Truth has a way of overlapping. I’ve always had a fondness of the way that a song or one writer and another writer at a completely separate point in time or place say the same thing, more or less. Recently I thought about the following quotations:
We cannot insist that the first years of infancy are of supreme importance, and that mothers are not of supreme importance; or that motherhood is a topic of sufficient interest for men, but not of sufficient interest for mothers. Every word that is said about the tremendous importance of trivial nursery habits goes to prove that being a nurse is not trivial. All tends to the return of the simple truth that the private work is the great one and the public work the small. The human house is a paradox, for it is larger inside than out.
~G.K. Chesterton: ‘Turning Inside Out’, Fancies vs. Fad
Just as the prime work for the man must be earning his livelihood and the livelihood of those dependent upon him, so the prime work for the average woman must be keeping the home and bearing and rearing her children. This woman is not a parasite on society. She is society. She is the one indispensable component part of society. Socially, the same standard of moral obligation applies both to her and to the man; and in addition she is entitled to all the chivalry of love and tenderness and reverence, if in gallant and fearless fashion she faces the risk and wearing labor entailed by her fulfilment of duty; but if she shirks her duty she is entitled to no more consideration than the man who shirks his. Unless she does her duty, the whole social system collapses. If she does her duty, she is entitled to all honor.
— Theodore Roosevelt, “The Parasite Woman”, The Foes of Our Own Household
Both present the unmentioned fact verboten in the modern world: the home is a place not only worth keeping, but a place for being; it is a place where life must spend a copious amount existing, lest life should become something far less than livable.
What a delight also to read that the two had met and Roosevelt spoke highly before and after of Chesterton. I am curious to know what Chesterton’s thoughts were, but this shall suffice:
In England Mr. Roosevelt was particularly glad to make or renew the acquaintance of Mr. Balfour, Mr. Kipling, Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener, Sir Harry Johnston, and Captain Scott. Long and delightful were the hours spent in retreat at “Chequers Court,” Mr. Arthur Lee’s country house, in conversation with thinking and doing men like these. He passed an especially happy day with Sir Edward Grey on a long tramp through the New Forest. It was noted that he had no time for expatriated American men, or American women married to English titles. Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Bernard Shaw did not meet. I wish I were free to give the Colonel’s opinion of the Englishman; it may be said, however, that it fully reciprocates the dramatist’s scorn and pity. Curiously enough, however, Mr. Roosevelt desired to meet Mr. Gilbert Chesterton.
—The World’s Work, Volume XX, May to October 1910
The following bits are quoted on the same blog, but the source is here:
They were instantly recognizable by their initials alone—men of outsized personalities. In the Edwardian era, it would be hard to imagine two more intelligent and gifted conversationalists than Theodore Roosevelt and G.K. Chesterton. Indeed, America’s 26th president greatly admired this British man of letters—particularly Chesterton’s literary study of Charles Dickens (first published in 1906). And for Christmas 1908, TR had given one of Chesterton’s most memorable collections of essays, Heretics, as a gift to his friend Captain Archibald Butt.
TR and GKC first met during a dinner in London two years later—at Roosevelt’s request. One evening in the spring of 1910 they dined together in London. It is easy to imagine their maître d’ would have seen instantly there was little need to renew the candlelight at their table. Resplendent conversation supplied everything needed by way of spark and fire.
Given TR’s famously powerful presence—he was called “T. Vesuvius Roosevelt”—and people left his company needing to “wring the personality out of their clothes”—his tribute to Chesterton after their meeting was all the more telling. Speaking with a friend after their dinner had concluded, the former president said Chesterton was a man of undeniable genius—a peerless font of brilliant conversation.
Fast-forward to November 1919, and we learn more details of TR’s dinner with GKC. They were supplied by journalist Strickland Gillian in an article for The Lyceum Magazine. Confirming Slosson’s account, Gillian began: “When Colonel Roosevelt returned from his African expedition, and was given a dinner by the London journalists and authors, he was asked whom he would like to have by his side to talk with during the evening. He promptly replied, ‘Gilbert Chesterton.’” Gillian then added, “afterwards, in speaking with a friend, [Colonel Roosevelt] exclaimed, ‘What a supreme genius Chesterton is! I never met a man who could talk so brilliantly and interestingly.’”
Nor was TR the only Roosevelt who relished Chesterton’s writing. The long poem, “Lepanto,” was a favourite of TR’s eldest daughter Alice, who could (and often did) “recite all nine stanzas at a rapid clip.” In later years, reciting this poem with her granddaughter Joanna was a source of particular delight for Alice Roosevelt Longworth—something that drew them together.
Kermit Roosevelt, the son who had accompanied TR on his celebrated African safari, also had a great appreciation for Chesterton. Years later, this led to something of a social and literary coup, for Kermit and his wife succeeded in enticing the famously reticent poet Edwin Arlington Robinson to accept a dinner invitation—something he rarely did. The occasion: a gathering in honour of GKC. The bright company of those in attendance also included Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Robinson, who was also known by his initials, EAR, was said to have become quite talkative that evening. Indeed, he told a friend afterwards that he had “talked incessantly.”