PRINCESS ALICE: A Biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth by James Brough
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PRINCESS ALICE: A Biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth

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KIRKUS REVIEW

At first glance it would seem that Brough, that most companionable of gossips, who recently fluffed up Lily Langtry plume by plume (The Prince and the Lily -- KR 1974, p. 1329) would be the ideal biographer for the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt and the last of Washington's aristocrats whose lethal witticisms -- of antique or fresh mint -- are collector's items. And yet, although Brough handles Mrs. Longworth's on-stage memories of her childhood and youth as ""America's Princess"" with appropriate dash, he is respectfully reticent about the strains and tragedies in the life of this complicated and essentially very private person. Brough reviews the years of T.R.'s political ascendancy, during which the family moved from place to place, and young Alice, whose mother died at her birth, was transferred from the care of her beloved Aunt Bye to austere step-mother Edith. While T.R. hurled thunderbolts as ""public avenger,"" Alice created her own mythology (she hexed the Tarts with a ""bad little idol"" buffed on the White House grounds). There were dances till dawn, smokes on the tiled roof of the Executive Mansion, parties, domestic and foreign tours, gifts (""I was a frankly unashamed pig""), and that White House wedding to Longworth (""The Eyes of the World Beholding"" gushed the Post). Then the Expulsion and the parade of Other Presidents began, including ""the Greek tragedy"" of that traitorous other Roosevelt: ""We were Roosevelts. Nothing else amounted to very much, and suddenly. . . came a nemesis in the shape of Franklin. . . how idiotically we all carried on."" She adored ""active vigorous men who could achieve their ends and damn the means involved"": Johnson, the Kennedys, Senators Borah and Joe McCarthy, Nixon. A defiant rightist who voted for Kennedy, a wit of intellectual vigor courted by peers of similar enthusiasms (Alec WoollCott and his circle, for example), now a self-styled ""relic"" who survived the death of her only child and raised her granddaughter, Mrs. Longworth at ninety is still an unpredictable force rather than an immovable monument, and still a smasher -- as one of the excellent photographs will testify. The essential Alice has yet to surface but Brough has come as close as anyone dares.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1975
Publisher: Little, Brown