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One of Lincoln's Most Revealing Personal Letters
Catalog#: #12050
Category: Miscellaneous
Origin: America-USA
Era: 19th Century
"I am quite as lonesome here [in Springfield] as I ever was anywhere in my life."

"I have been spoken to by one woman since I've been here, and should not have been by her, if she could have avoided it."

"I've never been to church yet...I stay away because I am conscious I should not know how to behave myself..." "Whatever woman may cast her lot with mine, should any ever do so, it is my intention to do all in my power to make her happy and contented; and there is nothing I can imagine, that would make me now unhappy than to fail in the effort. "I know I should be much happier with you than the way I am..."I much wish you would think seriously before you decide. For my part I have already decided. What I have said I will most positively abide by, provided you wish it.

"You must write me a good long letter after you get this. You have nothing else to do, and though it might not seem interesting to you, after you had written it, it would be a good deal of company to me in this 'busy wilderness.'" One of three known letters of Lincoln to Mary Owens, his only romantic attachment between the death of his putative fiancee, Ann Rutledge in 1835, and his marriage in 1842. It offers rare insights into the inner life of the young Mr. Lincoln. Lincoln's two other letters to Mary Owens are in the Library of Congress.

Mary Owens, the daughter of a prosperous Kentucky farmer, was taller that average, and pleasingly plump with black hair and dark eyes. Her keen intelligence made her a seemingly compatible match. They were introduced when she visited her sister Betsy, who for three years apparently touted her charms. By the fall of 1836, Lincoln agreed to marry Mary, upon her return to Illinois. Nonetheless, he was startled by Owens' haste in returning to New Salem, showing her "a trifle too willing." Worse, Lincoln found Mary's physical attractions had faded, as he ungallantly but humorously recalled later. Yet Lincoln felt bound by his commitment.

About three months later, Lincoln wrote his final letter to Owens, reiterating his intention to honor his pledge, but only if Mary wished it, and continuing to find reasons why she should not wish it! In his confidential account to a friend, Lincoln recalled that "I mustered my resolution, and made the proposal to her direct; but shocking to relate, she answered 'No.' I tried it again and again... I finally was forced to give up, at which I very unexpectedly found myself mortified almost beyond endurance." Years later, Owens told biographer William Herndon that Lincoln "was deficient in those little links which make up the chain of woman's happiness." Lincoln's convoluted relationship with Mary Owens mirrors his subsequent courtship of Mary Todd. His self-doubts returned. Mary Todd released him from their engagement, but then Lincoln fell into a great depression. They eventually reconciled, and were married on November 4, 1842. Yet Lincoln could not resist getting in one final shot at the institution of matrimony. While dressing for his wedding, the son of his landlord asked him where he was going, to which Lincoln answered, "To hell, I suppose."

#12050 P. O. R.

Full transcript can be viewed at www.AmericaGallery.com

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