Woodrow Wilson to Richard Heath Dabney




Woodrow Wilson sends his condolences to his friend Richard Heath Dabney on the death of his wife and child and comments on Dabney's appointment to teach history at the University of Virginia.




My dear Heath,

Ever since the 10th of June last your letter has lain here on my desk before me; again and again I have been on the point of answering it—all the time I have been wanting, with a sort of longing, to answer it—but could'nt! What could I say? The news had followed all too close upon it that even your little baby had been taken away from you, and that had stunned me. You know of my love and sympathy: what more could I add? But now you are a month advanced in your work at the University and I can write to ask, what cheer, old fellow? Don't you feel as if you had gone back to a home which holds out to you a comfort and a shelter? I imagine that the dear old lawns and ranges would have such an effect on me under like terrible circumstances—that the old place could soothe me and in a way carry me back of my sorrow, to make a fresh start. And I know that you will open your mind and heart to such influences and re-new yourself, free from all morbid reaction.

Can't you write to me a full account of what they have given you to do and how you are doing it—with what new methods you are surprising the antique calm of the department of history? I would have an appetite for such a letter merely as inside University news—as news also of you it will fill my interest to the top. I fancy that the University would seem natural to me, could I happen back and find you there. After all, you were a very large part of the great old place for me—and I wish to go back now as I have not often—for fear of finding it changed and strange.

How are ?? and the old Jefferson society? Do you find anybody there who remembers me?

I asked DC Heath to send you a copy of the text-book I have just published, and I hope you will understand my love written on the fly-leaf. A fact book is always a plebian among books, and it is a fact book; but a great deal has gone out of me into it, none the less, and I hope you will receive it kindly on that account.

Perhaps you have seen one of the enclosed circulars and have already pitied me the necessity of doing justice to those abolitionist rascals and the other characters of ante-bellum and post-bellum times. And I am afraid I shall do them justice! I am getting most unreasonably impartial in this latitude. But the editor of the series and the publishers both said they wanted that period to go to me because I am a Southerner—and I could not resist the subtle compliment.

Mrs. Wilson joins with me, my dear fellow, in messages of warmest friendship and sympathy, and I am, with all the old-time, and with an added new-time, ardor,

Your affectionate friend,
Woodrow Wilson

Original Format






Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924, “Woodrow Wilson to Richard Heath Dabney,” 1889 October 31, WWP20437, University of Virginia Woodrow Wilson Letters, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.