Yet spectate the exuberant Roosevelt could not. He continually participated in class discussions, and insisted on arguing with his professors. He was not content to let words of wisdom wash lightly over him from the lectern. His persistent questions and protests once so exasperated his science professor, Nathaniel Shaler, that the latter exploded, "See here, Roosevelt, let me talk. I'm running this course."
Eventually Roosevelt felt so frus- trated with the academics that he concentrated most of his energy on studying independently. Though he did not study history formally, and did almost no writing for course credit, he started work his senior year on a History of the American Navy in the War of 1812, which was published within three years after he graduated. He might have written a good thesis on the subject, but he seems to have preferred to work on it alone.
His main studious interests at Harvard lay in the field of natural history. The most conspicuous things in his room were his rifle, his hunting kit, and his trophies of the chase. He always had live turtles and insects in his study, and Mark Sullivan recalls "the excitement caused by a particularly large turtle, sent by a friend from the southern seas, which got out of its box one night and started toward the bathroom in search of water."
His naturalistic urges generally found expression outside the curriculum. He made numerous trips to the Maine woods with Bill Sewall, a famous guide who was to remain his friend long after he entered the White House. But he disagreed so violently with Harvard's laboratory methods of pursuing the natural sciences, that he did not write a thesis or take honors in the field.
"I fully intended to make science my life-work," he said in his autobiography. "I did not, for the simple reason that at that time Harvard, and I suppose our other colleges, utterly ignored the possibilities of the faunal naturalist, the outdoor naturalist and observer of nature. They treated biology as purely a science of the laboratory and the microscope, a science whose adherents were to spend their time in the study of minute forms of marine life or else in section-cutting and the study of the tissues of the higher organisms under the microscope."
Roosevelt's enormous energy found a new outlet in the fall of his junior year--Miss Alice Hathaway Lee of Chestnut Hill. He courted her as energetically as he did everything else which interested him. "See that girl?" he had said at a Pudding function. "I am going to marry her. She won't have me, but I am going to have her."
Mutual friends recall that the gentle Alice, alarmed by the impetuous, eager young Theodore, sometimes attempted to discourage him. On these occasions, T. R. would be plunged into despair. Pringle reports that one night during the first winter of the courtship an alarmed classmate telegraphed to New York that Roosevelt was somewhere in the woods near Cambridge and refused to come home. A close cousin, who hurried up, managed somehow to soothe him; and soon his confidence returned.
T. R. subordinated all else to his courtship. He neglected his extracurricular activities, and his interest in the natural sciences waned. He wrote to his good friend Harry Minot, who had accompanied him on many a naturalist expedition, that he had done almost no collecting in the summer of 1879. In 1880, he added: "I write to you to announce my engagement to Miss Alice Lee; but do not speak of it till Monday. I have been in love with her for nearly two years now, and have made everything subordinate to winning her; so you can perhaps understand a change in my ideas as regards science, etc."
Even when engaged, however, T. R. found no peace of mind. Whenever a male so much as talked to his fiancee, he worried. "Roosevelt," one of Alice's family recalled, "seemed constantly afraid that someone would run off with her, and threatened duels and everything else. On one occasion he actually sent abroad for a pair of French dueling pistols, and after great difficulty got them through the Custom House."
He actually had little reason to worry, for Alice had long since collapsed under his devastating attack and idolized him completely. They were married the October after his graduation. She was to die in 1884 during childbirth.
If Roosevelt's incredible energy marked him off from the rest of his fellows, his aristocratic tendencies served to widen the gulf. He took private rooms at No. 16 Winthrop Street, a house which stood at the northeast corner of the present IAB. He did this for two reasons--his health was still not perfect, and only damp first-floor rooms were available in the Yard; and he liked seclusion for working on his natural history specimens and his historical writing. Even though friends sought to bring him into student society, he retained his private rooms throughout his college years.
Nor did he eat in Memorial Hall with the student body. He joined a dining club of about eight students, who got together for meals at Mrs. Wilson's on Brattle Street. His dining companions were chiefly from Boston society, with one or two from New York.
Numerous stories have been circulated concerning T. R.'s aristocratic leanings, but most of them may well be legend. Dispute still rages as to whether or not he owned the first dogcart in Cambridge.
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