Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, 3 February 18421Springfield, Ills. Feby 3— 1842—Dear Speed:2
Your letter of the 25th Jany came to hand to-day—3 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 sympathising 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 horid doubts, which I know you sometimes felt, as to the truth of your affection for her— If they can be once and forever 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 bad ^painful^ enough; but these we are prepared to, 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
<Page 2>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 melancholly 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 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 calmly be resigned to it— Perhaps this point is no longer a question with you, and my pertenacious 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[hypochondria] since you left, even better than I was along in the fall.4
I have seen Sarah but once— She seemed verry 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
<Page 3>Ferguson will not live— This I believe is all the news, and enough at that unless it were better—5
Write me immediately on the receipt of this—Your friend, as everLincoln
<Page 4>SPRINGFIELD Il.[Illinois]
FEB[February] 4Mr J. F. SpeedLouisvilleKy—
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter. He also authored the address on the last page, which was folded to create an envelope.
2Sometime in 1840, Abraham Lincoln began courting Mary Todd, and the two broke up subsequently. Historians, and indeed onlookers at the time, have disagreed about the underlying cause, but suffice it to say that the breakup pushed Lincoln into a deep depression. Compounding this, in April, his close friend Joshua Speed moved home to Louisville, Kentucky, where he soon began courting Fanny Henning, who he married in February 1842. Sometime in 1842, Lincoln and Mary Todd renewed their courtship. From January 1842 until his own marriage in November 1842, Lincoln exchanged many letters with Speed mutually consoling and reassuring each other on the matter of their respective romances.
See Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed; Jean H. Baker, Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987), 85-86, 89-91, 93, 97; Interview of Ninian W. Edwards, 22 September 1865; Joshua F. Speed to William H. Herndon, 30 November 1866; Interview with Joshua F. Speed, , Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds., Herndon’s Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 133, 430-31, 477.
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 Mary S. Owens.
5Lincoln delivered Ferguson’s eulogy at a meeting of the Springfield Washington Temperance Society on February 8, 1842.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL)