I am about three quarters through Chip Bishop’s Quentin & Flora: A Roosevelt and a Vanderbilt in Love during the Great War. Mr. Bishop tells the story of Quentin Roosevelt and Flora Payne Whitney, who were secretly engaged prior to Quentin’s embarkation for France during the Great War. The young couple’s relationship ended before it began when the young airman was killed on the Bastille Day 1918. The book is a fascinating read and I will have more to say about it in future posts. What I wanted to share here is something Chip quotes that gives some insights into Theodore Roosevelt one does not ordinarily see. Roosevelt was notedly reluctant to discuss intimacy and yet found himself doing just that in a letter to daughter Ethel. In a letter dated August 21, 1912 Roosevelt writes:
“I have been taking Mother out to row instead of to ride; she is as charming and pretty (in my eyes I think anyhow) as when she was the slender girl I made love to–and I can’t help making love to her now.”
It is a remarkably candid moment and one can only speculate on why he wrote it. Perhaps it was because Ethel was their only daughter and he felt freer to share such information with her and not his sons. It could be too because Ethel had turned 21 the week before and so he felt he could share this with his now fully adult daughter. Ethel herself would marry less than a year later. Whatever the reason, it is an extraordinarily human moment.