Ellen Axson Wilson to Woodrow Wilson


Ellen Axson Wilson to Woodrow Wilson


Wilson, Ellen Axson




1904 May 15


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



Spatial Coverage

Hotel Leone, Assisi, Italy


My own darling,

     Everything is going on with us just as well as it possibly could. Jessie improves visibly and with a rapidity that exceeds our hopes. She went out to walk a little today,—has been driving for four days. It is really wonderful that she looks so little the worse for such an attack; for it was very far from being a mild case before the antitoxin was given. In fact it was the most dreadful looking throat I ever saw, thickly covered all over with white, broken with putrid spots. Now she is well,—practically. I shall have no hesitancy in sending “charcos” for my next telegram—if nothing else happens in the meantime! Of course she must be treated as if made of glass for weeks yet,—indeed Dr. Bull says she must be extremely careful not to overexert herself all summer. I am sorry, dearest, that you should have had the sensations of having lost us,—of not knowing my address—when you got my long telegram. As a matter of fact the place is so small, that there is would be no trouble about a telegram finding me. But of course you couldn’t know that & I should have been more explicit.—But the telegram was already so appallingly long and expensive!
     Mary left yesterday—in tears—for Florence where the Smiths are still. How I miss her, especially to talk for me! It seemed quite an ordeal to get off that cablegram myself yesterday and to register my “steamer order” to Genoa. But I had no trouble after all. The matter of the exchange is all arranged. I sail June 9 on the “Konig Albert,” stateroom 267. Oh how long it seems! And to think that but for the change I should have been actually on the way back to my darling in ten more days. But it is weak to dwell on that and I won’t do it. Perhaps sometime or other I shall be very glad indeed that Jessie forced me to stay and see Florence,—though I can't look at it in that light yet. And this waiting will enable the dear child herself to see something of the pictures before we leave Florence if she continues to gain strength at her present extraordinary pace.—I am getting very hungry for letters, for owing to the uncertainty of my movements, or rather to my plan for leaving here last Friday, they have not been forwarded me. Your last letter received was written on April 26, and this is May 15th—my birthday! I hope that you now have my letter written on the 1st telling the details of Jessie’s illness, for it will be reassuring to you. And of course you have mine of April 26—the day we left Rome. How strange it seems that I should have been rejoicing in it at getting Jessie safely away from Rome,—and she actually had diphtheria then. Your letter written the same day expresses your delight at getting “another ‘charcos’!” The cable was sent that same fateful day.
     Jessie is as happy as a lark now and we are having a very pleasant peaceful time together. I spend every morning from ten to twelve at San Francesco; we take a little drive every afternoon at five, and the rest of the day I read to her,—Anthony Trollope, “Pickwick” & Mark Twain’s “Joan of Arc”,—all of which I had the Smiths send me from Florence for the purpose. We have a lovely balcony on our floor (the 1st floor) fortunately,) and she is now getting much amusement from watching the life of the “piazza” below. My two hours a day at the church are a perfect delight to me. The two churches (“upper” and “lower”,—one built on top of the other,) are a museum in themselves of early Tuscan art,—both Florentine & Sienese. We see both schools at their best and it is most interesting to study carefully the differences. And not only is the quality of much of it very high, but the quantity is amazing, practically every particle portion of the wall-space of two huge cathedrals, with a dozen chapels to boot, are covered with frescoes. One could not exhaust the interest,—or the freshness of it in a month. I make some delightful new discovery every day; and yesterday I found a whole chapel that I had not seen before,—being usually locked which was perfectly charming. It was The pictures were in the Sienese manner,—presumably by Simone Martini,—and while they havn’t the vigorous and highly intellectual quality of or the dramatic power of Giotto, there is mystical sentiment, great refinement both in feeling and execution, - and exquisite purity - and soft harmony of colour; Indeed as a whole— complete harmonious work of art it is the most perfect thing in the two churches. Its windows too are among the best.—You know one of the many delightful things about these wonderful churches is that they are Gothic cathedrals (completed in the 13th century) and as rich in early glorious stained glass as York or Chartres. Indeed the glass is much like that at York much lighter in tone than the Chartres,—which is fortunate or one could could not see the pictures. It is next to impossible, as it is, to see four of the most important;—Giottos four great allegorical paintings our on the dome over the high altar.
     Three of them represent the vows of the Francescan order poverty, chastity, & obedience and the fourth is the apotheosis of St Francis. Isn’t it too bad that Jessie must miss all this; I am rather hoping that early Tuscan art is too much of an acquired taste to appeal to her! She is to go, by the doctor’s consent, for a little while to the upperchurch which is perfectly warm & dry. The pictures there are not nearly so fine or worthy of study as those in the lower, but decoratively they are perfect, being delightfully soft and harmonious in colour and blending in perfectly with the beautiful windows. It is also very rich in fine carving work in wood and stone, and taking everything together is the in colour the most beautiful Gothic interior I have seen anywhere. Colour as of course you know plays a very much more important part in Italian Gothic. But it is time to dress for dinner & I havn’t told you about our lovely drive (Mary’s & mine) to Spello & Spolato to see the masterpieces of Pinturrichio & Lippo Lippi. Now it must wait till next time. We had a beautiful day. I wish you could see those delightful little rascally angels of Lippis. They were enchanting. One of them had his wings hitched on in front; which greatly puzzled us until I arrived at the obvious solution, which was that one of the others had been playing a trick on him. They were quite mischievous enough to do it. There were dozens of them all up to some game, while the solemn funtion of crowning the Virgin was proceeding. Give our dearest love to the children, Madge, Stockton, & all friends. For yourself, sweetheart, “I would that my tongue could utter the thoughts that arise in me.” I think of you all day and dream of you every night—& that at least is a comfort!


Original Format



Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924





Wilson, Ellen Axson, “Ellen Axson Wilson to Woodrow Wilson,” 1904 May 15, WWP19549, Eleanor Wilson McAdoo Collection at the University of California-Santa Barbara, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.