In a world before radio, television and the Internet, Theodore Roosevelt was a voracious reader. He read at least one book per day, and his interests covered an enormously wide range of subjects. One can only imagine what a man with his energy and curiosity would have consumed had he access to Google, Twitter and Facebook.
Among his favorite authors was the nature writer and essayist John Burroughs. When the two met in 1889, it marked the beginning of a 30-year friendship — which only ended with Roosevelt’s death in 1919.
The two were polar opposites in many ways. T.R. was a mercurial, animated and action-driven man of science while Burroughs was an introspective, contemplative and poetic observer of nature. T.R. hunted throughout his life, whereas Burroughs gave it up as he grew older. Burroughs loved to fish, especially for brook trout in his beloved Catskill Mountains, while T.R. did not particularly enjoy the sport.
Regardless of these differences they developed a deep and abiding admiration for each other. Soon after meeting T.R., Burroughs wrote, “I thought him very rigorous, alive all over, with a great variety of interests. … It was surprising how well he knew the birds and animals. He’s a rare combination of sportsman and the naturalist.”
Roosevelt in turn dedicated his 1905 book, “Outdoor Pleasures of an American Outdoorsman,” to Burroughs.
“Every lover of outdoor life must feel a sense of affectionate obligation to you,” Roosevelt wrote. “Your writings appeal to all who care for the life of the woods and fields, whether their tastes keep them in the homely, pleasant farm country or lead them into the wilderness. It is a good thing for our people that you should have lived: surely no man can wish to have more said of him.”
In reference to the two-week camping trip the two took in Yellowstone National Park in 1903, T.R. continued, “You were with me on one of the trips described in this volume, and I trust that to look it over will recall the pleasant days we spent together.” Their writings are enjoyed by sportsmen, conservationists and lovers of literature nearly 100 years after their deaths — a fact that would please them both to no end.