Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

FDR and Cousin Daisy: Book Reveals Affection

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

FDR and Cousin Daisy: Book Reveals Affection

Article excerpt

LETTERS FOUND in a beat-up trunk show Franklin D. Roosevelt as a man not only saddled with crises and paralysis but lifted by airy thoughts of serene hilltops, small pleasures and secret flirtations.

Fifty years after FDR's death, a collection of letters between the president and his distant cousin, Margaret "Daisy" Suckley, has been published in a book scholars say casts more light on Roosevelt's busy private life.

The correspondence making up "Closest Companion," edited by Geoffrey C. Ward, lays out a deeply affectionate, even giddy relationship that Ward believes was romantic but not sexual.

The letters "constitute an old-fashioned love story - chaste but clandestine, and often distinctly flirtatious," he said at the National Archives.

Suckley was the "little mud wren" in FDR's glamour circle, the plain, adoring and unassuming woman often with the president and never in anyone's way. Possibly no one knew how much he confided in her.

Her diary and the letters - 38 from him, scores from her that she eventually retrieved - were found under a bed in her home after she died four years ago at age 99.

They reflect the vigor, humor and doggedness that FDR showed to the world, but also the fatigue and frustrations he seemed unable to admit to hceothers.

"What a week - why did I come back - why this endless task - why run again - why see the endless streams of people - why the damned old basket of mail which is either full and hanging over my head or just emptied and ready to be filled," he wrote in April 1936 in a rare burst of self-pity.

"I have longed to have you with me," he wrote to her while at sea, stoking one of the several relationships with women that he kept going at once.

The Suckleys and Roosevelts were well-heeled neighbors in the Hudson River Valley, and the cousins first spent time together in 1922, when FDR was newly crippled.

The record of their letters begins in 1933, with his first inauguration, and intensifies later that decade.

It suggests the president and his sixth cousin reveled in the secrecy of their meetings, exchanged "thought messages" when apart and planned a retreat where he tantalized her with the prospect of living together one day. …

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