On Teddy Roosevelt's early life as an author, and the making of his book The Naval War of 1812
"What Roosevelt sheepishly omits is that he started working on the book just after Thanksgiving as a way to cope with a broken heart. He’d fallen head over heels for Alice Hathaway Lee, a golden-haired girl with a sharp mind who loved to laugh. 'As long as I live, I shall never forget how sweetly she looked, and how prettily she greeted me,' he wrote of their first meeting in October 1878. Alice had gently refused his marriage proposal, tendered at the end of his junior year. When Roosevelt returned to Cambridge in the fall of 1879, he believed their romance would continue. Instead, he found her cold to his attentions. 'Oh the changeableness of the female mind!' he complained in a letter home. His grief at losing her led to terrible bouts of insomnia, during which he read voraciously about the War of 1812. He found the differing accounts offered by American and British historians hard to reconcile, both in terms of fact and approach, so he decided to write
PUBLISHED: Sept. 16, 2013
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4390 words)
On Oct. 6, 1964, first lady Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson hit the campaign trail to court Southerners to vote Democrat:
"The tour, organized out of the East Wing, was primarily a woman-planned, woman-run operation. Johnson had the capable and charming Bess Abell as her social secretary and Liz Carpenter as her press secretary and staff director. A former reporter, Carpenter had cut her teeth on the Kennedy-Johnson campaign and went on to serve as the vice president’s executive assistant, the first woman to hold the position. Kenny O’Donnell, LBJ’s principal campaign adviser, wasn’t sure Lady Bird’s plan would work. 'He sat sphinx-like in meetings with me—half laughing at the whole idea and obviously feeling that neither the South nor women were important in the campaign,' wrote Carpenter in her memoir, Ruffles and Flourishes. The president, however, loved the idea and pored over maps with the first lady, tracing railroad lines and making suggestions for where to stop."
PUBLISHED: May 1, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4848 words)
A look at Jane Austen's quiet, discreet life as a writer:
"In July 1809, the Austen women left Southampton to take up residence in Chawton, a small village about fifty miles from London. A cottage with six bedrooms and a sizable garden had become available on Edward’s estate and he offered to fix it up for them. The move put Austen back in the Hampshire of her youth: It was only twelve miles to Steventon, where James lived, and one mile to Alton, where Henry had a branch of his bank. At Chawton, Austen’s sole chore was to make nine o’clock breakfast, which consisted of tea and toast, leaving her free to write the rest of the day. The cottage seems to have provided Austen with the conditions she needed to thrive as a writer once again, and she immediately began revising Sense and Sensibility
. Her nephew gives what has become an almost legendary account of her habits:
"'She was careful that her occupation should not be suspected by the servants, or visitors, or any persons beyond her only family party. She wrote upon small sheets of paper which would easily be put away, or covered with a piece of blotting paper. There was, between the front door and the offices, a swing door which creaked when it was opened; but she objected to having this little inconvenience remedied, because it gave her notice when anyone was coming in.'"
PUBLISHED: Feb. 1, 2013
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4317 words)
A look at the friendship between Bram Stoker and Walt Whitman:
"When Stoker finally got his chance, Whitman did not disappoint. 'I found him all that I had ever dreamed of, or wished for in him: large-minded, broad-viewed, tolerant to the last degree; incarnate sympathy; understanding with an insight that seemed more than human.' They spoke as old friends and traded gossip about mutual acquaintances in Dublin. 'Before we parted he asked me to come see him at his home in Camden whenever I could manage it. Need I say that I promised.' Whitman found much to like about Stoker too, calling him 'an adroit lad.' 'He’s like a breath of good, healthy, breezy sea air,' he told Donaldson."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 1, 2012
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6462 words)