Voyagers of the Titanic
Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From
By Richard Davenport-Hines
(William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780061876844, 352pp.)
Publication Date: March 2012
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Late in the night of April 14, 1912, the mighty Titanic, a passenger liner traveling from Southampton, England, to New York City, struck an iceberg four hundred miles south of Newfoundland. Its sinking over the next two and a half hours brought the shipmythological in name and sizeone hundred years of infamy.
Of the 2,240 people aboard the ship, 1,517 perished either by drowning or by freezing to death in the frigid North Atlantic waters. What followed the disaster was tantamount to a worldwide outpouring of grief: In New York, Paris, London, and other major cities, people lined the streets and crowded around the offices of the White Star Line, the Titanics shipping company, to inquire for news of their loved ones and for details about the lives of some of the famous people of their time.
While many accounts of the Titanics voyage focus on the technical or mechanical aspects of why the ship sank, Voyagers of the Titanic follows the stories of the men, women, and children whose lives intersected on the vessels fateful last day, covering the full range of first, second, and third classfrom plutocrats and captains of industry to cobblers and tailors looking for a better life in America.
Richard Davenport-Hines delves into the fascinating lives of those who ate, drank, reveled, dreamed, and died aboard the mythic ship: from John Jacob Astor IV, the wealthiest person on board, whose comportment that night was subject to speculation and gossip for years after the event, to Archibald Butt, the much-beloved military aide to Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft, who died helping others into the Titanics few lifeboats. With magnificent prose, Voyagers of the Titanic also brings to life the untold stories of the ships middle and third classesclergymen, teachers, hoteliers, engineers, shopkeepers, counterjumpers, and clerkseach of whom had a story that not only illuminates the fascinating ship but also the times in which it sailed. In addition, Davenport-Hines explores the fascinating politics behind the Titanics creation, which involved larger-than-life figures such as J. P. Morgan, the ships owner, and Lord Pirrie, the ships builder.
The memory of this tragedy still remains a part of the American psyche and Voyagers of the Titanic brings that clear night back to us with all of its drama and pathos.
Richard Davenport-Hines is the acclaimed biographer of W. H. Auden and the Macmillan dynasty. He is also the author of Proust at the Majestic: The Last Days of the Author Whose Book Changed Paris and The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics. He is a regular contributor to the U.K. publications Literary Review, the Sunday Telegraph, the Spectator, and the Times Literary Supplement.
“Here at last is the true memorial ... a book well worthy of marking the centenary of the crystal-clear night when the immense ship slid to her terrible doom”
“An astonishing work, of meticulous research, which allows us to know, in painful detail, the men and women on that fateful voyage. Even now, a hundred years later, Mr. Davenport-Hines finds a new, and heart-breaking, story to tell.”
-Julian Fellowes, Creator and Executive Producer of "Downton Abbey"
“Paints a provocative portrait of the “upstairs, downstairs” social stratification in play aboard the doomed ship. A-”
“The story of the Titanic has been told many times; this one takes a sociological perspective, with the confident, graceful prose of fine fiction.”
-Wall Street Journal
“Impressive in both its writing and reporting... It’s a romp. You don’t know who will be strolling down the deck next.”
“A shattering human story that is also, when told as well as Davenport-Hines tells it, utterly compelling.”
-Sunday Times (UK), lead review
“Eloquent and absorbing… It will stay afloat long after the armada of other Titanic books have gone down.”
-The Telegraph (UK)
“This will not be the last book on the Titanic, but it is a safe bet that there will not be a better.”
-The Spectator (UK), lead review
“Meticulous... detailed account.”
-Women's Wear Daily.com
“This intelligent book focuses not on the ship so much as its passengers. Bolstered by photographs of the people who built, staffed, sailed on and survived the Titanic, Davenport-Hines finds a slew of new points of view from which to scan history.”