Ellen Axson Wilson to Woodrow Wilson




Ellen Axson Wilson writes to her husband, Woodrow Wilson, during a trip with her daughters to Italy.


Library of Congress


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum



Spatial Coverage

Hotel Leone, Assisi, Italy



My own darling

We are actually about leaving Assisi! I am just up from lunch and in three hours we start for Perugia,— driving of course as it is almost as cheap and much pleasanter than the train. These Umbrian towns are all on such mountain tops. that one has a drive of ¾ hour from the station to the town in almost every case. So when they are close together it is much simpler to drive all the way. It is 2 ¼ hours in this case and Jessie is going to enjoy it immensely. We think a few days in Perugia will be a pleasant change to us all;–and I shall be glad to get something to eat! I have lived practically on bread & cheese & tea for the last three weeks. The regulation dinner here is soup made of water & cheese, boiled veal & greens, artichokes fried in oil, boiled kid with lettuce, and a very alarming looking “sweet.” But the bread & butter & oranges were good, so I have not suffered. She has been very kind in getting necessary extras for Jessie,– fresh milk from the campagna and, lately, chicken & rice. We cooked eggs for her ourselves on an alcohol lamp, and got lovely meat jellies & zwieback from Rome. So we have been very comfortable.

Mary writes that she has found me a very nice pension in Florence. I cannot go to the “Jennings” because I must have one with a “lift” and a garden for Jessie. It is the “Pension Trollope” –will write more about it when I see it. Mary says Florence is much, much the best of all, that she is simply beside herself over it. She also says it is quite as cool as Assissi & begs me to hurry on as soon as possible.

We drove Jessie to the door of the upper church and let her go in and see it as we planned. I was so glad that she shouldn't miss it, especially the beautiful glass. Then in the afternoon we drove down to San Damiano, and peeped into the touchingly simple little church in which St Francis' ministry began & which, with the tiny little convent adjoining, was the home of Santa Clara & her “poor Clares.” One comes much closer there to “the little poor man of Assisi” than in the magnificent San Francesco built in his honour after his death. Yesterday we were led through an absolutely plain little chapel, — no more than a dimly-lighted stone cell,— in which the handful of monks & novices wh were holding vespers. The faces all expressed deep absorbed feeling. It was the only Catholic service I have seen in Italy which seemed to me solemn and moving,– not excepting the great celebration at St Peters in honour of St. Peters Gregory.

Nothing really has happened since I wrote last;— we have spent three pleasant peaceful days & Jessie improves steadily. Nearly everyone has drifted on, & for some days we have averaged only four people at table. A young Cambridge (Eng.) man & myself are the constant elements. He is very nice, and gentlemanly; we have exactly the same tastes in literature and art and are quite chummy.

We both got a budget of letters which ha made us very happy. Jessie had two from Margaret and one from Jessie. The first one Nellie wrote seems to be lost, much to Jessies distress. She is very much shocked at Margarets “goings on,”—dinners, receptions, &c! I was of course a good deal distressed to find that the crisis at home had been so much more acute than you in your kindness had let me know! It was not only Maggie's illness, but that the children were ill so much longer than I supposed; — Nellie a month and Margaret three weeks, she says! I did not know measles ever lasted so long. And now that we are all “out of the wood”, it is hard not to be a little blue at the pecuniary side of it; the frightful expenses of this spring — trained nurse here & trained nurse there by the month, &c, &c, &c! The sum total of my doctors bills was $230.00! I am leaving here with $160.00 of the $1000.00. And of course I am taking the nurse with me, as I am told Jessie must not be left alone for a long time to come. But it doesn't help to brood over it! What can be the meaning explanation of your cable to Rome failing to reach me! I left the “Rinaldi” for Assisi on the 26th, and you seem to have cabled on the 25th. It is too bad! The one from Florence was forwarded me by the Smiths. Your budget of news in this letter is very interesting. I had no idea Mr. Little was ill. Alas! you don't speak of his leaving anything more to Princeton; I fear that in this case “no news is bad news.” And so we are to have Bob Garrett! I think Dr. McEwen would be a good clerical trustee. He has shown great energy and executive ability in Pittsburg. It would be like having another business man,— a clergyman without the clerical disabilities. Then he is so sane, and understands men, — and would be so loyal to you.

I had no idea Mrs. Marquand was coming abroad; she would much better stay safely at home with those children! But other people don't seem to be pursued by such an unrelenting fate as we! — How good it was to get these two dear letters! but the part about the sailing of the Princess Irene naturally broke my heart,–almost. Oh, my love, my love! I want you! You can't want me so much! I love you unspeakably.

Your own Eileen

Original Format





Wilson, Ellen Axson, “Ellen Axson Wilson to Woodrow Wilson,” 1904 May 18, WWP15018, Ellen Axson Wilson Letters, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.

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