Friday, March 8, 2019

"Hissing Cousins" … and some tea tidbits of note

One of the best things about being in a book group is being inspired to read books you otherwise might not have delved into. I do enjoy history, though, so I was pleased when my online book group decided to read Hissing Cousins: The Lifelong Rivalry of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

Eleanor and Alice were first cousins. Alice was the daughter of a president, Theodore Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt married a man who became a wartime president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was her fifth cousin. The family tree is a little challenging to follow at first, but once you get that straight, the book offers some quite entertaining portraits of two very different women on opposite sides of the political aisle. Alice—or "Princess Alice," as she was known when she was younger—comes across as a devil-may-care woman who liked to have a good time and be right in the middle of all the action. Eleanor, on the other hand, comes across as the more serious cousin and devoted to serving those less fortunate, although she wasn't without her flaws. I like that authors Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer paint neither woman as a saint, showing them both warts and all, which makes the book quite believable.

And while I was certainly not looking for any tea references in this book, I was surprised to find quite a few. Such as:

• Theodore Roosevelt was not happy when he saw advertisements in his morning newspaper noting that the First Daughter would be in a "portrait show" benefiting a hospital in New York. He telegrammed: "They distinctly convey the impression that any person who wishes to pay five dollars may be served with tea by you and Ethel Barrymore. I cannot consent to such use of your name and must ask you not to serve tea." Alice didn't listen to her father, and she did serve the tea.

• As a young girl, Eleanor spent much time at her Aunt Bye's house, "drinking tea and nibbling cookies in the maid's sewing room."

• While married, Alice had an affair with Idaho Senator William Borah, who was once offered a cup of tea by a hostess and replied, "Do I look like a man who drinks tea?"

• Franklin and Eleanor were secretly engaged for a year before they made their engagement official. During this time, while he was out Christmas shopping in  New York one day, he dropped his mother off at her apartment "so that he could duck out for tea with Eleanor at 3:30."

• When King George and Queen Elizabeth came to the US and visited Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the royals visited the Roosevelts at the family home in Hyde Park, NY. Before dinner one night, FDR pulled the king aside and said, "My mother does not approve of cocktails and thinks you should have a cup of tea." The king replied, "My mother would have said the same thing, but I would prefer a cocktail." (And the king got his cocktail.)

Isn't it fun when you're reading a book for one thing but learn something else at the same time?


  1. I love all the tea references you found!

  2. That sounds like a very entertaining book! I'll definitely check to see if my library has it, and I'll keep it in mind as a possibility for the History Book Club to which I belong.

  3. Lovely tea references. I’ll see if the library has this book.

  4. I love the tea references you have quoted from this book. They are indeed fun to find in a book when not expecting them. Thanks for sharing them.

  5. This sounds like an intriguing book. I'll have to check it out.

  6. This sounds like a book I would enjoy. Thanks for the review. I shall check our library.


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