Margaret Woodrow Wilson to Eleanor Randolph Wilson McAdoo


Margaret Woodrow Wilson to Eleanor Randolph Wilson McAdoo


Wilson, Margaret Woodrow, 1886-1944




1937 August 16


Margaret A. Wilson writes Eleanor Wilson McAdoo with news from a colony of muscians, in Essex County, New York.


Eleanor Wilson McAdoo Papers, University of California, Santa Barbara


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum


Wilson family




Precious beautiful Darling-

     How I wish that there were some kind of dictograph than one could carry like deaf people do their ear drums, so that I could speak into it some (I would spare you most of them) of the thoughts that I would love to share with you, that I actually, now, shape into words as if I were saying them to you. They say that there is such a radio on the market! Won't people look too foolish and sound too awful going along listening fondly to music from their breasts? Gosh I think I would rather stand the smell of them in subways than that, but I guess the sound won't be so penetrating! Dear me I am getting Rabelesian, as George Creel once accused me of being some times!

Did I tell you about my little shack in the woods, where I get away from the worst of the noise? The man who owns this place (Did I tell you?) who is now eighty years old, used to be the cellist of the Philiharmonic. Then he became the cellist of the very first chamber quartette in America, that just preceeded the Kneisel. Well the quartette, all of them being thrifty Germans and lovers of Nature, came up here when land was cheap and bought up acres and acres of woods in which they built their camps and also separtate studios in which to practise. A few other musicians did the same and so there grew up a sort of music colony here. Old Mr Schenck is too old to play now and is visiting his dear Germany this summer with a new young wife! - and the leading musicians here, two brothers a violinist and a pianist both died last year over eighty years old. Their family is still here and I have, in spite of myself, made friends with them, although I do not waste much time with them. Well, the practice studio of my old landlord is down near the edge of the lake in the forest. They said I could use it if I could stand the condition it was in, the old man not having been able to make the steep grade for several years. Well you should have seen it! He was an amateur carpenter as well as musician. So, besides the piano, I found there all kinds of tools, every one of them greasy or rusty or both and mixed up with them, pell mell on a table and on the floor, was music, piles and piles of it, and cough medicine and all the things one used to see on the old bath room shelf, and worst of all- you would have passed out if you had seen them, were about one thousand (without exaggeration), picturse on the wall, of people and places, all cut out of magazines. Isn't it strange how a lover of one art can be so dense about other forms of beauty or so lacking in just ordinary good taste? Well, I felt desperate, but I was determined to use the place, so I got busy and sorted out for hours on end every dirty tool and bottle and so forth and threw away what I knew no human being could use again and stored (in a little closet) all the rest of the stuff. Then I sent to Albany for forty five yards of green percale and after pulling in from outside the heaviest ladder that ever existed, I covered all the walls from top to bottom with the stuff and made a curtain effect of it at the windows-- I could not take the pictures down because they were pasted on the walls! Then Elizabeth Davidson got her gardner over from Lake George and I got him to break me enormous branches of pine and cedar with which I made a bower of green in every corner, covering up most of the wall in doing so- it became just a back ground. My nice old Lahmon of the spider episode suggested the branches, at the beginning when he opend the place for me. So now I have a little green bower in the woods where I go every afternoon and stay for four hours coming home when the woods are shot through with liquid gold. Dear me I did not realize that account was going to be so long. When I was hammering away I laughed out loud several times thinking how amused you would be, because I would get up on the ladder over and over again and find that I did not have the hammer or the nails or something. I remembered the time you got up on the table and found you did not have a hammer and I went and got one from your superintendent, while you sat on the clock and smoked. I'll never forget what fun we had that day, hanging the pictures together. And, by the way, this whole business ought to convince you of my very great improvement, for can you imagine my doing all that physical work three years ago? I worked for five hours each of two days on the hangings. I did get some one else to come down and thoroughly clean the place.

I am so glad that you are at Santa Barbara because I think that it sounds ideal and I remember what a restful time we had there together. It was there that, due to my darling generous sister, I made the final turning point toward health. Up to that week there was every possibility, I felt, that my cure would not be a real one. But that rest and the swimming and the care-free happy time with you and Faithie literally gave me years and years more of this lifes adventure. Oh darling I am so grateful to you, for I do want to hang on to this body, which seems to be necessary to the soul as a kind of laboratory of experience and experiment, until I have really learned something for good and all. Even if I had hung on to it, it would not have been much good to me, if it had not been for that week in Santa Barbara. Will you take good care of yourself there too and get the good out of it again that we all got that summer? Of course I was the one that benefitted most that summer, but perhaps this summer, with your mind at ease, or at least more relaxed than then, you will benefit greatly too. I was delighted to hear about the magnesia being so beneficial. I never thought you were in danger of arthritis but I feared that if you did not get rid of the pain, or what caused it rather, that you would be troubled in some way. I think that keeping the bowels cleared is a protection against all kinds of troubles. I wish that I could do it more naturally, but I think congestion there is more dangerous than mild laxatives. A great doctor, at a medical conference, when they were discussing how little they knew and how few real cures there were of anything, said "Well there is one disease that I shall never have, I know that much." When they wondered what it was he said "It is cancer. I have never heard of any body's having it who kept their bowels very clear, and so I take a laxative every morning of my life." I feel like he did that I would rather take a chance on what the laxative might do than what congestion might cause. Those little pills that I left with you and asked you to show Dr Fishbaugh are for the intestines and are prescribed by Dr Burbank to be taken once a week. A friend of mine, who had all the symptoms you had went to his assistant, who said like Dr Fishbaugh of you that she did not really have it, but she had better keep her bowels clear, and gave her that medicine and that alone did away with these aches and stiffness that she had in the morning-had had for years and was scared stiff about. Would you like me to send you some of them? Another thing, I finally went to an eye-doctor as my eyes seemed to tbe getting worse, and he has given me exercises that already are improving my sight. He does not believe in giving stronger and stronger glasses but weaker and weaker, as the exercises strengthen the eyes. He began by weakening mine and yet they feel better, the eyes! I know a book that gives practically all the exercises that he gave me. Would you practise them if I sent it to you? I am dying to do so but I, Scotch like do not want to waste the book on your shelf! The exercises are very easy. Sascha has improved her eyes by doing exercises suggested by another doctor but my doctor thinks her kind are too strenuous or something. He does not recommend them. Mine are very gentle. Will you do them as they cannot possibly do you any harm? The book, by the way, was lent me by Dr Devol who seems to approve, although he was wild at me when I took of my glasses several years ago? I really think that it is the layman, often, who forces the doctors ahead by trying the unorthodox things. This exercise theory was hissed at by the doctors ten years ago and now more and more of them it seems are coming around to it. Speaking of eyes, have you definitely given up your painting- has the urge left you? That sometimes happens. Perhaps the unerring soul of you is leading you to the art of writing as your form of expression now. There is certainly no doubt about it that you can do it. You always have had the gift of words, both in writing and in conversation. Indeed the naturalness of your expression in words, not even the written word taking out away the freshness of your style or the directness of your thought, as it is in conversation, is evidence that it is a real gift. I shall certainly not be like those who say to me "You have given up your music. Oh too bad, you really ought to take it up again." "Why don't you. You must, for it is a crime to give up such a gift," and so on and so forth ad infinitum. As if the Lord did not have an infinity of expression folded away in the souls of men waiting to take form! So you will just let the divine Leela go on in and through you, according to whatever beautiful pattern there is in your nature- with such a varied nature as you have there must be many lovely interlacing designs. Leela is the Hindu word, meaning play, in the broadest sense of that word. They say that this whole Universe is God's Play. My favourite concepton of his play, not original of course, is that it is like the play of light, which seems to be divided into so many colours and combinations of colours and yet reamins always one Light. That gives me an intimation of how God can be one and yet with such infinite variety in his oneness, for he is the light and the play of the light and that on which the light plays is also light. Even the Scientists will tell you that that which seems like hard matter is a motion, only, of electrical units. He seems to have given us the power, for some unthinkable reason, of distorting the light and falsifying the colours, to a certain degree and up to a certain point in our evolution, but sooner or later we have to become transparent to the perfect patterns or our part of the one great design. You, you darling Thing, know how to go deeper within yourself (I wish you would tell me one secret, can't you?) than most, as do all the real artists and there find the pattern that is yours and not just an imitation of somebody elses. When I say yours, I do not mean yours in the sense of possession, but an integral part of you and necessary to your self expression. So I am sure that since you can and want to write you will find within yourself the thoughts that are waiting to take that form.

This morning I had a conversation with you in the woods and I thought, "I will write Nell some of that today" and now I cant remember a word of it! It is at last getting possible to sit in the woods without being entirely eaten up by everything that flies, except the birds. I was told that after the hot weather in July all the stingers and biters in the Adirondaks disappeared killed off, but this year, this summer, has been cool and wet, lots of thunder storms, and I think the flies, gnats, and mosquitoes decided to divvy up this summer and come in relays, The mosquitoes saying I'll have their blood in June, you (to the flies) take July and you (to the gad flies and gnats) you can have August, But the mosquitoes they are lingering still! Really I do not recommend the Adirondaks for the contemplators if they want to contemplate out doors. Even I, who love to gaze, have to take my fill of the beauty of the woods on the run, almost- that is, I have up to this week. Now I can sit out as the gnats are bearable, (and the skeets ). Aren't they the funny things, you brush them away and they seem to come right back, swinging as on some invisible cosmic wire, like little marionettes and hovering near your face. They dont seem able to get away even when you hit them! The Connecticut hills country is the only place I know where you can sit all day in wood and meadow and not be bothered by anything, except a few crawling things which you can easily protect yourself from. Do you remember the smudges we used to have to make here? Well I am going to stay through October and then the woods will be wonderful. You asked if I swam here. Yes, once in a while, not every day, as warmish fresh water does not appeal to me. However, as I still find the exercise miraculaous in its effect on the little stiffness that is left, I force myself to leave my little bower once in a while and take a swim. The Hermann family have an adorable island, for all the world like our little Canadian island, and just about the same distance from my dock as our island is from land. But it is deep water, so I take a row boat, as my little bay is very brackish and slimy, and row over to the other side of the island, where there are big rocks, where you jump off in to deep, clear water. Sometimes the Hermanns are there the same time, but sonetimes I go alone. It is fun to skim along the surface of the water, gazing down into the dream-forest below, or up at the blue mountains, but I don't stay in long, because fresh water does make you work so. At first the marvellous reflections in the lake made me so homesick for all the dear ones that are gone that I could hardly bear them, but now I am beginning to love them again for their own sake. Do you remember how Mother used to look when she would exclaim "Oh isn't that enchanting?" Do you remember (Why can't I type that word right!) Shadow River in Canada?

Well-I have written a long letter this time and all about myself, but as all my adventures this summer are with myself I shall have to make my own life my subject for a while. I did not mention Frank's marriage, by the way, in my last letter, as it had not come off then and I was not certain that he had written you about it. I am really glad for him, deeply so and his wife seems, from Helen's account of her, to be a lovely person. I do hope those darling children will be happy with her. Here is a picture that Helen sent me. Darling Woodrow's guilesless face started the tears for a few minutes, of pity that he did not have his own Mother, but since she had to go it is better thus than to have Frank as desperately lonely as he was. But it looks like there is no such genus as the one woman man, doesn't it. I really thought that Frank was the "love unto death" kind. Of course, I do not doubt his love for Jessie, as I do not doubt Father's love for Mother, but I thought that Frank was, in a way, dedicated to Jessie. Do you remember the outraged feelings in Princeton when Mr Westcott married again, when the women burned their love letters, so the second wife should not see them?

Darling, I have two of your wonderful letters to my one and oh how I love them. I feel enriched by every one of them. The last two I have read walking up and down the porch and chuckling with amusment and delight. Your description of Joe's amazement at my getting up so early was a scream.

I have never thanked you for sending me the shorts. The idea of your taking all that precious time and energy, explaining why and how you were delayed in sending them! You owed no apology at all, even if you had never sent them. I am the one that should, and do apologize for leaving them there and then troubling you to get them to me. A person that does that is a nuisance. But they were just what I thought they would be, the most indispensable garment I own this summer. They arrived the day before the first hot day of the summer:- and I have worn them, alternating them with a pair of white shorts, almost constantly since. So you see, you did do something to make my summer more comfortable by sending them darling. Thank you ever and ever so much. You see, being alone practically all the time, I don't mind wearing shorts. I don't mind my legs for I am inside them! The days have often been hot, but the nights practically always cool and there has been no stretch of really bad heat. It is the variety of weather in the mountains that I think is so good for one and makes for such beautiful and interesting effects of light. The quick changes from hot to cold and back seem to be very good for my old bones and muscles. The adaptions they have to make strengthen them. Carrell says that is essential to the human mechanism, the demand on it of severe weather and changes of climate. I think he cannot be altogether right about the body, because those in mild climates seem to be thrive, do they not- at least as much as we do here? But I am sure that the easy way is not best for the mind- I mean that it rots if we make no demands on it. I am so happy to hear that Faith enjoyed her work last winter. Please tell her that I shall write to her soon. Strange to say my program does not allow much time for letter writing- perhaps not strange, since it is my program. By night time, which has always been my time for letters, I am so sleepy that I can only read a little and then go to bed. I eat very late and, by the time I have washed the dishes and left the kitchen in apple pie order, it is about an hour before bed time and I am tired. I try to get to bed by eleven and so have seven hours sleep, but do not always manage it. The poets sometimes interfere, both ancient and modern, the poets of the Upanishads and the modern mystic poets. Have you ever seen the Oxford Book of Mystic verse? It is a gold mine. My darling Emily Dickinson has not only kept me up late but she was responsible the other day for the carrots not just scorching, but burning up to cinders! I put them on about eight and at ten, I smelt something and rememebered that I had put carrots on for the next days dinner. That is the way I do, I cook up a lot at once, so that I never seldom have to cook a whole dinner at, one time, except the night I cook for my friends. As to my guest she, Emily, has so much to say that helps that I cannot but believe that it was hers too. This, for instance-I can echoe every line of it   The soul unto itself 
               Is an imperial friend-
               or the most aganozing spy
               an enemy could send.
               Secure against its own,
               No treason is can fear:
               Itself it's sovereign, of itself 
               The Soul should stand in awe. 
I am glad to hear of Ellen's progress in her singing, but sorry she is giving you anxiety other-wise. Is she working through the summer?

Well- I must stop and get to work. I have played hooky from my little green bower too long. I love to visualize you and Faithie in the little cottage on the Miramar grounds, for I can see the flowers and the sea and those great trees, even if I can't see the house and I can imagine you eating breakfast together,(do you?),as we three did that heavenly, happy week. You will never know what my summers with you have meant to me, dearest one. They have been packed with glimpses into Paradise.

Don't feel you have to answer this letter until you get good and ready for one of your letters lasts a long time and I can see you, now that you were dear enough to give me your program. You speak of my letters- They cannot be mentioned in the same breath with yours, for yours are what George said your writing was-they are miracles of delight.

Please give my tenderest love to our beautiful, exquisite Faith whom I love so dearly that it hurts. And you, you wonderful being- well there is no use trying to describe my feeling for you, but oh how I do love you.

Your adoring,


Original Format



McAdoo, Eleanor Wilson, 1889-1967




Wilson, Margaret Woodrow, 1886-1944, “Margaret Woodrow Wilson to Eleanor Randolph Wilson McAdoo,” 1937 August 16, WWP19636, Eleanor Wilson McAdoo Collection at the University of California-Santa Barbara, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.