“Mornings on Horseback” is more of a character study than a biography. Stretching from TR’s birth until his marriage to Edith Carow, McCullough’s purpose is to cover the factors which molded TR into the man that he became. The book ends when, McCullough believes, TR’s character was formed. What I found most interesting about this book is not only what is featured, but what is not. McCullough obviously believe that family played a major role I shaping TR’s character. The first, and probably greatest influence on TR was his father, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., Greatheart to his family. It was his father who was his role model and whose charitable works planted the seeds of TR’s social conscience. It was Greatheart who opened TR’s mind to foreign cultures during the trips across Europe and on the Nile. It was his father’s observation that TR had the mind but not the body which started TR on a body building program to give him a body to match his mind. Miscast as a business man, Greatheart used his inheritance in philantrophic work, supporting the Children’s Aid Society, the Orthopedic Hospital, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the American Museum of Natural History, living his belief that social status came with accompanying duties. Out of deference to his Georgia born wife, Mittie, Greatheart hired a substitute to take his place in the Union Army, while he initiated programs to help the soldier and his dependents, meeting Abraham Lincoln in the process. This action is often cited as having created a debt which TR sought to pay during the Spanish American War. Greatheart’s death at age 46 was one of the greatest tragedies of TR’s life. During his first day in the White House, TR felt as if his father’s hand was on his shoulder. Other significant familial influences on the youthful TR were his uncles, James and Irvine Bulloch. Exiled to England after their service in the Confederate States Navy, James, particularly, played a major role in developing TR’s interest in naval affairs. McCullough obviously believes that TR’s youthful asthma was a major factor in molding his character. The reader receives a medical education on asthma, including the theory that its attacks are often anxiety driven. McCullough then explains how he believes that TR’s asthma attacks reflect what was happening in his life at the times of the attacks. Alice Lee, TR’s first wife, completely captured TR’s love before her passing drove him into cattle country exile. The critical high points in TR’s early political career are well reported. The incidents of his entry into politics, an unseemly profession for most of his class, the challenges and disappointments of his legislative career all lead up to the 1884 Republican National convention, after which TR, frustrated in his efforts to deny nomination to James G. Blaine, chose to stick with party rather than to bolt to the Reformers. Some of the topics which fill so many pages in standard biographies are deamed to be less important to the theme of this book. TR’s early interest in animals and natural history barely attracts McCullough’s attention, probably because after its abandonment, it had little lasting effect on his character. While attention is devoted to his time in the Bad Lands and his hunting trips, they do not receive the attention that they do in standard biographies. “Mornings On Horseback” is written in a style which will always hold the readers’ interest. Unlike some books dealing with a subject’s youth, this one focuses on TR’s experiences which had lifelong impacts. I do not recommend “Mornings On Horseback” as an introduction to TR. I do recommend it as a character study for those who are already familiar with the facts of TR’s life and who desire to develop a deeper understanding of his character. For this it is excellent.
with Theodore - well and pleasantly written & a joy to read in an old-fashioned sort of way (family forming character). Read like a novel & led me on to other books on the Roosevelts. To be recommended for anyone keen on the old way of life in America.
I read this book after reading the Pulitzer-Prize winning "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt", another excellent biography of TR. When I started "Mornings On Horseback", I felt that I was armed with more information about this President than I had going into "Rise"; however, once I completed "Mornings", I realized that I was armed with an entirely different type of knowledge. David McCullough gets us into the Roosevelt house and makes the people in TR's life come alive. "Nurture" is a vital componant of anyone's development and in this book, one sees just how family shapes a great personality such as his. To truly understand TR from a historical perspective one must examine his roots. This book is a joy to read, very informative and well-paced.
David McCullough is a master at revealing history as it truly took place, and people as they truly were. His account of Teddy Roosevelt's remarkably innocent childhood debunks the myths that have long clouded Roosevelt biographies. While TR would grow to be a fearless Rough Rider and a President who took on corporate monopolies, he began his life as a pathetically weak, asthmatic boy clammering for his parents' attention. It was through the love, rather demanding at times, of Roosevelt's wonderfully demonstrative father that Teddy grew into his tough adult self.
Mornings on Horseback challenges the notion that yesterday was more idyllic than today. Though Roosevelt had a close family, they did not remain unscathed by the Civil War, nor by illnesses that have since fled the earth. Throughout it all, it was their sense of family, as well as their great self-motivation to improve the lot of the world, that pushed them beyond misfortune.
McCullough is a patient historian. He does not abide by myths, or falsehoods. His prying beneath the historical record is done with sound tools of investigation. Throughout it all, his voice is so entrancing, and his capture of detail so intricate, that we come to feel that we truly understand his subjects. When they are tossed about by fate, we regard their misfortunes with empathy. McCullough knows how to make history as readable as fiction.
Teddy was a small frail asthmatic child whose iron will and loving family helped transform him into one of the most powerful leaders of all time.
This is truly an inspirational book that lets us peek behind the curtain of an upper class family in the late 1800's. Teddy was blessed with two loving parents who nurtured him with the things he needed to grow into an amazing human being.
His mother was a beautiful lady who was always there for him. His father would take Teddy on long rides in the country when he had bouts of asthma and encourage him to work out and become stronger.
Teddy had an insatiable curiosity about nature as a child. He read constantly about wildlife and insects and become a serious collector.
Roosevelt's life was not without tragedy. When he was in his early twenties he lost both his mother to illness and his young wife at childbirth all within a 24 hour period. He loved them both deeply and was shattered.
Immediately afterwards he gave his new child to a sister and moved out west in search of himself. At first he was disliked and considered a dandy by cowboys because of his snobbishness. But, he soon gained their respect by enduring the same hardships and by accepting them for who they were.
I read this book some time ago and it is still one of my favorite books. David McCullough not only thoroughly gathers facts and data for this work, he brings to life a different time and recreates the feelings, emotions, thoughts and attitudes of the Roosevelt family.
"No man is an island, entire of itself," as John Donne once wrote, but you would not think so judging from some biographies of famous figures. The early formative years are often skipped over in just a few pages, sometimes a whole chapter if one is lucky, in the rush to get to 'the interesting parts'. But, as David McCullough ably demonstrates, those early 'uninteresting' years are often the most important, the most revealing, the years that will determine and shape everything to come.
Theodore Roosevelt was a man surrounded by and devoted to his family through all the years of his life, and it would be impossible to understand him fully without understanding where he came from, the people who influenced him, the experiences of his childhood, his relationships with parents, siblings and his extended family network, his schoolmates and early teachers, his travels and adventures. He did not come into being fully-formed as the TR of legend - all 'bully' and gnashing white teeth, larger-than-life declarations and inexhaustible energy - he became that man through the passage of time and experience, and to skip over those years is to really miss so much of who he was.
David McCullough is an excellent writer and I've never yet failed to thoroughly enjoy one of his books. That, coupled with such a marvellous subject as Theodore Roosevelt, meant this book was a joy to read from start to finish. There was little here I did not already know from reading Edmund Morris's wonderful three-volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt, but the opportunity to read in such depth was more than welcome.
I was a bit wary when I opened this book, fearing that I would find the kind of second-rate hagiography that popular authors pass off of a sanitized American past. McCullough is well known and popular in the US as a sentimentalist. While I feared this would be the same, in this book McCullough really is a distinguished historian and a terrific writer.
He made the era from the Civil War to the eve of World War 1 come alive through the story of one remarkable family. From the standpoint of this rich, elite family, the reader witnesses a panoramic view of the period and all its conventions. In addition, the author covers TR's psychology remarkably well, from his sickly youth to his acceptance of the banner of family honor when his stronger brother proved incapable.
Nonetheless, without becoming overly sanitized, at times I sensed that McCullough presented an overly optimistic view of the Roosevelts, much as does Doris Kearns in her (excellent) books. TR's sister Bamie, for example, is mentioned as having a sharp tongue that expertly wounded many around her, though McCullough adds that she "never did any real damage". How could he know that? Does it even mean anything to say such a thing? Moreover, TR's father appears too good and upright to have existed, but then given the Victorian style of positive thinking (and writing), we will never know. This optimism, I guess, reflects McCullough's temperament.
Mr. McCullough has done it again. This time, he shows Theodore Roosevelt from a child to a young man, and reveals the influence of his family. Many books try to explain how a person becomes "great," but this one succeeds. Roosevelt came from an unusual family and its influence on him is illustrated. Excellent background on an extraordinary president.
This book offers something new to the history of Theodore Roosevelt: The reader gets a close look at the environment and family life that shaped and molded this great leader. After reading this book you will have new insight into seeing why T.R. acted as he did. The author mentions in the preface that he was told by a relative of T.R. that the one thing all the other bigraphies and books on the Roosevelts lacked was seeing how the family was part of a clan - that this was indeed a huge influence on T.R. This book will show you what this means. Mr. McCullough is a brilliant and entertaining author. This book will also be enjoyable for those of you who enjoyed him in the Presidents series on PBS. Highly Recommended