I Took a Voyage on the R.M.S Titanic
Two weeks after the Titanic disaster the body of Arthur Newell was washed up on a Newfoundland beach. Identified by some distinctive jewelry and a pocket diary, he was buried in Lexington’s Mount Olive cemetery.
Six years later, Marjorie Newell, who had been misidentified as “Alice” on the list of survivors, married and began her own family, her own life. Throughout her married and professional life, raising her children, helping to found the New Jersey symphony, she respected her mother’s wishes and refused any and all inquiries about her experiences on the Titanic with a polite but firm, “I don’t like to talk about it.”
And, in truth, she doesn’t. A most definite-minded, jut-jawed, matriarchal woman, whose strength of character is complemented by a distinctly coquettish femininity, Marjorie Newell Robb still grows noticeably upset, almost distraught, when she recalls that endless night of almost 70 years ago.
Still, there are some things that have to be faced, and the daughter was not at all like the implacably brooding, isolated mother.
In 1960, after the deaths of both her mother and her husband, Marjorie Robb took a trip to Europe where the itinerary included Litchfield, England; the home town of the Titanic‘s Captain Edward Smith.
“Of course, as far as I’m concerned, Captain Smith is a very unpopular man. I wanted to see the statue of him they have at Litchfield, but the main reason I was going there was to see the exquisite cathedral they have there, with its gorgeous carving.
“As I went into the cathedral, the organ, a favorite instrument of mine, burst forth into magnificent music, flooding the church,
“I walked down the aisle and stood there, terribly, terribly moved. I didn’t even seem to be on earth; I was somewhere else. It was as if I was ascending. I felt that here, at long last, was the end of the Titanic story. My father had given his life to save me” and now that I was free of everything else, it was up to me to make the decisions as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. But the Titanic? For me, it was over with.”
So now, Marjorie Newell Robb, like Melville’s Ishmael, is left to tell of the mighty ship. Considered unsinkable, it sank on its maiden voyage, taking with it all the interlocking assumptions about modem man and the perfectability of his works, the smug, hubristic self-assurance of the Gilded Age. For along with A. W. Newell and 1,502 others, the Titanic took with it an entire insulated way of life.
“The irony of it all is so striking,” says Arthur Newell’s last surviving daughter. “The unsinkable ship, all the money that those men had that was of no use to them at all. And the irony even touched my father. One of the ways we identified his body when it washed up was an onyx ring that he always wore. One of my grandchildren wears it now. And on that ring, you see, is a carving of Neptune, King of the Sea.”
Read another tale of survival on the Titanic: Going Down with the Titanic in Third Class