Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt, an old New Yorker, was born on East Twentieth Street, four years before Edith Wharton, in a house three blocks away from Wharton's her birthplace. He broke the mold, for old New Yorkers seldom entered politics, and some of them considered Roosevelt a traitor to his class. He was governor of New York from 1899 to 1900 and the twenty-sixth President of the United States, from 1901 to 1909. Wharton remembered: "Theodore Roosevelt was one of the most humorous raconteurs I ever knew, and a very good mimic; and when we were among a little band of fun-lovers . . . he kept us rocking with his cow-boy tales and his evocations of White House visitors. His liberty of speech, even in mixed company, was startling. Once at a moment of acute tension between the President and the Senate, I was lunching at the White House with a big and haphazard party, among whom were several guests who had never before met the President . . . and suddenly I heard him break out to the assembled table: 'Well, yes, I'm tired; I'm terribly tired. I don't know exactly what's the matter with me; but if only we could revive the good old Roman customs, I know a bath in Senator __________'s blood would set me right in no time.'" Over the years he followed his old friend's writing career, particularly appreciating her first novel, The Valley of Decision. Edith Wharton visited Roosevelt at the White House and saw him when he came to Paris in 1910 on a speaking tour following his presidency. After his death, she wrote to his sister Corinne Roosevelt Robinson: "More and more, as time passes, does the shadow of your brother's loss spread across the world. The waste of it--the waste!"

Theodore Roosevelt 1858-1919
Adrian Lamb (1901-1988)
after the 1908 original by Philip de Laszlo
Oil on canvas, 1967
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution;
gift of the Theodore Roosevelt Association

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