LONDON (Reuters) – A letter from a passenger on the Titanic, written just hours before the ship hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage, sold at auction yesterday for £119,000 ($200,000).
It was written by British survivors Esther Hart and her seven-year-old daughter Eva who had been travelling in Second Class on their way to start a new life in Canada.
Auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son said the price was believed to be a record for a Titanic letter.
“There was a lot of interest,” said a spokesman. “We have sold other letters from the Titanic but none have reached anything like this price.”
The Titanic sank on the night of Sunday 14 April 1912, on the fifth day of its first voyage from Southampton to New York.
Over 1,500 passengers and crew lost their lives in the tragedy, including Hart’s husband Benjamin.
The letter, written on special stationery headed “On board RMS ‘Titanic’” and complete with an envelope embossed with the White Star Line flag, was intended to be delivered to Hart’s mother in Chadwell Heath, east London.
It tells how Esther Hart was suffering the effects of sea-sickness and feeling the cold.
“My dear ones all,” it begins. “As you see it is Sunday afternoon and we are resting in the library after luncheon. I was very bad all day yesterday could not eat or drink and sick all the while, but today I have got over it.
“The sailors say we have had a wonderful passage up to now. There has been no tempest, but God knows what it must be when there is one. It is very nice weather but awfully windy and cold.”
She adds: “They say we may get into New York Tuesday night but we are really due early Wednesday morning. Shall write as soon as we get there.”
The letter, with a cheery farewell from young Eva at the bottom, survived because it had been in the pocket of her husband’s coat, which he had given to his wife to keep her warm as the ship was evacuated. He did not survive the disaster.
Hart and Eva, who later recalled the events of the liner’s last hours in her autobiography Shadow of the Titanic, were rescued by HMS Carpathia.
In the book, Eva wrote of her mother: “The letter she had written that Sunday afternoon on the Titanic was never posted. She found it in the pocket of my father’s sheepskin-lined coat after we had been rescued and for her it was to remain a constant reminder of that tragic journey and of the loss of her husband.”
Eva died in 1996 aged 91.