The Courtship Of Woodrow Wilson


My precious Ellie, Sometimes when I think of our engagement I wonder if I have not been dreaming the last two months. When I recall my first feelings fur you; how passionate love grew rapidly upon me: how all my thoughts used to tenter in plans to win you: what castles my hopes used to build and how I used to sitken at the prospect of hope deferred; and then how, much sooner than 1 had dared to hope, how by a seeming accident, we met and you gave your heart to me, it all seems so like a sweet dream that 1 am afraid to credit my memory. The impression is perhaps heightened by the fact that I left you before I had time to realize that you had pledged yourself to me. Although you had spoken the words which will always live in my memory. “I will do anything to make you happy”; although 1 had taken that sweet sealing kiss: and had been permitted to hold you in my arms, I remember calling you “Miss EIlic” to the last and being utterly unable to speak any part of the love and joy that were in my heart. …

Sitting dazed and incredulous in the train after he had left her, Woodrow Wilson thought that if she had really accepted him, no success that he might achieve would ever compare with such a victory. He was to believe this all his life. Yet his elation was tempered by a sort of desperation when he laced the fact that he could not ask her to many him for at least a year—a yea: at Johns I lopkins, and after that the search for a professorship with sufficient income to support them Baltimore seemed a bleak and dreary place when he arrived, and the college buildings looked more like a prison than a university when he went to register.

The first days were difficuh. He spent most of them looking for an inexpensive place to live, writing to Ellen, and haunting the post office in the hope of finding a letter from her. No letter tame. His parents were vacationing at Arden Park, not far from Asheville. He had asked Ellen to tall on them before she went back LO Rome. Had something gone wrong there? Had she changed her mind about marrying him? He was frantic.

Balto., Md., Sept. 25th. 1883 My own darling, I am sick at heart from not hearing from you. It is now a week since you must have readied home and not a line have I had from you. I am filled with apprehensions … I know that there must be some reason, but what can it be? … The past week has seemed like a month—I am astonished to find that it is still September … I found a ring today that suits me and shall send it to you at once … I know that you will think it pretty. I have had nothing engraved in it. I preferred having that done after conferring with you and ascertaining your taste and preference in the matter. I want you to wear the ring as it is until I can come to you. Then we can have what you please put in it and I can put it on your hand with appropriate ceremonies of our own invention, and of which I should like to have the direction! With a heart brimful of love Your own Woodrow

Two Jays later Ellen’s first letter came, explaining why she had not written sooner. She had re tinned from Asheville to find lier father quite ill and her younger brother, Edward, with a fever. They now needed all ol her time and love to cure them. Woodrow wrote at once,

Balto., Md., Sept. 27th, 1883 My own darling, … I cannot describe to you my delight at the receipt of your letter. I had come away lroin the postoffice with a heavy heart so often that the revulsion of feeling was tremendous when J took your letter from the envelope and I was almost frightened at the way my heart beat. It was the sweetest letter ever written—and it seems to have been written with great rhetorical an for it observed the laws of climax, beginning “My dear Friend” (as if I were nothing more!) and ending with confessions of love which are the sweetest, as well as the most modest that ever a maiden made. …

Ellen’s next letter was written before she received his, and again “observed the laws of climax.”

Rome, September 25th, 1883 My dear Friend: As I find myself today at the most comfortable stage of convalescence, doomed to do nothing at all but enjoy myself, it occurs to me that there is no reason why I should not write a few lines to you, notwithstanding my long scrawl of yesterday. … I thank you very much for sending your dear mother’s note and with all my heart ! thank her and your father for their kind words. … in truth, I was frightened beyond measure—no, not frightened exactly; yet that word must answer for lack of better. I can usually exercise a fair amount of self-control, provided always I am not taken unaware … But as we drove through Arden Park, I certainly felt it oozing out of the tips of my fingers; as I took off my hat I could see for myself that I was positively pale with fright —or whatever it was—and f couldn’t for the wurld have told then why or wherefore. … I have scarcely left myself light or space to say once again that I love you . Ah, my darling, I have no words—will never find them—to tell you how much; nor how very happy it makes me to hear you say—und repeat it—that you love me. Whenever I read it in your letters, were it several times on one page, it gives me a new and distinct thrill of delight. Goodnight, dear love. Yours with all my heart, Ellie