Sunday, August 17, 2014



I read this old book thoroughly.  I was impressed the smoothness of the writing, the choice of words, and the upper class eloquence of it! 

John H. Davis was Jackie Kennedy Onassis' and Big Edie Beale's cousin.  With them he attended family get-togethers and vacations at the East Hampton estate called Lasata, owned by the last Bouvier to have any real money, their grandfather.  That money was based on early America and the earnings of generations before.  When he died the family fortune had been spent down so that the house had to be sold.  Inheritances could not sustain the grandchildren any more though I could argue that the money they did get would have been considered substantial if they were common people.

Davis isn't an apologist for the family but he does put things rather pleasantly, for instance stating that Big Edie chose her "seclusion."  He busts through the family mythology that their grandfather spun and that they all grew up believing; The Bouviers were not as members of the French nobility yet their rise was fast and enduring.  It's too bad this falsehood about nobility empowered so much of their sense of family for the truth is also respectable and impressive.  How many French village cabinetmakers who came to live in Philadelphia ended up wealthy in the early Americas?  Among the White House treasures is a piece of furniture made by Michal Bouvier, the founder of the American family! 

It's said that Jackie never spoke to her cousin again after this book was published. What upset her so?  He spends a lot of time about the ancestors including the nun who became Beatified by the Vatican and had little to say about her and Jack's relationship, only in the family pride of her achievement to be First Lady and the debacle of the two sides of the family attending the Inauguration.  (Apparently the Kennedys and the Bouviers found little in common and Jackie didn't even come down to say hello as they sat waiting.)

But on to the subject of this month's Mistress, Little Edie Beale.

Davis explains that Big Edie's mother, Maude Sargeant, was so approving and supportive of her children that she did not give her or her brother, "Black Jack" (Jackie's father) a sense that they could ever be wrong.  When she died they were both rather lost.  He presents Big Edie as overly theatrical and operatic in her attention seeking for the tastes of her conservative father or, eventually, Phelan Beale, the man she married, and in need of daily conversations on the phone with Maude. 

Simply Davis says that after the Bouvier inheritances were diminished Big Edie didn't have enough from her divorce and the Bouviers to keep their house. The family members each went their own way without summers and special holidays at the house in East Hampton to remind them they were relatives.  In other words, the sense of family that they once had when grandfather was alive and they met up in East Hampton were over, they were all fending for themselves, some better than others.  No excuse is offered for why Little Edie's brothers or other relatives were not involved sooner or had to be embarrassed by The National Enquirer to activate on Big and Little Edie's welfare. 

The Bouviers
From Waterloo to the Kennedys and Beyond
by John, H, Davis C 1993
National Press Books publisher

C 2014 Missy Rapport/ Mistress Manifesto

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