CHAPTER SIX A MAN OF LETTERS The first thing that strikes the ordinary observer about Roosevelt's work as a man of letters is its prodigious volume. The list of books which he published—exclusive of pamphlets, occasional addresses, and uncollected magazine articles—numbers at least thirty separate titles. His "Life of Gouverneur Morris" is about fifty or sixty thousand words in length; his "African Game Trails" about two hundred thousand words. It is, to be sure, a very rough estimate, but let us suppose that his books average seventy-five thousand words. This means that he wrote two million and a half words in permanent literary form.
One of his official secretaries has said that, during his governorship and Presidency, Roosevelt wrote one hundred and fifty thousand letters. Suppose they averaged one hundred words each—I myself have received scores from him that were very much longer than that; this amounts to fifteen million words more and this volume of materialcovers only the epistolary side, a comparatively brief part of his active career, and on the literary side only that portion of his writing which he himself felt might be put into permanent form. A man who does two thousand words of creative work day in and day out for every working day of the year is performing a portentous job from the brain-worker's point of view. If the estimate that Roosevelt produced eighteen millions of written words in his lifetime is at all reasonable, that alone would represent the work of thirty years of the lifetime of a literary man. Roosevelt had about forty years of active work, assuming that he began his productive activity when he published "The Naval War of 1812" not long after he had parsed his twentieth year. Thus, in his forty working years he produced as a writer what in amount, at least, would have been a creditable fruitage of thirty years' labour by a professional man of letters who did nothing else but write. Writing, however, was merely one of Roosevelt's avocations. While all this production of written words was going on he was also soldiering, exploring, travelling, governing, speaking, studying, and reading. What he did, therefore, as a man of letters is, in the first place, an astounding feat of physical endurance.
I am not competent—nor have I the space— to undertake here a literary criticism of his standing as a man of letters. The very fact that he was so profuse in his writing makes some of it diffuse. It varies very much in merit, but it must be remembered that he did not have the leisure for incubation, consideration, and revision which the professional man of letters requires. Most of his writing was done at high pressure or in extraordinary circumstances. Father Zahm, the well-known scientist and man of letters in the Catholic Church—who accompanied Roosevelt on a large part of his South American explorations, and who originally proposed that trip—thus describes his two methods of work, in an article published in the Outlook not long after Roosevelt's death:
The articles intended for one of the magazines of which he was a contributor were dictated to his secretary, and dictated for the most part immediately after the occurrence of the events described, while all of the facts were still fresh in his memory. Descriptions of scenery were rarely delayed more than one day, usually not more than a few hours. As soon as he returned from a visit to a museum, a cattle ranch, or a public gathering of any kind he called his secretary, and we soon heard the clicking of the keys of the typewriter. And it mattered not where he happened to be at the time—on a railway train, or on a steamer, or in a hotel—it was all the same. The work had to be done, and it was accomplished at the earliest possible moment. . . . The articles which appeared in another magazine describing his hunting experiences in Matto Grosso, unlike those recounting incidents of his triumphal march through other parts of South America, were written by his own hand, and often with the expenditure of great labour. Most people have come to believe that because Roosevelt wrote so much— and that often under the most unfavourable conditions—he must therefore have dashed off his articles for the press with little or no effort. Nothing is further from the truth. No one was more painstaking or conscientious than Roosevelt was in his literary work. I had frequent evidence of this, especially in the upper Paraguay. Here it often happened that he received different and contradictory reports regarding the habits of certain animals, but he would not put in writing his own opinions about the disputed questions until he had thoroughly investigated the subject and had satisfied himself that he had arrived at the truth. . . . Sometimes his observations were penned after he had returned from a long and tiresome hunt in the jungle. Any other man would have thrown himself into his hammock and taken a rest. But not so our Nimrod. He would refresh himself by a plunge into a stream, if there was one near by, or by a copious ablution in his portable bath, and then he would forthwith seat himself at a folding writing table, which he always carried with him, and set down the experiences of the day while they were still vividly before his mind. He would thus continue to write for an hour or two, or even several hours, according to the time at his disposal. . . .
He wrote with indelible pencil, and, by means of carbon paper, three copies were made of each article. This was as a precaution against loss of the manuscript in the mails. He did not aim at stylistic effects, and never made any attempt at meretricious adornment of his thoughts. Like Cardinal Newman, his chief effort was to be clear and to express himself in such wise that no one could mistake the meaning he 1 desired to convey. It is for this reason that the style of his hunting articles is so graphic and pellucid, and that he was able to make his readers see the marvels of tropical scenery as he saw them himself.
Robert Bridges, the editor of Scribner's Magazine —in which Roosevelt's records of his African journey were first published—also describes his method of work as a writer:
When he promised a manuscript for a certain date, that promise was kept absolutely, no matter what intervened. When he returned from the Spanish-American War and landed at Montauk, he sent word to the magazine that he wanted to talk about his proposed story of "The Rough Riders." Just before he started on that expedition he had said in a brief interview: "If I come back, you shall have the first chance at anything I write." It was, therefore, on the first afternoon after he returned to his home at Oyster Bay that, on the lawn at Sagamore Hill, we talked over the book which developed into "The Rough Riders." It was all perfectly clear in the Colonel's mind. He knew the grand divisions of his story, although he had not written a line. There were to be six articles, and the date was set for the delivery of the first one so that the serial could begin in the magazine promptly. Very soon he was nominated for Governor of New York. I said to him one day: "I suppose this will interfere with your dates for 'The Rough Riders'?" "Not at all," he replied; "you shall have the various chapters at the time promised." As everybody knows, he made a vigorous campaign for Governor of New York, and was elected, and inaugurated in the following January. Notwithstanding this arduous and exciting time, he fulfilled every promise and the book was delivered on time. It was the same way with his "Oliver Cromwell," whichwas written while he was Governor of New York. He was a busy man, but his literary work was just as complete as though he had devoted his whole time to it. When he was President he sent for me, and, taking me into his library, opened a drawer in his desk, lifted out a complete manuscript, put it on the desk, and said in effect: "It isn't customary for Presidents to publish a book during office, but I am going to publish this one." We then went over together the complete manuscript of "Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter." Some of these papers had been written before. Other chapters were the product of his hunting trips in Colorado and Louisiana while President. The book was ready for the printer, title-page and all. . . . To him the making of a book was a delight. He knew all the machinery of it, and he read his proofs with the accuracy and industry of an expert. But the literary work that he best enjoyed was writing his ''African Game Trails." The whole book, even the preface, was written by his own hand, word for word, in triplicate, in the very heart of Africa. One of the men who was with him said that no matter how arduous the day in the hunting-field, night after night he would see the Colonel seated on a camp-stool, with a feeble light on the table, writing the narrative of his adventures. Chapter by chapter this narrative was sent by runners from the heart of Africa. Two copies were despatched at different times. When he got to the headwaters of the Nile one of the chapters was sent from Nairobi and the duplicate was sent down the Nile to Cairo. These blue canvas envelopes often arrived much battered and stained, but never did a single chapter miss.
Brander Matthews, one of the very best of American contemporary critics of literature, in an article in Munsey's Magazine on "Theodore Roosevelt as a Man of Letters," has said that:
Roosevelt's style is firm and succulent; and its excellence is due to his having learned the lesson of the masters of English. He wrote well because he had read widely and deeply, because he had absorbed good literature for the sheer delight he took in it. Consciously or unconsciously he enriched his vocabulary, accumulating a store of strong words which he made flexible, bending them to do his bidding. But he was never bookish in his diction; he never went in quest of recondite vocables, because his taste was refined, and because he was ever seeking to be "understanded of the people."
Of Roosevelt's autobiography, Brander Matthews adds that, while it has a lasting character as a human document, it is open to the criticism that it sounds like "an improvisation." It was an improvisation—at least in part. It came about in this way. After the turmoil of the Progressive campaign—in which the partisan passions of the country were deeply stirred and which resulted in Roosevelt's defeat—it seemed to us desirable, both for him and for the Outlook, that if possible his pen should take a vacation, for a time at least, from controversial political topics. We cast about to see what suggestion we could make to him that might turn his attention to other subjects and at the same time give him the opportunity to furnish our readers with that which they had come to look for from him; that is to say, contributions on political, social, and industrial questions. It was my brother, I think, who suggested that if we could get him to write some of his reminiscences both objects would be accomplished. I went to him, therefore, and asked him if he would not give us some chapters of autobiographical reminiscences. He demurred at first very decidedly. "I do not want to write about myself," he said. "Moreover, I am sure Mrs. Roosevelt would not like it." But I urged him to let me come down to Oyster Bay and interview him with a stenographer.
"When the result is put in shape," I said, "you can look it over and if you and Mrs. Roosevelt do not like it we can 'kill' it—to use the technical phrase of a newspaper office—and no harm is done. If, however, the result is satisfactory we can try another interview and continue them as long as you have the patience and inclination to do so." This plan struck him as feasible, and I met him at Sagamore Hill by appointment. The stenographer was Frank Harper a young Englishman whom we had engaged to be Mr. Roosevelt's private secretary and who had travelled with us in that capacity during the European trip. I warned Harper to efface himself as much as possible so that Roosevelt would be as little conscious as we could make him that his words were being taken down; and I also instructed him to make a record of everything—questions, answers, interpolations, comments, etc.—without any regard to whether his notes made a coherent whole or not. Roosevelt sat down with me in his study. "Now, Mr. Roosevelt," I said, "I am not going to ask you to dictate anything to Harper to-day. I am simply going to ask you some questions, get you to tell me some of the stories you have told me from time to time about your early life, and Harper will take the notes which I will give you later as memoranda which you can use later in writing your recollections. You have told me you were a sickly boy and yet from the time I first knew you you have been an extraordinarily vigorous and athletic man. What kind of a boyhood and education did you have that could have produced such a striking result out of such an inauspicious beginning?" (I have said elsewhere, I think, that Roosevelt was one of the most delightful table talkers and raconteurs that I ever listened to.) My question interested him, and he began to tell something about his boyhood, his father, his mother, his bringing up in the Twentieth Street home, his narrative, fresh and extemporaneous, being full of humour and anecdote. Suddenly, catching sight of Harper, he straightened up and began to dictate in a more formal and literary vein. I did not interrupt, but waited until he said something, in the course of what had now become a somewhat stilted essay, that gave me a chance to ask him a question or two, reminding him, perhaps, of some anecdote that he had told me previously. Thus diverting him from what had quite apparently become a self-conscious and awkward feeling that he was writing a serious paper about himself, I started him off again, forgetful of the stenographer, on a current of reminiscential talk.' In this way the afternoon was spent. When Harper's voluminous notes were written I took them to my own home and worked a day or two upon them, striking out the questions and irrelevant remarks. By cutting up the typewritten pages and pasting them together again I adjusted the sequence and chronology of the story (for we had skipped in our conversation from boyhood to Harvard and from Harvard back to boyhood again as my questions had suggested ideas and recollections to Roosevelt). This was done, of course, without adding a single word to anything he had said or changing a single sentence. I had a fair copy made of this re-arrangement, which formed a consecutive narrative and composed the first chapter of his autobiography, and submitted it to him. He was satisfied with the result and needed no further intervention on my part. With his usual quickness of perception he caught the idea which I was very desirous of getting before him, and completed the autobiography himself largely on the lines laid down in the first chapter. He occasionally fell into the argumentative and essay style later on in the volume and I think somewhat overloaded it with appendices and documentary evidence. It has always seemed to me, however, that in those chapters where he adhered to what Brander Matthews called the method of "improvisation" he recorded recollections of a peculiar charm, both from a personal and a literary point of view. It is hard to say whether that portion of his literary work which was dictated or that which was written with his own hand was done with the greater care. The danger of dictation always is that one is apt to be verbose, but all his dictated work he always went over very carefully—after it was typed—correcting, deleting, and interlining with his pen. This was true even of his letters. To the latter he often added postscripts in his own hand which not infrequently proved to be the flavouring kernel of the entire letter.
As an illustration of the variety of Roosevelt's work and of the appeal which he made to his fellows, it may be recorded that Brander Matthews intimates that Roosevelt ought to have chosen the writing of history as his profession for "his ultimate reputation as a man of letters will most securely rest upon his stern labours as a historian"; while Father Zahm thinks that a great scientist was lost when he entered upon a political career. Father Zahm says:
Those who have read any of the Colonel's books bearing on natural history—especially his recent works: "Life Histories of African Game Animals" and "Through the Brazilian Wilderness"—know what a keen and trained observer he was, and how not even the most trifling peculiarities of form and colour escaped his quick and practised eye. But the general reader is not aware that Colonel Roosevelt's first love was natural history and not politics, and that it was only an untoward combination of circumstances that prevented him from embracing the career of a naturalist.
I am not sure but that Father Zahm has the weight of evidence for his claim. It does not seem to me that Roosevelt's historical essays, such as those which form the basis of his addresses at the University of Berlin and Oxford, are comparable in style or charm, or even in originality, with some of his more human and spontaneous writing. I do not know where, for example, one can find a more simple and yet a more vivid picture of sunset on the desert than is found in the account he wrote, in three articles, of a western trip which he took in 1913. His articles were written for the Outlook and, so far as I know, have not been republished. The sunset passage is as follows:
During the afternoon we shogged steadily across the plain. At one place, far off to one side, we saw a band of buffalo, and between them and us a herd of wild donkeys. Otherwise the only living things were snakes and lizards. On the other side of the plain, two or three miles from a high wall of vermilion cliffs, we stopped for the night at a little stone rest-house, built as a station by a cow outfit. Here there were big corrals, and a pool of water piped down by the cowmen from a spring many miles distant. On the sand grew the usual desert plants, and on some of the ridges a sparse growth of grass, sufficient for the night feed of the hardy horses. The little stone house and the corrals stood out, bare and desolate, on the empty plain. Soon after we reached there a sand-storm rose and blew so violently that we took refuge inside the house. Then the wind died down; and as the sun sank toward the horizon we sauntered off through the hot, still evening. There were many sidewinder rattlesnakes. We killed several of the gray, flat-headed, venomous things; as we slept on the ground, we were glad to kill as many as possible. Except this baleful life there was little save the sand and the harsh, scanty vegetation. Across the lonely wastes the sun went down. The sharply channelled cliffs turned crimson in the dying light; all the heavens flamed ruby red, and faded to a hundred dim hues of opal, beryl, and amber, pale turquoise, and delicate emerald; and then night fell and darkness shrouded the desert.
His "Winning of The West," as Brander Matthews says, is probably "an abiding contribution to American historical literature." On the political side, however, I think his "Naval War of 1812" and his "Life of Gouverneur Morris" ought not to be—and will not be—forgotten. He himself had, for some reason, a peculiar interest in a volume: "Hero Tales from American History" which he wrote in collaboration with Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1916 I was preparing a list, for a correspondent, of books on American history which could be read by a young layman with the kind of interest which such readers take in narrative rather than in technical studies. I wrote to Roosevelt telling him what I was doing and saying that I had put in Rhodes's "Oxford Lectures on the Civil War" (a great favourite of mine) and his own "Naval War of 1812." In reply he said:
I would certainly put in Rhodes' Oxford Lectures on the Civil War. If you want anything from me, don't take the "War of 1812," but take "Hero Tales from American History," which Lodge and I wrote together.
The chapter in the "Hero Tales" on the Death of Stonewall Jackson affords a good example of Roosevelt's strong admiration for the type of man who is an upright and righteous and yet hard-fighting soldier.
He was a voracious and omnivorous reader. It is impossible to estimate the amount of Roosevelt's reading but it must have been phenomenally large for he read all sorts of books, modern and ancient, at all sorts of times and with almost unbelievable rapidity. In the life of Robert Houdin, the famous French conjuror and magician of the early nineteenth century it is related that he had the gift, developed and augmented by constant practice, of being able to pass through an elaborately furnished room and then to describe in minute detail the various articles of furniture and ornament which it contained. His eye received and his mind grasped in a moment or two impressions which it would take the ordinary man half an hour to tabulate. Roosevelt had this gift in reading. The child laboriously reads syllable by syllable or word by word; the practised adult reads line by line; Roosevelt read almost page by page and yet remembered what he read. Mr. Neil, United States Commissioner of Labour, during Roosevelt's administration once described to me how he took a report to the President on which he had spent a laborious month of preparation. It consisted of a number of typewritten pages. Roosevelt took the report, fixed his eyes upon it—or rather his eye, for one had been so damaged in boxing that for many years he saw only dimly with it—turned over the sheets about as steadily and rapidly as an old-fashioned Grandfather's clock ticks, finished the document and handed it back to the Commissioner with comments and suggestions so fresh and pertinent that it was quite clear that he had not only read the words of the report but had clearly understood its scope and significance. "It had taken him less than thirty minutes," said Mr. Neil, "to understand, and to improve by adding new facts and arguments, the treatment of a subject to which I had devoted hours of study." It was not only because he read with extraordinary speed but because he used spare minutes for reading that his range was so wide. He read while waiting for trains and for people to keep appointments and when driving in his automobile to the city. I have seen him pick up a book surrounded by a roomful of talking and laugh-ing friends and in a moment become so absorbed in it that he had no more knowledge of what was going on about him than if he had been in a cloister cell. During the railway journey from Khartum to Cairo on the tour of 1910, described more fully in a later chapter, a special dinner was to be served one evening in the private saloon dining car placed at Roosevelt's disposal by the Governor-General of the Sudan. This dinner was to be attended by some important officials and other guests, who had taken the train at one of the stations we^ passed through and were to leave it at another specified stopping-place. It was therefore essential that the company should assemble at the table promptly, but when dinner was announced Mr. Roosevelt was nowhere to be found. I searched the train for him and finally discovered him in one of the white enamelled lavatories with its door half open where, standing under an electric light, he was busily engaged in reading, while he braced himself in the angle of the two walls against the swaying motion of the train, oblivious to time and surroundings. The book in which he was absorbed was Lecky's "History of Rationalism in Europe." He had chosen this peculiar reading room both because the white enamel reflected a brilliant light and he was pretty sure of uninterrupted quiet. This was typical of the way in which he seized spare moments for the information or entertainment that books afford. The fact, however, that it was Lecky, instead of Mark Twain or O. Henry, was purely fortuitous, for he was no pedant. He liked novels and stories of adventure and books of humour, but he wanted them to be written by men of intelligence and skillful workmanship. Books of travel and exploration especially appealed to him although he was not interested, as he once told me, in mere biography. At the Mohammedan University in Cairo which we visited, an ancient and medieval seat of learning, established in a spacious building, where the chief subject of study appeared to be the Koran taught to classes of boys and men squatting upon their haunches on the floor in Oriental fashion, Roosevelt was especially interested in the library. The language of the University was Arabic, but we had with us a Syrian interpreter who, having been educated at the American College at Beirut, spoke English fluently. Roosevelt was surrounded by an interested group of Mohammedan teachers and officials, both young and old. He had not been long in this library of ancient literature when he asked through the interpreter if they had in their collection the travels of Ibn Batuta. When that name was mentioned there was a great lighting up of faces and a great scurrying of willing messengers, who presently came back with a volume printed in Arabic which Roosevelt took in his hands with almost devout interest. "Read that," said he to the interpreter, pointing to the first page, which the interpreter proceeded to do, with a dozenheads bent over the hieroglyphics. "Yes," said Roosevelt, as the reading finished, "that's it. Now doesn't he say so-and-so further on?" Whereupon the interpreter turned over the pages and, sure enough, Ibn did say so-and-so at the beginning of the next chapter, to the delighted surprise of the Arab group surrounding us who were literally overjoyed to find that the famous visitor from the West knew one of their great authors. When we went out Roosevelt explained to me that Ibn Batuta was the Arabian Marco Polo who made a voyage around Africa in the fourteenth century and left an account of his great adventure in the volume we had just been looking at. Roosevelt had read it many years before in a French translation and had remembered it with such accuracy that he could point out a specific passage not, of course, in the Arabic text, but from the context as translated by the interpreter. He had a human interest in universities although he was not in the slightest degree academic, in spite of the fact that he had received as many academic honours as any man of his time, including the greatest one that can be conferred upon a modern—that of being created a D. C. L. by Oxford. But when universities did things that seemed to him contrary to social morals he had littleuse for them. He once wrote me a letter of outraged protest when Columbia and Yale had paid marked distinction to two American journalists who, he thought, had exercised a sinister influence upon American life. But after he had let off his steam of vigorous criticism, he cheered himself, as he often did, by a quizzical comment: "Universities are middling queer creatures, aren't they!" was his conclusion of the matter. Unless the literature was the fiction of adventure or of humour Roosevelt chiefly got either social or industrial suggestions and inspirations out of his reading. This aspect of his work as a man of letters is shown in a communication I received from him while he was in Africa in 1909-1910. It was one of the letters written in his own hand with indelible pencil.
Naivasha, October 2ist.
If President Eliot's "List of Best Books" is complete, will you send it to me? If I am able I'd like to write something on it; I don't believe in a list of "100" or "25" "best" books, because there are many thousands which may be "best" according to the country, the time, the condition, the reader; but I do believe in "a" 25 to 100 or any other number of "good" books, each such list being merely complementary to and not a substitute for many other similar lists. The books in my pigskin library on this hunt are good; they are no better than any one of the totally different sets I took on each of my last three hunting trips, except that I have a longer list for the longer trip.
I liked Kennan's article on what I said about Tolstoi—I like everything that he writes!—and am in fundamental agreement with what he says, especially in his unsparing condemnation of the cruel, ruthless, bureaucratic tyranny under which Russia lies in festering misery. But there are one or two points on which I should like to give reasons for what I said; if you care to you can send this to him.
First as to Tolstoi's immorality. Have you ever read his " Kreutzer Sonata" (if that's the way to spell it) ? I read it, or rather as much of it as was necessary to a pathological diagnosis. The man who wrote that was a sexual and a moral pervert. It is as unhealthy a book, as vicious in its teaching to the young, as Elinor Glyn's "Three Weeks" or any other piece of pornographic literature—for I need hardly say that the worst pornographic literature is that which, with conscious or only half-conscious hypocrisy, calls itself by some other name; some of the very vilest of such books are often written under the pretense of being in the interests of social or hygienic reform. In your father's delightful Vesper Sermons was one the other day on the Song of Solomon, which dealt with the love of married lovers in a spirit which I believe to be as true as it is lofty. I think that the love of the really happy husband and wife—not purged of passion, but with passion heatened to a white heat of intensity and purity and tenderness and consideration, and with many another feeling added thereto—is the loftiest and most ennobling influence that comes into the life of any man or woman, even loftier and more ennobling than wise and tender love for children. The cheapest, most degrading, and most repulsive cynicism is that which laughs at, or describes as degraded, this relation. Now the "Kreutzer Sonata" has, as its theme, that this relation is bestial and repellent, and its whole purpose is to paint the love of husband and wife as loving exactly the same as the squalid and loathsome intimacy between a rake and a prostitute. When that book appeared it seemed to me to reveal," as by a flash, the strange hidden perversion of morals which has made Tolstoi in his professedly moral writings, as distinguished from his really far more moral novels, inveigh against all the relations of man and woman as if the highest and most ennobling and the lowest and most depraved stood on the same plane. No greater wrong can be done humanity than to inculcate such doctrine; at its best it makes the wife feel that she ought to regard herself as on a par with a prostitute; at its worst it enables the "man swine" to say that, after all, he is not a bit worse than his most upright neighbour. How can there be more revolting and monstrous teaching?
Now about hypocrisy. If there is one thing upon which we should insist in writer and talker, but above all in professed prophet and reformer, it is that he shall make his words measurably good (it is not in human nature completely to realize an ideal) by his deeds. I believe that the root-vice in our political life is the demand by part of the public that a candidate shall make impossible promises, and the grin of cynical amusement and contempt with which another portion of the public regards his breaking even the promises he could keep; and one attitude is as bad as the other. As it is with politicians, so it is with philosophers. I think Rousseau did much good by some of the principles he advocated; and more harm because he taught people by his actions to regard the enunciation of lofty aspirations as a substitute for lofty deeds and indeed as an atonement for a life that gave the lie to the aspirations. Mr. Kennan quotes Tolstoi's words as proofs of repentance. Repentance must be shown by deeds, not words. One lapse is quite pardonable; but persistence in doing one thing while preaching another is not pardonable. It seems to me that Tolstoi is one of those men, by no means uncommon, of perverted moral type who at bottom consider the luxury of frantic repentance—and the luxury of professing adherence to an impossible and undesirable ideal—as full atonement for, and as really permitting, persistence in a line of conduct which gives the lie to their professions. Tolstoi preaching against those relations of man and woman, without which there would either be no humanity, or a humanity perpetuated by those of its members who stand closest to beasts, is a contemptible figure in my eyes; but he is made more contemptible when we know that all the time he is having sons and daughters. I saw X (once a man of high and fine promise) ruined,
and rendered a worse than worthless citizen, by falling under Tolstoi's baleful influence; and Y—has, because of the same influence, sunk from being a most useful citizen to the position of a well-meaning agitator who latterly has done rather more harm than good, by sheer folly, committed in the name of philanthropy. About the Douma. I agree absolutely with Kennan as to the cause of the Douma's inefficiency. But I think harm comes to the cause of morality and reform in Russia if, because of our sympathy with its advocates, and our abhorrence of what it seeks to overthrow, we are betrayed into acquiescence in either wickedness or folly. Bryan, for instance, favours a section of the Douma which, if its doctrines were put into practice, would within a year make men hail any tyranny or despotism as a relief from a system in which folly raised to the Nth power would inevitably produce a grade of wickedness proportionately high. Think of the Douma passing a proposed law to do away with capital punishment and at the same time refusing to pass a resolution condemning the murder of officials! We all warmly sympathize with the overthrow of the Ancien Regime in France; but when the so-called friends of liberty brought about the Red Terror they did France a wrong so hideous that the nation has not yet wrought out its atonement. There! You'll never want to hear from me again.
Does not this comment on Russia, written nearly ten years ago, take on the aspect of prophecy in the light of the present results of Russian Bolshevism ?
I find that naturally I come back to the political and social aspect of Roosevelt's work as a man of letters. In October, 1912, he published a short paper in the Outlook entitled "How I Became a Progressive." I print it here because it has not been dug out of the pages of that periodical by anybody else so far as I know and it deserves a permanent form both as an autobiographical document and as a specimen of Roosevelt's simple, direct, and popular style.
I suppose I had a natural tendency to become a Progressive, anyhow. That is, I was naturally a democrat, in believing in fair play for everybody. But I grew toward my present position, not so much as the result of study in the library or the reading of books—although I have been very much helped by such study and by such reading—as by actually living and working with men under many different conditions and seeing their needs from many different points of view. The first set of our people with whom I associated so intimately as to get on thoroughly sympathetic terms with them were cow-punchers, then on the ranges in the West. I was so impressed with them that in doing them justice I did injustice to equally good citizens elsewhere whom I did not know; and it was a number of years before I grew to understand—first by association with railway men, then with farmers, then with mechanics, and so on—that the things that I specially liked about my cow-puncher friends were, after all, to be found fundamentally in railway men, in farmers, in blacksmiths, carpenters—in fact, generally among my fellow American citizens.
Before I began to go with the cow-punchers, I had already, as the result of experience in the Legislature at Albany, begun rather timidly to strive for social and industrial justice. But at that time my attitude was that of giving justice from above. It was the experience on the range that first taught me to try to get justice for all of us by working on the same level with the rest of my fellow citizens. It was the conviction that there was much social and industrial injustice and the effort to secure social and industrial justice that first led me to taking so keen an interest in popular rule. For years I accepted the theory, as most of the rest of us then accepted it, that we already had popular government; that this was a government by the people. I believed the power of the boss was due only to the indifference and shortsightedness of the average decent citizen. Gradually it came over me that while this was half the truth, it was only half the truth, and that while the boss owed part of his power to the fact that the average man did not do his duty, yet that there was the further fact to be considered, that for the average man it had already been made very difficult instead of very easy for him to do his duty. I grew to feel a keen interest in the machinery for getting adequate and genuine popular rule, chiefly because I found that we could not get social and industrial justice without popular rule, and that it was immensely easier to get such popular rule by the means of machinery of the type of direct nominations at primaries, the short ballot, the initiative, referendum, and the like.
I usually found that my interest in any given side of a question of justice was aroused by some concrete case. It was the examination I made into the miseries attendant upon the manufacture of cigars in tenement-houses that first opened my eyes to the need of legislation on such subjects. My friends come from many walks of life. The need for a workmen's compensation act was driven home to me by my knowing a brakeman who had lost his legs in an accident, and whose family was thereby at once reduced from self-respecting comfort to conditions that at one time became very dreadful. Of course, after coming across various concrete instances of this kind, I would begin to read up on the subject, and then I would get in touch with social workers and others who were experts and could acquaint me with what was vital in the matter. Looking back, it seems to me that I made my greatest strides forward while I was Police Commissioner, and this largely through my intimacy with Jacob Riis, for he opened all kinds of windows into the matter for me. The Conservation movement I approached from slightly different lines. I have always been fond of history and of science, and what has occurred to Spain, to Palestine, to China, and to North Africa from the destruction of natural resources is familiar to me. I have always been deeply impressed with Liebig's statement that it was the decrease of soil fertility, and not either peace or war, which was fundamental in bringing about the decadence of nations. While unquestionably nations have been destroyed by other causes, I have become convinced that it was the destruction of the soil itself which was perhaps the most fatal of all causes. But when, at the beginning of my term of service as President, under the influence of Mr. Pinchot and Mr. Newell, I took up the cause of Conservation, I was already fairly well awake to the need of social and industrial justice; and from the outset we had in view, not only the preservation of natural resources, but the prevention of monopoly in natural resources, so that they should inhere in the people as a whole. There were plenty of newspapers—the New York Times, Sun, and Evening Post, for instance—which cordially supported our policy of Conservation as long as we did not try to combine it with a movement against monopolization of resources, and which promptly abandoned us when it became evident that we wished to conserve the resources not for a part of the people but for all of the people.
The country-life movement was simply another side of this movement for a better and juster life. From Mary E. Wil-kins to Sarah Orne Jewett, in story after story which I would read for mere enjoyment, I would come upon things that not merely pleased me but gave me instruction—(I have always thought that a good novel or a good story could teach quite as much as a more solemnly pretentious work, if it was written in the right way and read in the right way)—and then my experience on farms, my knowledge of farmers, the way I followed what happened to the sons and daughters of the farmers I knew, all joined to make me feel the need of arousing the public interest and the public conscience as regards the conditions of life in the country. Here again I have been fortunate enough to live with my own people, and not to live as an outsider, but as a man doing his share of the work. I know what the work and what the loneliness of a farmer's life too often are. I do not want to help the farmer or to help his wife in ways that will soften either, but I do want to join with both, and try to help them and help myself and help all of us, not by doing away with the need of work, but by trying to create a situation in which work will be more fruitful, and in which the work shall produce and go hand in hand with opportunities for self-development. Very early I learned through my reading of history, and I found through my association with reformers, that one of the prime difficulties was to get the man who wished reform within a nation also to pay heed to the needs of the nation from the international standpoint. Every little city or republic of antiquity was continually torn between factions which wished to do justice at home but were weak abroad, and other factions which secured justice abroad by the loss of personal liberty at home. So here at home I too often found that men who were ardent for social and industrial reform would be ignorant of the needs of this Nation as a nation, would be ignorant of what the Navy meant to the Nation, of what it meant to the Nation to have and to fortify and protect the Panama Canal, of what it meant to the Nation to get from the other nations of mankind the respect which comes only to the just, and which is denied to the weaker nation far more quickly than it is denied to the stronger. It ought not to be necessary to insist upon a point like this, with China before our very eyes offering the most woeful example of the ruin that comes to a nation which cannot defend itself against aggression—and China, by the way, offers the further proof that centuries of complete absence of militarism may yet result in the development of all the worst vices and all the deepest misery that grow up in nations that suffer from over-much militarism. Here again I learn from books, I learn from study, and I learn most by dealing with men.
I feel that the Progressive party owes no small part of its strength to the fact that it not only stands for the most far-reaching measures of social and industrial reform, but in sane and temperate fashion stands also for the right and duty of this Nation to take a position of self-respecting strength among the nations of the world, to take such a position as will do injustice to no foreign power, strong or weak, and yet will show that it has both the spirit and the strength to repel injustice from abroad.
It would be a pity to leave the impression, as perhaps would be the case if Roosevelt's Progressive creed were made the conclusion of this chapter, that his interests were exclusively—or even primarily—social and political. The fact is that he was so varied and had so many facets to his personality that I am confused myself to determine what he was most interested in. He had a deep love for pure beauty in literature. Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" was, for example, one of his favourite poems. Its appeal to him was, I think, not merely because of its music and the artistry of its form, but because it takes its reader completely out of material life and puts him into the quieting and problemless universe of pure imagination. The day before he left London, on his return from his African and European tour in 1910, Roosevelt disappeared. It was known that he had gone off with Sir Edward (now Viscount) Grey, but where he went nobody knew—and the newspapers could not find out. This, in his own language, was what happened: Like most Americans interested in birds and books, I know a good deal about English birds as they appear in books. I know the lark of Shakespeare and Shelley and the Ettrick Shepherd; I know the nightingale of Milton and Keats; I know Wordsworth's cuckoo; I know mavis and merle singing in the merry green wood of the old ballads; I know Jenny Wren and Cock Robin of the nursery books. Therefore I have always much desired to hear the birds in real life; and the opportunity offered last June. As I could snatch but a few hours from a very exacting round of pleasure and duties, it was necessary for me to be with some companion who could identify both song and singer. In Sir Edward Grey, a keen lover of outdoor life in all its phases, and a delightful companion, who knows the songs and ways of English birds as very few do know them, I found the best possible guide.
We left London on the morning of June 9, twenty-four hours before I sailed from Southampton. Getting off the train at Basingstoke, we drove to the pretty, smiling valleyof the Itchen. Here we tramped for three or four hours, then again drove, this time to the edge of the New Forest, where we first took tea at an inn, and then tramped through the forest to an inn on its other side, at Brockenhurst. At the conclusion of our walk my companion made a list of the birds we had seen, putting an asterisk opposite those which we had heard sing. There were forty-one of the former and twenty-three of the latter, as follows: Thrush, *Blackbird, *Lark, *YelIow Hammer, *Robin, *Wren, *Golden-Crested Wren, *Goldfinch, *Chaffinch, *Greenfinch, Pied Wagtail, Sparrow, *Dunnock (Hedge Accentor), Missel Thrush, Starling, Rook, Jackdaw, *Black Cap, *Garden Warbler, *Willow Warbler, *Chiff Chaff, *Wood Warbler, *Tree Creeper, *Reed Bunting, *Sedge Warbler, Coot, Water Hen, Little Grebe (Dabchick), Tufted Duck, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, *Turtle Dove, Peewit, Tit (PCoal Tit), *Cuckoo, *Nightjar, *Swallow, Martin, Swift, Pheasant, Partridge.
The foregoing account is taken from an article on English Song Birds which he wrote for the Outlook on his return. When he got back he went out at Sagamore Hill to compare what he saw of the home birds with "the notes and actions of the birds I had seen in England." He ends the article in this way:
I sent the companion of my English walk John Burroughs's "Birds and Poets." John Burroughs's life-work is beginning to have its full effect in many different lines. When he first wrote there were few men of letters in our country who knew nature at first hand. Now there are many who delight in our birds, who know their songs, who keenly love all that belongs to out-of-door life. For instance, Madison Cawein and Ernest McGaffey have for a number of years written of our woods and fields, of the birds and the flowers, as only those can write who join to love of Nature the gift of observation and the gift of description. Mr. Cawein is a Kentuckian; and another Kentuckian, Miss Julia Stockton Dinsmore, in the little volume of poems which she has just published, includes many which describe with beauty and charm the sights and sounds so dear to all of us who know American country life. Miss Dinsmore knows Kentucky, and the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, and the great plains of North Dakota; and she knows also the regions that lie outside of what can be seen with material vision. For years in our family we have had some of her poems in the scrap-book cut from newspapers when we knew nothing about her except the initials signed to the verses. Only one who sees with the eyes of the spirit as well as the eyes of the bocly could have written the "Threnody," curiously attractive in its simplicity and pathos, with which the little book opens. It contains many poems that make a similar appeal. The writer knows bluebird and robin, redbird and field lark and whippoorwill, just as she knows Southern rivers and Western plains; she knows rushing winds and running waters and the sights and sounds of lonely places; and, moreover, she knows, and almost tells, those hidden things of the heart which never find complete utterance.
I wonder whether birds and children and home did not have a deeper interest for Roosevelt than soldiering or pioneering or statesmanship? After all is said and done, should not the final estimate be that he was, not a literary man, not a political man, not a military man, but a homely man?