President Warren G. Harding’s Steamy Love Letters

If you know something about American history, you know that Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) will never appear on Mount Rushmore. He died during his unpopular first term in office, tarnished by the Teapot Dome scandal and revelations of an extramarital affair. Harding once apparently said, “I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.” And historians tend to agree. Consistently polls ranking the performance of American presidents put him at the bottom of the list.

History might, however, look more kindly upon Harding’s love letters, the byproduct of his womanizing ways. Before taking office, Harding fathered a love child with Nan Britton, a woman 31 years his junior. He also carried on a 15-year affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips, a friend’s wife, to whom he started writing letters in 1910. And what letters they were. Here’s one from January 28, 1912:

I love your poise

Of perfect thighs

When they hold me

in paradise. . .

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?

And another from September 15, 1913, which John Oliver playfully mocks above:

Honestly, I hurt with the insatiate longing, until I feel that there will never be any relief untilI take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips and then bury my face on your pillowing breasts. Oh, Carrie! I want the solace you only can give. It is awful to hunger so and be so wholly denied. . . . Wouldn’t you like to hear me ask if we only dared and answer, “We dare,” while souls rejoicing sang the sweetest of choruses in the music room? Wouldn’t you like to get sopping wet out on Superior — not the lake — for the joy of fevered fondling and melting kisses? Wouldn’t you like to make the suspected occupant of the next room jealous of the joys he could not know, as we did in morning communion at Richmond?

Oh, Carrie mine! You can see I have yielded and written myself into wild desire. I could beg. And Jerry came and will not go, says he loves you, that you are the only, only love worthwhile in all this world, and I must tell you so and a score or more of other fond things he suggests, but I spare you. You must not be annoyed. He is so utterly devoted that he only exists to give you all. I fear you would find a fierce enthusiast today.

Originally unearthed by historian Francis Russell in 1964, the letters were donated to the Library of Congress, where they remained under seal until 2014. You can find scans of the original Warren G. Harding-Carrie Fulton Phillips Correspondence on the LOC website. (The LOC also produced an informative video on the exchange.) Read transcriptions of the best letters at The New York Times.

Related Content:

James Joyce’s “Dirty Letters” to His Wife (1909)

Dear Immanuel — Kant Gives Love Advice to a Heartbroken Young Woman (1791)

Ernest Hemingway’s “Love Letter” to His “Dearest Kraut,” Marlene Dietrich (1955)

Read Beethoven’s Lengthy Love Letter to His Mysterious “Immortal Beloved” (1812)

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