Sunday 26 March 2017

From Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, with love

Young Jackie O's letters to teenage sweetheart go under hammer

Jon Swaine in New York

"CAN you think of anything worse," asked the teenage Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, "than living in a small town like this all your life and competing to see which housewife can bake the best cake?"

Just 15 years later, she would be at the centre of the world's most powerful capital as the much-loved wife of the US president -- with a French master chef on hand to deal with the baking.

The adolescent musings of the girl who became Jackie Kennedy are disclosed in a series of love letters to be auctioned in the US next month.

The 20 notes were sent to R Beverley Corbin Jr -- or "Bev" -- a Harvard student with whom she enjoyed a long-distance romance from her room at Miss Porter's boarding school in Connecticut.

Dating from 1945 to 1947, they reveal what Christie's, the auction house, describes as a "funny, spirited and at times cynical young woman -- one with great intelligence and a strong will of her own".

Written after her parents had gone through a bitter divorce, and amid financial worries at home, they disclose the anguish Miss Bouvier felt at being trapped in what she described as her "prison".

"If school days are the happiest days of your life, I'm hanging myself with my skip-rope tonight," she wrote in the autumn of 1945, when she was 16.

Heartaches

"Some man is beating his wife in the street," she notes at another point, "which is the only interesting thing that's happened all day."

She promises never to send her own children to boarding school. "They'll all be morons," she writes, "but at least they won't have to tear around and get their teeth knocked out playing hockey every day."

The letters, which are expected to fetch up to €22,700, were addressed to Bev at The Owl Club, one of Harvard's famous "final clubs". Some were written on personalised powder blue note paper, others on plain white school stationery.

But all give touching glimpses into the joys and heartaches of an ordinary girl who would go on to live one of the 20th century's most extraordinary lives.

Her mischievous spirit also comes to the fore. Telling Bev that she and classmates are to visit a church in Boston -- near his college -- on a school trip, she proposes that he wait for her in the pews.

A teacher had discovered a similar plot by other girls on a previous trip to an art gallery, and security guards had to remove their boyfriends, "but she couldn't do that to you in a church".

Miss Bouvier went on to study in New York and Paris, before graduating from George Washington University in 1951. The following year, at a dinner party, she was introduced to John Fitzgerald Kennedy. (© Daily Telegraph, London).

Irish Independent

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