NO REGRETS: The Life of Marietta Tree by Caroline Seebohm

NO REGRETS: The Life of Marietta Tree

Email this review


The woman who emerges from this biography is a kind of classy Pamela Harriman--certainly not the image Marietta Peabody Tree, a minister's daughter and a Peabody of Massachusetts, envisioned for herself. That the two would be compared is inescapable--both blossomed in the interval between the world wars, both chose first husbands who would lift them from an imprisoning lifestyle, both subsequently married money that set them on paths to personal fulfillment as US ambassadors (Harriman to France, Tree to the UN), and both had celebrated and affluent lovers. Seebohm (The Man Who Was Vogue, 1982, etc.) staves off these comparisons, offering instead a chronological narrative that depends heavily on Tree's glamorous appointment books. That includes the era when Tree's first husband, Desmond FitzGerald, was at war (WW II) and she was a researcher for Time magazine; she represented liberal labor on the Newspaper Guild and high society on the limousine-liberal party circuit, and had an affair with actor/director John Huston. She divorced FitzGerald, married Ronald Tree, whose money was in America and whose heart was in England. Their marriage lasted until he died, during which time she established herself in the inner circles of the Democratic Party (politics being always her first love) and began a relationship with Adlai Stevenson that lasted until he died, literally, at her feet. She was an absent--and perhaps envious--mother of two famous daughters, Pulitzer Prize winner Frances FitzGerald and supermodel Penelope Tree. She died in 1991 of cancer, whose progress she hid from all but Frances, as she continued to party and attend meetings until shortly before her death. Too much emphasis on celebrity guest lists and the houses, dresses, and servants that money could buy override the very real courage that Tree and her generation demonstrated in demanding to lead their own lives.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster