Warren Harding Gets Lucky – in Montreal
Jordan Michael Smith, “All the President’s Pen” (The New York Times Magazine), July 13, 2014
An interesting article in the The New York Times Magazine outlines future President Warren Harding’s extramarital affair with Carrie Phillips, and includes selections from letters he wrote to her over the course of the affair and afterwards. A few of them are quite steamy (or “NSFW,” if you prefer), including the following, in which the man who would one day be President is so overwhelmed by his feelings that he actually launches into verse:
Jan. 28, 1912
I love your poise
Of perfect thighs
When they hold me
I love the rose
Your garden grows
Love seashell pink
That over it glows
I love to suck
Your breath away
I love to cling –
There long to stay…
I love you garb’d
But naked more
Love your beauty
To thus adore…
I love you when
You open eyes
And mouth and arms
And cradling thighs…
If I had you today, I’d kiss and fondle you into my arms and hold you there until you said, ‘Warren, oh, Warren,’ in a benediction of blissful joy…. I rather like that encore discovered in Montreal. Did you? (32)
Whoa! It’s a little difficult to discern exactly what went on in Montreal, but that’s a very suggestive reference. What was this “encore” they “discovered”? Based on the context, I think we have to assume it’s sexual. But was it a new position? A new technique?
Alas, the wording is just vague enough that knowledge of the specifics probably passed from the earth with the participants – though perhaps that’s as it should be. If nothing else, it leaves us free to speculate.
One of the chronological notes in the margin of the article offers some context for the reference to Montreal, at least, if not for exactly what went on there:
1911-13: In the fall of 1911, Carrie left her husband behind in Marion and traveled with her daughter to Berlin. She returned around Christmas and spent New Year’s Eve with her lover in Montreal, where they made love at the stroke of midnight; a moment Harding would revisit again and again in his letters. (33)
So apparently Montreal played a key role in their relationship, and whatever sexual dynamite they discovered there lived on in Harding’s memory … forever? And of course, it would be Montreal – Warren Harding’s erotic discoveries are just one more addition to the accumulating legend of Montreal as Canada’s sexy, swinging, European-style city, while Toronto remains the staid banker’s paradise it has always been.
It occurs to me, re-reading the letter above, that “Warren” must be one of the least sexy names in the world. As for Harding’s poetic gifts, I simply quote the work; I will leave the reader to judge its value. I must say I think there’s a certain artistry – or perhaps I should say an attempt at artistry – in the way the final stanza carries the verb “open” from “eyes” (which is so banal it’s absurd – he loves her when she opens her eyes?) to “thighs”. This suggests that Harding at least had some understanding of the way poetry worked, even if his attempts to replicate it weren’t always completely successful.