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332. Elizabeth Todd Edwards (William H. Herndon Interview).

[1865 — 66]

Mrs N W. Edwards

I am the wife of the Hon N. W. Edwards.: Mr Lincoln married my Sister — Mary. We Came to Springfield about 1835 — My sister Mrs Wallace now Came to live with us about that time. Doct Wallace & her were married in 18___ We had a vacancy in our family by that marriage — wrote to Mary to Come out and make our home her home: She had a Step Mother with whom she did not agree. Marry was born in 1818 — well Educated — taught at a private School in Lexington — Mrs __________ Keeping it.

Mary Came to Illinois about 1838 — Mr Lincoln Commenced Seeing Mary about 1839 & 4 — the winter of 1839 & 40 — directly after Doct Wallace was married — Knew Mr L well — he was a cold Man — had no affection — was not Social — was abstracted — thoughtful. I Knew he was a great man long years Since — Knew he was a rising Man and nothing Else modifying this, desired Mary at first to Marry L. L. Could not hold a lengthy Conversation with a lady — was not sufficiently Educated & intelligent in the female line to do so — He was charmed with Mary's wit and fascinated with her quick sagacity — her will — her nature — and Culture — I have happened in the room where they were sitting often & often and Mary led the Conversation — Lincoln would listen & gaze on her as if drawn by some Superior power, irresistably So: he listened — never Scarcely Said a word. I did not in a little time think that Mr L. & Mary were Suitable to Each other & so Said to Mary. Mary was quick, lively, gay — frivalous it may be, Social and loved glitter Show & pomp & power. She was an Extremely Ambitious woman and in Ky often & often Contended that She was destined to be the wife of some future President — Said it in my presence in Springfield and Said it in Earnest. Mr Speed Came to See Miss Matilda Edwards — left & went to Ky — Miss Edwards Staying. Mr Lincoln loved Mary — he went Crazy in my own opinion — not because he loved Miss Edwards as Said, but because he wanted to marry and doubted his ability & Capacity to please and support a wife. Lincoln & Mary were Engaged — Every thing was ready & prepared for the marriage — Even to the Supper &c — . Mr L failed to meet his Engagement — Cause insanity. In his


lunacy he declared he hated Mary and loved Miss Edwds. This is true, yet it was not his real feelings. A Crazy man hates those he loves when at himself — often — often is this the Case. The world had it that Mr L backed out. and this placed Mary in a peculiar Situation & to set herself right and to free Mr Lincoln's mind She wrote a letter to Mr L Stating that She would release him from his Engagements. Mr Edwards & myself after the first Crush of things told Mary & Lincoln that they had better not Ever marry — that their natures, mind — Education — raising &c were So different they Could not live happy as husband & wife — had better never think of the Subject again However all at once we heard that Mr L & Mary had Secret meetings at Mr S. Francis' — Editor of the Spfgd Journal. Mary Said the reason this was So — the Cause why it was — that the world — woman & man were uncertain & slippery and that it was best to keep the secret Courtship from all Eyes & Ears. Mrs Mrs L told Mr L that though She had released him in the letter Spoken of — yet She Said that She would hold the question an open one — that is that She had not Changed her mind, but felt as always. The whole of the year year the Crazy Spell Miss Edwards was at our house — Say for a year. I asked Miss Edwards — Subsequently Mrs Strong if Mr Lincoln Ever Mentioned the subject of his love to her. Miss Edwards Said — "On my word he never mentioned Such a Subject to me: he never even Stooped to pay me a Compliment."

Mr Douglas used to come to see Mary — probably: it is quite likely that his intentions were true & Sincere. Mary was asked one day by some of her friends which She intended to have — "Him who has the best prospects of being President Said Miss Todd. The marriage of Mr L & Mary was quick & sudden — one or two hours notice.

Miss Edwards one dy was asked why she married such an old dried up husband — such a withered up old Buck: She replied: "He had lots of houses & gold" Mary was present at this question & answer and She then remarked — "Is that true — I would rather marry a good man — a man of mind — with a hope and bright prospects ahead for position — fame & power than to marry all the houses — gold & bones in the world." Mary Lincoln has had much to bear, though she don't bear it well: she has acted foolishly — unwisely and made the world hate her: She opened a private letter of mine after I left Washington & because in that letter my Daughter gave me her opinion of Mrs L She became Enraged at me. I tried to Explain — She would Send back my letters with insulting remarks. Mr Lincoln Shed tears when I left Washington — had been Solicited to Come to Washington by Mr & Mrs Lincoln. Mr Lincoln Said to me — Mrs Edwards — "do Stay with me — you have Such a power & control Such an


influence over Mary — Come do Stay and Console me." This was sometime after Willies death

Once I took Mr L — to Calm his mind — to Cheer him — to inspire him, if you please, with hope & Confidence — to turn away his attention from business as well as grief — down to and through the rich Conservatory — hot house cold house &c. where the flowers are Kept & where the world is represented by flowers that Speak. and made the remark to Mr L. — "O — how beautiful this is — these roses — &c. are fine — these Exotics are grand." and to which Mr L. said — "I never was in here before: how Spring like it looks — I don't care for flowers — have no natural or Educated taste for Such things." I made him walk to the Park one day north of the White H. He hadn't been there for a year and Tad went with us: Tad locked the gate — hid the key — Mr L. told Tad to get the key. Tad laughed and L thought it Smart & Shrewd. I respect & love Mr Lincoln — think he was a great man — a good man & an honest one. He was a little ungrateful I think from the want of [illegible]

Mr Lincoln was Kind & good to his domestic & other Servants: one day the girl threatened to leave unless She Could get $1.50 per week. Mrs L. Could rather would not give the Extra 25 c: the girl Said he would leave. Mrs L. Said Leave. Mr L heard the Conversation — didnt want the girl to leave — told his wife so — asked — begged her to pay the $1.50. Mrs L remained incorrigible Mr L slipt round to the backdoor and Said — Don't leave — Tell Mrs Lincoln you have Concluded to Stay at $1.25 and Ill pay the odd 25c to you. Mrs Lincoln overheard the Conversation and Said to the girl & Mr L — What are you doing — I heard Some Conversation — Couldn't understand it — I'm not going to be deceived — Miss you Can leave and as for you Mr L I'd be ashamed of myself."

Mr Lincoln's habits were like himself odd & wholy irregular. He loved nothing and ate mechanically. I have seen him Sit down at the table and never unless recalled to his Senses, would he think of food. He was a peculiar man

Mrs Lincoln insulted Seward one day. Mr Seward was the Power behind the Throne. Mrs L had heard of this often & often — One day She Said to Mr Seward. It is Said you are the Power behind the Throne — I'll Show you that Mr L is President yet.

Mr L and Mary Saw Each other in that parlor there. This house is about as it was, Excepting this Porch which has been added Since — Two Story brick — ceiling low — &c —

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3870 — 73; Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:220 — 26



1. H&W (1889), 227, gives the date as January 10, 1866.

2. Frances Todd and Dr. William Wallace were married in 1839.

3. Madame Victorie Charlotte LeClere Mentelle.

4. WHH originally wrote: "In about one year from the Crazy Spell. . . ."

5. Matilda Edwards married Newton D. Strong in 1844 at the age of twenty-two; he was thirty-four. See J. Bennett Nolan, "Of a Tomb in the Reading Cemetery and the Long Shadow of Abraham Lincoln," Pennsylvania History 19:3 (July 1952).

6. Possibly "horses."

7. Possibly "horses."

8. William Wallace Lincoln died on February 20, 1862.

9. In his biography, WHH expanded considerably on these notes in his account of what Elizabeth Edwards told him about her visit to Washington. See H&W (1889), 508 — 10.