A Most Glorious Ride: The Diaries of Theodore Roosevelt.

Author:Sempa, Francis P.
Position:Book review
 
FREE EXCERPT

A Most Glorious Ride: The Diaries of Theodore Roosevelt, 1877-1886. Edited by Edward P. Kohn. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015. 284 pp.

Edward P. Kohn, assistant professor of history at Bilkent University in Turkey and the author of two previous books on the early political career of Theodore Roosevelt (or TR), has edited and annotated a collection of Roosevelt's diaries from 1877 to 1886, covering TR's Harvard years, early married life, entry into New York politics, first hunting trip to the Dakota territory, years in the New York state legislature, and escape to the Western territories after the tragic loss of his mother and wife on the same day in 1884. Remarkably, considering how much has been written about the fascinating and eventful life of the twenty-sixth president of the United States, A Most Glorious Ride is the first publication of his diaries.

Kohn notes in the book's preface that Carleton Putnam in Theodore Roosevelt: The Formative Years, 1858-1886 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958), Edmund Morris in The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (New York: Modern Library Paperbacks, 2001), and David McCullough in Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, A Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child who Became Theodore Roosevelt (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982) made good use of the diaries in writing about TR's early years but claims that, for the most part, the diaries have been "underused in exploring Roosevelt's early life" (p. viii).

Roosevelt began the diaries in January 1877, when he was eighteen years old and a first-year student at Harvard. The entries for that year are very brief and relate to observations of natural history (bird specimens and wildlife), vacations, friends, wrestling and boxing, sailing and rowing, and fishing and hunting. The diary entries show Roosevelt's intense interest in natural sciences and his very active outdoor life.

The next year's entries are dominated by the death of his father, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., at the age of forty-six, a devastating blow to the young Roosevelt who worshipped his father. Three days after his father's death, Roosevelt wrote, "I felt as if I had been stunned, or as if part of my life had been taken away" (p. 19). A month later, he wrote that the day his father died was "the blackest day of my life" and "oh, how I shall miss his sweet, sympathetic advice!" (p. 22). At the end of March, TR noted that his father "was everything to me...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP