Sunday 21 December 2014

New Kennedy letters: 'I'm madly chasing women' - Bobby

Published 03/09/2014 | 02:30

John F. Kennedy, left, Robert Kennedy, and Ted Kennedy and the new collection of letters
John F. Kennedy, left, Robert Kennedy, and Ted Kennedy and the new collection of letters
Robert Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy at a Democratic fundraiser in 1962
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy with Fr Joseph Leonard in Dublin. Picture: Sheppards Irish Auction House
Bobby Kennedy writes: "I am now chasing women madly but it looks as if I lack the Kennedy charm as I have yet to find a girl who likes me but then I don't quit easily"
JFK writes: "Your son rode the PT 109 with me on the night of August 12 when a Japanese destroyer, traveling at a high speed cut us in two, as we turned into him for a shot. Harold had come aboard my boat a week before to serve as engineer. He fitted in quickly, and was very well-liked by both the officers and the men."
John F. Kennedy, left, Robert Kennedy, and Ted Kennedy
The Kennedy letters - group shot of the collection

THE enduring fascination with the Kennedys shows no sign of fading.

Just a few months after the proposed sale of correspondence between the late US First Lady Jackie Kennedy and an Irish priest Fr Joseph Leonard captured the nation's attention, two more batches of letters, written by her husband John F Kennedy and her brother-in-law Bobby Kennedy are being auctioned.

The Bobby Kennedy letters are the most revealing and show how as a teenager he was dazzled by the charisma of his older brother.

Bobby admitted he lacked the "Kennedy charm" John was so noted for when it came to girls, had trouble getting on sports teams at school and was worried for his brother's safety as he fought during World War Two.

While the Jackie Kennedy letters were pulled from auction in Co Laois by the Vincentian Order last May after the Kennedy estate raised objections over copyright, no such problems are anticipated with the new batches of letters.

They are scheduled to go under the hammer in Boston in two weeks' time and have already been the subject of enquiries from collectors in Ireland.

"There seems to be great interest from Ireland and the UK in the letters," said Bobby Livingston, vice-president of public relations with RR Auctions in Boston.

Mr Livingston told the Irish Independent that the Kennedy family would be aware of the auction and had raised no objection to it.

"The Bobby Kennedy letters are spectacular because they are the earliest that we have ever seen come on the market," he said.

The trove includes 18 letters written to Peter MacLellan, a school friend of Bobby, between 1941 and 1945. Mr MacLellan was the captain of three sports teams at Portsmouth Priory School in Rhode Island, where Bobby studied for three years.

Now 91, Mr MacLellan only decided to sell the letters recently, according to the auction house. Also included in the archive are four telegrams from Bobby and nine letters from his sister Jean Kennedy Smith, who Mr MacLellan once dated.

Although the Kennedy brothers would later earn a reputation for being womanisers - both John and Bobby are reputed to have shared the affections of Marilyn Monroe - the young Bobby complained about being unlucky in love.

In a letter from July 1944, he wrote: "I am now chasing women madly but it looks as if I lack the Kennedy charm as I have yet to find a girl who likes me but then I don't quit easily."

In another, written by a 16-year-old Bobby in 1942, he dealt with his brother's imminent entry into a US Navy torpedo boat squadron after completing his officer training. John is referred to as Jack throughout the letters.

"I'm going home this weekend to see my brother Jack who is now going into PT [patrol torpedo] boats so I'm getting out to see him because he might be killed any minute," Bobby wrote.

He was extremely proud of John, who became a war hero after rescuing injured crew members when their torpedo boat was sunk by a Japanese destroyer. Shortly after the incident in 1944, he wrote: "Jack just got his back operated on. Did you see the story about his boat in last week's New Yorker?"

He also detailed how another brother, Joe Jr, was flying in England with the US Air Force. "You know us Kennedys, rough, tough, and always volunteering for the hard jobs."

Joe would later die following an accidental in-flight explosion, becoming the earliest victim of the so-called Kennedy curse, which Bobby himself would befall when he was assassinated in 1968.

In another letter Bobby mentioned his sister Kathleen 'Kick' Kennedy, who served in the Red Cross and was killed in a plane accident in 1948.

Bobby looked up to Mr MacLellan as an athlete and much of their correspondence was about sport. In the letters he often played down his own sporting prowess while lauding that of his brothers John and Teddy.

After failing to make a baseball team at one point, he wrote: "I . . . of course got cut but I expected it so it doesn't matter."

Also being auctioned on September 18 are four letters written by John F Kennedy to the family of a crew member who died in the sinking incident.

"This letter is to offer my deepest sympathy to you for the loss of your son," he told the parents of Harold W Marney. "I am truly sorry that I cannot offer you hope that he survived that night. You do have the consolation of knowing that your son died in the service of his country."

Irish Independent

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