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Letters to His Children

A selection of letters from 1903-1917

TR and family, 1915. Library of Congress.

To Miss Emily T. Carow
August 16, 1903

Archie and Nick continue inseparable.

I wish you could have seen them the other day, after one of the picnics, walking solemnly up, jointly carrying a basket, and each with a captured turtle in his disengaged hand.

Archie is a most warm-hearted, loving, cunning little goose.

Quentin, a merry soul, has now become entirely one of the children, and joins heartily in all their plays, including the romps in the old barn, to which all the Roosevelt children, Ensign Hamner of the Sylph, Bob Ferguson and Aleck Russell were to come.

Of course I had not the heart to refuse; but really it seems, to put it mildly, rather odd for a stout, elderly President to be bouncing over hay-ricks in a wild effort to get to goal before an active midget of a competitor, aged nine years.

However, it was really great fun.

One of our recent picnics was an innovation, due to Edith.

We went in carriages or on horseback to Jane's Hill, some eight miles distant.

The view was lovely, and there was a delightful old farmhouse half a mile away, where we left our horses.

Speck [German Ambassador Count Speck von Sternberg] rode with Edith and me, looking more like Hans Christian Andersen's little tin soldier than ever.

His papers as Ambassador had finally come and so he had turned up at Oyster Bay, together with the Acting Secretary of State, to present them.

He appeared in what was really a very striking costume, that of a hussar.

As soon as the ceremony was over, I told him to put on civilized raiment, which he did, and he spent a couple of days with me. We chopped, and shot, and rode together.

He was delighted with Wyoming, and, as always, was extremely nice to the children.

The other day all the children have amusing amateur theatricals, gotten up by Lorraine and Ted.

The acting was upon Laura Roosevelt's tennis court.

All the children were most cunning, especially Quentin as Cupid, in the scantiest of pink muslin tights and bodice.

Ted and Lorraine, who were respectively George Washington and Cleopatra, really carried off the play.

At the end all the cast joined hands in a songs and dance, the final verse being devoted especially to me.

I love all these children and have great fun with them, and I am touched by the way in which they feel I am their special friend, champion, and companion.

To-day all, young and old, from the three houses went with us to Service on the great battleship Kearsarge — for the fleet is here to be inspected by me to-morrow.

It was an impressive sight, one which I think the children will not soon forget.

Most of the boys afterward went to lunch with the wretched Secretary Moody on theDolphin .

Ted had the younger ones very much on his mind, and when he got back said they had been altogether too much like a March Hare tea-party, as Archie, Nicholas, and Oliver were not alive to the dignity of the occasion.

To Quentin Roosevelt
May 10, 1908

Dearest Quenty-Quee:

I loved your letter.

I am very homesick for mother and for you children, but I have enjoyed this week's travel.

I have been among the orange groves, where the trees have oranges growing thick upon them, and there are more flowers than you have ever seen.

I have a gold top which I shall give you if mother thinks you can take care of it.

Perhaps I shall give you a silver bell instead. Whenever I see a little boy being brought up by his father or mother to look at the procession I think of you and Archie and feel very homesick.

Sometimes little boys ride in the procession with their ponies, just like Archie on Algonquin.

To Kermit Roosevelt
Date Unknown

Dear Kermit:

To-night while I was preparing to dictate a message to Congress concerning the boiling cauldron on the Isthmus of Panama, which has now begun to bubble over, up came one of the ushers with a telegram from you and Ted about the football match.

Instantly I bolted into the next room to read it aloud to mother and sister and we all cheered in unison when we came to the Rah! Rah! Rah! part of it. It was a great score.

I wish I could have seen the game.

To Kermit Roosevelt
February 27, 1904

Dear Kermit:

Mother went off for three days to New York and Mame and Quentin took instant advantage of her absence to fall sick.

Quentin's sickness was surely due to a riot in candy and ice-cream with chocolate sauce.

He was a very sad bunny next morning and spent a couple of days in bed.

Ethel, as always, was as good as gold both to him and to Archie, and largely relieved me of my duties as vice-mother.

I got up each morning in time to breakfast with Ethel and Archie before they started to school, and I read a certain amount to Quentin, but this was about all.

I think Archie escaped with a minimum of washing for the three days.

One day I asked him before Quentin how often he washed his face, whereupon Quentin interpolated, "very seldom, I fear," which naturally produced from Archie violent recriminations of a strongly personal type.

Mother came back yesterday, having thoroughly enjoyed Parsifal.

All horses continue sick.

To Ethel Carow Roosevelt
June 21, 1904

Dearest Ethel:

I think you are a little trump and I love your letter, and the way you take care of the children and keep down the expenses and cook bread and are just your own blessed busy cunning self.

You would have enjoyed being at Valley Forge with us on Sunday.

It is a beautiful place, and, of course, full of historic associations.

The garden here is lovely.

A pair of warbling vireos have built in a linden and sing all the time.

The lindens, by the way, are in bloom, and Massachusetts Avenue is fragrant with them.

The magnolias are all in bloom, too, and the jasmine on the porch.

To Kermit Roosevelt
February 2, 1918

Dear Kermit,

Since my last letter your letter about Tekrit has come and I am overjoyed. Three cheers!

You have proved yourself; you have made good; you have justified the sorrow and worry you and darling Belle have shared.

I am more pleased that I can say.

You have actually taken part in a big phase of the greatest war in history; you have efficiently done your duty for the right in the times that tried mens' souls.

It is better than to be drilling drafted men with wooden cannon here at home, isn't it?

Whether or not we shall see the much-heralded tremendous German offensive I have no idea; her army is still very powerful; but there is no question that the economic strain and social political unrest within her borders have grown very dangerous; and Austria is if anything in worse shape.

My usefulness is very limited.

I do fulfill a modest function, that of telling disagreeable truths which ought to be told but which it is very unpopular to tell and which nobody else will tell.

This is a factor in making the Administration do about a fifth of what it ought to and could, instead of only a twentieth.

But I tend to be regarded as merely a scold.

I am no longer in touch with the dominant currents of the American stream of purpose and perception — I can't say "thought," for there is uncommonly little of it at present.

All I wish is to keep on until all of you get back and take up your own lives, and until Quentin marries Flora, and then I shall retire; it is not wise to linger superfluous on the stage; and it is worse to be sour and gloomy and forecast all kinds of evil because the new generation must be spoken to in a different manner — for better or worse.

I am writing darling Belle, saying that I do hope she will take thought primarily of the two children (it is useless to ask her to take thought primarily of herself); that so she can serve you best.

I suppose that Ted and Archie are in the trenches for good now.

I do not venture to write you about either public or military matters.

Your loving Father

To Quentin Roosevelt
December 24, 1917

Dearest Quentin,

Mother, the adamantine, has stopped writing to you because you have not written to her — or to any of us — for a long time.

That will make no permanent difference to you; but I write about something that may make a permanent difference.

Flora spoke to Ethel yesterday of the fact that you only wrote rarely to her.

She made no complaint whatever.

But she knows that some of her friends receive three or four letters a week from their loves or husbands (Archie writes Gracie rather more often than this — exceedingly interesting letters).

Now of course you may not keep Flora anyhow.

But if you wish to lose her, continue to be an infrequent correspondent.

If however you wish to keep her write her letters interesting letters, and love letters — at least three times a week.

Write no matter how tired you are, no matter how inconvenient it is; write if you're smashed up in the hospital; write when you are doing your most dangerous stunts; write when your work is most irksome and disheartening; write all the time!

Write enough letters to allow for half being lost.


A hardened and wary old father

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