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Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First-Class Passengers and Their World

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Overview

Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage takes us behind the paneled doors of the Titanic’s elegant private suites to present compelling, memorable portraits of her most notable passengers.  The intimate atmosphere onboard history’s most famous ship is recreated as never before. 

   The Titanic has often been called “an exquisite microcosm of the Edwardian era,” but until now, her story has not been presented as such. In Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage, historian Hugh Brewster seamlessly interweaves personal narratives of the lost liner’s most fascinating people with a haunting account of the fateful maiden crossing. Employing scrupulous research and featuring 100 rarely-seen photographs, he accurately depicts the ship’s brief life and tragic denouement, presenting the very latest thinking on everything from when and how the lifeboats were loaded to the last tune played by the orchestra. Yet here too is a convincing evocation of the table talk at the famous Widener dinner party held in the Ritz Restaurant on the last night. And here we also experience the rustle of elegant undergarments as first-class ladies proceed down the grand staircase in their soigné evening gowns, some of them designed by Lady Duff Gordon, the celebrated couterière, who was also on board.

      Another well-known passenger was the artist Frank Millet, who led an astonishing life that seemed to encapsulate America’s Gilded Age—from serving as a drummer boy in the Civil War to being the man who made Chicago’s White City white for the 1893 World Exposition. His traveling companion Major Archibald Butt was President Taft’s closest aide and was returning home for a grueling fall election campaign that his boss was expected to lose. Today, both of these once-famous men are almost forgotten, but their ship-mate Margaret Tobin Brown lives on as “the Unsinkable Molly Brown,” a name that she was never called during her lifetime. 

       Millionaires John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, writer Helen Churchill Candee, movie actress Dorothy Gibson, aristocrat Noelle, the Countess of Rothes, and a host of other travelers on this fateful crossing are also vividly brought to life within these pages. Through them, we gain insight into the arts, politics, culture, and sexual mores of a world both distant and near to our own. And with them, we gather on the Titanic’s sloping deck on that cold, starlit night and observe their all-too-human reactions as the disaster unfolds. More than ever, we ask ourselves, “What would we have done?”

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This work unabashedly focuses on Titanic's first-class passengers, the best-known on the ship, whose lives were the most carefully documented. Among these were the fashion designer Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon; the artist Francis D. Millet; the U.S. presidential military adviser Archibald Butt; the wealthiest man in America, John Jacob Astor IV, and his second wife, Madeleine; the English journalist W.T. Stead; and the prominent Philadelphia families the Thayers, the Wideners, and the Carters. In a departure from his usual focus on history for children, Brewster (Inside the Titanic; 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to All Your Questions About the Titanic) successfully clarifies the complex relationships among these wealthy, privileged, famous, and/or titled folks, many of whom had known or known of one another in business or social capacities for years. He is also careful to explain that some made their fortunes through hard work, not inheritance. The descriptions of the luxuries of first-class accommodations are detailed and evocative. VERDICT This is one of those rare books on the subject that provides information both new and relevant, in a scholarly but readable way. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the social history of the early 20th century.
Kirkus Reviews
In time for the centennial commemoration of the sinking of the Titanic, a close look at the lives of the ship's most privileged passengers. Drawing on a wide range of material, Titanic expert Brewster explores the world of the wealthy passengers, especially the intricate network of complicated social connections and public scandals that often persisted onboard. Each chapter concerns a specific circle of high society, and the author looks at some of the biggest names of the era, including millionaire John Jacob Astor IV, presidential aide Archibald Butt, railroad president Charles Hays and future tennis champion Norris Williams. Although rich in historical detail, much of Brewster's narrative is couched in speculative prose--for example, passenger Charlotte Cardeza "may have instructed her maid to select her rose-colored Lucile evening dress from the eleven gowns she had with her"--at times stretching the reader's credulity. Brewster rarely mentions those not directly involved with the rich and famous--the majority of the passengers on board--but he supplies an impressive amount of information, often directly pulling from firsthand accounts. The author vividly renders the collision, the sinking, the chilling wail of unseen swimmers calling from the cold water and the shipwreck's aftermath. Though overly concerned with the minutia of Edwardian society, Brewster delivers a welcome, interesting addition to Titanic-related literature.
Holly Morris
Brewster's nuanced account introduces us to a plutocracy frolicking in the sunset of England's Edwardian era and Ameri­ca's Gilded Age. He pushes past stereotypes to vividly describe the elite realm on deck…
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
“Brewster’s nuanced account introduces us to a plutocracy frolicking in the sunset of England’s Edwardian era and America’s Gilded Age.  He pushes past stereotypes to vividly describe the elite realm on deck”
New York Times Book Review

“You needn’t be an avid Titanic scholar or enthusiast to find this story spellbinding.  No fiction author could ever concoct a tale of greater tragedy, irony, pathos, ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys,’ heroism, cowardice, wealth and poverty.”
Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

“[A] brilliant account of the first-class passengers who went down with the ship, giving us a glimpse into a Gilded Age about to disappear forever….Brewster's method is simple and highly entertaining.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"Classy…delicious, wonderfully readable”
—Christian Science Monitor

“A lively tour through the lives of a handful of noteworthy first-class passengers”
San Antonio Express-News

“This is one of those rare books on the subject that provides information both new and relevant, in a scholarly but readable way. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the social history of the early 20th century.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“[A]n impressive amount of information, often directly pulling from firsthand accounts. The author vividly renders the collision, the sinking, the chilling wail of unseen swimmers calling from the cold water and the shipwreck's aftermath....a welcome, interesting addition to Titanic-related literature.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Full of delicious details, from champagne flutes to the careless luxe of furs and satin, this is a spell-binding story, fresh, original and totally absorbing.”
—Marian Fowler, author of In a Gilded Cage
 
“Focuses on an area of the disaster that has long been overlooked ––that of the prominent people who were involved....a compelling account of who they were and how this select group of names came together in one enormous tragedy.”
—Don Lynch, author of Titanic: An Illustrated History and Ghosts of the Abyss
 
“A fascinating and engaging account of the Titanic disaster....a definite "must-read" for the centenary of the Titanic disaster, and I feel certain it will quickly be regarded as a standard work on the subject.”
—George Behe, author of On Board RMS Titanic and The Carpathia and the Titanic

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307984708
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/27/2012
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 433,780
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Hugh Brewster has twenty-five years of experience in creating books about the Titanic as an editor, publisher, and writer. He worked with Robert D. Ballard to produce the 1987 international bestseller The Discovery of the Titanic and oversaw the creation of Titanic: An Illustrated History, a book that provided inspiration for James Cameron’s epic movie.  Brewster is also the author of Inside the Titanic, 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to All Your Questions About the Titanic, and Deadly Voyage and has written twelve award-winning books for young readers, including Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, which was chosen as one of the best books of 2007 by the Washington Post. He lives in Toronto.

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Table of Contents

Prologue A Rare Gathering 1

1 At the Cherbourg Quay 5

2 A Nomadic Hiatus 17

3 The Palm Room 29

4 "Queer Lot of People" 47

5 Queenstown 63

6 Fellow Travelers 75

7 Private Lives 91

8 Shipboard Coteries 107

9 Designing Woman 121

10 A Calm Sunday 137

11 The Last Evening 149

12 Collision and After 163

13 To the Lifeboats 179

14 The Final Minutes 197

15 Voices in the Night 211

16 The Ship of Sorrow 229

17 Two Continents Stirred 247

Postscript Titanic Afterlives 271

Notes 291

Appendix A 307

Appendix B 309

Bibliography 311

Acknowledgments 319

Photograph and Illustration Credits 323

Index 325

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2012

    Ggg

    Qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmmnbvcxzlkjhgfdsapoiuytrewq!

    ( titinac is NOT boring)!

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2012

    Myla

    The first part of the book spends too much time with too many characters it felt like skeet shooting not enough there to justify getting to the sinking most of which i already knew boring not reccomended

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

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    Posted July 18, 2012

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    Posted May 27, 2012

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    Posted April 13, 2012

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