White Star Lines–Titanic Connections at the ABL–Wilson Barrett and the RMS Teutonic

by Melinda Creech
Graduate Assistant, Armstrong Browning Library

The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, more commonly known as the White Star Line, was a prominent British shipping company.  Founded in 1845, The White Star Line, operated a fleet of clipper ships that sailed between Britain, Australia, and America. The ill-fated Titanic was perhaps their most famous ship. The Armstrong Browning Library has a few connections to the Titanic. One connection relates to a set of postcards that disappeared with the Titanic and another relates to the author of the hymn, “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” the song that was purportedly playing as the Titanic sank. The Armstrong Browning Library’s collection includes a letter with the White Star logo in its heading and several letters written on board ships or while individuals were preparing to board ships. The letters, written between 1841 and 1912, are lines from people who were passengers on SS (Steamer Ships), RMS (Royal Mail Steamers), or HMS (Her Majesty’s Ship). It is interesting to note that one of the first purposes of steamers crossing the Atlantic was to deliver the mail. These lines, written from steamer ships, may shed some light on the adventure and danger presented by steamer travel in the late nineteenth century.

Wilson Barrett, British actor, theater manager, and playwright, 1883. A photograph from “The Theatre”, A Monthly Review, Volume I, January to June, 1883, David Bogue, London, 1883.

Wilson Barrett (1846-1904) was an English manager, playwright, and actor. In 1893 he packed up his touring company and came to the United States, landing at New York. Newspaper reports the company performing, interestingly enough, in New Orleans, Houston, and Galveston.

Ad in the Houston Post. 13 March 1894.

In the following letter, Barrett regretted that he could not have brought his play to London, but the White Star Line required his scenery by the 6th of November.

I should have come to London with Virginius but the White Star Steamship C’y will not take my scenery after the morning of the 6th – & as I do not finish in Liverpool until the 7th – it became impossible.

Wilson Barrett to Charles Osborne. 20 October 1893.

Wilson Barret to Charles Osborne. 20 October 1893. Page 1

Wilson Barret to Charles Osborne. 20 October 1893. Pages 2 and 3.

Wilson and his troupe made their trip to the United States on the White Star Line’s SS Teutonic.

RMS Teutonic

During the first eighteen years of service from 1889 to 1907, the Teutonic sailed on the route from Liverpool to New York City, making an average of one sailing per month. In October, 1913, the ship narrowly avoided the same fate as the Titanic when, at 172 miles east of Belle Isle off the Newfoundland coast, she ran so close to an iceberg that she avoided collision only by reversing her engines and putting the helm hard aport. According to the October 29, 1913 issue of the Chicago Tribune,

…the liner passed within twenty feet of the iceberg. The fog was so thick that even at that small distance the berg could scarcely be distinguished. It was so close that there was danger that the propeller of the ship would strike it as the vessel went around. The passengers were not aware of their peril until it had been averted. They signed a testimonial to the captain and his officers expressing their gratitude and admiration for the care and skill displayed by them.


They Asked For A Paper–“My Dear Child”–Leigh Hunt’s letter to his daughter


Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,”  highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

James Henry Leigh Hunt by Samuel Laurence [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Leigh Hunt to Julia Trelawney Hunt, 18 August 1857, p. 1.

Leigh Hunt to Julia Trelawney Hunt, 18 August 1857, pp. 2 & 3.

Leigh Hunt to Julia Trelawney Hunt, 18 August 1857, p. 4.

Among the items in the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection is a tender letter from Leigh Hunt to his daughter, Julia Trelawney. She is staying on the Isle of Guernsey with George Godfrey. Although the letter is published in The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt (Smith, Elder and Company, 1862, page 281) parts of the letter were elided, including the delightful line at the beginning of the postscript:

Many thanks for the newspapers with which I mean to make myself thoroughly and Guernsically acquainted.

A transcript of the letter is provided below; the unpublished parts are in bold.

Hammersmith — Augt. 18

My dear Child,

We were very glad to hear from you so soon again, — the more so, inasmuch as you will have been glad yourself at having written. And you very properly fill your letter with as many particulars about the place, and your movements in it, and way of life, as you can; for it is
[Page 2]
this that absent friends are enabled to find themselves still together, as much as is possible.
I should certainly exclaim as you say I should, in threading your “beautiful” lanes; and I should think the kindness which every body shews you still more beautiful; for charming as inanimate nature ^is,^ there is nothing so charming, after all, as the expression of kindness in the human countenance.
[Page 3]
Pray look at the “house to let” by all means, and at any other house to let, provided it does ^would^ not tax ^my^ old limbs to get up to it. And be particular as to their rents and their gardens. I rejoice in what you tell me of your sitting at the piano. Walter has not yet come; but we saw Mr. & Mrs. Hooper here again on Thursday evening. Mr. Ollier and Edmund spent the greater part of Saturday evening with us; and simultaneous with their appearance was that of Mary Sayer, whom Jacintha
[Page 4]
entertained at tea in the back parlour while we took ours in the front, but all with open doors and in good fellowship; only Mr. Ollier’s health, I am sorry to say, continuing to be much tried, and strangers trying it more, we remained as I describe. She is coming to tea again on Wednesday evening to play us some Beethoven, and repeat some verses of mine in a kind of recitative, occasionally touching the instruments. We are still looking anxiously for Mr. Lee; and the moment he comes I will let you know. I tell you of Wednesday evening in order that you may imagine yourself with us: [so] [now] you know ^as much of^ us, past and future, as we know ourselves.
Your ever loving father
L. H.
[Written on top of Page]
P. S. Many thanks for the newspapers with which I mean to make myself thoroughly and Guernsically acquainted. Jacintha’a love, and she will write tomorrow, in order that you may have two days’ accounts of us, instead of one. All the pictures you send us, are beautiful. I read in today’s paper, that the queen is at sea and is expected to touch at the Channel Islands. If you see her, I expect that you will shake half a dozen handkerchiefs at her, instead of one. I have re-opened the letter, on purpose to say so.

AU 18
Miss Hunt —
Care of Geo: Godfrey Esqre
Claremont House,
Channel Islands
L. H.

The tiny letter (3.5″ x 4.5″) is tucked into an envelope mounted on the same page as a letter from Sir Walter Scott to Right Honorable The Lord Chief Baron &c &c Edward.

Page from the Henry DeCastro Autograph Album

The letters are collected into an album which belonged to “Henry De Castro / Cramlington Villa — Putney.”

Why is Leigh Hunt’s daughter on Guernsey? Who are the people she is staying with? Who are the other people mentioned in the letter? How did this letter get into Henry DeCastro’s collection? What are the “houses to let” he mentions? Why is the letter written on mourning paper? Is there a copy of the newspaper with which Hunt “Guernsically acquainted” himself?

They Asked For A Paper

Borrowing its title from a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, this series, They Asked For A Paper,”  highlights interesting items from the Armstrong Browning Library’s collection and suggests topics for further research.

By Melinda Creech
Manuscripts Specialist, Armstrong Browning Library

In 1962 C. S. Lewis published a collection of twelve essays simply entitled They Asked For A Paper. It would be his last publication. He died the following year. I have borrowed Lewis’s title for this blog series which will suggest research topics for scholars interested in mining the treasures of the Armstrong Browning Library.

As we have processed the books, letters, and manuscripts here at the ABL, provocative questions and fascinating details have come to light. The faculty and staff are often heard repeating, “Somebody should write a paper about that.” Because that task has proved monumental for our small staff, we are inviting you to tackle some of the questions that have been unearthed.

Over the next few months I will be offering suggestions for research projects based on the holdings at the ABL. Please feel free to contact us for more details, or, better yet, come and visit us at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and have a hands-on experience with the books, letters, and manuscripts in our archives. The topics will include not only the Brownings, but also many other figures from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Be sure to “SUBSCRIBE!” to the blog on the right-hand side of the screen to keep up with all the possibilities.

So, since you asked…