When Heartbreak Turns Into Inspiration

“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 his own.”

Meredith Hindley, in Humanities Magazine, on how love factored into the making of Teddy Roosevelt’s book The Naval War of 1812.

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