THE TITANIC by Wyn Craig Wade
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Gigantic, colossal, the Titanic was Western hubris, the Golden Age become the Gilded Age. From the glories of the Crystal Palace exposition of industrial arts in 1851, to J. P. Morgan's sponsorship of the Titanic in 1912, Victorian megalomania knew no bounds in striving for science's forthcoming heaven on earth. Then the largest machine ever made, the largest moving object anywhere, disappeared into oblivion in three hours. Author Wade sees the Titanic as the mirror of its culture, not only in gross extravagance but also in the ""remarkable indifference"" of the ship's officers who let it fly full-speed into the face of wireless ice-berg warnings without posting one extra lookout. He compares the sinking ship to a Babylonian ziggurat, for instance, and sees in its fate ""a parable to the effect that the mighty of each age must fall."" His book buttresses this view with an investigation into causes. As survivors returned on the Carpathia, instant legends were born--the captain's suicide, the string band playing ""Nearer, My God, to Thee"" (actually, says Wade, the band played a ""numbing charade"" of ragtime tunes). Had there been enough lifeboats, all might have been saved. But the ship was topheavy with nonessentials and indulgences; one marvelous minister later sermonized about the ""gilded furnishings of this sunken palace of the sea: dead helplessness wrapt in priceless luxury. . . . Everything for existence, nothing for life."" A torturing question: where were the bodies supposedly in life-preservers? Very few were recovered by rescue ships. And why sail this fabulously expensive monster through waters well-known to be ""a mass of floating ice?"" Did ""faulty construction"" play a part? Wade quotes at length from the Senate investigation and interleaves evidence of a coverup by officers of the White Star Line with eyewitness accounts of the disaster straight through the last ghastly failure of the half-empty lifeboats to return for the people afloat. A rousing adjunct to Walter Lord's social history of the sinking, and thorough-going on the causes as far as they can be determined.

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1979
Publisher: Rawson, Wade--dist. by Atheneum