ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON'S A CHRISTMAS SERMON, INSCRIBED BY PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT TO HIS LONG-SERVING PRIVATE SECRETARY AND BELOVED FRIEND, MISSY LEHAND, LATER BELONGING TO PREEMINENT ROOSEVELT COLLECTOR DONALD S. CARMICHAEL
(ROOSEVELT, Franklin D.) STEVENSON, Robert Louis. A Christmas Sermon. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923. Octavo, original gray paper boards. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. $8500.
Later edition of Stevenson's thoughtful musings on death and morality, inscribed by President Roosevelt to his longtime private secretary: "M.A.L. Xmas 1924 from F.D.R," later belonging to distinguished Roosevelt memorabilia collector Donald S. Carmichael.
"A Christmas Sermon by Robert Louis Stevenson written while he convalesced from a lung ailment at Lake Sarnac in the winter of 1887. In the short text he meditates on the questions of death, morality and man's main task in life which he concludes is 'To be honest, to be kind—to earn a little and to spend a little less, to make upon the whole a family happier for his presence.' The piece was to be published in Scribner's magazine the following December" (The Public Domain Review). The first book edition was published in 1900, just after Stevenson's death. This copy is inscribed from President Roosevelt to "M.A.L.," better known as Missy LeHand. Lehand was Roosevelt's private secretary for 21 years. Many historians believe that their relationship went somewhat further—with LeHand and Roosevelt having a romantic relationship, the parameters of which remain unclear. LeHand began working for Roosevelt in 1920 during his failed vice presidential campaign. While LeHand rarely encountered Roosevelt during the campaign, she became close with many of his most trusted campaign advisors. After the campaign, Eleanor Roosevelt temporarily hired LeHand for correspondence help. From there, she moved seamlessly into a job as Franklin Roosevelt's business secretary. In 1921, Roosevelt was struck down by polio and faced a lengthy recovery. LeHand was one of the few people he agreed to see early on and she joined him on a lengthy cruise meant to aid his recovery and bolster his spirit. Eleanor Roosevelt's distaste for both the party life of the cruise and, later, of the rural life at Warm Springs left a hole that LeHand was able to fill. When Roosevelt re-entered political life as the governor of New York, LeHand went along with him and even moved into the Governor's Mansion. Missy LeHand became ill with a heart ailment during that period and Eleanor Roosevelt grew deeply concerned. LeHand recovered at Warm Springs and rejoined the Roosevelts as they moved into the White House. LeHand became the first woman to be secretary to the president. She displayed deep devotion to Roosevelt, carefully and fairly arranging his schedule and serving as the final word on access to the president. LeHand was even given an office with a door opening into the Oval Office—the only one office that had one. In 1941, LeHand collapsed from a devastating stroke. Roosevelt "paid all of her medical bills and changed his will so that half of the proceeds of his estate would go to help support her until she died. Then it would revert back to Eleanor" (National Archives). LeHand moved back to a private apartment in the White House in 1942. She met with Roosevelt frequently, even as World War II demanded much of his attention. After her death in 1944, Roosevelt issued a Presidential Statement, clearly having suffered a great personal loss. This copy might have had considerable meaning at the time it was given; Roosevelt was recovering from polio and likely shared many of the same sentiments as Stevenson. LeHand, who had been sickly since childhood, might well have found special meaning in the gift. In addition to Franklin Roosevelt and Missy LeHand, this copy once belonged to (and bears the bookplate of) Donald S. Carmichael, a corporate executive who began collecting Roosevelt memorabilia in 1932. He was also the author of Franklin Roosevelt and Me: Brief Encounters in the Thirties. Some of Carmichael's collection currently resides at the FDR Presidential Library & Museum at Marist University, but select items were sold to a prominent bookseller instead.
Interior fine, light rubbing and soiling to boards, and mild toning to spine. A near-fine inscribed copy.