Ellen Axson Wilson to Woodrow Wilson


Ellen Axson Wilson to Woodrow Wilson


Wilson, Ellen Axson




1904 April 24


Ellen Wilson writes Woodrow Wilson with news from 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,

     Our last Sunday, almost our last day in Rome, for we leave Tuesday morning. I almost wish we had planned to go yesterday; the crowds and confusion incidental to Loubet’s visit are already becoming so great that I should like to be out of it all. But of course it is not troubling us today, which we are spending at church and in the house as usual. We had another Aberdeen man, “Principlal something,—” not so good a preacher as the other. Last week we had the pastor, Dr. Grey, a learned man but a dry preacher. He called on me this week, I don’t know why. We had written, by request, our names in the visitors book at the church but did not give our Rome address. Of course we missed him. After arriving and looking over the ground we promptly decided that we could not spare an hour for social engagements & that we would send no cards of introduction either to the Princess Ruspoli or to Miss West’s friends. She had sent us some cards to the steamer in New York.—It was a wise decision; We have had a most delightful & successful two weeks here, and have seen the place remarkably well considering the shortness of the time. Our only partial failure was the trip to Tivoli and Hadrian’s Villa which we undertook because Mary Hoyt had so set her heart upon it. It is a beautiful three & a half hours drive to the Villa; we enjoyed that very much, but it began to rain heavily soon after we reached it so that we could not explore it thoroughly. We spent some two hours under the shelter of a covered passage-way, the only part of the palace that still has a roof. Then we gave up and drove home in the rain without even getting to Tivoli. But Mary says she would rather have seen it  the Villa than not at all, and it was certainly all very beautiful. The great avenues of cypresses that looked as if they might be a thousand years old and the great groves of equally old olive trees were the chief beauty,—that and the vistas between broken arches, & of the campagna, and the Alban Mountains.
     Yesterday it also poured rain all the morning so that the light was too bad for one to see the Michael Angelos again as I had planned; but Jessie and I drove to the Vatican & spent the morning among the Antiques instead. I still have one last morning for the Sistine, and I am tempted to fill my shopping bag with biscuits and stay until it closes at three! Dr. Grey, to whom I spoke this morning because of his call took me aback by proposing to “if he can get off,” to take me to the Palatine Hill and “do” it with me! He is an archaeologist of some distinction it seems;—but I am not and I cannot possibly sacrifice my last precious morning at the Vatican to those heaps of hopeless ruin. I am praying that he cannot get off, for alas, I have not the presence of mind at the time to plead “another engagement” but only to protest that I could not think of troubling him.
     We have our tickets now for all the rest of our tour,—Cooks tickets. Perhaps it would interest you to know our route in detail so that you can “place” us constantly. Tuesday at 12 we start for Assissi getting there in time to see the same afternoon, “fairly well,” the Giottos in the old church of St. Francis. We spend the night there and early the next morning drive over to Perugia, which is said to be a charming experience,—in good weather! We have 1½ days there,—far too little of course, but ’tis the best we can do, starting for Sienna Thursday. It is a seven hours journey and we spend two nights there, reaching Florence Sat. afternoon the 30th of April. We will be there two weeks and a day, leaving for Parma via Bologna on Monday the 16th. Wednesday morning we leave Parma for Venice arriving at mid-day. After five and ½ days at Venice we go, on Tuesday morning to Milan, spending that afternoon & the next morning there and reaching Genoa before dark. On Thursday at ten, four weeks and four days from the present we sail for home! Oh how my heart leaps at the thought, how I long to sweep away the days between us, full as I expect them to be of delights! And never, never never will I be separated from you again of my own free will.
     We are perfectly well and the weather is beautiful again; all has gone quite smoothly in every respect. Our tickets for the rest of our stay were about $52.00 for Jessie & me, which seems fairly reasonable. We shall be rather glad to leave this house because all the nice people who were here when we came have gone and it has filled up with a most impossible crowd of Americans & Eng. women. This is certainly the woman’s country! They have taken possession of the earth! Everywhere one goes there are at least nine women for one man,—women travelling alone,—women of all nationalities from Swedes & Russians down to the Indies,—all, all equally emancipated! As for the German women whom we were taught to believe were mere beasts of burden, there are more of them than of the Americans even; they swarm like locusts and are as disagreeable,—and of an ugliness! There is one in the house though who is quite young and pretty. She has recently been to Greece and up the Nile quite alone. Indeed she spends her whole life travelling quite alone;—has been all over the world. We have four from California, all quite young, unchaperoned, & perfectly dreadful! The day after their arrival she one of them and the irrepressible “Ninni” (Mr. Rainaldi) spent their time at the dinner table experimenting to see which was the most ticklish! And their accent is as bad as their manners. One of them, a striking blonde, drove up from the wharf at Naples on the seat with the driver but with her back to the horses and her feet in her sisters lap! So when they had been there 1½ days they had a call from an American married to an Italian, who wished to engage as their chaperone, saying that she moved in the first circles & could supply them all with the most eligible husbands. They were very indignant; for the poor things are perfectly respectable,—merely wild colts. But Marguerite has been making a long visit & now it grows late. I will leave it to Jessie to tell what galleries & churches we have seen this week. The “Sophocles,” “The Marble Faun,” & the “Moses”, are the three greatest things we have seen this week. How you would have liked them all! The Sophocles is indescribably noble in it’s calm, lofty beauty;—suggesting Tennyson’s line, “self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control.” Raphael’s men in the Stanzas are all of the same blood, the same spirit, and they all breathe “an ampler ether, an diviner air.” They are just as grand as Michael Angelo’s, only one has the serene glory of the sun and the other the darker majesty of the storm.
     We have also seen one entirely beautiful church this week, the Santa-Maria Maggiore, and that was a great comfort for most of them are very ugly. One visits them only for some particular great thing they contain, a fine mosaic a ceiling by Raphael or Perugino, or a statue by Michael Angelo. Several of them have the most exquiste cloisters moreover, with the gardens all a riot of climbing roses.
     I have had no more letters of course since I wrote last;—can only hope & trust that all is well with my darlings,—& dear little Nell back at school again. You perhaps are away down South—I hope you will enjoy the trip, dearest, and find it a rest from the routine of Princeton, and its occasional hard problems,—like that wretched Cameron case. This is a passage about a cardinal(!) in a Catholic book I was looking through yesterday, and it made think of you (as what does not brings thoughts of you, dear!) “Such a load of serious thought lay upon his soul that it would have been too much but that sometimes he felt the arm and shoulder of Christ slip under the burden and lift its weight with him, and lift him with it, and bear him along in some miraculous hour of heavenly comfort.” But now I must stop for it grows dark. Dearest love to all the loved ones and all friends. What news from the Ricketts? Poor Jessie has still had no letters from anyone.
     God bless you, my own love, and keep you safe and well and happy, and speed the days until I am in your arms again! Oh how I long to be there! How I love you!

Your little wife,


Original Format



Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924





Wilson, Ellen Axson, “Ellen Axson Wilson to Woodrow Wilson,” 1904 April 24, WWP19544, Eleanor Wilson McAdoo Collection at the University of California-Santa Barbara, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.