The Sway of the Grand Saloon


Front Cover, Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic by John Malcolm Brinnin, 1971. First Edition Hardcover.

Front Cover, Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic by John Malcolm Brinnin, 1971. First Edition Hardcover. GGA Image ID # 202846144f


Front Cover, Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic by John Malcolm Brinnin, 1971. Barnes & Nobel Hardcover Copy.

Front Cover, Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic by John Malcolm Brinnin, 1971. Barnes & Nobel Hardcover Copy. Cover Image is the RMS Lusitania docked at Cunard Pier, Courtesy of Corbis Images, New York. Tom McKeveny designed the jacket. GGA Image ID # 20284aaaf1



History of the ocean liners of the North Atlantic crossings. A comprehensive history of Trans-Atlantic passenger ships covering 1818 - 1968, with 55 b/w illustrations, photos, and drawings. The glorious age of passenger ships recaptured features stories about Emerson, Dietrich, Vanderbilt Barnum, Wolfe, etc.


From the Inside Flaps (First Edition Version)

The Glorious Age of passenger ships on the ocean has ended. Here, splendors and miseries together is the whole marvelous story. It begins on a January morning in 1818 when frosted with snow, a creaking little New York packet ship starts for Liverpool with six passengers.

It ends mid-ocean, on a September night 150 years later, when the mighty Queens Elizabeth and Mary blast valedictory salutes to one another and start for oblivion.

From Ralph Waldo Emerson trying desperately to stay upright in his topsy-turvy cabin to anonymous peasants dancing the jig in the "whited sepulchers'' of steerage to Marlene Dietrich serenely descending the grand staircase of the Ile de France, the book is alive with personalities as well as with people.

Robert Louis Stevenson rolled up in a blanket on the deck floor of an emigrant ship. Alfred G. Wynne Vanderbilt is guarding a lady companion's jewel box as water laps the boat deck of the Lusitania.

P. T. Barnum escorts Jenny Lind through triumphal arches on the dock where she sets foot in America. Third-class passenger Thomas Wolfe fell in love at first sight with first-class passenger Aline Bernstein in the second-class lounge of the RMS Olympic.

All these moments and pieces form a vast, enthralling mosaic of the years when the sway of the grand saloon was absolute. All the liners whose histories endowed them with the charisma of personalities are here.

The Arctic, slicing through Grand Banks fog to a disaster that puts the whole city of New York into crepe and mourning. The Titanic sank in starlight and zephyrs, taking more than 1500 souls and the faith of a generation with her.

The Kronprinzessin Cecilie, loaded with gold and millionaires, was pursued by British destroyers through a flotilla of sailboats and Old Town canoes into the good old summertime of Bar Harbor. The Mauretania raced ahead of every other ship on the ocean for 22 incredible years.

The Sway of the Grand Saloon covers all the ocean greyhounds and floating palaces from the first few glorious days of American supremacy to the twilight of the super-ships.


From the Inside DJ Flaps (B&N Version)

In January 1818, Six Hardy Souls made the first scheduled Atlantic passenger ship crossing, and a new industry was born. Reckless competition, horrific disasters, and human dramas shaped it. But with Jenny Lind, Lily Langtry, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain among the newsmakers who decorated passenger lists, the liners' appeal proved irresistible. Business flourished, and with it, adventure and romance.

By 1900, the Golden Age was in full swing. With their grand "saloons" (main social cabins), the great liners became playgrounds for gilded society and magnets for the rising middle class. But the danger was ever threatening. In 1912, an iceberg ripped open the Titanic, a tragedy in which John Jacob Astor's heroism made history.

In 1915, the torpedoed Lusitania went down with Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who refused to rush for the lifeboats, and in 1956, the Andrea Doria, a victim of a collision, shattered yet again the myth of unsinkability. During the 1950s, the proud transatlantic liners steamed off the front page of history, victims of inexpensive air travel.

John Malcolm Brinnin's unerring eye for fascinating details captures the excitements and traumas of a splendid century. Through the triumphs and tragedies of Inman, Cunard, Brunei, and their fellow titans, Brinnin tells how the grand saloons shaped architecture, design, and fashion— creating a world of unforgettable interest.





SECTION I. Departure of the First Scheduled Atlantic Carrier / Aristocrat and Lumpenproletariat at Sea /The Blackballing of William Cobbett / The Yankee Skippers: Autocrats of the Groaning Board / Alexis de Tocqueville Tells His Mother / Tyrone Power Takes a Bath / Harriet Martineau Becalmed / Ralph Waldo Emerson Disoriented / The Packet Yorkshire Transports P. T. Barnum and General Tom Thumb / The American Mercantile Navy: "Eyewash" and Trumpery

SECTION II. S.S. Savannah and the Czar of All the Russias / Robert Fulton's Compact

SECTION III. The "Spasmodic Pioneers" / Conde de Palmella / The Rising Star in Valparaiso / Curaçao: The Flying Dutchman / Dionysius Lardner and the Knight of Kerry / The Route of the Royal William / Cholera in Quebec / The Bona-Fide First Steam Crossing / A Ship from Canada Becomes the First Steam Warship in the Spanish Navy / Two Ships, Both Unlucky

SECTION IV. Junius Smith: Father of Ocean Steam Navigation / Yale Man and London Trader / The Royal Victoria

SECTION V. Isambard Kingdom Brunei / The Great West- cm / The Sirius / The Race to New York / "The Broad Atlantic Bridged at Last . . . Annihilation of Space and Time" / Daniel Webster and Other Free-Loaders / The Fury of James Gordon Bennett / "Farewell Nationality!"

SECTION VI. Haliburton and Howe: Two Men in a Boat / "Is It the Sirius? Can It Be the Great Western?"

SECTION VII. Steamship Fever / The Second Royal William / The Sirius on the Rocks / Enter Samuel Cunard



SECTION I. The Loyalist Cunards of Halifax / The Halcyon Days of Joseph Cunard / Colonel Samuel / Fanny Kemble Tells a Lie / The Lords of the Treasury Listen / Robert Napier: "The Tutelary Deity" / "Three Good and Sufficient Steamships" / The British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company / Cunard Red / Bostonians Incensed / Return of the Heroes / Captain Ericssons Plan / Clambake on MacNab's Island

SECTION II. The British Queen / Junius Smith Comes Across

SECTION III. Nova Scotians: Samuel Cunard and Donald McKay / The Sweet Singer of Hartford / The SS Sovereign of the Seas vs. the SS Canada

SECTION IV. The Unicorn to Boston / Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Faneuil Hall / The Britannia Sets the Rules / News for Halifax: God Saves Queen Victoria / The "Cunard Festival" / The Four Sisters Come to Stay

SECTION V. The Britannia Icebound / Merchants to the Rescue

SECTION VI. The President: Sine Qua Non / Captain Roberts: "To Sea in a Washing Tub" / Lost Without Trace, Almost

SECTION VII. The Letter Bag of the Great Western / Captain Halfront's Complaint / "A Glorious Fleet of Snowy Canvas"

SECTION VIII. The Great Britain / "Stupendous Progeny of the Genius of Mr. Brunei' / Mrs. Miles Off the Mark / The Rainbow and the Boast of Archimedes / The Shoals of Nantucket / Beached in Dundrum Bay / Brunei Heartbroken / Oblivion in the Antipodes / The Very Lazarus of Ships Comes Home

SECTION IX. The Preposterous Voyage: Charles Dickens's Supine

SECTION X. An American Pioneer: The Washington / A Memo for Henry Clay / Junius Smith: Lobbyist / The British Rub It In / Joy in Southampton

SECTION XI. Edward Knight Collins / The Apprentice Years / The Dramatic Line / "The Absolute Conquest of This Man Cunard" / Commodore Perry: "Meddlesome Matty' / S.S. Atlantic: Sky-Blue Spittoons / Martin Tupper to His Wife / Henry James Runs into Washington Irving / Margaret Fuller In the Hands of Fate / Thoreau on the Beach / P. T. Barnum and the Swedish Nightingale / Congress Bails Out Collins / The Atlantic Saved / The Arctic Doomed / "There Is Sorrow on the Sea" / The Pacific Lost / The Adriatic at the End of the Line

SECTION XII. Commodore Vanderbilt'."Laboring for Daily Bread" / The North Star / Laughter in Southampton / Gazed at by the Sultan / Competition with Collins

SECTION XIII. Inman's Iron Screws / The Princeton Shows Off / The Massachusetts Ill-Conceived / Henry Morford Astride a Screw

SECTION XIV. The Great Eastern: "Canst Thou Draw Out Leviathan with a Hook?" / Bruneis "Great Babe" / Explosion Aboard and the Death of Brunei / Jules Verne on Deck / The Great Storm of 1861 / A Harvard Man to the Rescue / Show Business / The Ghosts of the Great Eastern

SECTION XV. White Star, Rising / The "Evil Screw" / Nathaniel Hawthorne Enraptured / Henry James' "Emphatic Zero" / Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Goes Below / The Lower Depths / The Oceanic: Prototype / "How Splendid Are These Passage Boats!" / Captain Digby Beset / The Debate on Woman's Rights /In the Steerage / The Wreck of the Atlantic / A Gory Story / Captain Williams: The Mild Rebuke

SECTION XVI. S.S. City of Boston: "The Wonderful Narrative of Julia Dean" / "I've Got Pluck, and I've Got Money, and I'm Going to Have You, Honey"

SECTION XVII. Inman Advances / The City of Berlin / Robert Louis Stevenson: Amateur Immigrant / Sarah Bernhardt and the Lady in Black

SECTION XVIII. Captains Courageous / "His Telescope Was Ever at Her Service" / Captain Murray and Oscar Wilde / The Arizona Story / Lily Langtry's Rat

SECTION XIX. The Death of Sir Samuel / Cunard Redivivus / The Servia /The End of the Oregon

SECTION XX. S.S. Umbria and S.S. Etruria: End of the Single Screw / The Saving of the Spree

SECTION XXI. The Beautiful City of Rome / Society at Sea / Alta Moda and Haute Cuisine

SECTION XXII. Campania and Lucania: "The Limits of I Inman Possibility" / Thomas Cook and "The Tribes of Unlettered British" / Americans on the Arno / Pure Unadulterated Fun / Immorality in Steerage

SECTION XXIII. The American Line / Ocean Liners to War /"Is That You, St. Paul?"


PART THREE: APOGEE (1890-1919)

SECTION I. Wilhelm II Piped Aboard / The Teutonic: "We Must Have Some of These" / Turbinia: "A Thing Bewitched" / Charles Algernon Parsons / Imperial Germany to the Fore / Mark Twain: "The Modern Idea Is Right" / The Sad Case of the Kaiser Friedrich / The Fearsome Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse

SECTION II. Germany Über Alles / "The Man from San Francisco" / Henry James: "A Shapeless Bundle of Shawls" / The Lavish Hand of Johannes Poppe / Blueprints Marked: Mauretania, Lusitania

SECTION III. Junius Pierpont Morgan and the International Mercantile Marine / Albert Ballin: Hamburg Amerika's Wünderkind / The Kaiser's Hunting Lodge / Cunard for Sale / Cunard Ransomed / "The Ocean Was Too Big for the Old Man" / Caronia and Carmania

SECTION IV. The Germans Set the Pace / The Scottish Lusitania and the English Mauretania / Museums at Sea / Grand Hotels with Engines / The Captain as Social Arbiter / Theodore Dreiser Dazzled / Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the Mauretania / One-Upmanship on the Atlantic / "Where Will It All End?"

SECTION V. Marconi7s Wireless: Rescue and Pursuit / The Republic Rammed / Excelsior! Jack Binns at the Key / Harvey Hawley Crippen / The Women in the Case / Enter Inspector Dew / The Flight to Antwerp / Captain Kendall on the Scent / The Race to Father Point / "Good Morning, Doctor Crippen"

SECTION VI. /. Bruce Ismay: Havanas and Napoleon / Counter Measures: Olympic, Titanic, Britannic / "Olympic Is a Marvel77 / H.M.S. Hawke and the Twenty Millionaires

SECTION VII. The Titanic: Ten Lethal Seconds / Ice, Fields of It / "Good Morning, Old Man." / "CQD COD SOS SOS CQD SOS, Come at Once" / Carpathia: "Ship of Gloom and Succor." "ALL SAVED FROM TITANIC AFTER COLLISION" / The Cheerful Embalmer / A Microcosm of Civilized Society / Theodore Dreiser: "A Great Rage in My Heart against the Fortuity of Life77 / Joseph Conrad Outraged / Elbert Hubbard's Eulogy / Henry Adams Shattered / "The Convergence of the Twain"

SECTION VIII. S.S. "Gigantic" / Britannic: Casualty of War / Albert Ballins Imperator: "Mein Feld 1st die Welt" / La Belle Epoque Asea / E. E. Cummings "À Bord de Touraine" / Leviathan Née Vaterland / Aquitania: "The Ship Beautiful" / The Empress of Ireland / Hospitals Afloat SECTION IX. The Kronprinzessin Cecilie Turns About / Fiddler's Green, Maine / Sojourn at Bar Harbor: "Has a German Skipper Turned Jules Verne?" / Captain Polack and the Social Whirl / Germans in Night School

SECTION X. S.S. Carmania: The Pretty Sister Slugs It Out / Encounter off Trinidad Island / A Good Fight / Return to the Luxury Trade

SECTION XI. May 7, 1915: "Mein Gott, Es Ist die Lusitania!" /The Warning in the Paper / Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt and Shipmates / The Outline of a Torpedo / Unterseeboot-20 / Divergent Opinions / The Claims against Cunard / The Eloquence of Consul Frost / An Embarrassment of Coffins



SECTION I. Rehabilitation and Retribution / Prizes of War / The Emergency Quota Act / The Steerage Upgraded / "Tourism" and the Pleasure Principle / Zelda Fitzgerald: "The Dark Pool of Gratification" / Sam Dodsworth: "Free!" / Emily Post Lays Down the Law / Basil Woon and the Dinner Jacket / Lorelei Lee Chooses the Majestic / Prince Louis Mountbatten on the Drums / "The New Art of Going Abroad" / The "Big Three" / Duveen Sells Gainsborough's "Blue Boy"

SECTION II. The New Germans / Bremen and Europa / Jack Meets the Chant / Ella Wheeler Wilcox and the Street of Shops / The Four-Day Boat / Thomas Wolfe and the Knife of Love

SECTION III. Ships in the Air / Shadows on the Sea Lanes / Walter Wellman and Ilis Nondescript Balloon / The Spirit of St. Louis / Prophets in Goggles

SECTION IV. Confusions: "Dressing in Third Class?" / Iberian Fantasy and the Union Jack / "The Longest Gangplank in the World" / Ile de France / The Airplane on the Afterdeck / "Cannot Reverse Engines-Controls Jammed" / Ernest Hemingway and the Kraut: "Pretty Romantic, eh?"

SECTION V. Captains Contemptuous / Sir James Charles / October 29, 1929: "The Funeral Silence of Ruined Men" SECTION VI. William Francis Gibbs Defines / Dinosaurs of the Deep / The Normandie! / U.S.S. Lafayette / Death in the Hudson River

SECTION VII. Oceanic: The Loveliest Ship That Never Was / Hull 534 Abandoned / Queen Mary Christens the Queen Mary / Seven Million Galley Slaves / Trucking at the Trocadero / "Where There is Muck, There is Money"

SECTION VIII. Cruise Ships: From the Holy Land to Nowhere / "I Went to Havana, on One of Those Cruises, for Forty-nine Fifty. . . ." / William Makepeace Thackeray on the Lady Mary Wood / The Dream of Rob M. Sloman / The Nightingale, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire / The Great Eastern Fiascoes / The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain and the Quaker City / Tyburnia Defiant / Albert Tallinn: The Breakthrough / Laconia: The Route of Magellan / Troglodytes of the Seven Seas / The Captain as "Someone Royal" / The Desecration of the S.S. Independence

SECTION IX. A Nazi in the Sky / Dr. Eckener's Gamble / The Flaming Hindenburg / R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth: uThe Ultimate Ship" / Escape of "An Empress Incognito" / The Dash of the Bremen

SECTION X. Mal de Mer: "The Nauseate Sublime" / Baltimore: The End of the Scourge / General Ballou: Ship of Mercy / Mothersil's and Others / Grouches and Lyricists / The Bessemer Saloon Ship / Diagnoses and Treatments

SECTION XI. The Interval of War / New Silhouettes on the North Atlantic/ The Queen Mary and the Curaçao / Resurgence in "Steamship Row" / S.S. United States: Prima Ballerina Assoluta / The Luck of Captain Manning / Maiden Voyage: "Just Like a Destroyer" / Good Sports in Southampton / Andrea Doria Inbound, Stockholm Out / Ile de France on the Scene / Settlement and Aftermath

SECTION XII. Ile de France in the Limelight / The New Ocean Travelers / A Great Lady Sold for Scrap / The Shinto Altar and The Last Voyage

SECTION XIII. Last Chances / Lively Sea Lanes of the 1950s / Light on the Liberté / "The Flounder" / T/ze Dutch Experiment / Vapor Trails: The Handwriting on the Wall / The France / The Ships from Genoa / Queens in Desuetude / On the Auction Block / "The Queens Are Dead! Long Live the Queen!" / Disparities: Makers and Users / The Long Wake: September 25, 1967





Back Cover, Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic by John Malcolm Brinnin, 1971. First Edition Hardcover.

Back Cover, Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic by John Malcolm Brinnin, 1971. First Edition Hardcover. GGA Image ID # 202864b0f8


Back Cover, Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic by John Malcolm Brinnin, 1971. Barnes & Nobel Hardcover Copy.

Back Cover, Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic by John Malcolm Brinnin, 1971. Barnes & Nobel Hardcover Copy. GGA Image ID # 202873712c


From the Back Cover (B&N Version)

The well deck forward was littered with ice knocked or scooped from the iceberg. But from the point of view of most of the passengers, contact between the ship and the ice was so slight as to be negligible. "I wound my watch—it was 11:45 pm.," one of them recalled, "—and was just about to step into bed when I seemed to sway slightly. I realized the ship had veered to port as though she had been gently pushed. If I had had a brimful glass of water in my hand, not a drop would have been spilled; the shock was so slight." But, almost as if a fishhook had gutted her, the huge starboard hull of the ship was already opened lengthwise. In moments, watertight bulkheads were transformed from bastions of protection against the sea to deadly containers weighted with tons of salt water.

-- on the Titanic, from The Sway of the Grand Saloon

About the Author

John Malcolm Brinnin (September 13, 1916 — June 25, 1998) was an American poet and literary critic. Brinnin was born to two United States citizens in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Brinnin published six volumes of his poetry. Brinnin also wrote scholarly works on T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Truman Capote, and William Carlos Williams and published three personal travelogues.

Brinnin taught in several universities over his career. At various times, he gave courses at Vassar College, Boston University, the University of Connecticut, and Harvard University.

The late John Malcolm Brinnin (1916- 1998) was a distinguished poet, literary biographer, teacher, and critic. His best-known biographical work is Dylan Thomas in America. His other biographies include The Third Rose: Gertrude Stein and Her World and Truman Capote: Dear Heart, Old Buddy.

In addition to The Sway of the Grand Saloon, Brinnin is the author of another book on transatlantic travel, Beau Voyage: Life Aboard the Last Great Ships.


Library of Congress Catalog Listing

  • Personal name: Brinnin, John Malcolm, 1916-1998.
  • Main title: The sway of the grand saloon; a social history of the North Atlantic.
  • Published/Created: New York, Delacorte Press [1971]
  • Description: xxii, 599 p. illus. 24 cm.
  • LC classification: HE599 .B73
  • LC Subjects: Merchant marine--Passenger traffic--History. Ocean liners--History.
  • Notes: "A Seymour Lawrence book."
  • Bibliography: p. 555-562.
  • LCCN: 74164846
  • Dewey class no.: 387.5/42/091821
  • Type of material: Book


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