Rushmore Love Stories: Hopeless Romantic

There is something surprising in the letters of Theodore Roosevelt: he was a hopeless romantic. 

Though he is known for more sober exhortations to “get in the arena” or live the “strenuous life,” TR wrote languorous love letters to his first wife, Alice, and second wife, Edith. 

“Oh, my sweetest true love I pray for nothing but that I may be worthy of you,” Teddy (as he was then known to Alice, close friends, and family) wrote in November 1881. “You are the light and sunshine of my life, and I could never cease thanking the Good God who gave you to me.” Alice would be suddenly and dramatic taken, on Valentine’s Day 1884, four years to the day they were engaged to be married. In the heat and passion of their young love, TR wrote: “I could not live without you, my sweet mouthed, fair haired darling, and I care for nothing whatever else but you.” 

To Edith, whom Theodore had known since childhood, he was equally effusive, their passion diminishing little in the mature years of a much longer marriage. Toward the end of their 32 years together, TR wrote of Edith: “[She is] as charming and bewitching as ever … [She] looks so pretty and charming that now and then I have to get up and make love to her—which is rather absurd on the part of a gouty old man.”

When Corinne Roosevelt Robinson’s son, Theodore, announced his engagement, TR wrote his namesake a letter: “No other happiness in the world is so great or so enduring as that of two lovers who remain lovers after they are married, and who never forget the tenderness and affection, the respect and the forbearance, all of which each must at times show the other.”

To Alice, briefly, and Edith many years longer, TR showed a side not often seen by the public and revealed to history in the form of timeless and beautiful love letters.

Edward F. O’Keefe is the author of the forthcoming The Loves of Theodore Roosevelt: The Women Who Created a President available for pre-order now and published by Simon & Schuster on May 7. 2024. Kirkus Reviews calls the book “a fascinating celebration of women who helped make an iconic president.”