The Letters

Here are excerpts from the over 800 pages of correspondence between Warren Harding and Carrie Phillips. Click on any image to view a larger version of the actual letter. The transcript appears to the right of each letter.

12-25-10 Christmas Eve, 1910

My Darling:

There are no words, at my command, sufficient to say the full extent of my love for you — a mad, tender, devoted, ardent, eager, passion-wild, jealous reverent, wistful, hungry, happy love — unspeakably encompassing, immeasurably absorbing, unendingly worshipping, unconsciously exalting, unwillingly exacting, involuntarily expounding, everlastingly compensating. All the love a man can know and feel and endure, and gladly, oh, so gladly give. It flames like the fire and consumes; then cools to sweet nepenthe and soothes in blessedness. It racks in the tortures of aching hunger, and glows in bliss ineffable—bliss you only can give. It is the prayer and benediction of my heart; the surpassing passion of my body, the conviction and consecration of my mind, and the hope and heaven of my soul. I love you thus, and more. I love you more than all the world, and have no hope of reward on earth or hereafter, so precious as that in your dear arms, in your thrilling lips, in your matchless breasts, in your incomparable embrace. To have and to hold you, in happiness to you, [here it begins to go up the side of the page] exclusively, in satisfying and satisfied love, would be the triumph of living and loving.

January 2, 1913

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January 2, 1913

My Carrie, Beloved and Adored, with emphasis in every word, but double emphasis on the “my.” Think of me stopping in a perfect avalanche of work to scratch you a line! But I have to, because this is Jan 2, (2:30 pm) and I haven’t scratched you a line this year. Moreover I am loving you so much, and have such a feeling of sweet wistfulness that I just have to give you a few minutes. I am not quite composed—too busy to be more, again, I just now started a new pen—I burned the old one out, writing to you, and had to send it in for a new point—and I just had to have the first lines written by it, addressed to you. Nothing like starting a new pen right. I love you. There, it will write that message so often that when it is well broken in it will write without a guiding hand, but there will always be an impelling heart behind it. I do love you so. I wonder if you realize how much—how faithfully, how gladly, how reverently, how wistfully, how whole-heartedly and how passionately. Yes, you do know the last, you must have felt the proof, but you can’t know the others. I can’t tell you, and you will have to look to time for proof.

I saw the old year out and the new on in, at home. The bridge crowd was over, and we played on till the bells began to ring and whistles to blow in greeting the New Year. Then I stopped play to have sandwiches and crack a bottle of wine, so I could dwell with my thoughts.

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[Harding discussing reading a book about one of Napoleon's generals] Napoleon’s “Bravest of the Brave.” Oh, it is great. Would you like it? I could forgive you if you fell in love with a man such as he was. He was worth while. Haven’t gotten into his love affairs yet—maybe such a warrior was too busy to love. In one of our talks today Mack [Malcolm Jennings] brought up Mrs. Carter—do you recall her?—the one I showed the marble pieces to. He said she was traveling in Europe with her husband, a captain in the U.S. Army, who is over there studying European cavalry methods. They may be in Berlin. I said I didn’t care for her—she is too flirty. “She is all right and good,” declared Mack, “but she would flirt with the garbage man, if there were none other available.” I hate her kind. By the way I saw a New York [news] dispatch from Berlin today that I herewith attach.

CENSURE BERLIN NIGHT LIFEGerman Women’s Proclamation Says It Saps Vitality of Youth—Special Dispatch to the Sun. Berlin, Dec. 28—the newspaper Deutscher prints an appeal from the German women to German women asking them to do their utmost to oppose the growing crisis of night life at the capital, which, it is asserted, is sapping the vitality of the young women and annihilating the ethical values. The proclamation says: “We women are Germany’s nerves, the men are the muscles. We have the power to lead the [ ] the strength necessary to maintain Germany’s position in the world and the realization of her legitimate ambitions.

I do not mean to be “fussy,” but I do hope I will never need to think about my love and sweetheart being a part of this life. I saw a bit of it in B. [meaning Berlin] when I was there. The best things in life do not thrive in such night culture.

By the way, I never hear of your skating anymore. Do you, or has it become passé? I don’t know why I ask—it just came into my mind.

And say, I have been thinking of all those letters you have. I think you [should] have a fire, chuck ‘em! Do. You must. If there is one impassioned one that appeals to you,

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keep it until you are tired of it, but chuck the rest. Why it frightens me to think I ever dared mail them to your address. And I have been thinking about that last picture I burdened you with as a Christmas gift. Chuck it! I won’t feel hurt. You will have to when J—comes [Jim Phillips, Carrie's husband, who was planning to visit her in Europe over the summer]. I knew how I came to give it [the Christmas photo]. I wanted some myself [he wanted photos of Carrie] so much that I must have dreamed you couldn’t have too many [of him] and I wanted to give you something that nobody else in the world could have. There is one other copy of each of the last two you received (the two Chicago pictures) but I have them. Nobody then has any of these but you, for I don’t count. So you can chuck the last one, and those old ones that you do not care much for, and if you ever do need this last one to remind you of a serious face, I can forward you the duplicate. Do, please, chuck the extra pictures, letters and verses. They are too inflammable to keep. You know I am right. I have a selfish reason, too [for asking her to destroy his old letters]. Having so [many letters] on hand, all my love-making is old to you. It is old, a darling old story, which isn’t to be made new, though you always bear me to some new revelation in possession. But what I write will seem less thread-worn if you wouldn’t keep forty-seven copies on hand. Say, I have a corking new story—but I can’t write it—violates the [his New Year's] resolutions. Wait till I get rebellious and smash them [his resolutions].

Only gossip I know is that the dippy Mrs. F. is telling that the J’s [the Jennings] are leaving because I grew jealous of M.J.’s [Malcolm Jennings'] ability and reputation. Aren’t I the jealous dog? She can invent more…

January 24, 1916

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January 24, 1916
Dear Sis:

It is a little more than thirty-six hours since I saw you, [he secretly met her in Marion] and they have all been given to you, amid the perturbation I could not shake off. My favorite poet once wrote something to the effect

For one to appreciate the pangs of hell
He first must know of heaven well.

If you designed to punish me you have succeeded fully. I came with heart a hungering, I knew the flight to enraptured bliss, and was then suddenly plunged to the depths of anxiety. So Robinson [a rival lover] came [to Marion]! I had feared for a year, but would not surrender. I know now

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of my failure. I sought the impossible, and I am defeated. I’ll not complain, I’ll not annoy, I’ll not further pour out my perturbation. The inferences are so obvious, the impressions so unavoidable that—well, I can’t be blind, but I can strive to be dumb. Perhaps I deserve it. You think so, anyway.

We were to test the time of mail transmission. One [letter] may travel from here [Washington], leaving at 6:15 p.m. and greet you in your home [in Marion] the next morning at 10. A bit of mail ought not be so many hours slower. I shall put this is the mail shute at five minutes before 12, today, 24th. I always leave the office at that hour for the [Senate] chamber, designing to arrive in time for the chaplain’s prayer. I need it. God help us all. I rather like…