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Friday, November 8, 2013

An author's letter to Jacqueline Kennedy


In May of 1961, British journalist and author, George Bilainkin, sent an inscribed copy of his 1947 book, Second Diary of a Diplomatic Correspondent to the new First Lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy. 

He also included a typed, signed letter on his letterhead and indicated a few pages of interest to the First Lady and perhaps the new President, whom he had known and met with on several occasions in 1945 at the close of World War II.


The book and letter were sent to Mrs. Kennedy in advance of an upcoming trip to London, in which the author hoped to meet with both, or at least the First Lady, and revisit a few sites pertinent to his meetings, as a journalist, with a young Jack Kennedy in 1945. He also knew the President’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., when he was the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Bilainkin also expresses his wish to take Mrs. Kennedy to lunch and, as if that weren't enough, further requests she bring photos of herself, her husband, and his parents!

The Kennedys, on their first trip overseas, while in the White House, went to Paris, Vienna, and London. They were in London June 4-5, 1961 and it seems all but impossible that they had the time or desire to meet with a journalist whom the President had crossed paths with in 1945. Certainly, it was never a consideration.
For the First Lady of the United States of America, from an old admirer and all-weather friend of the Kennedy clan.
George Bilainkin  May 1961


It is unknown, though, if Jacqueline Kennedy actually received this book, looked through it, and showed the author’s marked passages to the President (pages noted under the inscription above and in the Index). 

But it is intriguing to ponder that this book could have been in the possession of one or both for a time. They left no writing of ownership or annotation behind to confirm that. The book eventually found its way into a Washington, D.C. estate and later into the second-hand market, letter intact.

On its own merit, this book is an interesting history from a diplomatic correspondent’s point-of-view at the end of World War II. His intimate portraits of heads of state he met, such as Tito, de Gaulle, Churchill, and diplomats such as the aforementioned Kennedy, fill the pages of this follow-up to his 1940 published diary.

But it's the inscription and letter to First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, and the speculation that she or President Kennedy kept this on the White House bookshelves for awhile, that makes this particular copy even more interesting.

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