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Manuscript from survivor of Titanic disaster goes on display in Paris

So reads a survivor's handwritten account of the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, a manuscript that goes on museum display Wednesday for the first time at a private Paris museum. Reporters were given a preview Tuesday.

The 36-page description of the disaster by American passenger Helen Churchill Candee was sold at a British auction for 47,000 pounds (US$85,000; euro67,700) last year.

Gerard Lheritier, the museum's founder, said the manuscript inspired filmmaker James Cameron for the role of Rose, played by Kate Winslet, in his blockbuster 1997 film named for the vessel.

The text describes how she gave her locket to Edward Kent, a friend on board the ship, for safekeeping after the ship hit the iceberg that destroyed it. The locket was later found in the drowned man's jacket pocket.

Lheritier said the character was a bit "romanticized": Candee, a divorced journalist, was in her fifties. She hopped quickly onto the Titanic while rushing home from a trip to Europe after learning that her son had been killed - in one of the earliest crashes in aviation history.

In the manuscript, replete with crossed-out words and running-ink blots, Candee describes how the Titanic rammed into an iceberg on a night in April 1912, and was saved after climbing into lifeboat No. 6 as the ship sank.

She said she had been preparing for a "stinging hot bath." Among other details, she described how the lifeboats were reserved for women and children, and how an elderly woman said "I'm staying with my husband" - on board.

Much of the account described personal anecdotes and the setting-sail of the voyage. The collision takes place on page 17, when she describes a feeling of being on top of a mountain in the sea - and eerie silence right afterward.

After her return home, Candee published a magazine article about the disaster and also penned a more raw account - the manuscript that was never published.

Candee's descendants had kept the handwritten account until last year, when it was auctioned by Henry Aldridge and Son house in western England - with the Paris museum as the buyer.

The museum display also features condolence letters, on-board documents and a telegram in mid-voyage announcing that the Titanic was smoothly crossing the Atlantic with all passengers "safe and sound" - before disaster struck.

The exhibit, "Titanic, au coeur de l'ocean" (Titanic, in the heart of the ocean) runs through Oct. 28 at the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in the French capital

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