The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 61, July 1957 - April, 1958

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House: A Personality Study. By
Alexander L. George and Juliette L. George. New York (The
John Day Company), 1956. Pp. xix+362.
As a key to history and biography, psychology is becoming
increasingly popular; and Woodrow Wilson's complex personality
seems to invite that approach.
The authors of this study contend that Woodrow Wilson's con-
duct in the midst of crises followed a certain pattern, that his
unyielding attitude in such experiences as the rancorous dispute
with Dean West over the Graduate School at Princeton and the
contest with the Senate over the League of Nations resulted from
a state of mind that stemmed from childhood experiences. They
point out that his father, Dr. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, maintained
a possessive attitude toward his son, was often strict with him, and
sometimes ridiculed him. The greatest hurt from these experi-
ences, the writers say, was that neither as a boy nor a man was
Wilson aware of the hostile feeling he developed toward his
austere father.
Such an approach to biography obviously has its difficulties.
It seems to place in the background the old fashioned concepts
of freedom of the will and self mastery and to leave man and
woman to be buffeted about helplessly and inexorably by certain
childhood experiences of which they may not even be aware. It
is comforting, therefore, to read in the "Research Note" (p. 318)
at the end of the volume that "it is an oversimplification to ex-
plain adult behavior exclusively" in terms of early childhood
experiences, and that Wilson's "'compulsive' personality under-
went considerable revision."
The authors found, however, that Wilson was never satisfied
with any achievement, no matter how great; that he rarely or
never conferred with people in the full meaning of the term;
and that he was too ready to glorify any policy or cause he saw
fit to champion with the hallowed phrase "cause of the people."
The book deals with Wilson's entire career, and Edward M.
House is decidedly the lesser character in the story. Still, through
much of the study the Wilson-House relationship is well main-
tained as a thesis. The authors are more sympathetic with House
than were Ray S. Baker, in Woodrow Wilson, Life and Letters
(1927-1939), and Edith B. Wilson, in My Memoirs (1939). They


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 61, July 1957 - April, 1958. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 24, 2015.