Wilde's grief


It has been said many places, not just on the posts here but on other sites that Henry Wilde may infact be the officer who committed suicide because of the grief that he was undergoing the past year and a half or so. My debate is since the suicide subbosidly took place shortly before the ship went down I don't see why Wilde would shot himself on grief that had been going on for a year when he could wait a few more moments to die in the water. Murdoch could be a different argument since if he killed a man before shooting himself he probally didn't want to answer to anybody so he just went ahead and got it overwith.Correct me if you think I'm wrong thats just my opinion.
Adam
 
I've never put much stock in the suicide rumor. I hate to think that any of those brave men may have killed themselves, however with the situation I can see where the fear may have driven them to it. I also don't think that Murdoch shot anyone. With gunshots going off I think that it is a strong possibility that the story was fabricated. As far as I know there is not much evidence to support it. Unfortunatly with lack of physical evidence, we'll never know. I prefer to think that Murdoch and Wilde went down with the ship knowing that they saved as many lives as possible.
 
Hi, Adam:

I've never warmed up to Wilde being a realistic candidate for the suicide, either. He still had kids depending on him. And being an orphan, especially in those days, was no fun!

Geoffrey Marcus described Wilde as a rather robust man, as I recall. And just ending it, rather than taking the chance on surviving (as Lightoller did) would have automatically left Wilde's children motherless *and* fatherless. (From that perspective alone, it seems dubious to me, grief or no grief.)

Additionally, Wilde had just written his sister(?) that he didn't like the 'feeling' of the ship, or words to that effect. Doesn't sound much like a man *predisposed* to suicide, getting spooked like that.

On the other hand, Inger Sheil has alluded to some forthcoming research from Senan Molony that apparently delves into Wilde's pre-Titanic psyche. Guess we'll just have to see that when it comes out. (Meanwhile he's still my least likely candidate for a suicide.)

Cheers,
John
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Adam, Wilde is also another candidate for having shot a crewman - if such a shooting did occur (and I'm inclined to believe one did). Your arguments on an immediate trigger for a suicide - if there was one - apply to him as well.

I'm extremely uncomfortable with trying to delve into the possible suicidal motivations of these men, as we have so little data and our observations are highly speculative. Take, for example, John's argument that Wilde would be unlikely to kill himself himself as he had dependents. An argument can be made that a suicidal individual can convince themselves that their loved ones are actually 'better off' without them. If the man was already experiencing depression - and the new material John refers to indicates that this may well have been the case - then the events during the Titanic's sinking may well have been enough to push him over that abyss as he stood there, gun in hand.

However, as always there are pros and cons to the sources we have - which is why I find pointing a finger at the 'most likely' candidate so extremely difficult (although I would nominate James Moody for 'most unlikely'!). The new source on Wilde (and other Titanic figures too, btw) also has some new information on Lightoller's last sighting of Wilde - information that seems to corroborate an earlier and very brief account I found that I had thought was merely a newspaper garbling. This last sighting is not suggestive of a suicide scenario, although the timing might be garbled.
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Not as far as I know, Adam. I've never seen a source that names him as being one of the armed officers. Of course, it remains a possibility, but given how he was moving around the boatdeck I wonder if he would have been close to hand when it came to handing out firearms (pity the surviving officers weren't questioned more closely about the issuing of firearms at the inquiries).

As a rather off-topic side note, one of Moody's letters discussed a gun his brother had given him - as far as Moody was concerned, he had no earthly use for it and had made up his mind to sell it and use the proceeds for something 'useful'.
 
Thanks Inger. I agree that they should have been questioned more. Too bad that wasn't something Senator Smith picked at Lightoller at like he did other things
Adam
 
"An argument can be made that a suicidal individual can convince themselves that their loved ones are actually 'better off' without them."

Admittedly, this is all probabilistic at best. But I'd have to say that, while the argument can be raised, I'm not sure I'd give it a great deal of credence myself unless there was a substantial inheritance or life insurance involved that would amply provide for the children. But I can see it as a possibility, especially under those circumstances. (It's not out of the question.)

I certainly wouldn't judge the evidence before I see it, but if this new material merely indicates that Wilde "may well have been suffering from depression", it may say very little to nothing directly about any suicidal inclinations.

"Suicidal ideation" is by no means a necessary component of bona fide clinical depression, though it may be involved. It *is* typically asked about, as one of the potential symptoms, but it needn't be present at all to justify "depression" as the correct diagnosis. (Many depressed people never become suicidal; some suicides have no history of depression.)

Anyway, I'm not terribly inclined to debate opinions. I certainly couldn't state with any assurance who, if anyone, committed suicide. And not knowing what that particular research constitutes, I have no way yet to evaluate it. (So, for the time being, I'll just hang in and wait for it to materialize.)
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Admittedly, this is all probabilistic at best. But I'd have to say that, while the argument can be raised, I'm not sure I'd give it a great deal of credence myself unless there was a substantial inheritance or life insurance involved that would amply provide for the children. But I can see it as a possibility, especially under those circumstances. (It's not out of the question.)

Well, I give it credence as just as a perfectly valid scenario - and I do so from personal experience.

There was both a life insurance policy and an inheritance involved. Wilde had just made out his will to provide for his children in the event of his death, specifying which family member was to care for them.

I'm not inclined to construct an argument for Wilde as the most likely candidate for suicide, based on the idea that a.) he may have suffered from depression, triggered by his wife's death and b.) this might have been a contributing factor in any decision to kill himself, even if the trigger was the sinking of the ship. If someone were to have come on this board and propose such a scenario, I would have argued against it (or at least argued the pros and cons). I have absolutely no desire to set up Wilde as the 'most likely' - and, as with Murdoch, can construct a case for and against. My point was simply about how difficult it was to select a most 'likely candidate' basing our argument on a victim's supposed mental state or apparent mental fortitude. What evidence we have can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
 
I must agree with Inger, also from personal experience.

Until you've seen what mental illness or extreme depression does to someone, it's very hard to understand - because parts of it are not logical and make no sense. Shoot, it's hard enough to understand it, even *when* you've seen it!

Suicidal thoughts, and feeling that people are "better off without them" can easily have absolutely nothing to do with inheritance, life insurance, or anything else that makes sense to a normal person.

Been there, done that. It's not fun watching someone go thru this. And logic don't work.
 
Bill: Understood. And really I was speaking strictly from my own personal experience with depression, regarding the potential for underlying logic. Been there, seen it, and done it myself -- from the inside! (And believe me, it's not any fun *being* someone who's gone thru this either. Not until you get to the other side.)

But it is true that depression alone -- even serious depression -- isn't *necessarily* accompanied by suicidal inclinations. It can be; but it's not an obligate requirement. So evidence of depression alone doesn't automatically identify an individual as "at risk" -- not unless they've previously exhibited accompanying suicidal thoughts or tendencies. Slight difference, but potentially very significant.

But conceded, I can't speak for the majority, only myself. And I can't intuit Wilde's mindset. I'm just sceptical of that "predisposed by grief" angle that occasionally comes up, or of any attribution that stems solely from a diagnosis of depression. (But again, I don't really know what the attribution is at this point, so I'll reserve judgment.)

"Is there a doctor in the house?" :)
 

Inger Sheil

Member
I take your point, John, and certainly wouldn't want to spread any possible existing preconception that depression = suicidal tendencies (there are far too many myths and misunderstandings about depression as it is). Ever since I raised the matter of Wilde's potential mindset I've stressed that I wouldn't base an argument for him as a candidate based solely upon a comment he made concerning his wife's death (which is difficult to discuss meaningfully at this stage as the information won't be published for a few months anyway). Nor have I ever proposed that it might have been the sole factor - obviously it would have to be considered in the context of what was going on around him.

As I've stated often, getting into the minds of men who have been dead for 90 years, given the limitations of the material available, is exceedingly difficult, and the conclusions we draw - be they about Murdoch, Wilde or any other candidate - dubious. My problem is with advocating (or eliminating) a candidate above others based on their supposed mental state, given that it is extremely difficult to determine who was the most mentally and emotionally vulnerable that night. My arguments above about Wilde are more from a devil's advocate POV - I stated it before, but I can't stress enough that I don't wish to put him forward as the most likely candidate if such an event did occur. From discussions with them, I know how profoundly Murdoch's family have been hurt by the insensitive way in which the debate over the suicide question has been conducted. I imagine that the Wilde family could well feel likewise (one of Moody's family, however was merely utterly bemused when the subject came up in one of our conversations - they simply never even dreamed that James would have turned a gun on himself).
 
"My problem is with advocating (or eliminating) a candidate above others based on their supposed mental state, given that it is extremely difficult to determine who was the most mentally and emotionally vulnerable that night."

Inger: Absolutely! There I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head.

And agreed. While we can "hip-shoot" *subjectively* about likely or unlikely candidates, that's about ALL we can really do.

Moody's likelihood, I think, is a good deal more *objectively* questionable though, since he just doesn't fit the "chief/first officer" descriptions often included in those accounts. It doesn't rule him out, I suppose, but I certainly wouldn't have pegged him for a candidate myself.

Stretched that far, I start to wonder, "Why not guess 'Archie Butt in full military dress' "? I know, wrong uniform, but he would assuredly look every inch an "officer". And there were some early, apocryphal tales of Major Butt brandishing his pistol and "maintaining discipline" to the end.

It's all fairly speculative. We know from Bill's excellent collection that there are some pretty convincing descriptions of *a* suicide (And lots of secondary accounts of varying reliability, both pro and con.) But we really don't have any "smoking gun" -- pardon the pun, it's inevitable -- when it comes to WHOM we might be talking about. (Nor is it absolutely guaranteed there *is* a "whom", though the evidence certainly suggests that.)

(God, I hate dealing in these gray areas -- so few good facts to "hitch your wagon" to!) :)
 

Inger Sheil

Member
It's terribly tempting to start trying to delving into the psyche of these long dead men...but I do get nervous about crawling too far out on a particular limb in case it gives way! Going off on an utter tangent (don't try to draw the connection with the suicide debate - there's no direct link, even in my butterfly brain), I wonder what a psychologist, particularly of a Freudian bent, would make of the relationship the Titanic's officers had with their fathers? There's rich potential in that field for anyone inclined to delve, speculate and conjecture. Several of them - Lightoller, Lowe and Moody - had, to varying degrees, problematic relationships with their fathers (involving abandonment in two cases). Wilde never knew his father at all - he died months before Henry was born. [Hearing that bough creak as I step out a bit further on it]. Boxhall and Murdoch had good relationships with their fathers, but both fathers were successful merchant captains. As Susanne Stormer discussed in her lecture at this year's BTS convention, that carried its own raft of pressures on the sons who followed in their footsteps.

Now...rich material for speculation there, but how far to step out on the limb before it starts to splinter?
 
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