tv Elliott and Eleanor Roosevelt CSPAN June 25, 2017 2:48am-3:32am EDT
>> >> author geraldine hawkins is next from the roosevelt reading festival held annually in hyde park, new york. she recounts the life of elliott roosevelt and his relationship to his daughter eleanor. eleanor. >> good afternoon, and welcome, i am patrick fahey, a member of the archive staff here. on behalf of the fdr presidential library and
museum. we'd like to welcome you. we're lucky enough to have c-span with us and it's bk recobk-- being recorded. and if you have questions later, please use the microphone on your left so the people at home can hear your question. president roosevelt planned for this library to be the primary research room from the roosevelt era. it's one of the busiest of the presidential libraries and this year's group of authors reflect the wide variety of research done here on these grounds. if you love the roosevelt reading festival and i'm sure you do, and want to support this and other programs we do here, i doen courage you to become a roosevelt library member. you can join today by seeing lauren at the membership table in this building just at the end of the hallway. and if you haven't had a chance yet, please go next door to see our new special museum
exhibition, images of internment, the incarceration of japanese americans during world war ii. with that said, let me go over some of the format protocols for the concurrent sessions today. at the top of each hour, each session begins with a 30 minute author talk followed by then a ten minute question and answer period. at the conclusion of the q & a, the authors will move to tables in the lobby next to the store, where you can purchase your books, and have the authors sign them. at the top of the next hour, which will be 4:00, we will condition clued the 2017 festival with the keynote address which will happen right here. it's now my pleasure to introduce our author geraldine hawkins. geraldine hawkins is the author of elliott and eleanor roosevelt, the story of a father and daughter in the gilded age. she's served as a historical
interpreter here at hyde park, at the site at eleanor roosevelt's val and vanderbilt mansion and served in a similar capacity in theodore roosevelt birthplace and the statue of liberty, and as well as this massachusetts at john fitzgerald national hurricane site and louisa may alcot's house. she studied journalism at new york's university school of tenning education, served as an intern at the national journalism center in washington d.c. and as a public affairs officer for the u.s. navy reserve. thank you for your service, geraldine. her byline appeared in publications, including human events, all hands the magazine of the u.s. navy frequently on historical subjects. she makes her home in new york
city where she has her friend many of whom who are here today. and classic books in her ever-growing collection. please join me in welcoming geraldine hawkins. >>. [applause] >> thank you, patrick, for this very, very lovely introduction, thank you. there are two people, before i begin, there are two people in our audience today whom i stupidly forgot to mention in the acknowledgements section of my book, and so, i would like to acknowledge them on c-span, and they are my good friends linda boucher, and al in front row and they're welcome known to lovers of top cottage. they're devoted to giving the tour at the site there and they're wonderful to me and i
want to acknowledge them on tv because i forgot to do so in my book. well, thank you all for coming today and it's a great, great honor to see so many people here. well, when eleanor roosevelt was nearing the end of her life, she visited a young clergyman friend and showed him a bible that she had carried with her since childhood. it had belonged to her father, she told him. the spine had split and pages were falling out. she wondered if the minister knew where she might have it repaired. after he gave her the information she needed, he sensed that she still had something she wanted to discuss. her father had died under circumstances that might not be considered quite moral, in a strict religious sense, she told him. did the minister think that this could be any barrier to his being in heaven? when her friend asked for
details, mrs. roosevelt told her her father had had a drinking problem, that he was living with a woman who was not his wife, that in fact, he willed -- he'd had a few mistresses one with a child out of wedlock. he told he would to the keep him out on those basis and god must be more generous than us otherwise there was no hope for anyone. well, mrs. roosevelt told her friend that she was relieved and happy to hear that he thought so, that she had always loved her father and would like very much to see him again. well, what sort of person was elliott roosevelt that 67 years after his death, his daughter, at the conclusion of her own remarkable life, would be preoccupied with meeting him in the hereafter? what made his memory so compelling?
well, most historians of the roosevelt family have taken a few of eleanor's similar to that similar of that of eleanor roosevelt's cousin, allison longworth. poor eleanor, she took everything, most of all herself tremendously seriously. this is alice longworth speaking. if only she'd allowed a little levity into her life. she had a miserable childhood, which i don't think she ever quite got over. there was her exquisite empty-headed mother, anna hall, one of most beautiful women of her time. she was rather mean to eleanor. she called her granny and made her feel unwanted and unattractive. and then there was her father, my uncle ellie, the black sheep of the family. someone should write something on uncle ellie and call it the rigs progress. there was an intelligent young
man who ruined himself with drink. he was considered far more promising than my father with young, but once he started hitting the bottle, the slide downhill was spectacular. my father was always trying to save him from some predicament. the conversation about uncle ell ellie was frequent, and stopped when i entered the role. and i learned at the keyhole. and learned of my father going to paris, and apparently he had a vague form of epilepsy that wasn't helped by the drink. i have only vague recollections of him, fast moving ones. he would take one out for a walk as a child and set off at a fast pace and the feet would
not hardly touch the ground. and when he died they were devoted to him. i'm told theres' a picture of uncle ellie on his death bed and the aunt at the foot and two mistresses and his wife over the death bed. the victorians liked that, the black sheep who succumbed. i was intrigued by uncle ellie and my father. that must have had an effect on eleanor. she had doted on him and was kept away from him. and much of her shyness was from the forced separation from him and unhappiness it created. she made a tremendous effort to do everything expected of her. she was always so good and so nice about everybody that it
came quite intolerable. franklin had to sneak the occasional martini even when he was in the white house, but i suppose the rip roaring example of uncle ellie would have been enough to keep anyone off drink for life, end of quote. well, alice longworth and others may have seen elliott as the black sheep of the family, but what sort of black sheep would write, my sweet little nell, i thought of you and prayed for your happiness and that of your precious small brothers and urged his daughter to cultivate unselfishness, generosity, loving tenderness and cheerfulness. dear little daughter, he wrote, you are your father's love and joy. he dominated my life while he lived and he was the love of my life for many years after he died, he will north roosevelt wrote of her father. he was, quote, the person she loved best in the world. he never accomplished anything
which could make him of any importance to the world at large, unless a personality which left a vivid mark on friends and associates could be counted as important. no less important in our daily lives are the things and people who only touch us personally. a little known after the girl's curiosity shop. he was the one great love of my life as a child and like many children, i lived a dream life
with him so the memory is a living vivid thing to me. he lives in my dreams and does so to this day. end of quote. one friend of elliott set of personal popularity could have bestowed public honors in any man there was nothing beyond the reach of elliott roosevelt. elliott roosevelt was born at number 28 e. 23rd street in manhattan's serene gramercy park district. his boyhood home was reconstructed many years after he died as a monument to the triumphant life of his brother. nowadays this national historic site sits amid furniture stores, restaurants, delicatessens and the rough and tumble of new york life. one has to proceed east crossing park avenue to gramercy park itself with the soft glow of streetlamps and slightly overgrown foliage in order to glimpse the genteel privilege enjoyed by wealthy new yorkers
in the days before the civil war. this provided the backdrop for the lively roosevelt family which at the time of elliott's birth in february 18, '60 consisted of your senior, theodore roosevelt's father, his wife, martha, her sister, a daughter, theodore junior and elliot. sometime later another daughter, corrine, would complete the family so there you have theodore senior and their four children, elliott and corrine. difficult to imagine how any child could have had more loving parents than elliott roosevelt. president theodore roosevelt wrote of his father many years later, i was fortunate in having a father who i have always regarded as an ideal man, he
really did combine the strength, courage, will and energy of the strongest man with tenderness, cleanness and purity of a woman. and all my childhood he never laid a hand on me but once but i always knew in case it became necessary he would not have the slightest hesitation in doing so again and my love and respect and in a certain sense my fear of him, i would have hated an dreaded beyond measure to have him know i had been guilty of a lie or cruelty or bullying or uncleanness or cowardice. end of quote. when their father was dying of intestinal cancer at the age of 46, theodore junior was away at harvard and elliott nursed his father during his last days and witnessed his suffering. perhaps the loss of his father would be, as david mccullough has written, the ultimate disaster from which elliott would never quite recovered. reflecting in theodore senior's
life, his daughter wrote that nothing is as difficult to achieve success in this world is one is filled with great tolerance and the milk of human kindness. son elliott had great tolerance and the milk of human kindness in abundance, only alcoholism would prevent him living a life as happy and productive as that of his father. this was the family in which elliott was not embarrassed to open a letter with the salutation my darling sweetest of fathers and to address his mother as dear little mother ling. theodore and elliott would refer to each other as beloved brother, the affectionate nature of the family stemmed from the warmth of theodore senior and midi, theodore senior worked in his family's inherited plateglass business, roosevelt and sons in lower manhattan. his real interest was the philanthropic and charitable
work in which he was involved, in particular the lodging house where he spent a great deal of time into which -- frail and scholarly, elliott was gregarious and vigorous. elliott's robust constitution offset an emotional need to come he felt protective of theodore because of the frequent attacks of asthma. he seems to have had for a boy an unusually tender heart which he was frequently called upon to protect his older brother from rough boys only too willing to take advantage of the thin child with glasses. for a young man known for having a mild disposition and general unwillingness to display and even temper, to come to the aid of td testifies the bond between the boys. elliott was more comfortable with other children, acting on his father's concern for the
less fortunate. and a time when at the age of 7 elliott went out to play, and encountered a shivering child in rags. elliott would refer to his ideal, it was an ideal to strive but despaired of ever approaching. and take to calling himself nell is if he felt feminine in comparison with stronger men who were more focused than he. elliott loved music, loved to sing and in a family not known for musical talent team to have had what was considered a pleasant voice. he took care of his appearance and made sure he was impeccably groomed. in this he was the opposite of his brother. elliott seemed to have realized from an early age is most noticeable gift as well as his principal defense in a
frighteningly competitive and demanding masculine world was his charm. when td began to build up his strength in the small gymnasium, his father install on the second floor of the house on east 20th street, wrestling and boxing, the brothers kept journals of the athletic competitions. as theodore grew in strength and confidence, his brother steadily lost ground in both of these areas until by a strange twist the roles of the brothers were reversed. elliott roosevelt was 14 when something started to go wrong inside his brain. his intelligence was far above average but he was hardly a genius like his brother and by the time he reached his teens he was undoubtedly feeling defensive intellectually. he was always unsure of himself and it was a place
i jump involuntarily at the slightest sound and have perpetual headaches. some historians have suggested at this point elliott retreated into illness as a way of avoiding competition with his brother. this presupposes that all illnesses, psychosomatic, and seems an unfair assumption. nevertheless there is little doubt that even as a very small boy elliott felt he was in the shadow of his brother's formidable intelligence. as theodore prepared for college elliott did not like feeling forgotten and left behind and pleaded with his father to let him go to st. paul school in new hampshire where he could be with his cousin, archie gracie. theodore senior agreed to send him and elliott tried to do his best. i am studying as hard as i can he reported to his father and i think all my teachers are satisfied with me. in the same letter dated as early in the term is
october 1st, he added yesterday during my latin lesson without the slightest warning i had a rush of blood to my head. it hurt me so i can't remember what happens. i believe i screamed out. anyway, the doctor brought me to his house and i lay down for a couple hours. i had by that time recovered and after laying down all the afternoon i was able to go on with my afternoon study. i am well now so don't worry about me. you told me to write you everything and i would not bother you with this but you do want to know about me, don't you? don't forget me please and write often. elliott's prep school career turned out to be abortive. elliott roosevelt had to leave on account of his health, he has been subject to a rush of blood to his head and exerted himself physically and mentally cousin archie gracie wrote to his mother.
he said he fainted after leaving the table and fell down. his brother came up to take him home. apparently theodore senior decided at this point his son needed toughening up. perhaps life on an army post in texas would do him some good. elliott thrived in texas, his friendliness and love of fun compensated for the fact that he was a wealthy and sickly easterner and city dweller at that. he had a remarkable ability to turn everyone he met into a friend including people with whom he would seem to have little in common. elliott felt guilty about being treated so well and for being ill -- sorry. elliott felt guilty about being treated so well for being ill and in his letters he attempted to convince his father that he
was a healthy lead. do you know, father, it strikes me as a cell my being done here, very pleasant one but a cell nevertheless for i feel well enough to study and here i am spending all your money down here as if i was ill. i don't believe i will be better than i am. too later think of this but the doctor doesn't think i am sick and i am not and altogether i feel like a general fraud who ought to be studying. i am having a lovely time, no doubt at all on that score and i'm obliged to you, darling parent, forgiving is your loving son elliott. so it was that elliott roosevelt and not theodore was the first to get a taste of the strenuous life. after this elliott's father became ill with what turned out to be intestinal cancer and died within a few weeks. the cancer has spread so rapidly that theodore has not called home from harvard and it fell to elliott to tend to his father and comfort his mother and sisters who said elliott nursed their father with a diversion so tender it was more like that of a woman.
the 70-year-old elliott wrote in his diary oh my god, my father, what agonies he has suffered. this experience seems to have cut the ground out from elliott. he was left without an anchor. from harvard his brother theodore wrote when i fully realize the extent of my loss i think i shall go mad. but theodore did not have it in him to go mad. theodore's way of dealing with tragedy was to avoid confronting it by burying himself in his work and his interests. he considered it morbid to focus on anything other than getting on with his life forcing the pain under until it was, quote, too dead to throb. when his first wife died theodore ripped all references to her out of his diary, never spoke of her again even to their daughter and made no mention of her in his memoirs. elliott did not have that kind of discipline and he was of a different temperament entirely.
theodore had a definite sense of purpose and direction in which his life should go. elliott had no confidence in his own abilities or any conviction of his own importance. it seems to have been around this time he began to drink. elliott decided to take part of his inheritance and travel around the world. he spent time with his distant cousins james and sarah roosevelt who were on their honeymoon. sometime later they asked elliott to be godfather to their baby, kristin franklin delano roosevelt even though elliott was at that time only 21. he replied to those requests with characteristic diffidence. he wrote that he considered himself not good enough to be the godfather of such rare people and implied that he would have turned down the high honor you offered me had not my dear mother -- elliott avenue strip
lasted 16 months in which he spent much time in exotic places like india and tibet and wrote vivid expressive letters about hunting exploits which theodore must have savored gregarious lee. elliott wrote poetry all of his life and on this journey abroad he spent much time composing poetry, fairytales, children stories and riddles. these are kept in the archives of the franklin roosevelt library in hyde park right over there. from a young man of sensitive and introspective as elliott, one would expect brooding melancholy verse and some of it is precisely that. most of his output is more in this vein. beautiful potato, you are doomed to fade. your heart severed by the ruthless state, slumber until winter fled, spring will call you from your earthy bed. then shall you bloom in light of day,. nightly by the mood gray, to lie
on my plate the welcome site shall stimulate my appetite. this collection contains clues to elliott's taste in books, his father had given him volumes by such edifying novelists as dickens and george mcdonald. when he returned to elliott, but people do even today. there was a dark side. and the indian fever, and it will plague him. and gainful employment. and that was robinson and works in their office at 106 broadway. and the social world despite his health problems, played polo and considered one of the most accomplished horsemen in new york.
elliott was brilliant on elbow in the soup treatments, making anyone feel they were the most important person he had ever met. his daughter maintained elliott was gracious to everyone regardless of rank or station. conscientious of spending time at one of his father's favorite charities, lodging house in new york. he was so popular that when he came to visit, they stamped their feet. he lacked what he called the foolish grit, the most important component of character of steadfast resolution. and a great man who can count in any way in life to make up his mind not merely to overcome 1000 obstacles but to win in spite of 1000 defeats. there was another crucial difference from the by their
sister corrine. if i were to do something weak or wrong theodore would never forgive me where as elliott no matter how much he might despise the sin would forgive the sinner. in 1883 at a house party, elliott announced his engagement to anna rebecca ludlow hall. her mother was described as one of the most beautiful women i ever met and it is said that once, when she was having her portrait painted the poet robert browning asked if he might be allowed just to sit for a while and gazed at her, she was that compelling. anna came from a socially prominent family that was known for beautiful women. their family home was in a state on the hudson called oak terrace. anna and elliott were married december 3, 1883, at calvary episcopal church at 21st street and park avenue in the gramercy
park area where elliott was born. historians have not been kind at all to and a hall roosevelt. the agent of use recently to describe elliott's loving, anna is referred to as cold. it is true that she was the product of a family in which social acceptance and good looks were what mattered most and if she ever questioned this way of looking at things we have no record of it. elliott was spontaneous, anna believed nothing was to be desired as much as self-control. historian kenneth davis suggested the real problem was a lack of selves to be controlled. eleanor roosevelt's memory of her mother is a portrait of a woman who was reserved and cool even with her daughter. eleanor was to have two little brothers, elliott junior and hall. her mother favored the boys and
was unsuccessful at concealing the fact. and i tried to be a good mother to her daughter but she was unable to hide her disappointment and eleanor looked like a roosevelt and the photograph bore witness to the fact that she was a lovely child, all her mother could see was she was not going to be a stunning bill in the tradition of the all women. eleanor's mother took to calling her granny and hurt her by doing so. from the very first there seems to have been an intense affinity between eleanor and elliott. he was the only person who did not treat me like a criminal, she said on one occasion. perhaps it was their fair shins of the world's disapproval the drew them together. as eleanor grew more dependent on her father for support the less he was there for her. in fairness to anna, it must be said she married a man with a drinking problem and was bewildered by her husband's increasing unpredictability.
this was in the days before alcoholics anonymous and anna did not have a support group to which she could turn for help. alcoholism was not seen as a disease. those who suffered from it were perceived as lacking in nerves and willpower. it would be several generations before a reformed alcoholic and a compassionate clergyman hammered out the 12 steps in which elliott roosevelt was married. elliott made resolutions again and again which he found himself unable to keep. the more he failed the deeper went his despair. he was unable to apply himself to his work. aside from the times he was enjoying himself, elliott does not seem to have been a competitive type. there remains a continuing problem of his headaches and indian fever. the root of an alcoholic disturbance is a mystery. it may safely be said that elliott was not well-suited to
the business world. professor william young has written, quote, the victorian ethic demand that much of men in the marketplace but it did not stop there. effectiveness in the business world demanded a man must be in control of himself. his very psyche would be honed to a competitive edge, passions mercurial and untrustworthy for the greatest enemy. in an age of scientific management the mind itself must the carefully managed. elliott did not fit in with this picture, his greatest success was inspiring the affection of others, he was loved for his kindness and goodwill. it is difficult to know at what stage elliott's marriage began to fall apart and it is not within the scope of this address to discuss his mistresses at length, there were three that we know of. this is what lost elliott the sympathetic concern of his brother. edmund morris right as far as the a roosevelt was concerned
alcoholism was a disease that could be treated and cured but infidelity was a crime, pure and simple, it could be neither forgiven nor understood save as an active medicine an offense against order, decency and civilization. was a desecration of the holy marriage bed. doctor vernon johnson has written by definition chemically dependent person is out of touch with reality. rather than being a symptom of an underlying emotional or physical disorder, chemical dependency causes many such problems or aggravates those that already exist. chemical dependency seems to rest on a human life in such a way that effectively blocks any other care we might want to deliver to whatever else may be wrong with the individual. every bizarre behavior is rationalized away, the person swept further from reality,
deeper into delusion. emotional distress becomes a chronic condition. the alcoholic feels when he is not drinking, theodore roosevelt probably did not mean to be overly hard on elliott at the time, not much was understood about alcoholism. the typical opinion of the day was expressed in this 1882 tracked, quote, every soul is worth saving but if a choice is to be made, drunkards are about the last class to be taken hold of. theodore may have had elliott on his mind years later when he wrote that the man who makes up for ten days indifference to duty by an 11 days morbid repentance about that indifference is a scant use in the world. in order to find out what happened to elliott i would love to tell you but we are running out of time and i think the only solution really is to purchase my book. [laughter] >> i have so much more to tell you about but i want to know if
anybody has any questions. i will read you one last thing. this is a letter that elliott wrote to eleanor october 9, 1892. he wrote my darling little daughter, many happy returns of this birthday. i am thinking of you always and wish my baby girl the greatest joy and most perfect happiness in her sweet young life. because father is not with you, not because he doesn't love you. i love you tenderly and dearly and soon i will come back well and strong and we will have such good times like we used to have. love your mother for me and be gentle and good to her especially now while she is not well. goodbye, my own little daughter, god bless you and your devoted father, elliott roosevelt. i just wonder if anybody has any questions at this point.
i said it for you, you have a sense of who elliott was, and the ways in which his daughter took after him and she might have been formed by very confusing and in some ways loving and very conflicted household. yes, ma'am. i am sorry. i'm supposed to tell you to go over and speak into the microphone. i forgot totally. >> i don't know if hunt it is the right word but eleanor roosevelt had so many alcoholics in her family. to look at her grandmother after her mother died, her father and a sanitarium, her younger brother all died of alcoholism. wranglers were alcoholics. she never drank the rest of her life.
i don't know if she ever drank at all. it was kind of a hunting -- it seemed to mushroom into her whole family constellation. >> that is true. that goes from generation to generation in the roosevelt family. her cousin kermit roosevelt had a drinking problem also. her brother, it does seem to be a motive, recurring motif. anybody else? >> i have read about incidents where elliott wasn't very nice to eleanor. one day in new york city, apparently he went to his club and he left her outside, the doorman asked who she was waiting for and she said my
father, elliott roosevelt, he left hours ago and he was put dead drunk into a cabin taken away and he left her there. did she not reason that? how did she build incidents like that into her picture of her father? >> if she resented it she never let anybody know. i think she was very loyal to his memory simply because the only thing that really matters to children is love. i mean the kind of love you can see and feel. parents love you by virtue of the fact they get up and provide a work is a roof over your head. her mother was responsible one. eleanor did not feel that love. she felt love from her father because he had been her friend, the only one who didn't treat me like a criminal, he had a very understanding heart, most of the
time when he was very lighthearted and kind to her, a few isolated incidents that were very jarring. because he was really the light of her life, she said when she was little i don't think she was going to compromise that memory in any way. >> i don't have a question but i thought maybe to end this in a little levy, i have taken many tour groups to the site and you have been the interpreter, i enjoyed when you did a little bit of eleanor and i thought maybe you could do one for the audience. >> it would be easier for me if you had a specific question in
mind. i would be happy to address any topic you would care to -- you would care to raise. [applause] >> i thought of something. i used to love those children's biographies when i was little and the first time i ever heard eleanor roosevelt's voice was in a creepy horror movie called what is the matter with helen? which i don't recommend because it is scary. it is set during the great depression and it opens with actual newsreel footage. the first time i heard fdr's voice. i loved his voice, delighted but eleanor roosevelt, she says i am pleased to be making this visit to puerto rico, where i hope to see something of a very beautiful aisle and its people.
[laughter and applause] >> could i ask geraldine and eleanor, i know geraldine spent a lot of time looking at photographs in the archives. i would like to know if geraldine in eleanor's voice had a particular photograph that was her favorite? >> there is a picture of my father around the age of 10 and the caption geraldine has added is elliott, the sweetest one in the family. he is wearing not exactly a corduroy suit, but it just looks terribly sweet. [applause] >> that will complete our
session today. take a left. remember, we have our keynote back here. thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> the final other presentation from the roosevelt reading festival is real is a prize-winning author and former new york times executive editor joseph lelyveld who looks at the final months of the life of president