A PRESIDENT IN LOVE: The Courtship Letters of Woodrow Wilson and Edith Bolling Galt by Woodrow Wilson

A PRESIDENT IN LOVE: The Courtship Letters of Woodrow Wilson and Edith Bolling Galt

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The wonder of this correspondence is that it was maintained, day after day, through eight months of German submarine warfare, Latin American upheavals, and domestic repercussions--as editor Tribble's notes astutely make plain: the letters would hardly repay publication, separate from the corpus of Wilson's papers, otherwise. Wilson was 58, seven months a widower, lonely and lost, when he met Edith Bolling Galt, a 42-year-old Washington widow of attested charms, in March 1915. On April 28 he wrote to ""My dear Mrs. Galt"" for the first time; on May 4 he proposed; and during the late spring and summer the two became engaged and became lovers (or vice versa), attempted to be discreet, pondered the political effect of an early remarriage, survived a plot by his intimates to postpone the wedding, and eventually--when it was apparent that the national welfare would brook no delay--set a mid-December date. Some 250 letters passed between them during this time, of which slightly more than half are reprinted here--ardent, boyish, reiterative effusions on his part (""I love you, I love you, and you love me. What can touch me now?""; or, more typical: "". . . what unspeakable delight it gives me to receive such adorable outpourings of my Darling's heart!""); briefer, less ornate epistles from her--matching his solicitude, his longing, his desire that they share his burdens. . . of which he keeps her closely informed. (Her usual response, prophetically, is to damn his detractors or disparage his associates.) One problem of this collection, indeed, is that the annotations fill out the sequence of public events far more fully than the course of the romance. Though this is the letters' first publication, the correspondence has been open to scholars since 1975; and in Arthur Walworth's 1978 revision of his biography of Wilson, in particular, one finds the explanation for much that is unclear or incomprehensible here--as well as a more forthright treatment of the lovebirds as lovers. (Tribble calls Wilson ""highly sexed""; includes a telling letter--""I am absolutely dependent upon intimate love""; is otherwise vague). More elucidation would be beneficial also because (as Tribble mentions) ""Your own Woodrow"" wrote equally fervent, virtually indistinguishable letters to the first Mrs. Wilson--into the last years of their marriage. But if we do not have the whole story here, or necessarily the pulse of a Great Romance, we do have ample evidence of how it consumed the moralistic, punctilious, world-saving Wilson.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1981
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin