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Continued: Steamy letters detail Harding's long, passionate affair

  • Article by: MICHAEL E. RUANE , Washington Post
  • Last update: July 7, 2014 - 8:38 AM

Harding’s affair with Phillips began in 1905, according to James David Robenalt, an Ohio attorney and author, whose 2009 book, “The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War,” details the relationship.

The book also reviews suspicions that Phillips spied for the Germans during World War I. And it reproduces many of the love letters.

Robenalt, who e-mailed a few more of the letters Thursday, had stumbled on the bootlegged microfilm of the correspondence.

“When I first read these, I felt like a voyeur,” Robenalt said last week. “I shouldn’t be reading this. I should look the other way.”

Harding and Phillips both seemed to be in barely functioning marriages. His wife, Florence, who was divorced from her first, alcoholic husband, was chronically ill, Robenalt recounts.

“There isn’t one iota of affection in my home relationship,” Harding wrote Phillips in 1913. “It is merely existence, necessary for appearance’s sake.”

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