Love And Guilt: Woodrow Wilson And Mary Hulbert


She responded, reiterating what a comfort he was and what a warm, beautiful glow the thought of him brought to her heart. She was glad that the lovely Mrs. M. could not crowd her out of his heart. But she did envy the lady two things—the sight of Wilson, and her youth. But she would not be willing to turn the clock back, she said, nor to give up the knowledge gained in her hard fight (for freedom). Without it, she might not have found Wilson. She was busy every moment, but nothing seemed to matter much because he was not there. At a Boston Symphony concert in Carnegie Hall, she had heard one thing so exquisite that it was hardly of this earth—Rachmaninoff’s The Isle of Death .… “It gives one thrills and a lump in the throat, then a wonderful calm and peace—like the stars at night,” she wrote. It was as if one were enfolded by strong tender arms—and lifted above all the petty fret and jangle of the day. She could hardly bear it that she was not there in Bermuda with him. She had not suspected how hard it would be, but the worst was now over.


Wilson wrote on February 28 that he was coming home on the next steamer. “Heaven send the good old Bermudian [to] get me in at such time as will enable me to see my dear, dear friend before I must start for Princeton. It would be heartbreaking to have to wait still longer, when my thought has been waiting, waiting, waiting for the happy moment when I should be in your presence again and have one of the hours with you that mean so much to me!”

Just the night before, he wrote, he had had dinner in the little cottage with the bougainvillia. … All his “pulses throbbed” as he entered and lingered. “It seemed to me a mere romance to be in it, after all the thoughts I had had of it, and the peculiar associations. If you could have been there it would have been perfect.…” In a sense he had been with her ever since he had set foot on “these delectable isles,” which to him “contain nothing, nobody but you. I am with you in imagination all the time, and it is beyond measure delightful: the real loneliness of it is sweet as well as sad. God bless you and keep you, and give you as much happiness as you have given me!”


He sailed on March 5, but the day before leaving he penned a few more lines, describing the “eagerness that fairly bounds within me to see my beloved Friend.”

Whether or not he satisfied his bounding eagerness to see Mary on his return is unknown, but many subsequent meetings are documented. Often he was in New York, but Mary also made several visits to Princeton, and later to Trenton and Sea Girt (the summer gubernatorial residence) during Wilson’s term as New Jersey governor. Shortly after one of her journeys to Princeton, Wilson wrote to her on her forty-eighth birthday:

“Princeton, New Jersey, 26 May, 1910

Dearest Friend,

Many, many happy—very happy-returns of this day! May you be as glad that it happened as those are who have been privileged to know and love you. It is a very happy circumstance for them that you were born into this workaday world, with all your wit and charm and vivacious sense.… You brought a sort of vivid life with you that is of the rarest kind, because it is communicable: other people partake of it when they are with you, and feel the lack of it when you are away—and never lose the consciousness of you as a delightful fact—a force of which they are always conscious—in their lives. If you are not happy and grateful on your birth-day, they are: if you forget what luck and good fun it was that you should be born into the world, they do not. You are a person , and there are very few real persons in the world. … I imagine I must have felt in some way on the twenty-sixth of May in my sixth year that the day was a specially delightful one, when a youngster must be very gay, and that day, if no other, must have made those about me notice and love me—and ask ‘What makes the child so gay?’ Intimations, not of immortality, but of something immortal that was to come into my life some day in a soft southern isle! Thank you for coming and for looking me up in your forty-fifth year! I shall never cease to be your debtor and

Your devoted friend,

Woodrow Wilson.”