July 30, 2014: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, arguably the most beloved US first lady of all time, would have celebrated her 85th birthday this week. Whether we know her for her phenomenal editorial skills in bringing beloved writers such as Naguib Mahfouz to a wider English speaking audience, or are tantalized by the tales of glamor surrounding her marriage to the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis after President Kennedy’s assassination, one thing is clear: Jackie Kennedy impresses us as much with her wit as she does with her timeless beauty.
Recently, Christie’s auction house started bids on a series of rarely seen letters from Jackie O’s personal correspondence.
Of note is a series of letters she wrote as a 17 year old girl to her then boyfriend Corbin, a Harvard student who was clearly miffed when Jackie’s adoration of him began to wane. Apparently, Jackie refused to kiss her young suitor during one visit, resulting in his rather upset message, which resulted in her writing on 10 October, 1946, “I do love you though–and can love you without kissing you every time I see you and I hope you understand that.”
The young Jackie seems to have been pondering about this declaration and the nuanced distinctions between love and passion. In what is arguably one of the funniest and most spirited rejection letters I have ever come across, she writes to her miffed beau on 20 January, 1947, where she rejects him altogether:
“I’ve always thought of being in love as being willing to do anything for the other person–starve to buy them bread and not mind living in Siberia with them–and I’ve always thought that every minute away from them would be hell–so looking at it that [way] I guess I’m not in love with you.”
It seems that the end of her correspondence with her beau occurred a few months later, in a final, undated letter which announces her brief engagement to John Husted, which lasted only for a couple of months in 1951. She writes in parting: