T.R.: The Last Romantic

T.R.: The Last Romantic

T.R.: The Last Romantic

T.R.: The Last Romantic


In his time, there was no more popular national figure than Theodore Roosevelt. Based on years of research, including new-found letters from his adult sons, here is a complete biography of "T.R"., exploring both the public figure and the private man. Beautifully written, this is a presidential biography certain to take its place among the classics of the genre. Photos.


He didn't sleep much these days. He never had: Four or five hours a night was all he could stand before the motor inside him made him jump up and start moving again. But in those younger days, sleep--the sleep of the honestly exhausted--had come easily once he did get off his feet. Now he was never exhausted, because he was always tired.

His leg--the one he had nearly lost in 1902 after the streetcar accident and that, reinjured, had almost cost him his life in the Amazon a decade later--ached constantly. Gout made every step even more of a trial. The fever he had caught in the jungle--or it might have been the malaria from the Spanish war--washed over him at irregular intervals, lathering him in sweat, then chilling him through, even on these mild summer nights. The eye that had been smashed in that White House spar was now dead to all light; the other eye, never good to begin with, gave out after just a few hours of reading. The ear that had festered so badly in the hospital the previous winter still hurt; it had taken him weeks to regain his equilibrium, and he never did regain all his hearing. He could usually hear the birdsongs through the open windows of the house in the morning or when he sat out on the piazza at dusk, but to the annoyance of one who had delighted in showing off to his birder friends, he could no longer distinguish one species from another as surely as before.

On the other hand, there weren't as many species to distinguish. When his family--his father, mother, brother, and two sisters--had started coming to Oyster Bay, it had been an outpost almost in the wilderness. The train stopped at Syosset, six miles south, and of course there were no automobiles to disrupt the rhythm of the tides, of day and night, of the seasons. But in the half-century since, the village had become a suburb, the thirty miles from Manhattan filled in with factories, shops, houses, schools, restaurants, hotels.

Not even Sagamore had been spared: The cars and delivery trucks came right up to the door. He had resisted this intrusion at first, but ever since Edith's awful fall from her horse, after which he and Archie had flagged down a passing car for an ambulance, he couldn't really condemn this encroachment on his sanctuary.

The place had changed in other ways. The trees had grown up since he had walked this hilltop with Alice Lee and had, with much waving of arms, paced off distances and thrown down rocks here, a hat and coat there, for markers, excitedly sketching the grand house he was going to build for her. Leeholm, it would be called.

Leeholm--it had been many years since he had spoken the original name of the house. And it had been even longer since he had spoken Alice's name. Weeks, sometimes months, now went by without his thinking of her. But now and again something--a certain musty tang in the air off the salt marshes near the sound when the summer breeze shifted to the north; the half-heard notes of a songbird driven farther into the forest by the traffic; the light filtering through the leaves on the road to the village--transported him back to the days when his fondest dream had been to share this house with Alice and his life with hers.

But Alice had never lived here, and for thirty years the house had been Edith's. To be sure, visitors perceived much more of him than of Edith when they walked in the front door. Heads, hides, and antlers from his hunts crowded the walls; swords and flags and other memorabilia of battle filled each corner and cranny. But those who knew Edith recognized her influence. It might have seemed a small matter that she allowed a mounted head behind her own chair in the dining room but not behind his; she refused to have a dead beast staring at her over the soup. Her parlor, to the left of the front door, just off the main hall, was more clearly her domain. Dark leather gave way to sunny satin; the clutter of the rest of the house surrendered to the neatness and control that characterized everything about her: her dress, her handwriting, her approach to household management, her emotions.

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