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611. Richard M. Lawrence (William H. Herndon Interview).

June 23d 88

Mr. Lawrence, a merchant of Williamsville in this County gives me this incident of Lincoln. Lawrence was at the lecture and heard it and saw and heard Lincoln. About the year 1857 an accomplished lady came to this city to lecture — to read and to receite fine things from best authors. She was a fine reader &c. At Myers hall on the north side of the square this woman was to Lecture — or recite or whatever you call it: her subject — one of them was the recital of the piece — "Nothing to Wear". She was reading finely and all was attention and silence in the hall. Lincoln seemed wrapt up in the piece — was all attention. In some turn of the piece when all was dead silence Lincoln burst out with a loud "ha ha" — a kind of deep satisfaction expressed in the ha ha — a kind of heavenly feeling at the turn of something in the piece. Lincoln felt glorious and forgot for the moment in his deep feeling where he was and what he was doing. The "ha ha" was the deep and honest Expression of an honest soul fired by the triumph of the right. The audience was large & was at the time wrapt up in the piece and when Lincoln


burst out with his ha ha the scene was too much for them and so Lincolns ha ha was met with a round of deep and thorough applause. The Lady was caught up in the same cloud and was Compelled to join in the applause: she could not restrain herself at the time. Lincoln's ha ha and the storm of applause at the ha ha upset the Lady and it was some time before she could put on her gravity. Lincoln during all this time seemed unconscious — was abstracted, — felt glorious over the turn of affairs. Lincoln was solemn — honest — Earnest: it was the good approving the good — by the burst of the ha ha. After a few moments all was again silence and the woman resumed the recital &c. &c. This ha has under the Circumstances was just like Lincoln: he forgot himself and where he was and his nature — his love for the good — and just Expressed itself in the ha ha.

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 3456-57



1. See William Allen Butler, Nothing to Wear (New York, 1857).

2. Marginal note: an honest & sincere Expression of joy at the victory of the good.

3. Marginal note: You had better get the poem "Nothing to wear" and read it for yourself. Lincoln may have given out his ha ha for the Contrast of the Classes or for some ridiculous ideas, though Lawrence says it was an Earnest & a sincere &c. It evidently pleased L for some reason.