My apologies for the late post today. Apparently a resident of nearby Murphysboro cut a line, which promptly knocked out internet access to the greater portion of southern Illinois. It was frustrating not being online, but I certainly got a lot of work done in the meantime. I suppose there is a lesson there, but I’ll pass over it quickly.
I want to focus instead on a revealing letter Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1837. At twenty-eight, Lincoln had already accomplished a great deal, but he was still uneasy. He was a young lawyer, as well as a member of the Illinois state legislature, but he had yet to enjoy any sense of financial stability. He had recently moved from New Salem to Springfield, but the transition was not easy; he feared that life in this “busy wilderness” was not for him. And he was involved with a girl, but he wasn’t sure where the relationship was headed.
With his mind clouded by questions, he decided to compose a letter.
[AL to Mary S. Owens, 7 May 1837, Collected Works, 1:78-79.]
Friend Mary Springfield, May 7. 1837
I have commenced two letters to send you before this, both of which displeased me before I got half done, and so I tore them up. The first I thought wasn't serious enough, and the second was on the other extreme. I shall send this, turn out as it may.
This thing of living in Springfield is rather a dull business after all, at least it is so to me. I am quite as lonesome here as [I] ever was anywhere in my life. I have been spoken to by but one woman since I've been here, and should not have been by her, if she could have avoided it. I've never been to church yet, nor probably shall not be soon. I stay away because I am conscious I should not know how to behave myself.
I am often thinking about what we said of your coming to live at Springfield. I am afraid you would not be satisfied. There is a great deal of flourishing about in carriages here, which it would be your doom to see without shareing in it. You would have to be poor without the means of hiding your poverty. Do you believe you could bear that patiently? Whatever woman may cast her lot with mine, should any ever do so, it is my intention to do all in my power to make her happy and contented; and there is nothing I can immagine, that would make me more unhappy than to fail in the effort. I know I should be much happier with you than the way I am, provided I saw no signs of discontent in you. What you have said to me may have been in jest, or I may have misunderstood it. If so, then let it be forgotten; if otherwise, I much wish you would think seriously before you decide. For my part I have already decided. What I have said I will most positively abide by, provided you wish it. My opinion is that you had better not do it. You have not been accustomed to hardship, and it may be more severe than you now immagine. I know you are capable of thinking correctly on any subject; and if you deliberate maturely upon this, before you decide, then I am willing to abide your decision.
You must write me a good long letter after you get this. You have nothing else to do, and though it might not seem interesting to you, after you had written it, it would be a good deal of company to me in this ``busy wilderness.'' Tell your sister I dont want to hear any more about selling out and moving. That gives me the hypo whenever I think of it