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EDITH KERMIT ROOSEVELT: Portrait of a First Lady by Sylvia Jukes Morris

EDITH KERMIT ROOSEVELT: Portrait of a First Lady


Pub Date: May 29th, 1980
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan

FDR saluted her for cleverly managing his Uncle Ted. One of her hell-raising tykes opined, appreciatively, that ""Mother must have been a boy when she was a child."" She invited ""a promising young Spanish cellist named Pablo Casals"" to play at a White House musicale. And referred to being First Lady, unceremoniously, as ""like living above the store."" Intellectual, fervent, intimidating, serene, Edith Kermit Roosevelt is very much worth reading about, even at the undue length (512 pp.) that Sylvia Morris has gone to--a length that better suited husband Edmund Morris' 1979 biography of the young TR. And even though the complex character of Edith Roosevelt remains an enigma here. Take just the facts. She and TR were the closest and fondest of childhood chums (some disarming letters remain); but shortly after her 17th birthday, their ""very intimate relationship"" ruptured and Teddy married light-haired, light-hearted Alice Hathaway Lee. . . soon to die in childbirth (bearing the formidable Alice Roosevelt Longworth). An unsteady TR shunned Edith's company; they met by momentous accident; and within weeks they were engaged--launching what must stand as one of the most ardent, closely attuned matches in White House history. Or take the vignettes. TR has just won the V-P nomination: ""'With a little gasp of regret,' noted one reporter, 'Mrs. Roosevelt's face broke into smiles. . .'"" Shortly after, moving into the White House, she'll remark that ""the life will be far easier than that of the Vice-President's wife. For one thing, I shall not have to count the pennies; for another, I shall have no calls to make. . . ."" And she proceeded to do over the White House (in its original style); to assemble the known sets of presidential china, engage the first Social Secretary, entertain with unprecedented Éclat (H. Adams, John La Farge, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and H. James were guests at one memorable lunch). . . all the while savoring the escapades of son Kermit's madcap ""White House Gang"" and remaining, to the last, TR's ""Darling Edie."" Details galore, and hardly an uninteresting one.