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A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt Hardcover – 1989

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This notable biography, following the author's Before the Trumpet: Young Franklin Roosevelt, 1882-1905 , concentrates on character and personality rather than politics or policymaking. Beginning in 1905, with Franklin and Eleanor's honeymoon, it covers FDR's years as New York state senator, assistant secretary of the Navy, his early struggle to overcome the ravages of polio and ends with his election as governor of New York in 1928. Ward not only traces the development of Roosevelt's "first-class temperament" but provides dimensional characterizations of friends, enemies and family members, gallantly defending FDR's often-maligned mother, Sara, and revealing the effect on the Roosevelt children of the tensions between Franklin and Eleanor. FDR's jaunty, fun-loving nature and his "breezy duplicity" are brought into focus in the early sections, but the tone deepens in the moving account of the future president's valiant but hopeless attempt to regain the use of his legs. Going against the accepted legend, Ward maintains that "the Roosevelt who could not walk was in most respects very like the one who could." Photos.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This eagerly awaited second volume of Ward's work on FDR's early years is not a full-scale political biography, but more a human portrait of his character and personality. (Volume 1 is Before the Trumpet: Young Franklin Roosevelt 1882-1905, LJ 6/1/85.) Ward, an expert storyteller, begins with Roosevelt's honeymoon and concludes with his return to public life after his ordeal with infantile paralysis. While studies by Burns, Davis, and Freidel remain authoritative, Ward offers new insights into FDR's human side, especially the view that his life can be divided into two parts: before and after his tragic illness. Here too emerges a vivid portrait of Roosevelt's extraordinary family, friends, and enemies. There is excellent documentation and comprehensive analysis. The result is a fascinating, well-balanced, scholarly treatment and a significant contribution to the understanding of FDR. Public and academic libraries will want this.
- Charles E. Kratz, Hofstra Univ. Lib., Hempstead,
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 889 pages
  • Publisher: Harper & Row; 1st edition (1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060160667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060160661
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 11.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #897,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Rosenthal on May 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Since I was about nine years old back in the 1960s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been my favorite U.S. president. My mother, who grew up poor in the Great Depression, is probably responsible for this. She bought me a kiddie biography about FDR which I devoured many times over. She also encouraged my interest in Eleanor Roosevelt, whose life I relived through another kiddie biography. My mother made sure during one summer vacation that our family visited Hyde Park. Time did not abate my fascination with the thirty-second president. As a young teen, I borrowed from our local library all the books about FDR that I could find. I wanted to know everything about his life, his political views, his achievements, and his impact on Americans, America and the world. One of the more poignant works I read in those days was Bernard Asbell's "When FDR Died," which told of the sweeping affect his death in April 1945 had on Americans. When I was in high school, my family visited Hyde Park again. This time, I was so moved that, after I got home, I wrote an account of an imaginary encounter with FDR's ghost.

Then I went to college, got married, and found employment, and my youthful obsession with FDR took a back seat to everyday concerns. But my dormant interest awoke recently when I felt compelled to watch the Biography channel's two-part special, "FDR: A Presidency Revealed," and then the HBO drama, "Warm Springs." I suddenly remembered that I had a book sitting on my shelf that I'd never seemed to have time to read, one I'd purchased some 15 years ago- Geoffrey C. Ward's "A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt," first published in 1989.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gerald Swimmer on September 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I spent most of the summer reading this wonderful book. I only read it on the weekends relaxing on my porch and was always anxious to reacquaint with the young man who would become FDR. It is a testament to this biography that after reading almost 800 pages I was sorry to see it end.

With all this praise one might think that I understood FDR. I finished this book no less able to draw a conclusion about the man who would lead our country through two of its greatest crisis. Question abound in my mind that probably can never be answered. The first and most difficult question is what was so special about this man that he could lead. As this book points out he was not a giant intellect,nor a hard worker or even a visionary. Somewhat like our current President he muddled through his youth. Most of what he accomplished was a result of his family name. The easy answer is that polio changed him. That is not satisfying when it is recognized he is nominated for Vice President before he got sick.

I remain uncertain and Mr. Ward does not really help in answering the unanswerable other than possibly in his prologue. From reading this book one might come to the conclusion that FDR did not really relate to anyone. He lived a distant life from his wife and children. Possibly it was only Lucy Mercer who reached him. He was dominated by his mother but even there he was independent. LOuis Howe and Missy Le Hand were totally devoted to him but it does not appear he spent much time with Missy when she become ill.

His battle with polio is beautifully told. I take away from that his ability to be optimistic and positive against all odds. He showed perserverance but only really when his ambition was involved.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Candace Scott on September 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Geoffrey Ward shares the ability of David McCullough, and that is to take a scholarly topic and write about it intelligently and coherently. He also makes the journey fun for the reader and he showcases this ability in this excellent book. FDR as a young man (pre polio) was a very different man from the President he was to become. Polio was the defining moment that both changed FDR and deepended his compassion and understanding for the downtrodden.
In this second volume of Ward's Roosevelt trilogy, he illuminates FDR's dominating mother and the problems she caused between Franklin and Eleanor. One almost cringes when the obtrusive Sarah Roosevelt plans her son's honeymoon, buys homes for him (with connecting doors for her to intrude upon)and basically usurps FDR's own decision-making processes.
Franklin Roosevelt was not a great man, or a particularly engrossing man when young. He achieved greatness only after tragedy befell him, but Ward sets the stage here for Roosevelt's later greatness. If you're interested in Roosevelt or the flighty, banal rich New York set of WWI and the Washington social scene, then this is your cup of tea. It is also a fine book.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By dred@public1.sta.net.cn on April 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Ward's first 2 book's on FDR's life are a masterpiece. When will he finish this epic account?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A First Class Temperament The Emergence of FDR 1905-28 is the second of Geoffrey C. Ward' s award winning biographies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Before the Trumpet is volume one of the series covering the birth of FDR to Sarah and James Roosevelt in 1882 and follows him to Europe, Groton and Harvard . A First Class Temperament begins with FDR s marriage on March 17, 1905 to plain and shy Eleanor (a cousin).
The book covers in great depth and colorful anecdotal reportage the following seminal events in FDR s rise from the son of a Hudson River squire to the governorship of New York in 1928.
1. Franklin weds Eleanor and the couple sail for an extended honeymoon in Europe.
2. Franklin takes classes at the Columbia Law School leaving without a legal degree.
3. Franklin becomes an attorney at an important New York City law firm but does not like practicing law.
4. Franklin wins two terms to the New York State Assembly. The family lives in Albany, Hyde Park, New York City and vacations in Campobello Island in Canada.
5. FDR is named and serves as the Assistant Secretary to the Naval Secretary Josephus Daniels in the Woodrow Wilson administration from
1912-20. He loses a bid for Senator from New York. FDR visits Europe twice during the Great War.
6. FDR runs for Vice-President of the United States in 1920 but the Cox-Roosevelt ticket is trounced by Warren Harding s victory
7. FDR suffers polio in 1921 which makes him handicapped for life. He is guided back to a public life at the urging of his assistant Louis Howe
Eleanor and his mother Sarah help him recover emotionally and physically from this traumatic illness.
8. The book ends with FDR winning the race for Governor of New York in 1928.
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