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The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

4.3 172
by Edmund Morris, David Ebershoff (Editor)

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Described by the Chicago Tribune as "a classic," The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt stands as one of the greatest biographies of our time. The publication of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt on September 14th, 2001 marks the 100th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt becoming president.


Described by the Chicago Tribune as "a classic," The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt stands as one of the greatest biographies of our time. The publication of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt on September 14th, 2001 marks the 100th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt becoming president.

Editorial Reviews

Charles McGrath
....It is a sweeping narrative of the outward man and a shrewd examination of his character.
The New York Times Books of the Century
From the Publisher
Praise for The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
“Magnificent . . . one of those rare works that is both definitive for the period it covers and fascinating to read for sheer entertainment.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A towering biography . . . a brilliant chronicle.”—Time
“Theodore Roosevelt, in this meticulously researched and beautifully written biography, has a claim on being the most interesting man ever to be President of this country.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Spectacles glittering, teeth and temper flashing, high-pitched voice rasping and crackling, Roosevelt surges out of these pages with the force of a physical presence.”—The Atlantic Monthly
“[Morris’s] prose is elegant and at the same time hard and lucid, and his sense of narrative flow is nearly flawless. . . . The author re-creates a sense of the scene and an immediacy of the situation that any skilled writer should envy and the most jaded reader should find a joy.”—The Miami Herald
“A monumental work in every sense of the word . . . a book of pulsating and well-written narrative.”—The Christian Science Monitor

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Modern Library Paperbacks Series
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.45(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
The Very Small Person

Then King Olaf entered,
Beautiful as morning,
Like the sun at Easter
Shone his happy face.

On the late afternoon of 27 October 1858, a flurry of activity disturbed the genteel quietness of East Twentieth Street, New York City. Liveried servants flew out of the basement of No. 28, the Roosevelt brownstone, and hurried off in search of doctors, midwives, and stray members of the family-a difficult task, for it was now the fashionable visiting hour. Meanwhile Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt lay tossing in her satinwood bed, awaiting the arrival of her second child and first son.

Gaslight was flaring on the cobbles by the time a doctor arrived. The child was born at a quarter to eight, emerging so easily that neither chloroform nor instruments were needed. “Consequently,” reported his grandmother, “the dear little thing has no cuts nor bruises about it.” Theodore Roosevelt, Junior, was “as sweet and pretty a young baby as I have ever seen.”

Mittie Roosevelt, inspecting her son the following morning, disagreed. She said, with Southern frankness, that he looked like a terrapin.

Apart from these two contradictory images, there are no further visual descriptions of the newborn baby. He weighed eight and a half pounds, and was more than usually noisy. When he reappears in the family chronicles ten months later, he has acquired a milk-crust and a nickname, “Teedie.” At eighteen months the milk-crust has gone, but the nickname has not. He is now “almost a little beauty.”

Scattered references in other letters indicate a bright, hyperactiveinfant. Yet already the first of a succession of congenital ailments was beginning to weaken him. Asthma crowded his lungs, depriving him of sleep. “One of my memories,” the ex-President wrote in his Autobiography, “is of my father walking up and down the room with me in his arms at night when I was a very small person, and of sitting up in bed gasping, with my father and mother trying to help me.” Even more nightmarish was the recollection of those same strong arms holding him, as the Roosevelt rig sped through darkened city streets, forcing a rush of air into the tiny lungs.

Theodore Roosevelt, Senior, was no stranger to childhood suffering. Gifted himself with magnificent health and strength-“I never seem to get tired”-he overflowed with sympathy for the small, the weak, the lame, and the poor. Even in that age when a certain amount of charitable work was expected of well-born citizens, he was remarkable for his passionate efforts on behalf of the waifs of New York. He had what he called “a troublesome conscience.”

Every seventh day of his life was dedicated to teaching in mission schools, distributing tracts, and interviewing wayward children. Long after dark he would come home after dinner at some such institution as the Newsboys’ Lodging-House, or Mrs. Sattery’s Night School for Little Italians. One of his prime concerns, as a founder of the Children’s Aid Society, was to send street urchins to work on farms in the West. His charity extended as far as sick kittens, which could be seen peeking from his pockets as he drove down Broadway.

At the time of Teedie’s birth, Theodore Senior was twenty-seven years old, a partner in the old importing firm of Roosevelt and Son, and already one of the most influential men in New York. Handsome, wealthy, and gregarious, he was at ease with millionaires and paupers, never showing a trace of snobbery, real or inverse, in his relations with either class. “I can see him now,” remembered a society matron years later, “in full evening dress, serving a most generous supper to his newsboys in the Lodging-House, and later dashing off to an evening party on Fifth Avenue.”

A photograph taken in 1862 shows deep eyes, leonine features, a glossy beard, and big, sloping shoulders. “He was a large, broad, bright, cheerful man,” said his nephew Emlen Roosevelt, “. . . deep through, with a sense of abundant strength and power.” The word “power” runs like a leitmotif through other descriptions of Theodore Senior: he was a person of inexorable drive. “A certain expression” on his face, as he strode breezily into the offices of business acquaintances, was enough to flip pocketbooks open. “How much this time, Theodore?”

For all his compulsive philanthropy, he was neither sanctimonious nor ascetic. He took an exuberant, masculine joy in life, riding his horse through Central Park “as though born in the saddle,” exercising with the energy of a teenager, waltzing all night long at society balls. Driving his four-in-hand back home in the small hours of the morning, he rattled through the streets at such a rate that his grooms allegedly “fell out at the corners.”

Such a combination of physical vitality and genuine love of humanity was rare indeed. His son called Theodore Senior “the best man I ever knew,” adding, “. . . but he was the only man of whom I was ever really afraid.”

In all respects except their intense love for each other, Theodore and Martha Roosevelt were striking opposites. Where he was big and disciplined and manly, “Mittie” was small, vague, and feminine to the point of caricature. He was the archetypal Northern burgher, she the Southern belle eternal, a lady about whom there always clung a hint of white columns and wisteria bowers. Born and raised in the luxury of a Georgia plantation, she remained, according to her son, “entirely unreconstructed until the day of her death.”

Of her beauty, especially in her youth (she was twenty-three when Teedie was born), contemporary accounts are unanimous in their praise. Her hair was fine and silky black, with a luster her French hairdresser called noir doré. Her skin was “more moonlight-white than cream-white,” and in her cheeks there glowed a suggestion of coral.14 Every day she took two successive baths, “one for cleaning, one for rinsing,” and she dressed habitually in white muslin, summer and winter. “No dirt,” an admirer marveled, “ever stopped near her.”

On Mittie’s afternoons “at home” she would sit in her pale blue parlor, surrounded always by bunches of violets, while “neat little maids in lilac print gowns” escorted guests into her presence. Invariably they were enchanted. “Such loveliness of line and tinting . . . such sweet courtesy of manner!” gushed Mrs. Burton Harrison, a memoirist of the period. Of five or six gentlewomen whose “birth, breeding, and tact” established them as the flowers of New York society, “Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt seemed to me easily the most beautiful.”

Copyright 2001 by Edmund Morris

Meet the Author

Edmund Morris was born in Kenya and educated at the Prince of Wales School, Nairobi, and Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. He worked as an advertising copywriter in London before emigrating to the United States in 1968. His biography The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1980. In 1985 he was appointed Ronald Reagan's authorized biographer. He has written extensively on travel and the arts for such publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper's, and The Washington Post. The second volume of his Roosevelt biography, Theodore Rex, is currently under way, and will be followed by a third. Edmund Morris lives in New York and Washington, D.C., with his wife and fellow biographer, Sylvia Jukes Morris.

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The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 172 reviews.
Bozeman-Parrothead More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up because with everything that is going on in politics these days, I wanted to read about a president that was not scared for standing up for what is right, ending corruption, and embracing the meaning behind Americanism (TR did coin that phrase.) It is also relieving to read about a president that DID go after the corrupt corporations and the lobbyists before Obama took office. Needless to say I was not disappointed. I will admit this book is not for a person that does not live and breathe history. The details can be tiresome at times, but the author made 19th century politics read like a CNN broadcast, meaning there were moments when I could not put the book down, and literally cursed specific people and politicians for their stupidity. One thing I want to mention is this book covers TR's biography from his birth until the assassination of McKinley. The continuation is covered in Morris's Theodore Rex. I wish I would have known that before investing 782 pages in half of the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Classic tale of our greatest president. It makes you want to learn more. After reading you feel like you know Theodore himself
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By far the best book I've ever read about TR. It gives you great insight into his mind with brief diary enries and letters. If you want to know more about his character and what shaped him into the man he would become instead of just what he did, this is the book. Yes it's a thick book, however it was so interesting that I read through it quickly. If you love history and TR, this book is a must have.
AliceOne More than 1 year ago
Edmund Morris does a great job documenting Teddy Roosevelt's life until he gets to be President. This book reads like a novel and gives you amazing insight into such an energetic, interesting, honest, hard working man that Teddy was. Great historical read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Always inspires me to quit complaining, work hard, expand my knowledge, improve my physical well being, and to live life to its fullest. Better than any self help book I have read. The first of an awe inspiring trilogy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
after reading "The Rise" one will want to continue reading the other two works by Edmund Morris to complete the narrative about TR, one of our best a and the most fascinating presidents
Guest More than 1 year ago
The back of this book states that it is the story of seven men: a naturalist, a writer, a lover, a hunter, a rancher, a soldier, and a politician. It is amazing to me that one man can be all of those men at one time, but Theodore Roosevelt was. If you read this book, you will be as amazed as I was at the achievements of this man. It is hard to imagine that he could have changed the politics in the city of New York as much as he did. His progressive ideas angered the corrupt, so they nominated him for Vice-President. Little to their dismay that this progressive reformer would find himelf in the Big Chair of the Oval Office with a Big Stick. I admire Roosevelt for all of the accomplishments he made in his illustrious career, as I am sure you will be if you read this book. TR is one of my favorite, no my very favorite president and he will be yours too!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I have ever read on T.R. and it has lead me to read over ten since. I would recommend it to anyone interested in history or biographies.
BrianIndianFan More than 1 year ago
If anyone could be accurately described as a whirling dervish, it would be Theodore Roosevelt. In his lifetime, he was a soldier, author, historian, naturalist, cattle rancher, world traveler, reform politician, and - oh, yeah - 26th president of the United States. Until he became president after the assassination of President McKinley on September 14, 1901, TR had been all of those things - yet was only 42 when he ascended to the nation's highest office.  Obviously, the trick to chronicling such an ambitious life is to give details without being mundane. Morris has obviously managed to adequately probe every major corner in Roosevelt's life without becoming tedious. While a 1000 book may look forbidding at first blanch, 25% of the book is tied up in detailed footnotes and photograph credits. The abundance of end notes serves notice that Morris has thoroughly researched his subject and has sought to provide a balanced profile.  The book is a straight-forward narrative chronicling Roosevelt's life. It is a life that took various twists and turns, all of which are documented in detail. After Roosevelt's first wife and mother died on the same day in 1884, he goes out west to explore and hunt in what is now western North Dakota. This seems like a diversion in his life - and is at first - but Roosevelt eventually becomes so enmeshed with cowboy society that he is considered one of their own by the locals. The fact that Morris paints this part of Roosevelt's life as such allows the story to resonate with the reader. Overall, Morris deals with an amazing man by telling the straightest of stories. Though the story ends with Roosevelt's becoming president, that should not deter the reader from finding out what made our 26th president one of the most enduring and glittering examples of what being an American citizen can be. BOTTOM LINE: An wonderful read and worth every moment you spend reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a very good book if you like history books.There is also unbelivable facts.i recommend it to teens from 13-18
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a must read for anyone interested in political profiles. TR learned how to navigate political structures and personalities while in some of the the highest profile appointed and elected positions. I am looking forward to reading Theodore Rex, also by Edmund Morris, which begins at his presidency.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really makes history come alive roosevelts family male brothers were plagued by clinical depression and roosevelts energy was more the manic depression form . physical activity was one way to increase chemicals needed to prevent severe depression and later one of the few things that worked in private hospitals before the new meds. Alcohol was not.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Goo book!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent telling of the experiences and events whcih shaped TR during his rise to the Presidency. Morris does a great job of being both informative and eloquent simultaneously.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gives great insight into how Roosevelt became, no doubt, a very smart president.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago