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411. Francis B. Carpenter to William H. Herndon.

New York Dec 24th 1866

My dear Sir,

Many thanks for your letters of the 11th. 13. 17. and 18th. — The longest letter that of the 11th interested me profoundly. I think you are right. The truth is what the world wants. Lincoln's love for Anne Rutledge, may yet loosen up the history like Dante's for Beatrice, or Petrarch for Laura, — We are too near to him. (& were the great public) to profoundly appreciate these revelations.


At first, as I proudly wrote you, with Lincoln's family before me, your lecture while it intensely interested me, and explained much before mysterious about Mr Lincoln, seemed almost a rash drawing aside of the curtain which should enshroud some part of every man's life. It seemed to me that Mr Lincoln himself would have deprecated it — and yet after further reflection, I am satisfied the truth should be Known, — Suppose we should shut off John Milton's domestic experience how little comparatively would be Known of him? How imperfect the material upon which to form a correct judgement of the man? — Go ahead my dear sir, as Thomson says in "The Seasons"

xxxx"Be still as now discreet / the time may come" &c. — You mention in the letter of the 18th the reception of my little book, — Further on you say, "As to the orthodox christian deportment of it Good Heavn's!" —

Just here I feel bound to say one word. — What you say of Lincoln's, religious experience & beleif up to the time of his election I believe. — But during the last four years of his life he passed through what few men could have experienced without growth and change, You know whether the incident I extracted from Holland, given him by Bateman, of Springfield is reliable or not. —

Dr. Vinton's account, of what followed the death of Willie, — his interview with the President, is about word for word as he repeated it to me. — Do you know Noah Brooks who was to have been Nicolays successor as private Sec.? — The article he published in Harper's Monthly, (June 1865) I think the most valuable of the "personal reminescences" I have seen. He was much with Mr Lincoln, and what Lincoln said to him about the "process of chrystalization." which he passed through (spiritually.) after his election, seems rational and truthful. — John Jay, of this city told me not three weeks ago, that going down to Norfolk, on the steamboat with Mr Lincoln, on one occasion Lincoln disappeared. Mr Jay said that subsequently he passed a corner in an out of the way place, and there he came upon Mr Lincoln, reading a dog eared pocket copy of the New Testament all by himself.

I can but think if you could have resumed your old intercourse with him at the end of his four years you would have found his religious sentiments more fixed, possibly more christian for "deism" is not Christianity

Your praise of my little book is very sweet to me. I have felt that I had no business to make a book, and indeed this was the last thing in my thought to do, while I was with Mr. Lincoln But like Topsy, "it grew," I believe some incedents therein throw light on the character of the man. — I had little or no training for literary work My schooling was all at a country district school, with one term of twelve weeks, at the village academy. — I know little of the classics, or in fact of anything,


— speak no language and know no language but English and poor at that. — But I loved Mr Lincoln, as I never loved but one or two men

He did not Know it. — Indeed I imagine he felt me a sort of nuisance, at times, but I kept on studying and loving him.

After the assassination, Tilton of the "Independent," (newspaper) wished me to give him a sketch for a memorial number of his newswpaper, — I wrote out hastily three or four little stories,

These were so widely copied that I was induced to repeat the articles; and the result was the book — When I sat down deliberately with the book before my mind I was appalled. did not know how to begin or how to do it. — Finally determined to tell my story in my own way. How I came to conceive of painting the picture, — and the facts, right straight through —

Of course I do not "falter:" as you say, all between the the covers. But I know the origin and reliability of most of the matter. — Some of the stories, attributed to him inserted may possibly not have been told by him, but these are few, if any Most of them, which I did not hear myself, were told me by the parties, who heard them. — So much for that. — The reception the book has received from the public is very pleasant to me. The publisher's have not been able to supply the demand so far. The 15th thousand now printing the first edition published (about) four months since

Since I commenced this your note informing me of your having sent to me Mr Lincoln's "Byron", has come — I do not know what I can say to express to you my thanks. It is the only thing I shall have of his excepting his autograph, which leads the subscribers to my picture, — this "letter" too, — I shall treasure the two book & letter as the most precious of any presents.

— Later The book and the letter, have arrived, safely — a thousand blessings on you for thus remembering a stranger. I wish I could make you some adequate return, but I cannot.

still later Since I commenced this letter I have been variously interrupted Now I have also to acknowledge two letters about the engraving, of Lincoln, by Halpin, which I sent you. The first, a note, was so good, so satisfactory, that I extracted the substance of it for an advertisement in Weekly Tribune. I hope I have not done wrong in this. But We have been put back by various things in getting the portrait before the public and the publisher of the portrait was so delighted with your note that he carried me with him in the matter of its publication.

Your last letter, the most perfect analysis of the portrait I have ever had, I shall reserve, for the present It deserved to be framed in gold — think I will have it so framed and hang in my studio. When I publish it, will send you proofs, as you wish. I trembled for your verdict. My heart and soul were in my work, I did not know if another would appreciate this. You do certainly, — bless you for it.


Commendation under these circumstances is especially pleasant. Your opinion of the portrait is endorsed by Arnold, also Robert whose letter came to day. I hope it may be popular; for like all artist's, I have always been poor, — borrowed the money to paint the picture, which by the way, had not yet been paid.

I shall try to sell the large painting to Congress, think of going over to see about it in January.

I wish you could see it now I went all over it last summer improving it greatly. — Every one says it should go to the Capitol. — One of the last talks I had with Mr Lincoln was about this, and he said "it would greatly please him to have Congress buy it, but it was a delicate subject for him to speak of " —

Do you know that Robert Dale Owen is writing a life of Lincoln, also! — He is a very able man, and will make a very valuable work. —

He was spending the evening with me, when your present arrived, ("Byron,") Has read the Ann Rutledge lecture, and is intensely interested of course in this new development of Lincoln's character. Will write to you, and is coming to see you, sure. His book will not interfere (in one sense) with yours. being from a very different stand point. — I want you to know him. He is good man to have for a friend.

Why will you not come to New York and see us all? Nothing would give me more pleasure than to have you at my house as long as you will stay — bring your good wife with you. — Come and "smell salt water," and see the Knickerbocker's, in their homes.

I am glad of one thing, I have helped many people to Know you as well as Lincoln; if I did steal your lecture for my book. This is one of the compensations Seriously, one of the best things which have come of the book is the acquaintance with you. You are just the sort of man I should like to paint. — Would we not have great talks?

I am rattling on, as if I had Known you for years. Perhaps we have Known each other unconsciously, — perhaps consciously somewhere — if Edward Beecher's theory is true? — By the way your lecture on the "Soul" came at length. Have not yet read it carefully, Owen carried it off the other night. Shall read it when he returns it.

Do you Know anything of Swedenborg? Your idea of the law of the mind I think is sound.

I am greatly indebted for your careful examination, and translation of the portrait. — By the way I want a card photograph of you. Please send, — and I will exchange

Sincerely & gratefully yr's

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2909 — 14



1. James Thomson, The Seasons (1744).

2. Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln (New York, 1866).

3. Bateman had related to Josiah Holland a purported conversation with AL in which the latter claimed to have experienced a religious change of heart. See Holland, 236 — 39. See also §§323, 457.

4. Francis L. Vinton was assistant rector of Trinity Church in New York City. His visit to the White House and his published sermons were reportedly of great consolation to the Lincolns. See Carpenter, 117 — 19.

5. John G. Nicolay.

6. Theodore Tilton was editor in chief of The Independent.

7. Frederick W. Halpin engraved a study of Lincoln made in preparation for Carpenter's painting "The Emancipation Proclamation."

8. Isaac N. Arnold.

9. Presumably Robert Todd Lincoln.

10. Herndon's fourth lecture, delivered on November 16, 1866.