Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Jacqueline Kennedy Autograph Letter Signed "Jacqueline Kennedy." Six pages on yellow legal paper, 8" x 12.5", No place; March 22, 1964. A long handwritten letter from the First Lady to John Steinbeck, in which she answers questions pertaining to her late husband, which were likely meant to be used in the writing of a biography. Sadly, Steinbeck never wrote such a biography about John F. Kennedy. The letter reads, in part:

    "I enclose a letter I wrote you weeks ago - but hesitated to send. But I don't have the strength to do it over. In answer to your second letter - I do think about your letters for the longest time. I welcome them but they are not easy to answer.

    Pictures - I send you two mass cards of Jack. The oldest one was used at his funeral. I had never seen that picture before. I had the younger one made later. It was a picture I always loved of him that was used in his campaign. Do you see how he changed in 3 years? And I send you this book - with his words and pictures of him. I think you should read it all - I don't have any other pictures - except private ones. So please look at these pictures...

    Poetry - No, Jack did not write poetry. But he always read it - alone and to me. I can tell you the things he loves. That tells a lot about him. Most of all - Shakespeare - but the histories - He knew all the great speeches and the problem of every man in those plays. Henry V St Crispins Day was his favorite. Just read that over - Jack knew it by heart - and you will see all the idealism in him - that drew him to those lines. Since November - I have often thought that that speech should be what everyone who came to Washington with Jack should be saying to themselves - And Richard II (III?) - Blanche of Castille - 'The sun's oer shot with blood - fair day adieu' - it goes on - 'opposing forces pull me each way - seeking to dismember me'. He said that out of the blue - putting it into the text of an already written speech - a few weeks before he died. It is so prophetic. When I think of that now I am desperate - because I wonder if he foresaw his end. He often spoke in a light way about being assassinated. The threats are so awful and increasing once in that place - to him - to his children - that one cannot help but talk about it. I was never scared - because I could not conceived of anything like that happening to Jack - and he was so wry about it. Now I wonder if he thought deep down that it might happen to him...

    He never spoke of himself. In Washington you only meet people who wish to talk about themselves - Senators - Ambassadors - Cabinet & Justices - but Jack was always so curious about other people - or would speak of things that mattered to him - not about himself. I slowly began to compare him with the supposedly great men I was meeting all the time. And in the Presidency even more so - as then I was meeting other Heads of State - and completely dispassionately - I used to be amazed at how un-self interested he was - and how engrossed in themselves the others were. Once I asked him what he thought his greatest fault & best quality was - he said curiosity was his best - & irritability was his worst. By irritability he really meant impatience. If someone bored him he would pick up a book or walk out of the room or pick up the telephone. He was never irritable to live with. The winter he was sick - after his back operation - we spent in his fathers house in Florida. There was a set of books there about 15 volumes - The Worlds Great Orations - that was an awful winter & I was always running down to the bookstore to buy him light books that I thought might cheer him up. But he read that set through from beginning to end. It was a special treasure of his fathers - As I think it had belonged to his father. But he gave it to Jack - Greeks - Romans - Burke - to the electors of Bristol - the trial of Warren Hastings - he had known them all before - but that winter he just steeped himself in them - & that was the winter he wrote Profiles in Courage.

    He had, which I think he gave himself - because it is so rare in this country now - a classical education. The Greeks Romans and the British were what shaped him. All that, he really found in his own private reading - so much of it when he was sick - and he was sick in bed so much of his life. Those readings gave him the background to pick out what was best in American thought and oratory. He knew Thomas Jefferson profoundly Daniel Webster - the great speeches of the Senate. It was his pride in being in the Senate (which he had been for 2 years) which made him write Profiles - which is about the Senate. He did some very brave things there - which were most unpopular at the time. His speeches on Indo China & Algeria - the St Lawrence Seaway - all about things he knew were right but he was ahead of his time and was lambasted for it. I must stop now - you must be half blind from reading this - and feel that by asking me about Jack you have opened the flood gates - which is true.

    I have just read this letter over - you asked me about poetry and I tried to answer. But this letter gives and unreal picture of our life together - books around the bed & Jack reading me poetry and always quoting things. All that is true - but he was never a pedant. Jack was full of love - for life - for books - for the great adventure of politics - and could he do what he knew must be done - love for me - for his children - for all the things that nourish his body and spirit. That is why so many different people were drawn to him & would have died for him. He found something in each that different sides of him needed - The Harvard Professors - the Irish Maria - me - his family - his children - his Navy friends of gay & sad times - and he gave such love back to each group. Now that he is dead - I see how he had his life in compartments. When he was alive, all those conflicting groups got along together - because they all knew the others loved Jack and were as devoted to him as they were. Arthur Schlesinger loved Kenny O'Donnell who loved Harold Macmillan etc. Now that Jack is gone many of them distrust each other. Each feels that only they knew the true Jack. And yet I love everyone who loved Jack. So you see to yourself - what one great man could do. Out of divergence, make such allegiance - and you know you will never see that again."

    Accompanying the letter is one of the Mass cards that Jackie mentions, measuring 3.5" x 4.5", as well as a hand addressed envelope to Steinbeck from Mrs. Kennedy. She has signed the envelope at the top right corner "Jacqueline Kennedy."

    Condition: Flattened mail folds, else very fine. The Mass card has some minor toning and soiling at the corners, else very good, and the envelope is in fine condition.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2019
    27th Sunday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 24
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,529

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2020 June 7 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    We had a wonderful time in New York during the October 2013 Historical Manuscripts auction that featured my mother’s papers collected during her tenure as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s secretary. In fact, the entire experience from beginning to end has been a pleasure.
    Howard Ballou,
    Brandon, MS
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 December 14 Historic Flags of World War II Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 December 14 Historic Flags of World War II Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $1,016,674