Sunday, January 18, 2009

'He Was Still A Very Young Man'

Third of 45 excerpts from Lincoln by David Herbert Donald:
On April 15, 1837, Lincoln rode into Springfield on a borrowed horse, with all his worldly possessions crammed into the two saddlebags. At the general store of A.Y. Ellis & Company on the west side of the town square, he inquired how much a mattress for a single bed, plus sheets and pillow, would cost. Joshua F. Speed, one of the proprietors, reckoned up the figures and announced a total of $17. Lincoln replied that was doubtless fair enough but that he did not have so much money. Telling Speed that he had come to Springfield to try an "experiment as a lawyer," he asked for credit until Christmas, adding in a sad voice: "If I fail in this, I do not know that I can ever pay you."

Speed, who knew this young man by reputation and had heard him make a political speech, suggested a way he could incurring a debt that clearly troubled him. "I have a large room with a double bed up-stairs, which you are very welcome to share with me," he offered.

"Where is your room?" asked Lincoln.

When Speed (photo, left) pointed to the winding stairs that led from the store to the second floor, Lincoln picked up his saddlebags and went up. Shortly afterward he returned beaming with pleasure and announced, "Well, Speed, I am moved!"

Such a quick alternation from deep despair to blithe confidence was characteristic of Lincoln's early years in the new state capital. He was trying to put together the fragmented pieces of his personality into a coherent pattern. Sometimes he felt he was the prisoner of his passions, but at other times he thought that he could master his world through reason. Often he was profoundly discouraged, and during these years he experienced his deepest bouts of depression. But these moods alternated with periods of exuberant self-confidence and almost annoying optimism. In short, he was still a very young man.


Sara said...

Just wanted to say that I've been reading your blog for well over a year now, and have always enjoyed it. I am especially now enjoying your Lincoln series. It's a very lovely and informative project; thank you undertaking it.

Shaun Mullen said...

Thank you so very much, Sara.