Abraham Lincoln to Mary S. Owens, 7 May 18371Springfield, May 7. 1837Friend Mary.
I have commenced two letters to send you before this, both of which displeased me before I got half done, and so I tore them up. The first I thought was,nt serious enough, and the second was on the other extreme. I shall send this, turn out as it may.
This thing of living in Springfield is rather a dull business after all, at least it is so to me.2 I am quite as lonesome here as ever was anywhere in my life. I have been spoken to by but 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, nor probably shall not be soon. I stay away because I am conscious I should not know how to behave myself—
I am often thinking about what we said of your coming to live at Springfield.3 I am afraid you would not be satisfied. There is a great deal of flourishing about in carriages here; which it would be your doom to share see without shareing in it. You would have to be poor without the means of hiding your poverty. Do you believe you could bear that patiently? 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 immagine, that would make me more unhappy than to fail in the effort. I know I should be much happier with you than the way I am, provided I saw no signs of discontent in you. What
<Page 2>you have said to me may have been in jest, or I may have misunderstood it. If so, then let it be forgotten; if otherwise, 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. My opinion is, that you had better not do it. You have not been accustomed to hardship, and it may be more severe than you now immagine.
I know you are capable of thinking correctly on any subject; and if you deliberate maturely upon this, before you decide, then I am willing to abide your decision.
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” Tell your sister I dont want to hear any more about selling out and moving. That gives me the hypo whenever I think of it.4Yours &c—Lincoln
1This letter is entirely in Abraham Lincoln’s handwriting.
Abraham Lincoln met Mary Owens in 1833, when Mary spent time in New Salem. She returned to New Salem from 1836 to 1838, where she was once again acquainted with Lincoln. Lincoln wrote Mary at least three times, and he later described the nature of their relationship in a letter to his friend Eliza Browning.
2On April 15, 1837, Lincoln moved from New Salem to Springfield to begin the practice of law.
Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln written for John L. Scripps.
3From November 1836 to early 1838, Mary Owens stayed with her sister and brother-in-law in New Salem.
4“Hypo” is shorthand for hypochondria, which was a term used commonly in the early 19th century to refer to melancholy or neurasthenia. Lincoln used this term in reference to himself at least twice. See also Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Gilder Lehrman Collection (New York, New York)