Long before she married JFK or became Jackie O, a vibrant college coed named Jacqueline Bouvier began writing warm, personal letters to Father Joseph Leonard, a Catholic priest she met in Ireland. Despite an age difference of more than 50 years, the two meshed as kindred spirits. She described Father Leonard as “someone who loves everything I love — who you can have FUN with…” and she once signed a letter to him with “bushels, barrels, carts & lorry loads of love to you.”
While Father Leonard respected her privacy and guarded the hopes and fears she revealed to him, he died 50 years ago, and now someone (Sheppard’s Irish Auction House won’t say who) is selling the letters to the highest bidder on June 10th.
Breaking news: As of today, May 22, the seller — All Hallows College in Dublin — has withdrawn the letters from auction.
Jackie, aged 21, met Father Leonard, 73, in 1950 as an exchange student in Ireland. Their correspondence began soon afterwards.
It’s hard to picture the poised fashion icon that was Jackie Kennedy as a lively, occasionally giddy, young woman, who peppered early letters with tidbits from home: “Nothing very much has been happening here. It is dreary winter weather and we all have colds. Yusha [her stepbrother, Hugh Auchincloss] graduated from Yale and is home trying to get into the Marines but having a lot of trouble because of the most pathetic ailment — Varicose Veins!”
She gushed about her engagement to a young stockbroker named John Husted, then confided about their break-up. “I know it’s grown me up and it’s about time!” She was sure that the next time she said yes to a young man it would be “ALL RIGHT and have a happy ending!”
Of course, the next time was to a young man named Jack Kennedy, but Jacqueline had no illusions about her future husband. “He’s like my father in a way — loves the chase and is bored with the conquest — and once married needs proof he’s still attractive, so flirts with other women and resents you. I saw how that nearly killed Mummy.”
Still, she loved Jack, deeply, and in a heartbreaking letter sent after his assassination, wrote, “I think God must have taken Jack to show the world how lost we would be without him — but that is a strange way of thinking to me. God will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see him…I have to think there is a God — or I have no hope of finding Jack again.”
The collection of letters numbers more than 130 pages on her stationery along with that of her father-in-law and White House letterhead.
Organizers estimate they may fetch $1.6 million dollars, so it’s not surprising that someone would sell this valuable personal archive. It feels a little odd reading the letters, like breeching the rules of the confessional (even though I’m not a Catholic), but I still read the bits that have been made public.
A spokesman for the auction house said he had not heard from anyone related to either the Kennedys or Father Leonard.
Read more about her letters in this CNN.com article.