Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, 13 February 18421Springfield, Ills. Feby 13. 1842—Dear Speed:2
Yours of the 1st Inst came to hand three or four days ago—3 When this shall reach you, you will have been Fanny's husband several days—4 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 ocupied, 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 deph[depth] and even the agony of despondency, that verry 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 h[er] health, if there were nothing else, would place this beyond all dispute in my mind—
I incline to think it probable, that your nerves wa will fail you occasionally for a while; but once you get them fairly 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 hope with tolerable confidence, that this letter is a plaster for a place that is no longer sore— God grant it may be so—
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 another letter from her—5
Write me whenever you have leisure—Yours forever.A. LincolnP.S. I have been quite a man ever since [yo]u left—6
<Page 4>SPRINGFIELD Il.
FEB[February] 15Mr Joshua 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.
4Speed married Fanny Henning on February 15, 1842.
Robert L. Kincaid, Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln's Most Intimate Friend (Harrogate, TN: Lincoln Memorial University, 1943), 18.
5None of Lincoln’s letters to Fanny Speed have been located, nor have any from Fanny to Lincoln been located.
6Speed moved to Kentucky in April 1841 and stayed until Lincoln visited him the following summer. In September 1841, he returned with Lincoln to Springfield, and remained until January 1, 1842, at which point he left for Kentucky again, this time permanently.
Abraham Lincoln to Mary Speed; Joshua F. Speed to William H. Herndon, 17 September 1866, Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds., Herndon’s Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln, 342.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL)