Colonel Roosevelt

Unabridged Audiobook

Written By: Edmund Morris

Narrated By: Mark Deakins

Date: November 2010

Duration: 24 hours 44 minutes


Of all our great presidents, Theodore Roosevelt is the only one whose greatness increased out of office. When he toured Europe in 1910 as plain “Colonel Roosevelt,” he was hailed as the most famous man in the world. Crowned heads vied to put him up in their palaces. “If I see another king,” he joked, “I think I shall bite him.”

Had TR won his historic “Bull Moose” campaign in 1912 (when he outpolled the sitting president, William Howard Taft), he might have averted World War I, so great was his international influence. Had he not died in 1919, at the early age of sixty, he would unquestionably have been reelected to a third term in the White House and completed the work he began in 1901 of establishing the United States as a model democracy, militarily strong and socially just.

This biography by Edmund Morris, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex, is itself the completion of a trilogy sure to stand as definitive. Packed with more adventure, variety, drama, humor, and tragedy than a big novel, yet documented down to the smallest fact, it recounts the last decade of perhaps the most amazing life in American history. What other president has written forty books, hunted lions, founded a third political party, survived an assassin’s bullet, and explored an unknown river longer than the Rhine?

Colonel Roosevelt begins with a prologue recounting what TR called his “journey into the Pleistocene”—a yearlong safari through East Africa, collecting specimens for the Smithsonian. Some readers will be repulsed by TR’s bloodlust, which this book does not prettify, yet there can be no denying that the Colonel passionately loved and understood every living thing that came his way: The text is rich in quotations from his marvelous nature writing.

Although TR intended to remain out of politics when he returned home in 1910, a fateful decision that spring drew him back into public life. By the end of the summer, in his famous “New Nationalism” speech, he was the guiding spirit of the Progressive movement, which inspired much of the social agenda of the future New Deal. (TR’s fifth cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt acknowledged that debt, adding that the Colonel “was the greatest man I ever knew.”)

Then follows a detailed account of TR’s reluctant yet almost successful campaign for the White House in 1912. But unlike other biographers, Edmund Morris does not treat TR mainly as a politician. This volume gives as much consideration to TR’s literary achievements and epic expedition to Brazil in 1913–1914 as to his fatherhood of six astonishingly different children, his spiritual and aesthetic beliefs, and his eager embrace of other cultures—from Arab and Magyar to German and American Indian. It is impossible to read Colonel Roosevelt and not be awed by the man’s universality. The Colonel himself remarked, “I have enjoyed life as much as any nine men I know.”

Morris does not hesitate, however, to show how pathologically TR turned upon those who inherited the power he craved—the hapless Taft, the adroit Woodrow Wilson. When Wilson declined to bring the United States into World War I in 1915 and 1916, the Colonel blasted him with some of the worst abuse ever uttered by a former chief executive. Yet even Wilson had to admit that behind the Rooseveltian will to rule lay a winning idealism and decency. “He is just like a big boy—there is a sweetness about him that you can’t resist.” That makes the story of TR’s last year, when the “boy” in him died, all the sadder in the telling: the conclusion of a life of Aristotelian grandeur.


  • dalephelps

    I have a complicated past with Edmund Morris. I read "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" in 1979 and thought it was one of the best biographies I'd ever read. I couldn't wait for the second volume in his TR series. In the meantime, of course, he took a turn as Reagan's biographer and produced the dumpster fire called "Dutch." When "Theodore Rex" finally arrived, I was disappointed, It read like TR's appointment calendar with verbs. I bought "Colonel Roosevelt" when it came out but by that time had decided that Morris was a one-hit wonder and sat it aside. Morris' recent death sent me back to my bookshelf. I felt like I owed it to him to finish his TR series. This time I decided to do it as an audiobook. I'm thankful I did. The book was great, a worthy partner to "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt," and Mark Deakins' narration was among the best I've ever heard. RIP, Edmund.

  • Brad B.

    Delightful read! Like other reviewers I wish it continued on I enjoyed it. The narration was great and a perfect fit. I wish they would refresh the Theodure Rex Audio book with this Narrator but thats a different book. Nothing bad to say about this. If the topic interest you its worth the time to listen.

  • Dennis K.

    I’ve listened to all three volumes of this biography and didn’t want it to end....I keep relistening to the last 2-3 hours. What an amazing life...what an amazingly involved and engrossing biography, and what an excellent job of narration. Deakins narrates the first and third volumes and is excellent throughout. Recommended as an absolutely essential part of American history more people should be aware of.

  • Paul C

    Edmund Morris' third and final entry in his brilliant trilogy biography of Teddy Roosevelt may languish slightly in its final chapters but it's a detailed and tremendously literary narrative about one of the nation's most fascinating men to hold the highest office.

  • Steve Blakeman

    A very good book about an amazing President. The third book in Morris' trilogy of Roosevelt's life.

Colonel Roosevelt

by Edmund Morris

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