Ellen Axson Wilson to Woodrow Wilson


Ellen Axson Wilson to Woodrow Wilson


Wilson, Ellen Axson




1904 April 3


Ellen Axson Wilson writes Woodrow Wilson with news of her trip to Italy.


Eleanor Wilson McAdoo Papers, University of California, Santa Barbara


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum


Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924--Correspondence




My own darling,

     I have just come in from church to find my love’s dear letter awaiting me.—so you may conceive how happy I am! It is a piece of good fortune greater than I had dared hope for to get it so soon;—in fact as we are leaving for five days tomorrow I had feared that a letter was out of the question until Friday night. It was such a sweet, satisfactory letter twoo, and gives me so happy a feeling that all is well at home. I am so glad that Saturday was such a success;—and how I should have loved to hear that speech!
     The same mail brought me a letter from Madame Rinaldi, Mr. Magie’s landlady at Rome saying that she can give us the rooms—sunny ones. So that will probably be our address for two weeks & four days beginning with next Sunday—the 10th. We have got another good address & if the “hundred steps” prove too dreadful we may change. We have 87 steps here & it is pretty bad for the Smiths as well as for me. But a party of American globe-trotters here tells us that Rinaldis is the best pension in Rome, so we don’t like to give it up. The other addresses we have are from them, one on a second floor and one with an elevator. I have heard from Mary Hoyt; she is still at Nice; so we are making our own arrangements for Rome including her. We pay $1.20 apiece here & at Madame R’s $1.30.—a day. We are perfectly charmed with the convent, everything is so quaint and interesting, and the sisters are exceedingly lovely. They are as pretty as pictures to begin with, and they have the most extraordinary sweetness and charm of manner. Then they are kindness itself,—pet us & call us “cherie,”—almost tuck us in bed,—besides helping us to place all our out-goings; bargaining with the cabbies &c. &c.
     So far everything has been ideal, and we have had no trouble whatever,—even at the custom-house. They did not even unlock our trunks,—simply asked if we had “whiskey or cigars” and then put on the stamps. There are Cook’s interpreters at every wharf and station over here dressed in uniform. We engaged one as soon as we stepped on shore, who arranged everything for us until we reached the sisters,—and refused to take a penny for it!
     We have bought our tickets from Cook for the usual “round,” on which we start tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock, getting back Friday afternoon; We have, you see, an extra 24 hours which we will spend either at Amalfi or Sorrento. I enclose the circular that you may see what we are about. It is said to be one of the most enchanting trips in the world. We have a special courier (Cooks) “in plain clothes”(!) paying only $200 a piece now for him: without him we would, in this country, have been cheated out of a good deal more than that. With him we don’t have a care in the world & will have our minds perfectly free to enjoy ourselves. In one of the large Cook parties the price was $24.00; by ourselves $26.00 including everything, & staying at the best hotels. This is of course the most expensive part of our trip, yet that isn’t so very bad!
     We have found Naples charming, in spite of the dirt. We reached the convent about ten Thursday morning, lunched at twelve, then went to the banker’s, the Lloyd office & “Cooks,” after which we took the most enchanting drive up the “Posilipo.” We had wound up and up along the very edge of the bay with charming villas all the way clinging to the cliff above us and the Cliff below, each in its own terraced garden filled with orange & lemon, peach & fig trees all in full bloom. There was a wilderness of flowers of every kind the wisteria being especially beautiful. The orange and lemon trees were laden with ripe fruit as well as blossoms, after their singular habit of growth. Of course words fail me to tell how almost impossibly picturesque it all was, or how glorious the distant view of Vesuvius, Capri, the city and the bay. The next afternoon we took an equally beautiful drive to “Capodimonte,” a high mountain on top of which is an old royal palace with beatiful pleasure grounds, the road as before winding up between villas & gardens and commanding magnificent views of whole ranges of mountains, &c. &c. And think! We only paid each day 20 cts apiece for the carriage for 2 hours.
     Yesterday afternoon we also drove, going to Virgil’s tomb, the Aquarium, the Cathedral, &c. We spent Friday morning, and afternoon to four o’clock, and yesterday morning at the Museum. There are a few pictures, especially certain Titians, worth coming to Italy to see; but the collection of paintings is as a whole second-rate. But the antiques!—Well, it is useless trying to say how beautiful some of them are or how I enjoyed them. There are no catalogues and the things are not lableled so we thouhght it would be a good idea to have a guide for an hour to help us get our bearings. The result was comical, for he turned out to know neither English nor art. We went into a room full of the early Tuscan school and he began by pointing out the biggest one as a “Van dyke,”—and of course I contradicted him flatly! Then he told us a great picture of the Venetian school was “Botticelli”: it was really a “Cesare da Sesto.” That is a specimen! At last I tried him with three I knew, and he said they were all “Ghirlandaio’s”; so I told him one was a “Lorenzo di Credi”, one a “Lippo Lippi,” and the third a “Botticelli”: and that we had no further use for his services! We paid him for the half hour and then struggled with him almost as long before we could shake him off!
     I must not forget to tell you about “Miss Baylor”. When we entered the parlour at the convent & were waiting to go to our rooms she was sitting there and opened upon us immediately a flood-gate of conversation. When she paused for breath I smiled & said “you are from the South, arn’t you”? “Yes,” she was from Albemarle Co. Va;— and then she went on with her narrative in the course of which it came out that she is the very one with whom Mary Hoyt travelled that fall in the Tyrol &c. &c.! They were two months together. Isn't that a curious coincidence? Of course Luthe Smiths and she have thousands of acquaintances in common! We have a very pleasant crowd here. One is from Alabama, one from South Carolina, one from Va. one from Washington D.C. (very southern though.) ourselves from Geo. and La., two or three from Mass. & New York., a young Scotch woman, two Australians, & four or five Italians. three being old Countesses who live here all the time.- This is a “nursing order” of nuns and it is a very pleasant refuge for old dowagers in their last days. Lucy was much entertained at their comments in French between themselves upon us; which we were supposed not to understand! They were very kindly; Jessie was pronounced a “charming “jeune fille” “bien elevée”, and Lucy was “bon enfant”; &c.
     We are just as well as possible; the weather is perfect, neither hot nor cold; of course we are enjoying every minute of it,—yet all the same I am counting the days that lie between my love & me. There are nine weeks & three days. I had a beautiful dream about you last night; I stood on that Posilipo road and saw you distinctly a few hundred yards below me holding out your arms to me. I ran breathlessly down and flung myself into them,—and then alas! I waked. But oh! it was sweet while it lasted!—Jessie is writing to dear Nell & “as they say” there will be nothing left for me to tell about.” So give her & dearest Margaret my devoted love & many kisses. Best love to Madge & Stockton too;—how anxious I am to know how he is!
     Have you the Rome address “Madame E.A. Rinaldi, 145 Via Rasella”. If you get this in time send me a cablegram there please! Everything is arranged about my return passage & I have a first rate State-room. I shall send my trunks to Genoa from Florence,—so moving them only twice.
     Goodbye, my darling, my love, my life! My heart is filled almost to breaking with love & longing for you, dearest in spite of the delight of it all. I am yours, dear love in every heart-throb. I am always & altogether,

Your own,


Original Format



Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924





Wilson, Ellen Axson, “Ellen Axson Wilson to Woodrow Wilson,” 1904 April 3, WWP19540, Eleanor Wilson McAdoo Collection at the University of California-Santa Barbara, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.