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'My Dear President'

"I am very madly in love with you," wrote Lyndon Johnson to his future wife, Bird Taylor. James Madison sent off this plaintive line to his wife, Dolley: "Every thing around and within reminds me that you are absent."

Cover of 'My Dear President,' by Gerard Gawalt, 2006 Mrs. James Madison, (Dolley Payne), from an original picture by Gilbert Stuart, in possession of Richard Cutts, Esq. M.D. Washington, between 1804-1805

"My Dear President: Letters Between Presidents and Their Wives" is an inspiring collection of correspondence that includes hundreds of unguarded moments of affection, strain, grief and triumph, revealing as never before the private thoughts and working partnerships of our most public figures. This newly published book is written by Gerard Gawalt, a curator of presidential papers at the Library of Congress for the past 30 years.

Culled from the holdings of the Library of Congress and various presidential libraries and private collections, "My Dear President" is the most comprehensive compilation of its kind ever put together. More than half of the letters included have never before been published, making this a historic as well as a heartfelt volume that casts a warm, new light on our leaders at their most open-hearted and vulnerable.

Gawalt has divided the book thematically into such topics as love, war, politics, travel and sorrow. Each letter appears in its entirety, with the original spelling and grammar intact, and is set in historic context for a full sense of the moment that formed its backdrop. In most cases, exchanges are included, forming an enlightening dialogue between husband and wife. Throughout, historic photographs and artwork from the Library of Congress' collection enhance the text. Gawalt has also written a companion volume, "First Daughters," which includes letters between presidents and their daughters.

Both volumes are available from the Library's Sales Shop and from bookstores nationwide.

The Library's Web site is a treasure trove of all things presidential, from papers of the founding fathers and Abraham Lincoln to presidential portraits and films of Theodore Roosevelt and William McKinley. You can explore these fascinating materials in American Memory, the Library's Web site of more than 10.5 million items. When you get to the site, click on the "Presidents" link. More than a dozen thematic collections containing materials related to our commanders-in-chief will await your exploration, including the Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt on Film, Presidential Inaugurations, and Portraits of Presidents and First Ladies.

A. Cover of "My Dear President," by Gerard Gawalt, 2006. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.

B. Mrs. James Madison, (Dolley Payne), from an original picture by Gilbert Stuart, in possession of Richard Cutts, Esq. M.D. Washington, between 1804-1805. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-68175 DLC (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: Item in PRES FILE - Madison, James--Mrs. Dolley Payne (Todd) Madison--Portraits [P&P]