ALL the pomp and circumstance surrounding the current slew...


May 25, 1994

ALL the pomp and circumstance surrounding the current slew of school graduations reminds us of an intriguing academic anecdote. It comes from Randy F. Nelson's 1981 book, "The Almanac of American Letters":

"While he was president of the University of Virginia, the former President of the United States [Thomas Jefferson] made a point of inviting each student to Sunday dinner on a rotating basis. If there was anything remarkable about these meals and the discussions which followed, surely it would have come in the schedule of 1826; but Jefferson died on July 4, and with him died the possibility of a notable encounter, a famous conversation that might have been. Student number 136 on Jefferson's list for that year was Edgar Allan Poe."

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THREE large ocean liners were planned by Britain's White Star Line in the early 20th century, the Olympic, the Titanic and the Gigantic. The first was launched in 1910 and made many successful voyages between Southampton and New York up until the 1930s when, with a slump in trans-Atlantic traffic, she was scrapped.

The Titanic, launched in 1911, struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage in 1912, with the loss of some 1,500 lives. The Gigantic was launched as the Britannic in 1913, but struck a mine in the Aegean while serving as a hospital ship in World War I and sank within an hour. (A stewardess, Violet Jessop, survived both sinkings.)

Earlier this month Maryland's public television station, WMPT, ran an hour-long documentary on the sinking of the Titanic and the subsequent discovery of her wreckage by Dr. Robert D. Ballard in 1986.

Alas, the promotions for the program aired by the station for at least three days beforehand referred to the liner not as the Titanic but as the "Titantic." And to think, we've always thought of WMPT as an educational television station.

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