The Titanic: Our Tragedy, As Well.

April 15, 2012 in General

On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton, England, for New York. It sank in the North Atlantic after it was holed by an iceberg four days later. Altogether, 1514 people died- and as Xtra Canada tells us, some of them were lesbian and gay.

In a new book,  RMS Titanic: Gilded Lives on a Fatal Voyage, Hugh Brewster includes the stories of gay men who appear amongst the ship’s passenger list and who drowned in the icy waters. Two particularly stand out-  Francis Millet and Major Archibald Willingham Butt, who served as military aid to US Presidents Roosevelt and Taft. He never married but lived in a Washington DC townhouse with other gay men and Filipino houseboys and was strangely knowledgeable about Washington social networks and Edith Roosevelt’s couture. Millet was a poet and in Washington DC’s  Smithsonian,  he discovered Millet’s passionate love letters to San Francisco poet Charles Warren Stoddard as well as the original copy of Millet’s final letter from the Titanic. In addition, Brewster draws our attention to “Three Musketeers” (Canadians), who travelled together- and sadly, perished on the ill-fated vessel, although only one of their bodies has ever been recovered.

In a haunting coincidence, one of the other fatalities was William Thomas Stead. Stead  was an English journalist whose crusade against ”immorality” and child prostitution led to the passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 in the UK, which criminalised homosexuality due to an ill-considered amendment. It was responsible for the conviction of Oscar Wilde in the mid-1890s.

Recommended:

Hugh Brewster: Titanic: Gilded Lives on a Fatal Voyage: Toronto HarperCollins: 2012: Also published as Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: New York: Crown: 2012.

Alistair Newton: “Titanic: Gilded Lives on a Fatal Voyage”: Xtra: 23.04.2012: http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/Titanic_Gilded_Lives_on_a_Fatal_Voyage-11685.aspx

Titanic: The Untold Gay Story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNmfYJ1Ptmg

 

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