"Colonel Roosevelt" is the conclusion of Edmund Morris' magnificent three volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Covering the post presidential years, it tells the story of the Man in the Arena "whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again...who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." For TR it was a time of great enthusiasm, great devotions, worthy causes, high achievement and failure while daring greatly.
Having retired from the pinnacle of power and popularity when he could have had a third and we will never know how many terms, TR was relegated to the role of a critic, not that of an actor, certainly a frustrating circumstance for him.
After leaving the White House in 1909, Roosevelt and his son, Kermit, launched the largest safari known to Equatorial Africa, a scientific expedition to gather specimens for Smithsonian Institution and for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Upon returning to civilization he was met by disgruntled Progressives calling for his return to the political arena to restore the promise of the past. His return home through Europe was a triumphant tour reminiscent of that of General Grant almost forty years before.
He returned to an America that had, in the view of himself and his supporters, deviated from the course that he had set for it. Gradually becoming more vocal, he enunciated the Progressive Platform at Osawatomie, Kansas in August 1910. Heeding the pleas of his supporters, the Colonel entered the 1912 presidential race because "We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord." After being denied the Republican nomination by party bosses, Roosevelt took on the leadership of the Bull Moose Party, guiding it to a respectable, though disappointing, second place finish.
After this defeat, the Colonel joined Kermit in a recklessly dangerous exploration of the Brazilian River of Doubt, later renamed the Rio Roosevelt. During this "last chance to be a boy" TR almost died from disease and, but for the forbearance of Indians who followed the expedition, could have ended up being a meal for cannibals.
Upon his return to New York, Colonel Roosevelt again entered the arena, this time as a critic of the Wilson administration, particularly its foreign policy concerning the war that was then consuming Europe. Despite his increasing disgust with Wilson, he declined to consider a run in 1916. Sickened from malaria, blind in one eye from a boxing accident while in the White House, the Colonel begged to be allowed to rejoin the army for World War I, only to be rejected by President Wilson. TR was only able to participate in this war vicariously through his sons who all served and were wounded, Quentin fatally. From then on health and frustration led to a declining life until, while still planning a return to the White House in 1920, the Old Lion died in his sleep in 1919.
The story is bigger than life, a real world tragedy of a great heart who strove mightily but was not allowed to fulfill his destiny, a twentieth Century Leer who voluntarily gave up power only to see his world crumble while he is helpless to stop it.
The writing is a fair fit for the story. Edmund Morris' ability to tell a tale is a match for any author. I have now completed the trilogy and have enjoyed every moment, every word of it. TR would not have missed such an adventure and neither should you.