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one or two hours' notice."
How poor Mr. Lincoln felt about it, may be gathered from the reminiscences of his friend, J. H. Matheny, who says, "that Lincoln and himself, in 1842, were very friendly; that Lincoln came to him one evening and said, Jim, I shall have to marry that girl."" He was married that evening, but Matheny says, "he looked as if he was going to the slaughter," and that Lincoln "had often told him, directly and individually, that he was driven into the marriage; that it was concocted and planned by the Edwards family; that Miss Todd afterwards Mrs. Lincoln
was crazy for a week or so, not knowing what to do; and that he loved Miss Edwards, and went to see her, and not Mrs. Lincoln."
The license to marry was issued on the 4th of November, 1842, and on the same day the marriage was celebrated by Charles Dresser, "M.G." With this date carefully borne in mind, the following letters are of surpassing interest. They are relics, not only of a great man, but of a great agony.
The first is from Mr. Speed to Mr. Herndon, and explains the circumstances under which the correspondence took place. Although it is in part a repetition of what the reader already knows, it is of such peculiar value, that we give it in full:
W. H. HERNDON, Esq.
LOUISVILLE, Nov. 30, 1866.
I enclose you copies of all the letters of any interest from Mr. Lincoln to me. Some explanation may be needed, that you may rightly understand their import.
In the winter of 1840 and 1841 he was unhappy about his engagement to his wife, —not being entirely satisfied that his heart was going with his hand. How much he suffered then on that account, none know so well as myself: he disclosed his whole heart to me.
In the summer of 1841 I became engaged to my wife. He was here on a visit when I courted her; and, strange to say, something of the same feeling which I regarded as so foolish in him took possession of me, and kept me very unhappy from the time of my engagement until I was married.
This will explain the deep interest he manifested in his letters on my
If you use the letters (and some of them are perfect gems) do it care fully, so as not to wound the feelings of Mrs. Lincoln.
One thing is plainly discernible: if I had not been married and happy, -far more happy than I ever expected to be, he would not have married.
I have erased a name which I do not wish published. If I have failed to do it anywhere, strike it out when you come to it. That is the word
I thank you for your last lecture. It is all new to me, but so true to my appreciation of Lincoln's character, that, independent of my knowledge of you, I would almost swear to it.
Lincoln wrote a letter (a long one, which he read to me) to Dr. Drake, of Cincinnati, descriptive of his case. Its date would be in December, 1840, or early in January, 1841. I think that he must have informed Dr. D. of his early love for Miss Rutledge, as there was a part of the letter which he would not read.
It would be worth much to you, if you could procure the original.
Charles D. Drake, of St. Louis, may have his father's papers. The date which I give you will aid in the search.
I remember Dr. Drake's reply, which was, that he would not undertake to prescribe for him without a personal interview. I would advise you to make some effort to get the letter.
Your friend, &c.,
J. F. SPEED.
The first of the papers from Mr. Lincoln's pen is a letter of advice and consolation to his friend, for whom he apprehends the terrible things through which, by the help of that friend, he has himself just passed.
MY DEAR SPEED, — Feeling, as you know I do, the deepest solicitude for the success of the enterprise you are engaged in, I adopt this as the last method I can invent to aid you, in case (which God forbid) you shall need any aid. I do not place what I am going to say on paper, because I can say it better in that way than I could by word of mouth; but, were I to say it orally before we part, most likely you would forget it at the very time when it might do you some good. As I think it reasonable that you will feel very badly sometime between this and the final consummation of your purpose, it is intended that you shall read this just at such a time. Why I say it is reasonable that you will feel very badly yet, is because of three special causes added to the general one which I shall mention.
The general cause is, that you are naturally of a nervous temperament, and this I say from what I have seen of you personally, and what you have
told me concerning your mother at various times, and concerning yout brother William at the time his wife died. The first special cause is your exposure to bad weather on your journey, which my experience clearly proves to be very severe on defective nerves. The second is the absence of all business and conversation of friends, which might divert your mind, give it occasional rest from the intensity of thought which will sometimes wear the sweetest idea threadbare, and turn it to the bitterness of death.
The third is the rapid and near approach of that crisis on which all your thoughts and feelings concentrate.
If from all these causes you shall escape, and go through triumphantly, without another "twinge of the soul," I shall be most happily but most egregiously deceived. If, on the contrary, you shall, as I expect you will at some time, be agonized and distressed, let me, who have some reason to speak with judgment on such a subject, beseech you to ascribe it to the causes I have mentioned, and not to some false and ruinous suggestion of the Devil.
"But,” you will say, "do not your causes apply to every one engaged in a like undertaking?" By no means. The particular causes, to a greater or less extent, perhaps, do apply in all cases; but the general one, nervous debility, which is the key and conductor of all the particular ones, and without which they would be utterly harmless, though it does pertain to you, — does not pertain to one in a thousand. It is out of this that the painful difference between you and the mass of the world springs.
know she had none.
I know what the painful point with you is at all times when you are unhappy: it is an apprehension that you do not love her as you should. What nonsense! How came you to court her? Was it because you thought she deserved it, and that you had given her reason to expect it? If it was for that, why did not the same reason make you court Ann Todd, and at least twenty others of whom you can think, and to whom it would apply with greater force than to her? Did you court her for her wealth? Why, you But you say you reasoned yourself into it. What do you mean by that? Was it not that you found yourself unable to reason yourself out of it? Did you not think, and partly form the purpose, of courting her the first time you ever saw her or heard of her? What had reason to do with it at that early stage? There was nothing at that time for reason to work upon. Whether she was moral, amiable, sensible, or even of good character, you did not, nor could then know, except, perhaps, you might infer the last from the company you found her in.
All you then did or could know of her was her personal appearance and deportment; and these, if they impress at all, impress the heart, and not the head.
Say candidly, were not those heavenly black eyes the whole basis of all your early reasoning on the subject? After you and I had once been at the residence, did you not go and take me all the way to Lexington and back, for
no other purpose but to get to see her again, on our return on that evening to take a trip for that express object?
What earthly consideration would you take to find her scouting and despising you, and giving herself up to another? But of this you have no apprehension; and therefore you cannot bring it home to your feelings
I shall be so anxious about you, that I shall want you to write by every mail. Your friend,
Springfield, ILL., Feb. 3, 1842.
DEAR SPEED, -Your letter of the 25th January came to hand to-day. You well know that I do not feel my own sorrows much more keenly than I do yours, when I know of them; and yet I assure you I was not much hurt by what you wrote me of your excessively bad feeling at the time you wrote. Not that I am less capable of sympathizing with you now than ever, not that I am less your friend than ever, but because I hope and believe that your present anxiety and distress about her health and her life must and will forever banish those horrid doubts which I know you sometimes felt as to the truth of your affection for her. If they can once and forever be removed (and I almost feel a presentiment that the Almighty has sent your present affliction expressly for that object), surely, nothing can come in their stead to fill their immeasurable measure of misery. The death-scenes of those we love are surely painful enough; but these we are prepared for and expect to see: they happen to all, and all know they must happen. Painful as they are, they are not an unlooked-for sorrow. Should she, as you fear, be destined to an early grave, it is indeed a great consolation to know that she is so well prepared to meet it. Her religion, which you once disliked so much, I will venture you now prize most highly.
But I hope your melancholy bodings as to her early death are not well founded. I even hope that ere this reaches you, she will have returned with improved and still-improving health, and that you will have met her, and forgotten the sorrows of the past in the enjoyment of the present. I would say more if I could, but it seems that I have said enough. It really appears to me that you yourself ought to rejoice, and not sorrow, at this indubitable evidence of your undying affection for her.
Why, Speed, if you did not love her, although you might not wish her death, you would most certainly be resigned to it. Perhaps this point is no longer a question with you, and my pertinacious dwelling upon it is a rude intrusion upon your feelings. If so, you must pardon me. You know the hell I have suffered on that point, and how tender I am upon it. You know I do not mean wrong. I have been quite clear of hypo since you left, even better than I was along in the fall. I have seen but once. She seemed very cheerful, and so I said nothing to her about what we spoke of.
Old Uncle Billy Herndon is dead, and it is said this evening that Uncle Ben Ferguson will not live. This, I believe, is all the news, and enough at that, unless it were better.
Write me immediately on the receipt of this.
Your friend as ever,
SPRINGFIELD, ILL., Feb. 13, 1842.
DEAR SPEED,- Yours of the 1st inst. came to hand three or four days ago. When this shall reach you, you will have been Fanny's husband several days. You know my desire to befriend you is everlasting; that I will never cease while I know how to do any thing.
But you will always hereafter be on ground that I have never occupied, and consequently, if advice were needed, I might advise wrong. I do fondly hope, however, that you will never again need any comfort from abroad. But, should I be mistaken in this, should excessive pleasure still be accompanied with a painful counterpart at times, still let me urge you, as I have ever done, to remember, in the depth and even agony of despondency, that very shortly you are to feel well again. I am now fully convinced that you love her as ardently as you are capable of loving. Your ever being happy in her presence, and your intense anxiety about her health, if there were nothing else, would place this beyond all dispute in my mind. I incline to think it probable that your nerves will fail you occasionally for a while; once you get them firmly graded now, that trouble is over forever.
I think if I were you, in case my mind were not exactly right, I would avoid being idle. I would immediately engage in some business, or go to making preparations for it, which would be the same thing.
If you went through the ceremony calmly, or even with sufficient composure not to excite alarm in any present, you are safe beyond question, and in two or three months, to say the most, will be the happiest of men.
I would desire you to give my particular respects to Fanny; but perhaps you will not wish her to know you have received this, lest she should desire to see it. Make her write me an answer to my last letter to her; at any rate, I would set great value upon a note or letter from her. Write me whenever you have leisure.
P. S.-I have been quite a man since you left.
Springfield, Feb. 25, 1842. DEAR SPEED, — Yours of the 16th inst., announcing that Miss Fanny and you are no more twain, but one flesh," reached me this morning. I have no way of telling how much happiness I wish you both, though I believe you both can conceive it. I feel somewhat jealous of both of you