H.G. Wells on Teddy Roosevelt on The Time Machine


Why people don't talk about Teddy Roosevelt more saddens me. His biography is full of baffling and wonderful surprises (such as this incredible tale of reading and reviewing Anna Karenina while chasing bandits down a frozen river in the Dakotas).

For example, H.G. Wells (quoted from Edmund Morris's essay on Teddy in This Living Hand: And Other Essays):

He hadn't, he said, an effectual disproof of a pessimistic interpretation of the future. If one chose to say America must presently lose the impetus of her ascent, that she and all mankind must culminate and pass, he could not deny that possibility. Only he chose to live as if this were not so. He mentioned my Time Machine...

He became gesticulatory, and his straining voice a note higher in denying the pessimism of that book as a credible interpretation of destiny. With one of those sudden movements of his he knelt forward in a garden chair -- we were standing, before our parting, beneath the colonnade -- and addressed me very earnestly over the back, clutching it and then thrusting out his familiar gesture, a hand first partly open and then closed.

"`Suppose, after all,' he said slowly, `that should prove to be right, and it all ends in your butterflies and morlocks. THAT DOESN'T MATTER NOW. The effort's real. It's worth going on with. It's worth it. It's worth it, even so.' . . .

"I can see him now and hear his unmusical voice saying, `The effort -- the effort's worth it,' and see the gesture of his clenched hand and the -- how can I describe it? - - the friendly peering snarl of his face, like a man with the sun in his eyes. He sticks in my mind at that, as a very symbol of the creative will in man, in its limitations, its doubtful adequacy, its valiant persistence, amidst complexities and confusions. He kneels out, assertive against his setting -- and his setting is the White House with a background of all of America.

I always enjoy how nearly every account of meeting Teddy Roosevelt is narrated in the style of a seduction; he's a man who leaves a powerful impression on all he sees.

And besides, can you think of another President who would not only read but have thoughts about contemporary science fiction?

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