THE TITANIC (2)

New York Times

Lawrence Beesley's Admirable Description of the Disaster
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THE LOSS OF THE S. S. TITANIC. By Lawrence Beesley. Illustrated. Houghton Miffling [sic] Company. $1.20.
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No man can go dawn into the valley of the shadow of death and stand face to face with the final certainty, and not come back with an awed soul and a chastened spirit. If any one could there would be something in him shocking and repellent to normal human nature. And therefore, the unconscious undertone of solemnity which one feels all through Mr. Beesley's simple narrative gives it a peculiar fitness and impressiveness, and adds to its value as an exact chronicle a certain austere charm.

Mr. Beesley, it will be remembered, was one of the passengers on the Titanic, was saved in one of the last boats that left the sinking ship, and afterward published in THE NEW YORK TIMES a singularly calm and judicial account of the accident and of the rescue of the boats by the Carpathia. The same sort of spirit breathes all through this much longer story, with its complete narrative of the trip, from the sailing of the huge vessel from Southampton to the landing of the survivors in New York, with a preliminary chapter descriptive of the history and construction of the ship, and a final two of discussion of responsibility for the accident and of the fruits it should grow. The greater part of the volume is an intimately personal relation of the things the author himself saw, and was a part of. In those chapters which detail such phases of the tragedy, as did not pass under his own eyes, he has been very careful in his selection and sifting of testimony.

Altogether, the book is probably as authoritative and comprehensive an account of the greatest marine disaster of modern times as will ever be written, and as completely true and exact as it would be possible for any one to write. Its spirit throughout is most admirable, with its sad sincerity, simplicity, gentleness, and calm and clear sense of justice. Mr. Beesley depores [sic] the attempts to find a scapegoat for the tragedy. While he lays the immediate responsibility, though with a gentle hand, upon the shoulders of Capt. Smith, he calls attention to all the extenuating circumstances and influences which he thinks should greatly mitigate the blame meted out to that officer. And back of the Captain he points out, and this with some sternness, the many who are directly responsible and upon whose shoulders should justly rest a large share of the blame. Among these is the American Government, which, he says, perhaps forgets "that it has exactly the same right---and therefore the same responsibility---as the British Government to inspect and to legislate; the right that is easily enforced by refusal to allow entry.” On the question of the number of lifeboats he thinks the position of the American to be worse than that of the British Government. "Its regulations," he points out, "require more than double the boat accommodation which the British regulations do, and yet it has allowed hundreds of thousands of its subjects to enter its ports on boats that defied its own laws." But back of all this he finds the initial responsibility to rest upon the general public, because of the universal callousness to the value of human life. "It is folly," he declares, "for the public to rise up now and condemn steamship companies; their failing is the common falling of the immortality of indifference.” He thinks also that there should be a revision of a Captain's duties and that some of the things for which he is held responsible, such as the manning, loading, and lowering of boats, should be entirely handed over to some one else.

The author lays much stress upon the calm, orderly, self-controlled demeanor of the Titanic's passengers after the accident and of that of the survivors in the lifeboats, on board the Carpathia, and at the landing in New York, and he speaks with just resentment of the sensational and untrue accounts, evolved solely out of the imagination, that were published in some of the New York papers. He speaks earnestly of the "quiet demeanor and poise" and the "inborn dominion over circumstances" which characterized their actions at all times. But he thinks that this was no more than the normal behavior of any crowd of the Teutonic race under trying circumstances. "The reasons that made them art as they did,” he decides, "were impersonal, instinctive, hereditary," and were the consequence of "their inborn respect for law and order and for traditions bequeathed to them by generations of ancestors."

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