The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has acquired a collection of letters written by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to Ray Roberts, who was her colleague at Doubleday and Co. The letters date from 1978 to 1992 and are from the Roberts’ collection.
Kennedy began her publishing career at Viking in 1975 and became an associate editor at Doubleday in early 1978. There are 50 letters from Kennedy to Roberts, more than half of which were sent between 1978 and 1980 while Kennedy and Roberts were colleagues. Most of Kennedy’s letters are a page long, written on Doubleday memo paper or half-leaves of Doubleday letterhead.
The letters are usually handwritten, signed familiarly “Jackie xo” or with a similar closing. During her time at Doubleday, Kennedy worked closely with Roberts. Her letters are enthusiastic, friendly and playful.
Most of Kennedy’s letters are witty and brief, addressing editorial matters or providing background on an enclosed letter or document. She and Roberts exchanged ideas and information frequently and effectively. Kennedy often forwarded letters she received or copies of letters she wrote to Roberts with a memo, asking his opinion, making suggestions or pointing out a detail in the letter.
In the latter part of 1980, Roberts left Doubleday for Little, Brown in Boston. Though their professional relationship had ended, Kennedy and Roberts continued to correspond about books and planned lunch dates.
In one letter, Kennedy thanks Roberts: “You are so adorably generous and I am so grateful. The glories of my library are all presents from you.” (Oct. 30, 1982).
A year later, she writes, “It’s Autumn in New York and you are Santa Claus–I can’t believe the marvelous pile of books you sent me–‘Julia,’ Coastal New England, Balthus, Karsh–they are all treasures.” (Oct. 15, 1983).
Still grateful for Roberts’s generosity years later, she wrote in December 1990: “I cant BELIEVE it–Little Brown will fire you if you keep giving me these treasures.”
The collection also contains a printed invitation to a cocktail party following the 1978 premiere of “The Big Picture”; ephemera from a ballet and opera performance Roberts attended with Kennedy; a copy of the exhibition catalog “A Frenchman in Camelot, The Decoration of the Kennedy White House by Stephane Boudin”; and photocopies of Kennedy letters, news clippings and excerpts from periodicals about Kennedy and her family.
The materials will be accessible once processed and cataloged.