The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 26
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Southwestern Historzcal Quarterly
Throughout his long and significant career, House avoided public
office and chose to guide policy by working through others. It was a
process that required great patience and sensitivity, and the extent of
House's success marks him as an unusual figure within the American
political tradition. He maneuvered to be close to the centers of power
and sought to assure posterity's recognition of his achievements. He be-
came a famous figure during the Wilson years but created so many
myths about his life and career that historians have been frustrated in
their attempts to understand his motives and to trace his influence. No
scholarly biography has ever been written. Thus one of the major fig-
ures of the Wilson era remains an enigma.
House was an elusive man, in part because of the nature of his career
as a confidential adviser, in part because as Erik H. Erikson writes, "No-
body likes to be found out." Marc Pachter observes that public figures
do not want to be pinned by "some unknown representative of pos-
terity . . . like a butterfly to a board."" Understandably they have an
instinct for self-protection and do not relish some future historian prob-
ing beneath their public, polished surface, exposing doubts and vul-
nerabilities, meanness and ambitions. Like most famous people, House
spun myths about his own life, sought to shape his historical reputa-
tion, and laid many traps for future biographers. The reconstruction
of his life history is both a difficult task and a great adventure.
Beginning on September 25, 1912, when he became convinced that
Woodrow Wilson would win the presidency, and ending on June 5,
later revised and published in 1940 with the title Mr House of Texas (New York: Funk and Wag-
nails Co ). Another journalist, George Sylvester Viereck, wrote The Strangest Fnendshzp in His-
tory Woodrow Wzilson and Colonel House (New York: Liveright Inc. Pubhshers, 1932). Charles
Seymour compiled The Intzmate Papers of Colonel House (4 vols.; Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.,
1926-1928), which interweaves extracts from House's diary and letters with a narrative of his
career. After House's death in 1938 no historian undertook a majoi study of him. One interest-
ing examination of the House-Wilson relationship by Alexander L. George and Juliette L
George, Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House A Personality Study (New York 'I'he John Day Co.,
1956), views the career of House mostly in terms of psychoanalytic preconceptions. Many other
volumes, especially Arthur S. Link's Wilson (5 vols , Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press,
1947-1965) and John Milton Cooper, Jr.'s The Warrior and the Przest Woodrow Wilson and
Theodore Roosevelt (Cambridge, Mass : The Belknap Press of Harvaid University Press, 1983)
touch on House, and Edwin A. Weinstein's Woodrow Wilson A Meducal and Psychological Biogra-
phy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981), is exceptionally perceptive on his medi-
cal ailments and the House-Wilson relationship. But none closely examines his role in Texas
politics or surveys his full life. Rupert Norval Richardson's Colonel Edward M House. The Texas
Year, 1858-1912, Hardin-Simmons University Publications in History, Vol 1, eds. Rupert N.
Richardson and Escal F. Duke (Abilene: Hardin-Simmons University, 1964) provides many
valuable details, while Lewis L. Gould's Progressives and Prohibtionists- Texas Democrats in the
Wilson Era (Austin. University of I'exas Press, i973), cuts through House's inventions about
himself and accurately accesses his role in Texas politics.
2Erik H Erikson, Life History and the hitorical Moment (New York: W. W Norton & Co,
1975), 142; Marc Pachter, "The Biographer Himself: An Introduction," in Marc Pachter (ed.),
Telling Lzves The Bzographer's Art (Washington, D.C.- New Republic Books/National Portrait
Gallery, 1979), 5.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/52/: accessed July 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.