Biographies & Memoirs


Grand Tour


THE ROOSEVELTS SAILED the afternoon of May 12 on the Scotia, finest of the Cunard Line’s paddle steamers and still, in 1869, the fastest ship to Europe. With Mary Ann, the nursemaid, they made a party of seven and we may picture them coming aboard in the bright sunshine of a spring day in New York, the ship’s deck crowded with trunks and porters and several hundred other passengers, everybody looking exceptionally well turned out (the Scotia offered only first-class accommodations), and many, like the Roosevelts, traveling with children and servants. Among the familiar faces were Mr. and Mrs. Leopold Seligman and their three children; Mrs. Jesse Seligman and her daughter; the actor Lester Wallock, who was traveling with his wife and two young sons; the Egerton Winthrops and their three children. (Egerton Winthrop, a cultivated, superior-looking figure, was literally right out of an Edith Wharton novel: he was to appear in The Age of Innocence rather thinly disguised as the arch snob Sillerton Jackson, who carried between his narrow temples “most of the scandals and mysteries that had smouldered under the unruffled surface of New York society.”)

To be going abroad was not the rare thing it once had been. Americans were crisscrossing the Atlantic, resolutely “doing” Europe’s galleries and monuments, hiking the Alps, taking the waters in a dozen different spas, filling the best hotels, in numbers that would have been unheard of before the war. So near and commonplace had Europe become, announced the popular travel writer Bayard Taylor, that he would write no more on the subject. It was the year of The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain’s often jeering declaration that a touch of Old World culture was neither beyond the ken of the ordinary citizen nor anything to be afraid of. “I basked in the happiness of being for once in my life drifting with the tide of a great popular movement,” Twain wrote of his sojourn abroad.

Those notable Americans discovering Europe as tourists that same year included such disparate figures as Jefferson Davis, who went for his health, and young Henry James, who was finding every other American he met “vulgar, vulgar, vulgar.” Numerous wealthy Americans, moreover, had happily taken up residence abroad as a more or less permanent thing, and among their offspring, contemporaries of the Roosevelt children, were little Edith Jones (the future Edith Wharton), John Singer Sargent, and Jennie Jerome (the future Mrs. Randolph Churchill).

Still, for the Roosevelts it was a momentous undertaking, a first complete break from the established pattern of their lives, a first adventure as a family. In part, of course, they were going because it was the thing to do—for the “cultural enrichment” of the experience. The children would “benefit,” young as they were. Mittie had never been out of the country. She wanted to see her brothers in Liverpool and to be shown some of what Theodore had seen in his own earlier travels. But they were going also for Teedie’s health. Grandfather Roosevelt, who came to see them off, later wrote the child a little rhyme:

We all shall gladly see you back
Again at your home,
And hope that sickness may no more
Compel your feet to roam.

They were to be gone a year, which to the children seemed like forever. On the ride from the house to the pier, Teedie had cried most of the way.

The first several days at sea were so calm and clear that even Theodore, a lifelong sufferer from seasickness, fared quite well. Not until the fourth day out, a Sunday, when the wind picked up, did he and Teedie take to their berths. “As it was a little rough and I a little sick and being down,” Teedie wrote in his diary. “I could not go to [church] service.”

Mittie spent her days on deck, wrapped up happily in a chair, enjoying the view and the salt tang of the air, chatting, reading (a popular romance called The Heir of Redclyffe), writing long letters to Anna, and keeping a weather eye on Teedie, who alone of her four refused to have anything to do with the other children on board. Elliott, as she told Anna, had quickly become the leader of the children’s sports and played with the Winthrop children nearly all day.

The ship suited her perfectly. The air on deck was a bit sharper than she wished and the grand salon was invariably overheated, but she had grown to feel quite at home.

Six days out, as they entered the Gulf Stream, the weather turned warmer and Teedie at last found a friend. “I made the acquaintance of Mr. St. John, a most interesting gentleman from the West Indies,” he wrote that night. “We had a long talk in the cabin after supper.”

Mr. St. John—Thomas B. St. John, according to the passenger list—was traveling alone for his health and appeared to know no one. His name was pronounced “Singen,” Mittie explained to Anna. He was a “quaint little well of knowledge” who suffered from heart trouble and spoke barely above a whisper, but whose interest in the natural sciences “fills Teedie’s heart with delight.” Teedie had introduced him very formally. “Mama, have you conversed with Mr. St. John?” he asked, as she put down her book. “I feel so tenderly to Teedie,” she told Anna.

The afternoon of Friday, May 21, they were steaming through the smooth bottle-green waters of the Irish Sea, the coast of Wales on the starboard. By turns with a telescope, they picked out windmills and farmhouses along shore, then, with much excitement, the suspension bridge at Holyhead. By nightfall, having crossed some three thousand miles of ocean in nine days, they entered the Mersey at Liverpool.

It was one wild scene of commotion [said Mittie of their arrival]. Passengers all ready, luggage heaped up, children fretting (not mine) . . . Custom House officers busy examining the trunks . . . all done by the aid of lamps . . . Finally a tender neared us on each side. . . . Thee suddenly said here they are, Irvine and brother Jimmie. Imagine our excitement! One gentleman would stay with the trunks thusly. Thee would find a trunk, Irvine sit on it until another was found. . . .

One person only seemed oblivious to what was happening. Teedie sat off to himself in the salon, reading a book. “Strange child!” his mother mused. She must wake him up to the world, “and make him observe.”

She herself seems to have missed nothing, her own considerable powers of observation plainly heightened by an unbound delight in being where she was and who she was.

The first several days with her brothers were filled with breathless talk and laughter. It had been eight years since she had seen Captain James Bulloch, and her one brief meeting with Irvine in that time had been under such strained circumstances that it seemed more like something they had imagined. A year or so after the war he had returned to New York illegally under an assumed name, working his way across on a sailing ship in order to see Mittie and Anna for all of an hour. They had been told nothing of the plan. An unsigned note in the morning mail said merely that at three on Thursday a young man “of interest” would be in the mall at Central Park, standing beneath the third tree on the left, a red handkerchief about his neck. They did as directed and when the hour was up he left for his ship and the return voyage to Liverpool.

Now, at twenty-seven, Irvine was a lanky, clean-shaven, altogether proper southern expatriate and Liverpool businessman who, Theodore observed, smoked his pipe as if it were the serious duty of his life. At the moment, he was also much in love with the daughter of an American couple living in Liverpool, Ella Sears.

Irvine, Ella, Mr. and Mrs. Sears, “brother Jimmie,” his small children, and his wife, Hattie (Harriott Cross Foster, whom he had married before the war), converged on the hotel the first morning, Hattie hugging and kissing Mittie and crying profusely. After that there were drives in a varnished landau through Liverpool’s Princess Park and a longer excursion to the suburbs down country roads with hawthorn hedges in bloom. Mittie picked her first primrose and cowslip. (”You have no idea of my enthusiasm,” she told Anna. “You know every poet from Shakespeare mentions ‘sweet cowslip and primrose.’”) Another day, May 24, they went to brother Jimmie’s home at Waterloo, twenty minutes by train, where the children played on the beach and at dinner the “grown people” toasted the Queen’s birthday (Victoria had turned fifty) and sang and danced until time to catch the last train back to Liverpool.

James and Irvine Bulloch had established themselves in the cotton business in Liverpool and managed to survive as well as they did largely through the contacts James had made during the war. Of the two, James was plainly the leader, a big, vital man with a military bearing and resplendent muttonchop whiskers. No English colonel looked more like an English colonel. As the young captain of a U.S. mail steamer before the war, he had impressed Richard Henry Dana as the model American officer—in his book To Cuba and Back, Dana told what a pleasure it was to stroll the deck with a man of such good cheer and obvious ability—and now in middle age he was said to be the personification of Thackeray’s Colonel Newcome, the beloved ultimate gentleman of Victorian prose. He was kindly, reserved, rarely talked about himself or of his former exploits, which, as it happens, were again very much in the news. The Roosevelts had arrived—his little New York nieces and nephews were casting their eyes upon him for the first time—just as his former creation, the Alabama, had become a headline issue once again on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Alabama Claims, claims against Britain for damages done by the Confederate raider—his ship—had been made a thundering cause in Washington by the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. Britain’s involvement with the Alabama had doubled the length of the war, Sumner claimed, and the damages therefore might exceed $100 million. (In fact, in her two years at sea the Alabama had destroyed fifty-eight commercial vessels valued at $6,547,000.) “When civilization was fighting a last battle with slavery,” Sumner declared in a famous speech, “England gave her name, her influence, her material resources to the wicked cause. ...” Popular opinion in the United States was strongly behind him. The speech had roused a response in the Congress and the country of a kind that set the British back on their heels. Cartoons in the British press at the time the Roosevelts arrived portrayed an American brigand, his belt full of revolvers and knives, calculating how much he might make John Bull pay. Publications normally friendly to the United States—The Spectator, The Pall Mall Gazette, the London Daily News—denounced Sumner and his claims and said the whole nation “would go to war twenty times over” rather than accept such a national humiliation.

The crux of the issue was the degree to which the government had knowingly participated in the creation of the Alabama and under what circumstances the ship had escaped from Liverpool to begin her reign of destruction—in other words, to what extent had James D. Bulloch been aided and abetted in his efforts. If ever there was a central character to a drama it was he, he being the one man who knew all that happened and why, and had this been another, later day, he would have been made a newspaper and television sensation, an international somebody, overnight. As it was, the arrival of his sister and her family remained the sole disruption in the sedate life he had fashioned in exile, and his treasured privacy survived intact.

To the Roosevelt children, he and Irvine were almost mythical in stature. Here were two of the heroic figures from Mittie’s stories, the real thing at last. Had some marvelous heroes from one of their books materialized before their eyes, the effect would not have been much greater. And most obviously stirred was Teedie, whose hunger for adventure in any printed or spoken form was insatiable and whose private musings on large matters of historic consequence were sometimes so out of proportion with his physical size and age as to be strangely amusing. (”Father,” he would ask apropos of nothing a little later on in the trip, “did Texas wish to annex itself to the United States?”)

“It was from the heroes of my favorite stories,” he would explain as a grown man, “from hearing of the feats performed by my southern forefathers and kinsfolk, and from knowing my father [that] I felt great admiration for men who were fearless . . . and I had a great desire to be like them.” To a crowd gathered in his honor at Roswell, he would one day tell in detail how his Uncle Irvine Bulloch had stuck to his post to the last as the guns of the United States corvette Kearsarge raked the Alabama. When the Alabama went down off Cherbourg, Irvine was among those survivors rescued by the British yacht Deerhound, and afterward he served on the raider Shenandoah, preying on whalers in the Bering Strait.

James Bulloch’s story was larger, more important, more the stuff of fiction. His influence on the boy was to be considerable.

His original mission, as defined in orders from Jefferson Davis, had been to build “with the quickest possible dispatch” six steam vessels in England, for which the Confederate Congress appropriated a total of a million dollars. He had arrived in Liverpool in June 1861, and the first ship, Florida, was ready in less than a year. Then followed the Alabama, originally known as No. 290, because she was the two hundred ninetieth ship built at the Laird yards in Liverpool. Launching of the Florida had greatly alarmed the American minister to Britain, Charles Francis Adams, so everything concerning No. 290 had to be done under secrecy and with unstinting sensitivity on Bulloch’s part to the British laws that forbade the building of warships for belligerents. “I cannot exaggerate, sir, the caution and tact required to get a ship to sea with even the external appearance of a man-of-war,” he wrote to James M. Mason, the Confederate diplomatic agent in London. No. 290, furthermore, was to be no ordinary ship and he expected to be given her command.

He had designed her specifically as a commerce raider, rather than for combat with other warships—900 tons, 230 feet in length, and drawing, when provisioned and coaled, all of 15 feet. Rigged as a barkentine, she carried large fore and aft sails and handled as well under sail as under steam—as most such vessels did not—because he had devised a means whereby, in a matter of minutes, the propeller could be detached and lifted high enough out of the water not to slow her down. Top speed was to be about thirteen knots. John Laird, the builder, thought her the finest cruiser of her class in the world.

The plan was for the ship to leave Liverpool as an innocent-looking merchantman, to be armed later in the Azores. He picked the island of Terceira as the rendezvous, secretly arranged for the purchase of armaments and stores, and had these sent by another ship, again devising detailed instructions for every necessary step. All in all it was a brilliant performance and things were falling together nicely, until Charles Francis Adams, supplied by his own agent in Liverpool, presented the British government with proof of what was afoot. The situation could have gone either way, but the Queen’s Advocate went insane at this juncture; the documents supplied by Adams sat untouched for five crucial days, and Bulloch, determined to get the ship out of British waters, took her to sea himself, “very unexpectedly.” Only by the narrowest margin did he bring it off. He arranged for a British crew, and on the morning of July 29,1862, the still incomplete No. 290 started down the Mersey draped in bright bunting and carrying a large party of fashionable ladies and gentlemen who had been invited for a short trial run and a picnic lunch. Several customs officials were also aboard to see that “no international wrong” was perpetrated. But about noon, a tug came alongside, the guests were put off, and No. 290 sailed away—north through the Irish Sea—never to return. Bulloch had himself put ashore on the north coast of Ireland and made his way back to Liverpool. Three weeks later he was in the Azores seeing to final preparations before turning the ship over to Captain Raphael Semmes of the Confederate Navy, his superiors at home having decided his services on land were invaluable.

That he failed in a later attempt to build two ironclad rams at the Laird yards—ships which, in the long run, would have done far greater damage to the Union cause than did the Alabama—was due to the grim, unequivocal declaration by Charles Francis Adams to Foreign Secretary Lord John Russell that should the rams leave Liverpool, it would mean war.

Teedie’s allegiance to the Union side—to his father’s side—remained as passionate as always. Passing through Liverpool some months earlier, Jefferson Davis had enrolled his son in the same school at Waterloo attended by Teedie’s cousin, and when Teedie and Ellie ran into the Davis boy during a visit to the school, “sharp words ensued,” as Teedie reported proudly in his diary. But there could be no stigma surrounding James Bulloch, not ever. As an adult, Teedie would remember Uncle Jimmie as a “blessed” figure, “as valiant and simple and upright a soul as ever lived . . . one of the best men I have ever known.” An important bond grew between them—important to each and to the writing of naval history—and this Liverpool visit of 1869 marked the beginning. It would be his very pro-Union nephew, ultimately, who persuaded James Bulloch to write the book only he could write, setting forth his part in the war and all he knew concerning the Alabama. (Called The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, it appeared in two volumes in 1883.) And James Bulloch, in turn, would provide invaluable assistance to his nephew’s own first effort as a historian, a study of the naval side of the War of 1812—all this taking place years after the Alabama Claims had been settled, the issue laid to rest.

The Roosevelts left Liverpool by train June 2, their party now increased to eight with the addition of a newly hired valet by name of Noel Paovitch. They were bound for the Lake Country and to Scotland, heading north, their first stop at Furness Abbey, the magnificent ruin of a monastery founded in the twelfth century in what had been the wilds of Icelandic-speaking Furness. It was a stop of only a night and a day and much that they were to see afterward was to be still grander in scale and more evocative in spirit, but the abbey was their maiden encounter with Europe’s truly ancient past. They were on their own as tourists for the first time.

A tremendous complex covering some sixty-five acres, the abbey was set in a hidden valley named Bekangesgill in Icelandic, or the Vale of the Deadly Nightshade, “from the deadly herb,” Mittie explained excitedly to Anna, “which with henbane grows here . . . two flourishing specimens of the former in one of the curved archways.” Once a remote empire unto itself, the abbey and its way of life had survived unchallenged for centuries. The buildings were of red sandstone—a monumental church, cloisters, quarters for the lay brothers and novices, the abbot’s private chapel, an infirmary, offices, school—and these with gardens and orchards and cemetery, as well as a modern hotel, were all contained within a great encircling wall. The end had come with Henry VIII and his break with Rome. The abbey was abandoned, roofs caved in, gates, windows, anything salvageable had been carted off long since. But the remaining shells of buildings were awesome. Among connoisseurs of ruins, of whom there were a great many in that Victorian day, they were considered among the choicest of all. What had been the floor of the abbey was now vivid green turf speckled with bluebells and buttercups and there were as yet no restrictions as to where one could walk or climb; everything was open to all comers and for children, a glorious playground.

The light of day was nearly gone when the Roosevelts arrived and a fine rain was falling, blotting out all but the barest outlines. It was only the next morning that the scale and power of the place burst upon them. The sun was shining, the day spectacular, with a few foamy clouds trailing overhead in a soft blue sky. The family was up and dressed by six and following breakfast set off with guidebooks in hand. The three small children, seeing the sweep of green turf, raced ahead, through archways, up broken staircases, then up a spiral stairway to the belfry, then to the top of what had been a water tower, where they “saw it all.” “When we three were on the belfry,” wrote Mittie, recounting for Anna the somewhat more sedate route she had taken with Theodore and Bamie, “on the opposite side were the three children peeping through one of the . . . lancet windows. . . . We beckoned to them and in a trice they all raced down, up the nave of the church and mounted the belfry steps. As I write . . . the children are climbing over the ’Porter’s Lodge’ (ruin). . . . It would be impossible to tell you all. . . .”

In the chancel, immediately in front of the high altar base, they stood before the stone effigy of a crusader, thought to be William de Lancaster, eighth Baron of Kendal, who died in 1246. By the way the moss had grown, the figure’s stone limbs and sword were perfectly delineated. From the cracked stone helmet of another effigy Mittie picked a dandelion. Thrilled by the whole romantic spell of the place she found herself “gazing at the wide open windows and thinking how the glorious light must have streamed through . . . over the high altar [and] down upon the monks as they sang their solemn chants or the moonbeams when at their midnight devotions.”

Her health was already improved, she told her sister. She had to watch what she ate, but could depict herself overall as “intensely interested and much freckled.”

We leave here at 5 PM for Windermere, where Noel and our baggage await us. . . . Thee and I wish for you incessantly. How you would appreciate it all. . . . I hurry to the close of this letter because I see Thee’s coattails flitting around the ruined Abbey and he shall not know more than I do about it.

In the days that followed, as they cruised Lake Windermere and went on by train to Edinburgh, the weather held clear and fair. Mittie wished only that there were more time. Scotland was both a return to the ancestral home of the Bullochs and a literary pilgrimage to the world of Sir Walter Scott, who, with his love of the legendary and valorous, his openair healthiness, his strong sense of the interlocking of human lives, appealed powerfully to the romantic Mittie. They saw Abbotsford, the sprawling stone mansion where Scott had lived like some feudal laird (”saw his clothes, . . . petrified things and armor and curiosities,” wrote Teedie), traveled to Dryburgh to pay homage at Scott’s tomb. In the Trossachs, the setting of Scott’s epic poem The Lady of the Lake,Mittie felt “as though we were on magic ground.” One fine morning they hiked beside Loch Katrine, as Theodore marched along reading the poem aloud. “Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances!”

“We had a charming drive on top of [the] coach, between Loch Katrine and Lomond,” Mittie told Anna, “and steamed up the latter . . . which was beautiful all the time. I could not help thinking of the highland songs dear mother used to sing. . . . ”

Then they turned south again, from Edinburgh to York, an exhausting, sooty eight hours “in the cars” relieved by some of the most appealing scenery of the whole trip: distant blue glances of the Firth of Forth, small white beaches, rolling surf, rolling country; then red-tiled Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Tweed emptying into the North Sea; then fields of sheep and cattle followed by Newcastle-upon-Tyne with its huddled houses and tall chimneys and thick yellow smoke. After this everything became more soft and green, more thoroughly English, Mittie thought, the hawthorn “perfectly lovely.” She adored landscapes with “everything like the most perfect picture.”

They were two days in York; then came Leamington (and Warwick Castle), Oxford, and, finally, London on June 21. Except for the time on trains, most every day was given to “hard sightseeing.” And if not exploring a Roman wall (at York) or exclaiming over the heroic proportions of a Saxon giant’s porridge bowl (at Warwick Castle) or seeing “some collages” (as Teedie wrote at Oxford), Mittie and the children were usually buried in their books, which, by the time they reached London, had been read and reread to such an extent that she had to go out and buy a “fresh lot.” A few months later, in Venice, Teedie would reckon that since leaving New York they had read fifty books.

At times the strain would show. Bamie’s feet had become so blistered in Scotland she could barely walk. Teedie’s asthma kicked up once before reaching London and Ellie too suffered several days with a bad throat, then took offense when told to ease up and miss part of one day’s touring. “I want to learn about things, too, like Teedie,” he insisted.

Yet the pace only quickened. In three weeks’ time there were repeated expeditions to the London Zoo and to the British Museum. They “did” Hampton Court, Kensington Gardens and Museum, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and the “very wonderful” Crystal Palace, where the two boys were transfixed by a mechanical figure that played chess and they begged to go back again the next day. The zoo called for five visits.

She had seen “the real Rosetta Stone,” Mittie exclaimed in a letter to Anna following a day at the British Museum. She had seen the prayer book carried to the scaffold by Lady Jane Grey (”her own notes written in it!”), the original manuscripts of Pope’sIliad,Scott’s Kenilworth, letters from Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth, Charles the First, Cromwell, George Washington. “Etc., etc.” From the Ladies’ Gallery at the House of Commons, she and Bamie watched the members nodding, laughing, doing “anything they pleased,” their hats on, while one of their number droned on about cattle plague.

Shopping at Sears & Wells, she had the three youngest children fitted in matching sailor suits, with white braid and red silk ties, Conie’s differing only in that it had a skirt. Time was made for riding lessons for the boys, Teedie’s wheeze notwithstanding, and for innumerable “splendid romps” in Hyde Park under the surveillance of Mary Ann or Noel Paovitch, the latter, somewhere along the line, having acquired a red fez.

Most evenings about six, Mittie and Theodore took an hour’s drive in the park and one Saturday, their last in London, they attended a party given by the Duke of Devonshire, a high point for Mittie and a chance to exercise her powers of observation (albeit with “furtive glances” only) for the benefit of sister Anna, whose interest in great houses, clothes, jewelry, and English gentry was apparently no less than her own. The following is only part of a letter written at top speed from the Netherlands several days later.

I wore my pale-green silk, lace cap arranged as a bertha and some lovely pale-pink real rosebuds in my hair which Bamie arranged prettily. We arrived at Devonshire House, Piccadilly W . . . . where we were met by policemen and servants in livery knee breeches, etc., now ushered into the first vestibule, more servants, into second vestibule, more liveried servants. Instead of being taken into dressing rooms, in this vestibule a servant behind a kind of counter covered with red cloth . . . took our cloaks, giving tickets in return. We ascended a beautiful wide winding staircase of pure white marble, glass banisters; about midway, a servant [who was] standing at [the] head of [the] stairs, then ushered us into the Saloon (I suppose), a beautiful very large room. Lord and Lady Frederick Cavendish [Lord Frederick was the son of the Duke of Devonshire] came up immediately, very cordially. She is a little like Mrs. Jimmie Dreer, taller, was dressed not very prettily but stylishly, deep-pink silk, trimmed with some lace, large diamond ornaments arranged on pink ribbon round [her] neck, which was tied behind in long streamers, wreath of pink roses and green leaves. Lord Frederick is [a] sweet, clean-looking person, very diffident, he is in the House of Commons. He introduced his father as “My father the Duke,” who had the broad blue ribbon and star of the Order of Bath, blazing with diamonds. He received us very cordially. I forgot to say “Your Grace,” but talked along quite pleasantly . . . [the] room was gold and white with beautiful pictures, soft carpet in half the room (the other half apparently inlaid and waxed), furniture and curtains blue and gold . . . this opened into [a] beautiful salon, frescoed, high ceiling lighted from above, furniture light blue and vapor color; in one corner [at a] table in [the] shape of [a] crescent, served by servants (some maids in caps) . . . delicious reviving tea in lovely little cups, then slices of bread and butter, cakes, and other very light things. There were lovely flowers; two small anterooms and supper rooms were all that were thrown open. The supper seemed only to consist of ices, and fruits, all in brilliant-looking glass and china. . . . All the people as they entered shook hands with their host and each other. I had no idea the English did this, as Americans are generally accused of doing so. Lady Frederick introduced several of her friends to me, among them the Duchess of Manchester, very brilliantly dressed in pink and lace; Lady Waterford, whom she said had been a great beauty, walked most splendidly. . . a tiara of diamonds, pearls wound in with her black hair. Lady DeViser (I think this was the name) in deep blue and Venetian point lace, red cherries in her hair; her daughter, Lady Bath, [a] sweet delicate, refined-looking person, plain white silk, no trimming except fine lace in [the] neck, [a] little white ostrich tip in her hair. There was one fat Begum in blue satin and lace who walked slowly about. . . leaning on or should I say leading about a deaf, dumb, blind, lame, very ill-looking stick covered with orders. There was an old gentleman with soft gray curls, excessively refined-looking . . . with an immense diamond ring. . . . I asked Lord Frederick who he was, but he did not know, said that he went very little out. I was disappointed because I had seen and been interested in this same old gentleman at the Conversazzione at the Kensington Museum. . . . When we were leaving, the servants would call out “Lord so and so’s carriage stops,” the way just as you read in Miss Edgeworth’s novels. I enjoyed everything very much but would have liked to have gazed more, had to content myself with furtive glances out the sides of my eyes. . . .

Teedie provided the single disruption of the London stay. His asthma returned and a doctor who was called to the hotel, finding nothing wrong with the boy’s lungs, recommended that he be taken to the seashore. So off Teedie had gone with his father to Hastings, by train, early Saturday, July 3. They registered at the Queen’s Hotel fronting on the sea and after a very man-sized midday dinner set out for a walk on the beach. As the day wore on, Teedie was treated to a ride in a goat cart and in the late-afternoon sunshine the powerful-looking bearded father and the sallow, spindly little son hiked the steep path up Castle Hill, to a castle ruin from Saxon times. From the hilltop they could look back on the town and their hotel with its turrets and flags flying. The sky and sea were beautiful. Everything was beautiful to the boy. The dinner that night was “the best dinner I ever had.”

At the close of the following day, Sunday, he would say simply, “This is the happiest day I have ever spent.” After church they had again hiked to the castle, where this time Theodore conducted a private outdoor Sunday school. Then they walked on several more miles, atop high limestone cliffs, the beach and surf far below. On the return trek they cheered the Fourth of July together with all the lung power they could muster, a “feeble attempt,” Teedie conceded, but “such fun.” Putting himself to bed that night, finding he had too little breath even to blow out his candle, he doused the flame in a tumbler of water and dropped blissfully off to sleep.

Back in London they found Mittie and Bamie at the National Gallery, making their way slowly through Hogarth’s Marriage à la Mode. “Both had enjoyed Hastings very much,” Mittie wrote. Teedie was “decidedly better.”


The Grand Tour of the Continent that got under way at Antwerp was an enormously ambitious undertaking, given the means of transportation available, the size of the party, the ages of the children, the staggering quantity and variety of baggage to be looked after in that day of large, elaborate wardrobes. Even to a seasoned present-day traveler the course of the Roosevelts’ journey across the map of Europe looks slightly overwhelming.

They reached Antwerp July 14, 1869, and were scheduled to sail for home exactly ten months later on the Russia, departing Liverpool, May 14, 1870. Between times they would travel several thousand miles by countless different trains, by river steamer, lake steamer, and rowboat (across Lake Como), by carriage and stagecoach, on horseback, by mule, by donkey, and on foot (through much of Switzerland). They would stay at sixty-six different hotels in eight countries (including Monaco) and the numbers of porters required at each stop, the numbers of room clerks, ticket agents, and headwaiters who had to be dealt with—with or without the benefit of English—may be imagined.

After several days of sightseeing in Antwerp, The Hague, and Amsterdam, they started up the Rhine from Cologne, visiting Mainz, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Baden, and Strasbourg. They were in Basel by the end of July and from there made a long, looping path through Switzerland, south first, through the Jura Mountains to Bern, then on to Geneva. They cut southeast across part of France to Mont Blanc and Chamonix, then northeast up the valley of the Rhone to Visp. There was a stop at Zermatt. The children threw snowballs on top of the Eggishorn. They saw the Rhone Glacier, crossed the Grimsel Pass to Grindelwald, steamed down Lake Brienz to Interlaken, filling their lungs with a lake breeze scented by freshly cut hay. At Lucerne they spent a week with Theodore’s former colleague on the Allotment Commission, Theodore Bronson, and his family, after which came the requisite ascent to the Rigi-Kulm. In Zurich they stopped at the famous Hotel Baur au Lac, with its flower gardens and meticulously raked gravel walks. In all, they were six weeks in Switzerland, Theodore’s favorite part of Europe and the place, it was hoped, that would do the most for Teedie. “A course of travel of this sort,” an English physician had written, “. . . in a pure and bracing air, under a bright sky, amid some of the most attractive and most impressive scenes in nature, in cheerful company . . . will do all that the best medicines can do . . . and much that they never can accomplish.” Henry James, trudging over the Swiss Alps that same summer, described his exertions as “a pledge, a token of some future potency.”

After Switzerland came the Italian lakes, then Milan, followed by a week in Venice. From Venice, September 25, they went by night boat across the Adriatic to Trieste and from there to Vienna by train, one of the longest legs of the journey. They were another week in Vienna, after which they turned west to Salzburg and Munich before making the swing north to Berlin by way of Nuremberg and Dresden. From Berlin they doubled back to Cologne, arriving in time for Teedie’s birthday, October 27.

The month of November was spent in Paris. Then followed a tour of southern France (Dijon, Marseilles, Nice) en route to Italy for the winter. With the return of spring they were back in Paris for a second and last stay of nearly two months, after which they left for London, Liverpool, and the ship home.

In time-honored tourist fashion they gathered up quantities of guidebooks and keepsakes—photographs, rare coins, stamps, crystals, bits of rock, souvenir spoons—and like countless other Americans abroad, then and since, they took huge pleasure in running into other Americans abroad. But never did they take Europe lightly, or in the smug or mocking way some did. There were times of disappointment and disillusion—“sunny Italy,” their first week there, was “cold, dreary, smelly”—but far more often they were exhilarated or deeply moved by scenery, by art, architecture, the places of history. If few families could have afforded such a year, fewer still would have attempted anything so ambitious or kept to their schedule with such energy. They did everything that was expected. They saw Venice by moonlight; at the Volksgarten in Vienna they thrilled to the strains of “The Beautiful Blue Danube” as rendered by Professor Strauss himself. They climbed the Arc de Triomphe and saw Emperor Napoleon III ride by in the Tuileries; they climbed the Tower of Pisa; they climbed Vesuvius. They saw The Last Supper, Pompeii, St. Peters and the Pope (Pius IX)—all that was obligatory and considerably more. There was hardly a church of note, a palace or ruin or gallery or garden en route that escaped their collective perusal, all six—”the whole of us,” as Teedie said—generally going everywhere in a body.

Children took sick. Teeth had to be tended to (a morning in Berlin was lost at a dentists office), birthdays and Christmas were celebrated (with Mittie and Theodore putting on full dress for each such occasion). Correspondence had to be kept up. Word came of the panic on Wall Street that began September 24, Black Friday, and, later, of the death of Theodore’s brother Weir. Still, the pilgrimage went resolutely forward and the fact that there were no serious snags in the plan anywhere en route, no train tickets lost or timetables misread, no troubles with hotel reservations that we know of, speaks highly for Theodore, who, it appears, was responsible for all the advance arrangements.

On balance, probably Switzerland was the best time for everyone. Conie, recalling the trip in later years, would write fondly of “weeks in the great Swiss mountains” and “lovely times when we were not obliged to think of sculpture or painting.” The distances covered on their family hikes through the Alps seem almost incredible. On August 11, for example, crossing the Tête-Noire, Theodore went twenty-two miles, Bamie eighteen miles, Ellie twelve, Conie three. Mittie, the supposed invalid, walked nine miles, while Teedie went very nearly as far as his father, nineteen miles. On August 21, crossing the Grimsel Pass, Teedie walked twenty miles to Theodore’s twenty-two and this at an altitude of seven thousand feet! At Lucerne Ellie and Teedie were both sick, Teedie depressed and homesick, but then the trip to the heights of the Rigi rapidly restored all spirits.

Known as the “island mountain,” the Rigi stands by itself above lakes Lucerne and Zug, and to many thousand “sensitive souls” of that day the spectacle of sunset and sunrise from its summit, the Rigi-Kulm, was the climax of a visit to Switzerland. The “incredible horizon,” as Victor Hugo called it, takes in nearly three hundred miles, an utterly dazzling panorama of Alps on one side (to the southeast) and on the other, beyond the lakes, the lovely Zurich countryside reaching to the Juras. Traditionally one went to the top in time for sunset, as the Roosevelts did, then stayed the night at the hotel to be awakened before dawn by an Alpine horn, which the morning of September 4 sounded at quarter to five.

Rose immediately [Mittie wrote], but did not get out in time to see the first pink lights before the sun rising. All the panorama of high Alpine peaks visible . . . Litlis and its glaciers, Finisterahorn, Schreckhorn, Wetterhorn, Jungfrau, and Silverhorn and Blumis Alps. The Wetterhorn was beautifully peaked and covered with snow. A mass of thick clouds laid at the same level all around the Rigi in the early morning, looking something as a glacier, with its rifts of gray color, completely hiding the lower world.

“Down the mountain a different way,” exclaimed Teedie. “Papa and I walked most. . . . I had a splendid day.” Later, in Nice, writing in his diary of a descent from another mountain, this with a view of the sea, he would describe “little Mama and Bamie trying to follow as fast as they could, all of us laughing and talking about what a nice time we were having and that this was a second Switzerland.”

Teedie was the diarist of the trip. Two or three other journals were begun and fragments of some have survived. Mittie, in hers, has an eye for nature—she names trees, flowers, birds—and for the “romantic” spell of places like Lake Como. Conie has exceptionally good handwriting for a child her age and frequently demonstrates her own sense of the romantic. (”We got up when it was pitch dark,” she writes at San Remo, “. . . and Ellie and I went all over the garden and stood by the Mediterranean and heard the roaring waves as they came dashing in.”) But Teedie alone kept methodically at his record, never missing a day during the entire year, however much else was going on and no matter how miserable he felt.

The diary has survived intact and it is an amazing document filled with innumerable revelations, not the least of them concerning the author himself. In physical form, it is actually several small, cheap stiff-backed notebooks. The entries are in pencil, the pages are nearly all badly smudged and blurred, and the handwriting is dreadful, sometimes nearly impossible to read. But his eye for detail is exceptional and he can be startlingly thorough. “He takes a great deal of interest now in everything he sees,” Mittie reported to Anna. Some of his inventories of “sights” seen in a single day ran to as many as thirty or even fifty items. He is tremendously fond of castles and of armor and armaments of all kinds, of fresh raspberries and dogs of any size or breed wherever he finds them. He loves all things Roman—Pompeii, Hadrian’s Villa, Roman coins, Roman walls, the Colosseum. “I . . . was given by Papa what in my wildest dream I had never thought to have,” he says at Naples, “a Roman vase and coin. Just think of it!!!”

There is an obvious interest in nature, but of the birds and animals that figure in the running chronicle, it is the bear that has the strongest fascination—a dancing bear at Lake Windermere, a game of “wild bears and hunting” with Conie and Ellie in the park at London and again at the Tuileries in Paris, a bear clock that he sees in a shop at Bern. At Florence he takes pad and pencil to the zoo to do a drawing of a bear.

Another entry made at Florence, a mention of a visit to “Mr. Elliot’s where we saw a beautiful book of birds written by him,” is of particular interest, since this was Daniel Giraud Elliot, the great American ornithologist whose collection of bird specimens, the finest collection then extant, was about to be acquired by the new American Museum of Natural History. Daniel Elliot was tall and bearded and enormously dignified. As a child he too had been “delicate in health.”

The manner at times is wonderfully pompous. It is easy to imagine the response had he so expressed himself among other American boys his age. At the end of the day at Oxford he writes, “I had a headache and Conie and Ellie made a tremendous noise playing at my expense and rather laughed when I remonstrated. . . .” He declares of the route to Genoa, “this railroad is an abomination.” The standard word of approval is “splendid” and once in Florence he is forced to excuse himself from play in order to “arrange my pantaloons.”

That he was enjoying himself the large proportion of the time, and nearly always when his health was right, is apparent throughout. Page after page he is having “fine fun,” “a great play,” “great fun.” There are touches of humor (”We are to write all our letters four pages, so much the worse for our friends!”) and one surprising, pleasurable moment at Ellie’s birthday party in Rome when he is kissed by a little girl named Elliese Van Schaack “as the boy she loved best in the room.”

This memorable account of a battle that took place on the Pincian Hill in Rome is from the entry of January 15, 1870:

We had a splendid day today. Ellie went out to get a sword and gun and I went to Mrs. Dickey’s for Charlie. Going back . . . we met Ellie with gun and sword. He lent the gun to Charlie and I picked up some stones. I was a little rebellious soldier. Ellie struck me with his sword. We then got for my weapons a club and two javelins. We then encamped and as I was sentinel, I revenged the blows of the sword by running away. I ran to a small hillock of dust and caves and took my stand. Up they came and Charlie made at me with the gun and cut my hand with it. I struck him in the chest and he fell on his back. But Ellie was on me with his sword and had me on my knees but I hurled him on Charlie. I saw, however, that I would be beaten in another battle and I rushed down a steep hill and when we fought again I defeated them and rushed up to another position and again encountered and beat them. They were now forced to receive me as an honored soldier.

But the same honored soldier plays dolls and “baby” with Conie, and he can be withered by the least sign of disapproval or ridicule. One entire evening at Nice is written off as “miserable” because “Papa called us children bothers. . . .”

At supper [another night] Mama laughed at me a great deal and made fun of me because I always say “Pretty Papa, Pretty Mama” and made me feel (and I feel now) very cut and ashamed of myself and I don’t feel natural, though Mama and Papa both tried to make it up when they saw what she had done.

On being told that his Uncle Weir Roosevelt is dead, he turns to the diary and writes, “It is the third relation that has died in my short life. What will come?”

Best by far are the “fine sociable times” with Papa and Mama. “We went in the cars and had a tremendous play with Mama.” “I and Mama and Papa had a sociable time by the fire with my stampbook.” “Papa and I had a jolly walk.” “In the evening Mama told us incidents of her early life and adventures of my ancestors. . . .” “I had such nice real tea for supper and such a nice time we did have, especially Mama and I who petted each other up. . . . Did I say I had real tea.”

Mama is all-comforting, never angry. Papa leads the way. Papa makes the rules; Papa gives out the spending money and requires an accounting of how it is used. Papa, dressed for the Vienna Opera, is “more handsome than I ever saw him.” In a crowd at St. Peter’s, as the family waits for a glimpse of the Pope, a monk shoves Teedie out of the way and Papa springs forward to fling the man aside. Papa gives “a grand dinner” at the hotel in Rome and invites “22 persons!!!”

On a few occasions Papa appears not to have been at his best. He seems to step strangely out of character. In the entry for January 4, 1870, we are told how Papa tossed pennies to a crowd of beggar children outside Naples, but that when one child “transgressed” some rule Papa had made, Papa whipped him “till he cried.” (It was immediately following this incident, interestingly, that he presented Teedie with the Roman vase and coin.) Another time, surrounded by a horde of half-starved Italian women and children, Papa bought baskets of cake. “We tossed the cakes to them,” Teedie writes,”... fed them like chickens with small pieces, and like chickens they ate it. . . . We made them open their mouths and tossed cake into it.” This was all great fun, according to Teedie. Papa was a marvel. “We made the crowds . . . give three cheers for the U.S.A. before we gave them cakes.”

Bamie is “such a kind sister,” but remains part of the adult world, more like a second mother. Ellie is “the chief” or “captain” in their games. Conie remains his favorite playmate.

Still, there runs a theme, a mounting refrain really, of the pleasure and pride in being the first to see or do something, an eagerness to set himself apart from the others, to distinguish himself, to get out ahead of them; or simply to be alone, absorbed in private thoughts. It begins as early as the shipboard friendship with Mr. St. John, which he had managed entirely on his own and in his own fashion. “I was the first one that got on the continent,” he writes of the landing at Antwerp. “I walked with Papa before the rest most of the way,” he says of their hike out of Switzerland over the Splügen Pass. On a September day beside Lake Como he sits in a shaded woodland “with no sound save the waterfall and the Italian breeze on my cheek. I all alone am writing my journal.” “I began my ascent of the snow-covered Vesuvius,” he writes the last day of 1869. “I soon passed the rest and left them far behind.”

For Mittie, it may well have been the happiest year of her life. To judge by Teedie’s account she was never once ill or even out of sorts. Ironically, she appears to have been the only one of the family who never took sick, who never missed a day.

Italy had thrilled her. She had led the children through one museum after another, often plunking one or the other of them before a favorite painting or piece of sculpture: “Now, darling, this is one of the greatest works of art in the world, and I am going to leave you here alone for five minutes, because I want you to sit very quietly and look at it. . .”

Arriving in Paris the second time, in early March 1870, she could still write glowingly of sights yet to be seen. “I have only been once inside the Louvre,” she told Anna. “We are going to commence vigorously this week, it is so fascinating.”

For reasons that remain obscure, it had also been decided that Bamie would stay on in Paris. She was to be put in the hands of Mile. Marie Souvestre, headmistress of Les Ruches, a private school for girls in Fontainebleau, outside Paris. Then in her mid-thirties, with a long, distinguished career ahead of her, the remarkable Mile. Souvestre was a woman of singular poise and great culture, but also an outspoken agnostic, and this, in view of Theodore’s feelings on religion, makes the decision a little puzzling and suggests that Mittie may have had the final say. In any event, a first visit to Fontainebleau to see the school was made March 19, and as brief as Bamie’s time there would be, Mile. Souvestre’s influence would carry far.

In one respect only had the year been a failure. Teedie’s health, far from improving, had been conspicuously wretched throughout, as his amazing diary also reveals. From what he writes and from observations and clues to be found in family correspondence, the year can also be seen as a substantial medical profile of a very sick little boy whose case was by no means simple.

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