I’m excited that so many are enjoying the characters in my novel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon. Want to know more about the REAL people on the Titanic? My friend Sharyn has been kind enough to write some profiles for us. They are amazing and interesting…enjoy!
A small woman with auburn hair and an Irish lilt, Violet Jessop spent most of her life working as an ocean liner stewardess. And her experience on the Titanic was not her only brush with disaster as an employee of the White Star Line. She started her career on Titanic’s sister ship the Olympic, which collided with another vessel on an early voyage. After surviving Titanic’s sinking in 1912, Violet became a nurse for the British Red Cross and served on the third ship in the series, the Britannic, which sank after striking a mine during World War I.
In 1934, Violet finished writing her memoirs*, originally titled Neptune’s Greenroom under the pseudonym Constance Ransom. A romantic at heart with a sharp wit, Violet tells the full and fascinating story of her life, confining her experiences on the Titanic to three chapters. The book wasn’t published until 1997, almost thirty years after Violet’s death and, not coincidentally, the same year James Cameron’s movie about the sinking started setting box office records.
Throughout her account of her days on the Titanic, Violet hints at a sense of foreboding as the great ship headed out to sea. She expresses a regret that she couldn’t witness their departure from England. “Ah well,” she wrote, “a new scene had opened for us on that bright spring day; who could foretell whether it would be farce, sweet comedy, or tragedy?”
The biggest issue with Violet’s account isn’t what she wrote but what she didn’t. In his preface to her book, editor John Maxtone-Graham writes:
Throughout, she was sometimes tantalizingly selective about what she included. In her defense, she can never have guessed, back in 1934, at our insatiable hunger for ever more detail about the disasters that overtook the last two Olympic-class vessels. . . . Often, I wish she had lingered over the kind of detail she either neglects or dismisses with no more than a passing reference.
Violet also tended to give the people she wrote about pseudonyms, keeping their true names anonymous while, at the same time, providing enough information to offer the discerning researcher a good idea of the individual’s identity. In fact, Maxtone-Graham attempts to do just that in his introduction to chapter twenty. He then speculates that her reluctance may have been based solely on the fact that she was still working as a stewardess at the time she wrote her memoir and “obviously felt the need for discretion.”
But what Violet added to the story far outweighed what she left out. Her account offers us a glimpse into the lives of many of those lost. Take, for instance, her memories of a doomed steward named Stanley who was instrumental in saving Violet’s life. After making the seriousness of their situation clear, Stanley spent several minutes helping the stunned stewardess find a hat and something warm to wear. Violet finally headed to the deck with the comment, “So long, Stan, come up soon yourself, won’t you?”
She then wrote: “Halfway up, I looked down and waved to Stan. He was standing with his arms clasped behind him in the corner where he usually kept his evening watch. He suddenly looked very tired.
“Good old, ugly-faced, big-hearted Stanley!”
Indeed, the steward urged Violet toward a seat in a lifeboat he knew, because of his position and gender, he had no chance of securing. We can thank Violet for hearing the truth of his story and sacrifice.
* Jessop, Violet. Titanic Survivor: The Newly Discovered Memoirs of Violet Jessop Who Survived Both the Titanic and Britannic Disasters. Ed. John Maxtone-Graham. Sheridan House Inc., 1997.
Amelia Gladstone’s hopes are tied up in the Titanic–hopes for a reunion with her sister and an introduction to an admirer. But when she offers a spare ticket to a down-and-out young man, her fate is about to change.
Quentin Walpole is stunned when a sweet lady secures his passage to America–and even more surprised to find his wealthy father and older brother on board the ship. Suddenly Amelia finds herself caught between the attentions of two men, but who should she entrust her heart to? As the fateful night arrives, will Amelia lose everything to the icy waters?