Sunday, May 1, 2011

Book Review: Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

This book is the third book of the trilogy of Teddy Roosevelt's life, preceded years ago by The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex. Like the first two books, this one is well-written, informative, and interesting.

This volume covers the period of TR's life from his Africa trip in 1909, immediately after he left the presidential office, until his death in 1919. The book contains copious endnotes (as the first two volumes did) which augment the basic storyline with a variety of details and source information; for those of us who enjoy that sort of thing, it is a great resource. For those who do not, you can simply enjoy the text, unencumbered with that "stuff."

Three things struck me about TR's life in particular. First, it was amazing to see how wide his circles of acquaintance were. His correspondence is legendary; it is estimated that in his lifetime he composed 150,000 letters, etc. to people. He knew people all over Europe and America, from royalty to scientists to authors.

A second thing was how his six children turned out. One son, Quentin, died heroically in World War I. His other five children all married and had varying degrees of success in this world, but at least three of them did not lead lives I would hope for my own children. His eldest child, Alice, had a rocky marriage and both she and her husband were apparently not faithful to each other. I cannot help but wonder if his extended absences from his family were directly or indirectly related to how his children turned out.

The third thing was his position on spiritual things. Despite his enormous breadth of reading and his ability to plow through a 300-page book in an evening (with legendary recollection), he admitted to not reading substantial portions of the Bible until his post-presidential years. He was an ardent follower and promoter of the theory of evolution, and tried to apply it to various fields of science. Although his personal moral code was above reproach, he rarely attended church or showed signs of piety. His writings on religious topics (his pen generated much of his post-presidential income) show that his views on righteousness and eternity were quite different from the teachings of the Bible. Indeed, if Morris's research is accurately presented—and I have no reason to believe it is not—it appears Theodore Roosevelt lived his life without accepting Christ as his personal Savior.

Despite that sad thought, the book is a fitting capstone to the Theodore Roosevelt trilogy. If you have the time to read the 2,000-ish pages in all three books, I encourage you to do so.

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