March 05, 2013
Theodore Roosevelt is generally acknowledged to be the “writingest” President in American history. His titles include histories and personal memoirs as well as books about nature. He wrote numerous articles for various magazines and was prone to giving long speeches. Given his propensity toward prose, I was surprised to find in the collection a satirical short story written by a fourteen-year-old TR while he was studying in Dresden, Germany.
The Roosevelt family embarked upon an extended sojourn to the Middle East and Europe not long after TR turned fourteen. They spent the fall and winter in Egypt and the Holy Land, crossing into Europe in the spring. At this point, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., determined that it would be best to split up the close-knit family and sent the boys and Corinne to stay in Dresden. The three Roosevelt children spent the summer there and, while Corinne and the boys were originally housed with different families, Corinne was soon allowed to stay with the same host family as her brothers, Theodore and Elliott.
It was during this summer that the children formed the Dresden Literary American Club, which met weekly to share items that had been authored by its members. These members included the three siblings and their cousins, John and Maud Elliott.
The Dresden Literary American Club, July 1, 1873. From the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site collection.
One of TR’s contributions to this club is a story entitled, “Mrs. Field Mouse’s Dinner Party.” This humorous short story reveals the clarity with which TR could see the foibles of society even at a young age. With such an entertaining beginning, who could say where his fiction may have gone?
Detail. Mrs. Field Mouse’s dinner party, [1872?]. MS Am 1785.8 (560). Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.
Robinson, Corinne Roosevelt. My Brother Theodore Roosevelt. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923. Print.