When we took leave of Lincoln and Ann Rutledge in the preceding paper, Lincoln had just heard that Ann had gone to work in the friendly household of Uncle Jimmy Short at Sand Ridge. Lincoln was distressed at the news; he felt as a reproach to himself that he could not protect Ann from such necessities, and he wrote the noble which letter has come down to me among the other Lincoln keepsakes preserved by Ann's cousin and bosom friend, Matilda Cameron.
'I try to persuade myself that my unlucky star has not overshadowed you,' Lincoln wrote. 'Molly Prewitt told me about you going to work for James Short's family. You are too frail for that hard work. My treasured one, I should now be standing between you and such trials. O! when will success crown my untiring efforts. But hope was at work as well as impatience. Later in the letter Lincoln expressed it more cheerfully: 'I feel unusally lifted with hope of relieving your present worry at an early date and likewise doing myself the best turn of my life.'
The year was 1834. Lincoln, heavily in debt, served as postmaster of New Salem, actively practiced surveying, and was a candidate for the state legislature. James Rutledge and John Cameron had given up the effort to make a success of their New Salem projects and had retired to what was originally the Cameron farm at Sand Ridge, a few miles away. The older girls in both families had been compelled to 'work out.' The Cameron farm had been bought, before his departure from New Salem, by John McNamar, to whom Ann Rutledge had first been engaged. He was an upright and industrious young merchant who had achieved remarkable success in a very short time. But he had called himself McNeil on his arrival in the town, and when it became known that he had been living under an assumed name, suspicion was aroused. He explained that when his father had suffered financial reverses he had wished to cut himself off from the past and make his fortune unimpeded, but this explanation did little to set gossip at rest. McNamar had left for New York in 1832, promising to return quickly with his parents, but actually he did not make his way back to New Salem for three years. Whatever correspondence may have passed in the meantime between him and Ann Rutledge eventually came to an end. In the absence of word from him, and led into doubt and distrust by the suspicion which his conduct had provoked, Ann yielded to the force of a new affection. Lincoln came into her life as a more absorbing influence, and she gave him a love which she could not have given McNamar.
Ann did not leave Lincoln's letter unanswered. She sent him in return a precious possession, a bible1 which had belonged to her mother. With the stout little volume came these few lines:—
It was my mothers she giv it to me. I love it so much that I want you to hav it. pleas read it all. it will make you feel diferent.
Of all the Lincoln possessions which have descended to me, and which have never before been published or known,—letters, diaries, books,— surely none is more precious that this Bible. Not only was it a lover's gift from Ann to Abraham, but it has been marked with Lincoln's own writing, and he has left in it impulsive traces of this thought or emotion. Let us follow his steps, and examine the pages of the yellowed old Bible which has come down from his own hands.
The engraved title-page of the volume bears this legend:—
THE/ ENGLISH VERSION/ OF THE/ POLYGLOTT BIBLE/ WITH/ MARGINAL READINGS/ PHILADELPHIA/ PUBLISHED BY KEY & MIELKE/ No. 181 NARJET STREET/ 1831
At the bottom of the title-page is the endorsement in Lincoln's hand: 'New Salem— 1834.'
On the opposite the title, Lincoln has written:—
Presented to me by Ann Mayes Rutledge, that I may read and subdue [obscure] my mind to its valued teachings.
And at the bottom of the page: —
I will be diligent in my reading
No doubt when Ann sent Lincoln her Bible and wrote, 'pleas read it all. it will make you feel different,' she had in mind Lincoln's independence toward the accepted religious convictions of the village. Both the Rutledge and the Cameron families were Cumberland Presbyterians, as Mat Cameron informs us. They, with the responsible citizens of New Salem generally, were staunch supporters of the literal Scripture as they had been taught to understand it, and any deviation from the received views they felt to be dangerously tainted with sin. Lincoln, who had read Gibbon and Tom Paine, and possessed a naturally unfettered mind, did not escape the common accusation of atheism which was apt to be indiscriminately hurled at dissent of any degree or variety. That he read even Ann's bible without surrendering his independence of mind is evident from the words he wrote opposite the concluding verse of the book of Judges.
The familiar verse reads, "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.' Lincoln has enclosed the lines in pen strokes and written underneath in the margin: —
a good precept I would say
Among the writings which Lincoln knew and which we might expect him to apply to his love for Ann Rutledge, perhaps we should not naturally look for the Song of Solomon. But expectation is a poor guide among facts. It is a pleasure sharpened by delicious contrasts to find the marks of Lincoln's pen about a little group of verses in the Song of Songs. They are the first five verses of chapter four.
BEHOLD, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from mount Gilead.
2. Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.
3. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a pomegranate within thy the locks.
4. Thy neck is like the tower of David, builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
5. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.
Above the first line of these verses and in the margins down the sides Lincoln has drawn lines in ink. In the bottom margin below the column is pen check, with the words 'to Ann.'
No other annotations by Lincoln are discoverable in the volume until the end. There, at the close of book, he has written:—
have read and much hath been accomplished.
On August 4, 1834, Lincoln's campaign came to a successful close; he was elected to the state legislature. Not until the first of December did the lawmakers convene in Vandalia, then the capital of Illinois. Later Lincoln was himself to be the victorious leader of the forces representing Springfield in the contest which took place among several towns for the honor of becoming capital of the State. Toward the end of November, Lincoln journeyed to Vandalia by stagecoach in a new suit of clothes which had been made by a tailor in Springfield. Lincoln had secured a considerable loan properly to equip himself for his appearance in the capital.
It was his entrance upon public life, and in a study of Lincoln's career it would be necessary to give some account of the first legislative session in which he took part. But we are considering the Lincoln of New Salem, and especially the lover of Ann Rutledge. In the complex pool of politics we cannot pause to delve.
In September, before Lincoln's departure, Mat Cameron received a letter from a visitor to New Salem evidently of congenial temperament. It is second only to Mat's own diary in the ingenuous glimpse it affords us of New Salem life, and particularly of Lincoln and Ann.
Springfield, Ill. Sept 9" 1824
MY DEER MAT
well we got heer at las it was a auful trip. I will never forgit my nise stay in Salem. I ofen think of yore frens An and Ab. she is butyful and he is so smart, he mus be rite fer her coz she is so egeacated herself. you shor hav bad luk with yore boze. purhap you want a smart won lik An has. but Mat you and me ant perty as her. James and me ar setin up jes the same. gess we git splised this winter, maw is letin me weve fer myself now, can you git Nance to exchang sum chroshay fer my skert and I will send her enything she sez. Milly brot sum calico cler from New York City. it aful perty. give my Iuv to yore fambly and all the foks I met ther and cum and see me sum time. yore fren
P. S. over...
In the spring of 1835, Lincoln returned to New Salem, and again began to survey, study law, and distribute letters. It was at this time, after his first term as legislator, that plans for actual marriage between Ann and Abraham grew more definite. Yet there was no undue haste. Lincoln, despite his first success and the increasing promise of his future, was in no circumstances to support a wife; and Ann wished to enter the Female Seminary at Jacksonville in the fall. It appears that Lincoln himself thought of attending Illinois College, also situated in Jacksonville, where Ann's brother David was already a student. Not only did these educational plans stand in the way of an early marriage, but Ann had never formally been surrendered by McNamar. She had given her love to Lincoln, but a definite release from her promise to McNamar was naturally desirable.
Such was the situation throughout the summer of 1835. Lincoln boarded at the Tavern, which was kept, now that the Rutledges had left New Salem, by Henry Onstot. Since the founders of the little town had moved away, its fortunes declined rapidly. Other families took their departure; meetings of the literary society, and the debates into which Lincoln had entered with such zest in the first years of New Salem, belonged to the past. Lincoln threw himself more intensely than ever into the study of law.
A few glimpses of the lovers at this time I am able to give from the documents which have descended to me, glimpses contained in the letters which Lincoln and Ann gave Mat Cameron for safe-keeping, and in Mat's own diary. Mat seems to have been impressed by the desire for education which her friends revealed. Here is a page of her diary in which the studies of Lincoln and Ann again come to the fore.
Abe is techin Ann to spel and rite she woz wors than me wonst and now she is betern me. He wants her to go to the femail school when he goes to Jacksonville to. he is so smart - Sam aint but Sam is quiker in most things. he aint had as good a chanst like Abe. Maws got the milk-siknes and I had to tend baby most las nite. ant Mary Ann cum over this morning now I ges Maw will git better. Sam giv me a bag of stor-candy las nite. I bin makin dri-pech turn-overs for super Sam likesthem so. good-by for this time.
At some time during the summer of 1835, Ann wrote Lincoln the last of her letters which remains in my collection. The bearer was Nancy Cameron; both Ann and Mat had sisters named Nancy, who are referred to from time to time in the notes which the lovers exchanged.
MY BELOVED ABE
Pleas do not cum to-nite I am ailing with a cole. Ma sez I must take a swet rite after super. so I send this by Nance C. she is fathful to us now. unkel Robert is going to Springfield to-moro. He sez he will fech enything you want if you will let him no in time. I hatt mising you to-nite. But Pa will ofer in prayer I git beter to-moro. I long no more for inteligenc to cum out of New York. you ar all in all to me. he never persued his love for me like you do. so tender and kare-taking. Iam full of hapynes. Newton Graham sez he will help me the half our after school. so with yourhelp I kin be inlightened in the year for the female collegg. if I kin make it Pa wants me to hay advantage same as David nex term. I study hard with overflowing hart to make you hapy and I long to proclaim worthynes in your site. I kin rite to you like you to me betern trying to talk with everbody around like is most allways the case. I bin weaving this morning. tilly is going to spin sum thiner thred for me for my shams, well Nance C. is done visiting with the girls so I clos. think of me as I think of you for I am thine forever and ever
P. S. Cum tomoro nite eny-way.
Sickness has its unhappy part in the brief story of New Salem. The people of the village were familiar with malarial fever; Lincoln himself had already suffered in the course of an epidemicafter he helped the self-sacrificing Dr. John Allen to care for the stricken. The Camerons nursed him through the attack and Mat kept him supplied with water. It was then that he told her that if she would give him all the water wanted he would 'reward her some day when he got to be president.' He was to suffer from another malarial attack after the culminating tragic shock which closed the summer of 1885.
Apparently in answer to Ann's letter, Lincoln wrote the last message which she was to receive from him. It gives expression again in curious juxtaposition to the religious doubts which Ann evidently tried to set at rest, and to superstitions which had been impressed upon Lincoln by his childhood and youth in the backwoods. A vein of fatalism and superstition was a property of Lincoln's character, appearing especially in times of depression. We may conclude that Ann was religiously posed to this characteristic, as well as to the scruples of reason which influenced Lincoln against the usual Christian beliefs of the day.
The letter has descended to me among the other documents which tell with satisfying fullness what has long been eagerly surmised but never certainly known about Abraham Lincoln and Ann Rutledge. It is the last written message Ann received from him.
MY DEARLY VALUED ANN
It greatly pains me to hear from Nancy regarding your condition. I am sending with her — so you will know—when she gets back—that I will be over tomorrow early. I have been saying over and over to myself surely my traditional bad luck cannot reach me again through my beloved. I do long to confirm the confidence you have in heaven — but should, anything serious occur to you I fear my faith would be eternally broken. Mat told me you don't wish me to worry about the black cat crossing my path three times the other evening— I faithfully promise if you will hastily recover—to do away with any 'Jinks' you do not favor, allow me to express the hope that the close of day will find you much improved. My fervent love is with you
It has been said that Ann's fatal illness was brought about in part, at least, by a tortured conscience. She had given her love to Lincoln, but perhaps the suspicion and gossip which had been visited on McNamar were mistaken. Perhaps, after all, his conduct had been upright and beyond reproach. He might yet return to New Salem to claim her. The difficulty of her position may well have given her concern and caused her to suffer. But in her last letter to Lincoln she had written, 'I long no.. more for inteligenc to cum out of NewYork. you ar all in all to me. he never persued his love for me like you do. so tender and kare-taking. I am full of hapynes.' No doubt can exist that the words were sincere and that her affections were fixed upon Lincoln at the last. Moreover, the disease of which she was a victim had a definite physical origin and course. Senator Beveridge tells us that it was 'brain fever,' a term applied to what we now call typhoid. Not only Ann but her father succumbed to it.
For weeks she hovered between life and death. Finally it became plain that no hope of her recovery was possible. She called for Lincoln, and they had a last interview. When he left her bedside, Lincoln went about saying, 'I awfully forbode she will not get better.' On August 5, 1835, Ann died.
Not long after, John McNamar drove into New Salem with his mother and sisters beside him in the wagon. He gave his account of his relations with Ann Rutledge to William H. Herndon, Lincoln's third law partner, and Herndon made use of McNamar's statement in his lecture in the Old Sangamon County Court House in 1866. McNamar made other statements as well, but secure conclusions with regard to his view of the situation, his conduct, and his character, remain somewhat difficult to establish. He married twice after his return to New Salem, and settled on the property which he had acquired from James Rutledge and John Cameron at Sand Ridge. The widowed Mrs. Rutledge, with her children, removed to Iowa.
The closing entry in Matilda Cameron's diary allows us a glimpse of McNamar as he appeared to Ann's bosom friend and Lincoln's sturdy partisan. It is perhaps only fair to point out the obvious fact that Mat wrote in great, if pardonable, heat; and it would have been a charity exceeding human nature in McNamar if he had allowed the two large families of the Rutledges and the Camerons to remain indefinitely upon his property. They had been permitted to stay there throughout the winter of 1885.
Sand Ridge April 1836
My deer diary its so hard for me to rite I ges thats why its bin a long time cinse I rote, allso I had to hier out agen to Shorts to do the bilin and turnin for sum ezy cheers they wuz makin. Then I bin weving to. cinse that Macknamer cum bak hear he doz not mind pore Anns dieing atall—hes setin up alireddy with Deb. Latimer. Abe wuz rite when he tole Ann she wuz luky to git shet of him befor he shoed the klovin huf. that such a feler wood pres the lif outen her - he is a skunkt o my mind he is puttn pore ant Mary Ann and fambly out as allso us folks. Father opines he ruther go to Fulton Co Iway sted of Missouri as lokatin land is ezier ther. I do not care I got nothin to stay hear for. I jist wisht I wuz in Heaven wher the wiked sease frum trobling and the werry are at rest - cuz my hart has bin broak so meny times bout so meny folks.
good-by for now.
The effect of Ann's death upon Lincoln has been described with wide diversity. It has been said that Lincoln was crazed with grief, that for a time he was actually out of his mind. It has been said on the other hand while he was sincerely affected, so that his friends noticed his despondency, he gave no evidence of extravagant or unnatural sorrow. Dr. Barton has pointed out that about a month after Ann's death Lincoln made an accurate survey of a tract of land, giving every indication of thorough clearness of mind and command of his faculties. Through the winter of 1835 he was again busy in the legislature and engrossed in his study of law. Within a year after Ann had passed away he was involved in the strange affair with Mary Owens, which may have been half joke, but which at least resulted in his proposing to her three times and being rejected as many.
But neither Lincoln's persistence in his work and his ability to perform it well nor his willingness to undertake a suitable marriage is incompatible with an intense and lasting grief. They do not allow us to reject the reality of shadow which fell upon his mind, an early example of the mental instability which appeared from time to time in the succeeding years. Of this shadow too many observers have testified to allow us to doubt its existence. Since Lincoln had left Ann's bedside after their last interview, his distraction alarmed his friends. It was severe enough so that they had the fear that his mind might be in danger. His disruption is probably not attributable entirely to the death of Ann. He had been applying himself with consuming intensity to his study; and sometime during the fall of 1885 he suffered a fresh attack of malarial fever.
It is natural to think that these circumstances may have contributed to the unsettling of mind which he appeared to go through. For a period he was cared for in the Bowling Green home, where the kindness of Mrs. Green did much to restore him self-possession.
With these thoughts as a premise, we may follow the footsteps of Lincoln in his sorrow. Miss Tarbell has recorded that he was in the presence of William Greene, formerly his fellow clerk in Offutt's store, one stormy night. He was in a moment of uncontrollable feeling, and when his friend urged him to forget his loss he said, 'I cannot. The thought of the snow and rain on her grave fills me indescribable grief.'
Among my own Lincoln collection are more intimate records, in his own hand, which have never previously been laid before students. These records must set at rest for all time the question of the intensity and permanence of Lincoln's grief. Let us read first a letter which Lincoln wrote a dozen years later when his developing career had taken him to Washington as Representative in Congress. It is addressed to John Calhoun, under whom Lincoln first found employment as a surveyor. This circumstance explains Lincoln's play upon the word 'elevation' in the first lines of the letter. The two men became close friends, and it was Sally Calhoun who, at her father's suggestion, wrote down the entertaining and valuable memorandum from which we have frequently quoted in these papers.
In this letter to Calhoun, Lincoln himself tells us of the effect which Ann Rutledge had had upon life as that effect appeared to his own mind. It is his own explicit statement of what Ann had meant to him.
WASHINGTON May 19—1848
You old rascal! I am not risen to such heights that I am above taking your advice. no more nor less than the time— so long it seems — that you placed the instrument in my hand and bade me find my elevation. I am thinking at present you had mightily to do with my present elevation. You and one other. John when I landed in Salem I was only a stick of driftwood handed and banded and swirled before the whims of wind and tide; I never settled for long on any matter or at any place. the 'will-o-the-wisp' was my guiding star, the Banshees cry was my goal.2 then like a ray of sun-shine and as brief—she flooded my life, and at times like today when I traverse past paths I see this picture before me— fever burning the light from her dear eyes, urging me to fight for the right as I had so often impressed on her mind the sentiment of my desires— begged me to count no sacrifice to great to do the Lords work. I took a solem oath to do whatever the good will of the Lord should propound for me to enact. John old friend — I have kept faith. sometimes I feel that in Heaven she is pleading for my furtherance. my beloved and efficient wife, my blessed boys and my so greatly esteemed friends are all responsible, from my point of view, for my achievements to a marked degree; but you and she lifted the stick of driftwood from the stream before it waterlogged and sank, therefore in thanking you for your good advice, I frankly admit my urgent need for same. One never gets to old to learn you know. Mary instructed me to invite Sally up here for a visit as soon as Mary and the boys return from their stay in Lexington. present my remembrances to your family.
Eloquent of the months that followed Ann's death are two remaining entries in Mat Cameron's diary. The first, written, as it must have been, but a few days after the event itself, shows us how Ann's letters to Lincoln came to be reunited with those which Lincoln had written her, and which she gave to Mat for safe-keeping.
August - 1835
deer diary as pore Abe ses him and me is going trough the vail of despond. our angel on erth has bin snached from us to the arms of the Lord. I am all broak up and fitles for enything. the kin ses Abe is luny. I think he is broaken-harted. he wants me to keep his 5 leters from her coz he is perswaded he will sune foler her I expect he will to. cense we all cum bak hear Sam broak my hart all is wo on this erth below. Polys man wuz buryed last Sunday of the fever to. Milly acks like she wuz coming doun to. I am going to tak Anns plase at Shorts to droun all my greef and wo. unkel James has the misery to. Sally ann went over to Salem to help the Radfords they have the siknes to. this hous of moarning is to sad to rite more in at present so good-by til sum time in the futur.
Poor Mat was never perplexed by too many lovers; her need was but one, if that one could be persuaded to stand by her to the altar. The heart which Sam broke we find plighted at her next writing to Reuben; but Reuben was no more constant than Sam, and when Mat, finally married, her husband was a Cartwright, a relative of the famous Peter Cartwright, an early circuit rider and backwoods preacher. Not without truth had Milinde Whipple written, 'you shor hay bad luk with yore bose.'
In Mat's last appearance upon the stage we see a melancholy picture of the decline and fast-approaching death of New Salem. It was not long before the little town, in Lincoln's words, had 'winked out.'
March 12th 1836
A new begining my diary.
Over 7 months has gon cinse Ann wuz transported to Heaven. I bin working at Shorts and deer Ruben has heeled my broaken hart. I am ingaged now. I a weving stedy on my things nedful. I got sum hair flours and embordery and kroshay and the broach Abe giv Ann for keep-sakes I put them all in my box with a presed flour from her grave. Ruben ses I must put away all sadnes and be my ole self agen. Abe is giten hiself agen to but aint mery like he wuz. ant Mary Ann is having a time now, sum folks has left Sand Ridge and also a lot in Salem. P I meen my Father talks of migrating to Missouri if he doz Rubin and me will go to. John Calhone family has al-reddy gone. Abe is tendin surveying for him hear what litle ther is to do. in Salem and hear-abouts. las nite billy had quinsy reel bad I set up and Ruben set up with me. he is kindnes itself.
Charming Mat Cameron—charming at this interval of time and distance although in life she weighed 'twist as much' as the beautiful Ann Rutledge whom young men preferred! We cannot take leave of her without a tribute of honest sympathy. We laughed at her naivete, but she is a figure of pathos as she stands amid the wreck of all that she had cared for—Ann dead, Lincoln distracted with grief, her own lovers fickle, New Salem deserted, McNamar turning her father off the farm that once had been his. We cannot wonder that she wished only to find her way to a Heaven where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest
More than one friend of Lincoln expressed the opinion that the death of Ann, bitter as it was to him, re sented a necessary step in his life. Had Ann lived and married him, according to this view, they would have settled down happily together, and the world would not have heard of Lincoln. Whatever may be the justice of such an opinion, it is interesting to find John Calhoun, a man of education and intelligence and a good friend of Lincoln, giving voice to it. Calhoun's thought is preserved for us by his daughter Sally in her memorandum.
Father says he firmly believe that Lincoln first fell in love with Ann Rutledge because she was in trouble that of course he always admired her but her engagement to McNamar prevented him showing it. It was only after McNamar left her that Lincoln took up with her and soon they were both deeply in love. Father says that however he feels the wisdom of the Lord in taking Ann because he thinks otherwise Lincoln would not have thrown himself into politics like he has and that is where he belongs. when he got his mind back after Ann's death—he told Father—that if he could straighten out a lot of affairs for a lot of people and make them content—the Good Lord might let him join Ann in the Celestial Realm sometime.
One last source I have in my collection by which we are enabled to understand the shadow that rested on Lincoln's mind. Of all the records of his loss, it is the closest to his own thoughts, and the most poignant for those who would follow in the steps of is grief.
In the first paper of this series, we saw that Lincoln in 1939 possessed a copy of the third edition of Samuel Kirkham's Essay on Elocution, published in New York in the preceding year. On the back flyleaf of the volume is an inscription written and signed by Sally Calhoun in 1859, in which she says that Lincoln left the book with her father during a visit to the Calhoun household in Springfield. In the year 1839, when Lincoln wrote his name in the book, he was himself living in Springfield. New Salem had come to the end of its brief existence. Four years had passed since Ann's death. Lincoln, as a young lawyer and member of the state legislature, was rapidly gaining power and influence. Yet, as he read the passages which Mr. Kirkham had chosen to illustrate the principles of elocution, his thoughts reverted to Ann Rutledge, and his sorrow flowed afresh. 'I shall all ways cherish this book,' writes Sally Calhoun in her inscription, 'as it is so intimately marked in memory of his little sweetheart Ann.'
The volume is rich in annotations, and many pages have received the marks of Lincoln's pen. A number of his marginal notes appeared in the first paper in this series. But others, which he wrote in memory of Ann Rutledge, have been reserved for these closing pages of our story, that they may stand as a lasting and final evidence of his love of Ann and his grief when he lost her.
Kirkham's volume is entitled An Essay on Elocution, Designed for the Use of Schools and Private Learners. Lincoln underlined on the title-page the words 'private learners,' and wrote beneath them, 'especially me.' Much time and space could profitably and entertainingly be given to the study of the book, even where it bears no traces of Lincoln's pen; for we know that every word it contains must have been scrutinized and pondered with his usual thoroughness and intensity of application, and it is interesting to consider what nourishment this curious treatise offered to his mind. Mr. Kirkham begins with a turgid preface, of which we may quote the first paragraph as a fair example of the whole.
A preface is to the reader, what a fence is to a horse, when it obstructs his progress to a field of sprouting herbage, which he considers himself justifiable to enter by leaping over the barrier. The reader wades through a long preface with as much reluctance, as he would pass through the ordeal of a ceremonious introduction to a large assemblage of guests, when invited to dine with a stranger. This repugnance to preface-reading, doubtless, arises out of the fact, that prefaces are generally dull, and often but the prelude to a still duller book.
The treatise itself begins with entire propriety by defining the science which it is to present.
Elocution treats of the just pronunciation of words arranged into sentences, and forming adiscourse, and is here employed as synonymous with enunciation, or delivery.
Pronunciation may be considered in a twofold light. When applied to the correct sounds given to single letters or single words without reference to their mutual dependance on each other, it is styled Orthoepy; but when extended to the just enunciation of words arranged into sentences, and depending on each other for sense, it is called Elocution.
The first part of the volume consists of Mr. Kirkham's rules, explanations, questions, and the usual matter of a textbook. The second part consists of selections, both in prose and in verse, drawn from a considerable variety of authors, and it is in these selections that Lincoln's mind found the food it craved. The selections are printed with frequent italics, marks of accent, capitals, and other devices intended to suggest the appropriate manner of oral delivery. How much regard Lincoln paid to Orthoepy and Elocution abstractly considered we can hardly know. If we may judge by the marks of his pen, his mind flew past the accents and italics of Mr. Kirkham and found its lodging in the passages themselves, which offered to his heart and to his thoughts a welcome store of consolation and truth.
The words which Lincoln wrote opposite one stanza quoted by Mr. Kirkham have already been mentioned, but it is fitting that they should be repeated now, in the fuller context of the whole story. The stanza is from Byron and has received the title 'Future Bliss.'
If that high world which lies beyond
Our own, surviving love endears;
If there the cherished heart be found,
The eye the same, except in tears;
How welcome those untrodden spheres!
How sweet this very hour to die!
To soar from earth, and find all fears
Lost in thy light . . . Eternity!
Above these lines, in Lincoln's hand, appears the inscription 'to Ann,' and in the margin at the right is the signature 'A. Lincoln.'
Mr. Kirkham's selections include the Ninetieth Psalm. It is followed by Watts's metrical version, and about one stanza of this Lincoln has drawn irregular lines in ink. Surely it is not hard to identify the morning flu that must have been in his thoughts.
Death, like an overflowing stream,
Sweeps us away: our life's a dream,
An empty tale, a morning flower,
Cut down and withered in an hour.
In the margin Lincoln has written, 'a short, short hour.'
Ann Rutledge had been buried in the Old Concord Cemetery, about a mile from the house on the Cameron farm where the Rutledges were living when she died. Many years later her remains were taken to the Oakland Cemetery in Petersburg, a short distance down the Sangamon River from the site of New Salem. It has been that Lincoln made frequent visits to the Concord burying ground to vent to his bitter grief beside Ann's grave. If confirmation of this fact were wanting, it is provided in the traces of his writing which remain in his copy of Kirkham's Elocution. Here, by an accident of appropriateness, Lincoln found a passage which might have been written for his own heart. It is from Irving, and is entitled 'Affection for the Dead.' To us the cultivated artificiality of Irving's periods might seem an offense rather than a consolation in the presence of an actual and hard bereavement. But to Lincoln eloquence was a living force, an organ of truth. He was no more impressed by the speciousness of Irving's graceful reflections than he seems to have been impressed by Kirkham's accents and italics. He read, and found only a poignant and literal expression of experience which he himself had suffered.
The passage quoted from Irving is of some length, and at several points Lincoln has interposed with pen strokes impulsive words. The passage begins near the bottom of page 177 In Kirkham's volume. Two sentences conclude the page.
The sorrow for the dead, is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound, we seek to heal— ever other affliction, to forget; but this wound, we consider it a duty to keep open—this affliction we cherish.
These sentences Lincoln has enclosed in pen strokes; he has underlined the words 'is the only sorrow from which we fuse to be divorced'; and in the margin below he has written:—
Wait, Wait my Beloved for me, Abe.
On the following page, Lincoln has underlined several sentences.
Who, even in the hour of agony, would forget the friend over whom he mourns? Who, even when the tomb is closing upon the remains of her he most loved; when he feels his heart, as it were crushed in the closing of its portals, would accept of consolation that must be bought by forgetfulness? No; the love which survives the tomb, is one of the noblest attributes of the soul.
In the margin at the side Lincoln has written, 'How true.'
These were sentences in which Lincoln might indeed find the expression of his own thoughts. But he was to find others which touched him even more nearly, and which seem almost startlingly appropriate when we remember the story of his visits to the Concord Cemetery where Ann Rutledge had been buried.
But the grave of those we loved — what a place for meditation! There it is that we call up in long review the whole history of virtue and gentleness.
Lincoln has given emphasis to these words by pen strokes both in the margins and in the text itself.
Finally we must notice the concluding line of the page, which has also been marked by his hand.
Ay, go to the grave of buried love, and meditate!
In the margin below, Lincoln has written:—
And after the agony find courage to go on.
1. The extent of Lincoln's Bible reading during his boyhood and youth in Indiana is disputed, we are told by Senator Beveridge.—Author
2. Apparently Lincoln quotes here a couplet from some poem with whic he was familiar, and which perhaps he used to recite.—Author
This article available online at: