Monthly Archives: October 2014

Ludwig Bemelmans’ Dear Jackie Letter

jackie o

Jacqueline Bouvier in 1935, later Jackie Kennedy and Jackie O.

Ludwig Bemelmans

Please, Mrs. Kennedy–start rhyming!


The Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans show at the NY Historical Society was amazing. Ludwig Bemelmans had written a letter to Jackie Kennedy telling her she inspired the story he outlines below, and inviting her to work on it with him. Jackie Kennedy replied (her letter was also exhibited) thanking him and joking threatening a suit over his inspiring her young daughter, Caroline, to imitate one of his book characters by jumping into the Potomac. He includes wonderful nuggetsof wisdom about creativity, wants “all faces and races” when that was uncommon in picture books, and even offers all credit to Jackie! He entreats her to “start rhyming.”




Ludwig Bemelmans

Thanks to Wikipedia for the photos. Click on images to go to the Wikipedia entries.


Here is his letter:

Outline for a Madeline Book



“Madeline visits Caroline”

The story. so far, animals, and the search for a horse have been used to carry the story.
A visit to the White House, a visit to Washington (as was done with Paris and London)
It is filled with possibilities the embarrassment is that of choice. There was an idea of the White House, who lived there because nobody could see it but the mouse could see everything with its crystal rose eyes. (We would show only those eyes in a white (outline) of the W.H.)

There are all the possibilities that come from living in it. There can be the possibility of Miss Clavel getting lost and the children looking for her. There is the children’s party with children of all faces and races. Write it down. Write it down. Memory is very unreliable and draw it also cher colleague – maybe it will suddenly form itself.
Trust most your instinct and to the subconscious mind – which keeps on working and puts things in order out of all that happened since childhood.

I think it should be a book:
Text by Jacqueline Kennedy
Illustrated by me,so please start rhyming, work on it a little while I’m gone. When we have a story, or when we have none.

Then I’ll get a place somewhere in Washington, a studio to walk around, and start doing the pictures and the story will float down, it always does, sometime the very last minute.

The basic work on it we could do in the autumn.

The thinking (in) Virginia. Liz (who was Whitney and still is, although she has married a ramrod and very nice man, but I never can remember the names of them, yes Trippett – Colonel Trippett, anyway Liz has always given me shelter at her violent estate; and the dogs there used to like me very much. I always wanted to do a book about the Virginia country – and will never forget a barbecue at which the Great Danes stood by in formation licking at the turning carcass of a beef side on the spit and jumping away at the heat of it.

Anyway that is also an endroit when I can be working. I feel a lot better. You know what did it, the many injections they gave me for various diseases – goodbye. THINK s.v.p.

My only law in writing is that the start of these things is always terrible – the first draft awful in most cases. There is no such thing as inspiration free – from hard work, a fire builds and in the glow of that you sometimes find it and often not – adieu again,