Ted Morgan was a giant and he just died on December 13, at 91, after four years of illness, in a retirement home in New York. His wife Eileen Bresnahan and his daughter Amber were angels with him to the end. His son Gabriel is also a writer in New Mexico. A Pulitzer Prize winner, he wrote twenty books mostly biographies or historical studies like the recent “Mc Carthyism in Twentieth Century America” or his confession in a Memoir, “My Battle of Algiers”, when he was drafted in the French army in 1957 and forced to torture prisoners. Born in Switzerland in March 1932, he was the son of Mariette Negroponte and Gabriel de Gramont, whose mother was Princess Maria Ruspoli, who lived in New York during the war as Mrs François Hugo. His father died in Norfolk in 1943, after joining the RAF, when his plane had a gas failure very near the base. They were living in Washington at the time and his mother remarried a Belgian diplomat, Jacques de Thiers, who took him and his two brothers to New York. He was educated at the French Lycée, then attended Yale University and Sciences Pô in Paris. He became a journalist soon after the war.
The first time I met my cousin Sanche was the evening I successfully passed my Baccalaureate. My uncle Henri de Gramont was always hosting him in Paris and he invited me to the new horribly modern Hotel PLM Saint Jacques where we celebrated my graduation. Sanche was very intimidating and strong in speech. But I loved celebrating with “a famous writer”. Later, when I attended Yale University, he took an interest in me, and as a member of Manuscript, I became acceptable to him. He was soon to publish his book “On Becoming American” (in 1978) and was giving up his family name to become Ted Morgan, the anagram of de Gramont. He would later appear on “60 minute” saying how much he despised his French past. Ted was full of contradictions and being his friend, or a member of his family was not easy. Yet he was the most generous uncle to me and shared all his New York connections including his agent Lynn Nesbit and his close friend Barney Rosset, the publisher of Samuel Beckett in America.
Ted expressed himself in perfect French and had the Greek charm of his mother’s. He was first cousins to the diplomat John Negroponte. He wrote a book on “The French: Portrait of a People” in 1969, where he was intensely critical of his country. He was fearless and travelled to Africa to write “The Strong Brown God: the Story of the Niger River” but also covered the Klaus Barbie trials in Lyon which led to a book “An Uncertain Hour” in 1989. He wrote almost 25 books working so hard that he always had two simultaneous projects. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. His wife Eileen helped him greatly do the research on the later works. His last unfinished memoir dealt with love in old age.
He hosted great dinner parties at home on 25 West 54 th Street with food that he prepared himself and always lots of wine. The guests all had been involved in literary New York. And towards the end of his life he became more interested in family matters wanting to meet his younger French nephews.
His two younger brothers died before him. But his wife Eileen Bresnahan, daughter Amber and son Gabriel are here with each two grand children…
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