“With my father I was perfectly happy. There is still a woodeny painting of a solemn child, a straight bang across her forehead, with an uplifted finger and an admonishing attitude, which he always enjoyed and referred to as ‘Little Nell scolding Elliot.’ We had a country house at Hempstead, Long Island, so that he could hunt and play polo. He loved horses and dogs, and we always had both. During this time he was in business, and, added to the work and the sports, the gay and popular young couple lived a busy social life. He was the center of my world and all around him loved him.
Whether it was some weakness from his early years which the strain of the life accentuated, whether it was the pain he endured from a broken leg which had to be set, reborn and reset, I do not know. My father began to drink, and for my mother and his brother Theodore and his sisters began the period of harrowing anxiety which was to last until his death in 1894.
My father and mother, my little brother and I went to Italy for the winter of 1890 as the first step in the fight for his health and power of self-control. I remember my father acting as a gondolier, taking me out on the Venice canals, singing with the other boatmen, to my intense joy. I loved his voice, and above all, I loved the way he treated me. He called me “Little Nell” after the Little Nell in Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop, and never doubted that I stood first in his heart.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Note: photograph is of Eleanor from a school portrait in 1898.
Source: The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt