In my weekly search for new material I often see, and pass over, the letters of Abraham Lincoln thinking, “Oh, what’s possibly left to talk about that hasn’t been covered in the various blockbuster films and tv series’ that have seemingly covered his life thoroughly?” This week I found something but the length of the letter, written by he, precludes me from entering placing it in my section in its entirety. So I’ll judiciously paraphrase and quote the letter in an attempt to convey the humorous story it tells.
Abraham Lincoln starts this letter, penned on April 1, 1838, by explaining to Mrs. O. H. Browning a predicament he ended up in after agreeing to marry the sister of a friend even though he had not seen the woman he agreed to marry in over three years.
“I had seen the said sister some three years before, thought her intelligent and agreeable, and saw no good objection to plodding life through hand-in-hand with her.”
Yet, when his friend arrives with her sister, with whom he had previously agreed to marry, she looks nothing like what he remembered.
“In a few days we had an interview, and, although I had seen her before, she did not look as my imagination had pictured her. I knew she was over-size, but she now appeared a fair match for Falstaff (A large character in appearing in three of Shakespeare’s plays). I knew she was called an "old maid," and I felt no doubt of the truth of at least half of the appellation, but now, when I beheld her, I could not for my life avoid thinking of my mother; and this, not from withered features,—for her skin was too full of fat to permit of its contracting into wrinkles—but from her want of teeth, weather-beaten appearance in general, and from a kind of notion that ran in my head that nothing could have commenced at the size of infancy and reached her present bulk in less than thirty-five or forty years; and, in short, I was not at all pleased with her. But what could I do?”
Lincoln clearly regrets having agreed to marry this woman, though on the positive side, he finds her quick-witted and funny. Bound by honor to his previous agreement, Lincoln visits the lady and planned to formally propose to her but the arrangement was ended by a twist of fate.
“...I mustered my resolution and made the proposal to her direct; but, shocking to relate, she answered, No. At first I supposed she did it through an affectation of modesty, which I thought but ill became her under the peculiar circumstances of the case, but on my renewal of the charge I found she repelled it with greater firmness than before. I tried it again and again, but with the same success, or rather with the same want of success.”
Lincoln is shocked by her response, he admits that in all his thoughts of marriage and about her appearance he had begun to feel the pangs of love for her but she, at once, cut him off.
“My vanity was deeply wounded by the reflection that I had so long been too stupid to discover her intentions, and at the same time never doubting that I understood them perfectly; and also that she, whom I had taught myself to believe nobody else would have, had actually rejected me with all my fancied greatness. And, to cap the whole, I then for the first time began to suspect that I was really a little in love with her. But let it all go! I'll try and outlive it. Others have been made fools of by the girls, but this can never in truth be said of me. I most emphatically, in this instance, made a fool of myself.”