Hostages to Fortune

Hostages to Fortune

October 14, 2022

In 1612, when Sir Francis Bacon coined the wonderful phrase, “give hostages to fortune”, he was talking about how innocent actions might allow bad things to happen in the future.

In The Journey, one unplanned event after another knocks the protagonist off course. But isn’t this true for everyone?

A young friend recently explained how she had her life plotted out. She knew exactly where she’d be in five years, and nothing would change that. I agreed with her. But ignoring accident and illness, what if she fell in love or received a job offer in a different country?

The best any of us can do is set our compass and hope to arrive at our destination.

These words rang true when I was in the North West of England for my family drama's first UK public signing. I stayed at 30 James Street, Liverpool, a boutique hotel in an iconic waterfront building that was once the head office of the White Star Line. 

In 1912, this was where they received the news that the Titanic had struck an iceberg. On the other side of the Atlantic, New York office chief Philip Albright Small Franklin spoke to the press. “There is no danger that Titanic will sink. The boat is unsinkable, and nothing but inconvenience will be suffered by the passengers”.

That night, 1,514 passengers and crew drowned. Lost souls, many on their way to new lives in the New World. 

And what about their friends and families? What about their lives? Later that year, the Bishop of Winchester famously said, “Titanic, name and thing, will stand as a monument and warning to human presumption”.

He was right, but we all presume to know where we are going, and we are all hostages to fortune.