Woodrow Wilson to Richard Heath Dabney




Woodrow Wilson describes his early married life and his feelings about his book, Congressional Government, to his friend Richard Heath Dabney.


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My dear Heath,

Your thrice welcome letter w'd. have been answered long ago, if Mrs. W. hadn't been sick and all my leisure time, consequently, given diligently to nursing her. What a letter that was for true dramatic effect! Written in New York! It was worth three written in Germany just for the suggestion it brought that mayhap I might, by some delightful turn of fortune, see your dear old 'phiz' soon again, oh thou illim'table idiot, thou very ass! Lippitt, Lippitt, Lippitt! Getting you back on the same continent again is almost as good as getting you back on East Range. It seems like neighborhood after having the Atlantic between us.

Yes, my dear fellow, I did indeed carry out my purpose of marrying in June and a wonderfully happy man I am for it—happier than I ever dared to hope I should be. I was desperately in need of such a companion as Mrs. W. makes to turn my thoughts away from morbid contemplation of my own frames of mind and still more morbid weighings of the value of my own thoughts. I needed to be absorbed by somebody else—and I am. My mind and heart alike expand under the new influences.

But that's rhapsody enough for one letter. Say what I might, you wouldn't take my diagnosis of the case for a scientific one. I can do nothing but ask you to credit my assurance that, in any view of the matter, this is incontestable, that the treatment has proved absolutely successful. The treatment is, you must allow, the test of the diagnosis.And now, old fellow, for what you say of “Congressional Government.” For your generous praise I am sincerely grateful; it made me gladder than I know how to tell you, because I know that you would not utter it unless you meant it, and I am gladder to have you mean it than I know how to say. But for your agreement with the views of the book I am more than grateful. Nothing could gratify me more. If agreement had been the burden of the other letters I have received about the little volume, I should be a very proud and hope-full chap, I can tell you. For, if ever any book was written with fulness and earnestness of conviction, with purpose of imparting conviction, that book was: and, in my view, the extent to which it realizes that purpose is the standard of its success. Of course I should like to be able to believe that it was to stand as a permanent piece of constitutional criticism by reason of some depth of historical and political insight: but its mission was to stir thought and to carry irresistible practical suggestion, and it was as such a missionary that it carried my hopes and ambitions with it. I carefully kept all advocacy of particular reforms out of it, because I wanted it to be, so far as I could make it such, a permanent piece of work, not a political pamphlet, which couldn't succeed without destroying its own reason for being; but I hoped at the same time that it might catch hold of its readers' convictions and set reform a-going in a very definite direction. So that, your agreement is the greatest, the most substantial, the most valued compliment you could pay me—and I should like to wring your hand for it!I am sincerely glad to hear of your Heidelberg Ph.D. You are altogether right about its market value—it is a highly valuable, almost indispensable, ticket of credit, label of quality. I am afraid I shall sooner or later feel the lack of a like stamp. It ought to be—it will be—capital for you; and, if you find any difficulty in getting a position, it will be only because history is taught in such a ridiculously, such a shamefully small number of colleges in this country. Of course I shall keep my eyes open on your behalf for next year.I haven't left myself time to speak of my work here. I can say, however, that I am enjoying it, improving under it, and find the girls interested and intelligent. More another time. Write me whenever you can, whatever you will.

As ever,

Your very sincere friend,
Woodrow Wilson

Original Format






Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924, “Woodrow Wilson to Richard Heath Dabney,” 1885 October 28, WWP20427, University of Virginia Woodrow Wilson Letters, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.