Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Words of wisdom and an act of love

Sometimes real life is more surprising than any storyteller can imagine. Life itself can be a Twisted Tale. 
Finishing up my next thriller, Concealed, I was looking for a quote I could use on the first page. I ended up with a man who is well known thanks to some of his famous quotes. But if I mention his name, most of you will say: "Huh? Hubba-Who?". 

I guess most of you have never read a single story he wrote. To be honest, neither did I. But I do know his quotes. Like: "Don't take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive."
These famous words were even used in a cartoon (at the end  of "Rabbit's Feat", a 1960 cartoon featuring Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote.). 
And how about this one, used on many cards:

So who was this mysterious man? Elbert Green Hubbard? Ah! Right! Now we all know... Hubbard was an American writer, publicist, artist and philosopher. He described himself as an anarchist and socialist. He believed in social, economic, domestic, political, mental and spiritual freedom. Great! I love free spirits. 

One of the best quotes ever may have been made by Hubbard too. The phrase was used by Hubbard in a 1915 obituary for dwarf actor Marshall Pinckney Wilder, in which he praised Wilder's optimistic attitude and achievements in the face of his disabilities: "He was a walking refutation of that dogmatic statement, Mens sana in corpore sano ('a sound mind in a sound body') . His was a sound mind in an unsound body. He proved the eternal paradox of things. He cashed in on his disabilities. He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade stand."
A phrase better known as: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

In 1912, the famous passenger liner RMS Titanic was sunk after hitting an iceberg. Hubbard subsequently wrote of the disaster, referring to the story of Ida Straus, a woman who was supposed to be placed in a lifeboat (in precedence to men) but refused to board the boat as she did not want to be separated from her husband. Hubbard wrote ("The Titanic", in The Fra, one of the two magazines edited and published by Hubbard, May 1912): 

"Mr. and Mrs. Straus, I envy you that legacy of love and loyalty to your children and grandchildren. The calm courage that was yours all your long and useful career was your posession in death. You knew how to do three great things - you knew how to live, how to love and how to die. One thing is sure, there are just two respectable ways to die. One is of old age, and the other is by accident. All disease is indecent. Suicide is atrocious. But to pass out as did Mr. and Mrs. Isador Straus is glorious. Few have such a privilige. Happy lovers, both. In life they were never separated and in death they are not divided."

You may be wondering, where is that Tuesday Twist in this story? Or maybe you already have a gut feeling by now... 
A little more than three years after the sinking of the Titanic, the Hubbards boarded the RMS Lusitania in New York. On May 7, 1915 11 miles off the Old Head of Insdale (18 km from the coast of Ireland), the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the German U-Boat U-20. Ernest C. Cowper, a survivor of the event, wrote a letter to Elbert Hubbard II (March 12, 1916) in which he wrote: 

"I cannot say specifically where your father and Mrs. Hubbard (*) were when the torpedoes hit, but I can tell you just what happened after that. They emerged from their room, which was on the port side of the vessel, and came on to the boat-deck. Neither appeared perturbed in the least. Your father and Mrs. Hubbard linked arms - the fashion in which they always walked the deck - and stood apparently wondering what to do. I passed  him with a baby which I was taking to a lifeboat when he said:
'Well, Jack, they have got us. They are a damn sight worse than I ever thought they were.'
They did not move very far away from where they originally stood. As I moved to the other side of the ship, in preparation for a jump when the right moment came, I called to him:
'What are you going to do?'
He just shook his head, while Mrs. Hubbard smiled and said:
'There does not seem to be anyhting to do.'
The expression seemed to produce action on the part of your father, for then he did one of the most dramatic things I ever saw done. He simply turned with Mrs. Hubbard and entered a room on the top deck, the door of which was open, and closed it behind him.
It was apparent that his idea was that they should die together, and not risk being parted on going into the water."

And there you are: the twist of To(ues)day. 
No, wait! The inevitable trick of the tail. Did I mention Hubbard was convicted in 1913? 
I have this sense for dark humor. And often that's what life is all about. Elbert Hubbard was convicted of violating postal laws. He had circulated objectionable matter. 'Obscene' it was even called... yikes! Lateron sentence was suspended on five additional acounts during good behavior; nevertheless federal conviction resulted in a revocation of Hubbard's civil rights. Anxious to cross the ocean, to report on the war (WW I); he had to request a presidential pardon. In those days seventy-five percent of those petitioning for clemency found their request denied. Hubbard's pardon was found appropriate. On receiving his pardon Hubbard obtained a passport. May 1, 1915 he left on a voyage to Europe...

A remarkable story about a man (and a rugged believer in individualism). 
Curious about the quote I have used? Read Concealed (publication scheduled mid December, 2016). 

If you like to read more of Hubbard's quotes, check out this great site: BrainyQuotes. 

(*) Hubbard married twice: 
Bertha Crawford Hubbard (1861-1935)
Alice Moore Hubbard (1861-1915)