 1, and about 200-300 in Tower 2. The rest of the roughly 3000 victims discover that the tightly grouped, non remote, staircases, encased ibn gypsum board, are gone. And that they are trapped 1300 feet up in a rapidly burning fireproof building complex. Even on the direct impact floors, 95/96 and 78/79, the perimeters of the structure are intact. Had there BEEN remote staircases there, as there would have been in a pre-1968 structure, they would have survived. As would most of the trapped upper floor occupants.

~The buildings were designed to survive impact from a jet. Back in 1965 it was taken into account that sooner or later one would strike a Twin Tower. The wind on lower Manhattan exerted a force 30 times greater on the buildings, daily, than the jets' impacts did. The structures function as designed, survive the crashes, and then have to survive the effects of fire spread thru 8 or 9 floors simultaneously.

~The buildings were to be fire resistant a minimum of three hours. Yet, one fell after less than an hour and the other survived for a little more than an hour and a half.
________________________________________________

Okay. The fire department had always hated the WTC complex and the 1968 code. After the 1980 MGM Grand fire that killed around 80 people, they managed to have a newer, more stringent, code put in, becoming effective in 1984. They had vocally opposed those buildings since day 1.

The architects had denounced the PURELY GUESSWORK UNTESTED FIREPROOFING.

By your logic, only the members of the NYC Fire Department, and Emery Roth and Sons, have the right to comment negatively in a public forum about a situation in which buildings that theoretically were very safe, and could have been efficiently evacuated in an emergency, were SPECIFICALLY designed to eliminate most of the safety features. The World Trade Center was worse than the Titanic, to which it was often compared, because no one sat down, looked that the Titanic's plans, and said "eliminate or modify 75% of the safety features."

By your logic, only a handful of those who were appalled by this affair after it happened could offer public opinion on it, because only a relatively small number of people spoke out against the flawed designs before 9/11.
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

I'm quite sure that the debate between Shaw and Doyle was very brief - having read Doyle's biography, there was nothing further mentioned about the debate so I imagine what you've seen is all there was to see. Both men had the power in literary circles to have their articles published and noticed if they really wanted to.

Jim:

That's a ridiculous comparison, once again completely unrelated to anything resembling Shaw, Doyle or the Titanic, once again rambling and once again an entirely different set of circumstances.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Both men had the power in literary circles to have their articles published and noticed if they really wanted to.<<

Possibly. The catch is that if they were sounding the warnings, they weren't being heard. Given the tone of the times, such catch phrases as "The latest in the shipbuilding art" as well as "Pratically unsinkable" sound a lot better and a lot more comfortable then somebody saying "If we keep doing business like this, a lot of people are going to get dead."

Playing "Ostrich" with reality is an old game, and in 1912, it was elevated to an art form.
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

"Possibly."

Definitely. If Doyle had the power to have copies of his 10 year old daughter's short story published, complete with spelling errors and all, he had the power to have his own articles published - if not in newspapers, in magazines like The Strand, who he had a close literary relationship with for much of his life. Much the same for Shaw, i'd say.
 
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>>...he had the power to have his own articles published...<<

But not paid attention to. That's the sticking point. Same problem with Shaw. Just because you have the juice to get published...and they did...it doesn't follow from this that anybody will take you seriously regardless of the merits of your arguements. Especially if your message is something nobody wants to hear.
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

I would have thought that it would actually have the reverse effect - high profile citizen has a go at the "Unsinkable" label = more attention, even if most of it was ridicule, from the public. Look at Doyle and spiritualism, the majority of readers thought it was rubbish and Doyle was ridiculed by many, but attention was still payed to it.

I may do some searching when I get the chance to see if Shaw or Doyle (or any other high profile authors for that matter) did publish any articles to that effect shortly before the ship sunk, just out of curiousity....
 
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>>I would have thought that it would actually have the reverse effect - high profile citizen has a go at the "Unsinkable" label = more attention, even if most of it was ridicule, from the public.<<

Doesn't always work that way. The whole issue of dangerous navigation practices and the matter of updating the lifeboat regulations had been around for years, but way too few people saw the urgency of it.

>>Look at Doyle and spiritualism, the majority of readers thought it was rubbish and Doyle was ridiculed by many, but attention was still payed to it.<<

Spiritualism is one of those things which is "fun" to believe in to say nothing of comforting to anybody who wants to "Believe In" life after death. Doesn't matter whether or not there's anything to it. "I want to believe." is a powerful incentive.

>>I may do some searching when I get the chance to see if Shaw or Doyle (or any other high profile authors for that matter) did publish any articles to that effect shortly before the ship sunk, just out of curiousity....<<

You'll probably have to hit some dusty library shelves and public archives to find anything. Alexander Carlisle...the real designer of the Olympics...saw it coming and incorperated space and weight in the Olympics for more lifeboats but he was...notoriously...overruled. You might find some of his testimony at the Mersey Wreck Commission some interesting reading because he speaks to it there.
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

"Doesn't always work that way. The whole issue of dangerous navigation practices and the matter of updating the lifeboat regulations had been around for years, but way too few people saw the urgency of it."

I agree with you here. For the most part in that era, it was about being big, fast, luxurious and popular - not necessarily "safe".

"Spiritualism is one of those things which is "fun" to believe in to say nothing of comforting to anybody who wants to "Believe In" life after death. Doesn't matter whether or not there's anything to it. "I want to believe." is a powerful incentive."

Doyle was a thinker ahead of his time, and that's perhaps what put some people off. But we're talking about some pretty ardent critics here, and I doubt even they would have "wanted" to believe.

"You'll probably have to hit some dusty library shelves and public archives to find anything."

The beauty of the internet! ;-)
 
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>>But we're talking about some pretty ardent critics here, and I doubt even they would have "wanted" to believe.<<

I think that depends on the time period you're thinking about. For all that people were all agog at the achievements of science and industry, it was still a profoundly religious/superstitious age as well.

Oddly enough, not an awful lot has changed save that "That Old Time Religion" is being displaced by New Age stuff (which really has very little in it that's new) and so-called "Ancient Chinese Wisdom."

>>The beauty of the internet! ;-)<<

Uhhhh...yeah...unfortunately, not everything is on the internet so wherever you end up going, you might want to bring a good dustmask with you!
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

It was a very scientific and religious age, you're right, but one which was still very reluctant to accept any new forms of existence or theories, regardless of the evidence that was being presented. You need look no further than Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to see that.
 
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>>you're right, but one which was still very reluctant to accept any new forms of existence or theories...<<

Unless it tended on some level to support some of the old ideas. The concept of life after death has been around for thousands of years, and the prospect of verification has an obvious appeal.
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Wow, what an interesting topic. Frankly, I like them both equally. I find the comments of some of you enlightening and yet hypocritical too.

Now in regards to Doyle's tour of the said Boer Camp well perhaps he was shown a spruced up squeaky clean version. I can't condone the practices at the said camps although perhaps at some camps the guards thought they were doing their duty as crazy as that sounds.

I can tell quite a few tales of my own about conditions in mental hospitals as late as the 90's that were accepted because people thought it was doing some good, treatments such as shock therapy which never had any benefit that I could see or heard of besides calming a patient down and making them toe the line or using muscle relaxers as antidepressants.

However regarding the last treatment some have found it helpful and some have not and it is still in use.

http://ehealthforum.com/health/antidepressant-muscle-relaxer-t166426.html

So it depends on how you regard such treatments.

Getting back to the topic of the boer camps, the tragedy remains that Doyle endorsed the camps and had to live with that which I think was punishment enough when the news broke about the atrocities committed in the said camps.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle doesn't strike me as a bad man. Maybe a little pit of a poser but there were a lot of posers running around back then. I feel that he meant well even though he did the exact opposite. I am sure he probably felt some regret over his actions.

Still I don't like reading of kids suffering like that and I can think of nothing worse then being slowly starved to death.

Emily Hobhouse deserves lauding though for trying to improve conditions and for bringing the said conditions to the public's attention.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Hobhouse
 
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