VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS
ON A MAY MORNING in 1906, Woodrow Wilson awoke and found that he could not see out of his left eye. For some time his left shoulder and leg had been racked by neuritic pains, and his right hand had been affected again. Apprehensive, his wife took him to two specialists. Having watched Joseph Wilson die only four years before, she was terrified by the verdict. "It is hardening of the arteries," she wrote to a friend, "due to prolonged high pressure on brain and nerves. He has lived too tensely . . . Of course, it is an awful thing--dying by inches, --and incurable. But Woodrow's condition has been discovered in the very early stages and they think it has already been 'arrested.'" He would have to meet not only the physical danger of the hardening of his arteries,1 but also the psychic ravages of fear--dread that he might not live long enough to make Princeton "the perfect place of learning," that he might suffer the excruciating agonies of his father.
The prospect of physical suffering seems not to have shaken Wilson's confidence. "I have never felt as if there were anything the matter with me, except the eye," he wrote to his sister. He accepted the doctor's diagnosis calmly and prepared to carry out the prescription of three months of rest. Dean Fine was made acting president of Princeton, and Hibben acting dean.
For refreshment after mental strain, Wilson always had leaned heavily on friends. Now, when forced to leave the campus in search of health, he was reminded how much his friends loved him. Messages of good- will came from trustees, alumni, associates. "Dear love and good-bye," Jennie Hibben wrote, "and try to be careful of yourself through this trying week. How lovely and good you are to us! Ever devotedly yours." Andrew West wrote to wish the president a summer "in every way delightful" and closed his letter with "ever sincerely yours."
Wilson's family took him to the English Lake Country, the pastoral____________________