When Helen Churchill Candee wrote a 42-page memoir of the Titanic's maiden voyage, she had no idea she was writing herself into the role of a Hollywood heroine.
"Titanic" director James Cameron reportedly took his inspiration for the character Rose from that manuscript, which is on public view for the first time at the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in Paris.
But unlike the young Rose, as played by Kate Winslet, Candee was a 50-year-old American divorcee who was also a writer, nurse and suffragette, returning home in 1912 after learning that one of her sons had been injured in a car crash.
Two days into the voyage, she was enjoying the company of her fellow first class passengers before disaster struck. Candee wrote, "All of my group were gathered together in the Ritz restaurant of the ship at 11 o'clock in the evening."
Hours later, the great ship hit an iceberg.
In Candee's original manuscript, the emotion in her words is evident and one can almost feel the excitement of that maiden voyage, with romance in the air — and then, the impact of the iceberg.
"I was in my bathroom, ready for a stinging hot bath … then the shock came. The impact was below me. It toppled me over. We had struck the top of a mountain in the sea," she wrote.
At first, a steward told Candee there was nothing to worry about. Then she was rushed onto lifeboat No. 6 with other women and children, but not before giving her locket to a man named Edward Kent.
"Take these for me, you know, we women have no pockets," she wrote.
The locket was in Kent's pocket when his body was recovered. Candee survived the disaster, and lived until 1949 when she died, leaving behind an eloquent testimony to the disaster.
As the ship sank, she wrote, "The soft quiet sea is just covering the second row of portholes. The great ship is on her inevitable way … At last, the end of the world."