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Titanic letter fetches mega bid

April 26, 2014

The last known letter written onboard the Titanic has sold at auction in Britain for 119,000 pounds. The second-class passenger Esther Hart wrote it just hours before the doomed ocean liner sank.

Titanic letter
Image: picture alliance / AP Photo

Including buyer's premium, the 119,000 pounds ($200,000, 145,000 euros) from an anonymous bidder topped a presale estimate of 100,000 pounds. In October, a violin believed played by bandmaster Wallace Hartley as the Titanic sank sold for 1.05 million pounds - the record for merchandise from the ship.

"My Dear ones all," Esther Hart wrote on ship stationery in the letter dated hours before the tragedy and addressed to her mother in an envelope embossed with the White Star Line flag. "As you see it is Sunday afternoon and we are resting in the library after luncheon."

Built in Belfast and described as "practically unsinkable," the Titanic struck an iceberg in the north Atlantic on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, going under early Monday, April 15, 1912 and killing more than 1,500 people. Just before, Hart had gone to a Sunday church service with her 7-year-old daughter, Eva, an event she described in the letter, along with other news of the voyage so far.

'Every human emotion'

Esther Hart had planned to settle in Canada with her daughter and husband, Benjamin, who did not survive the disaster. Esther Hart died in 1928. Her daughter, Eva, died in 1996.

"Tho they say this Ship does not roll on account of its size," Hart wrote. "Any how it rolls enough for me, I shall never forget it. It is very nice weather but awfully windy and cold. 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."

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge, whose Henry Aldridge and Son Auctioneers specializes in Titanic memorabilia and sold the violin as well, said the handwritten note represents part of the continuing fascination with the ship and its passengers.

"It was a microcosm of society," Aldridge said Saturday. "Every man, woman and child on that ship had a story to tell, so you have over 2,200 individual subplots to the main story. The Titanic encapsulates almost every human emotion we are able to experience."

In "Shadow of the Titanic: A Survivor's Story," Eva Hart's biography as told to Ronald C. Denney, she recalled 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."

Until her death, Eva criticized efforts to salvage the Titanic, which she considered a mass grave.

mkg/mz (Reuters, AFP, AP)