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LINCOLN, Mary Todd, First Lady. Autograph letter signed ("Mary Lincoln") to Madame Alfred Berghmans, n.p. [Washington, D.C.], n.d. [February 1865?]. 1 page, 8vo, integral blank, page 1 with thin black mourning border, pale foxing along right-hand half of the sheet, not affecting legibility.

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LINCOLN, Mary Todd, First Lady. Autograph letter signed ("Mary Lincoln") to Madame Alfred Berghmans, n.p. [Washington, D.C.], n.d. [February 1865?]. 1 page, 8vo, integral blank, page 1 with thin black mourning border, pale foxing along right-hand half of the sheet, not affecting legibility.

"YOU REMEMBER THE LARGE DOUBLE BOX WE OCCUPIED BEFORE AT FORD'S THEATRE"

A friendly invitation to an evening at Ford's theater: "My Dear Madame Berghmans, What will you say to the queer proposition, I am going to make you? Mr. L[incoln] proposes going to see [J.S.] Clarke, the Comedian, this evening in Toodles & Mrs. Dennison thinks also of going, if Miss Lane & yourself will accompany us. I shall feel quite inclined to go myself. You remember the large double box, we occupied before at Ford's. I presume you will not 'trip the light fantastic' at Mrs.Sprague's matinee or ball. In haste truly yours Mary Lincoln."

Although undated, the letter certainly dates from the last months of 1865 or the first few of 1865. The tone of easy, bantering gaiety Mary clearly expresses here, though, is strongly indicative of a date after her husband's re-election as President in November and probably points to the last months of the war, when Union victories had produced strong feelings of elation in Mary and her circle. This is confirmed by the fact that the noted comedian, John Sleeper Clarke, known to have played in the comedy The Toodles at Ford's on several dates in February (February 6, 13, 20 and 25). Clarke married Asia Booth--sister of John Wilkes Booth--who in later years published valuable information on the Booth family.

Mary's letter refers to a number of friends in the Lincoln Washington circle. Mrs. Dennison was the wife of Postmaster General William Dennison, a former Ohio Governor; Miss Harriet Lane was the niece and hostess of James Buchanan, who preceded the Lincolns in the White House. Mary's sarcastic comment about a ball taking place at the home of Mrs. Sprague is quite in character, for Mary intensely disliked Kate Chase, the daughter of Salmon P. Chase, who in November 1863 had married the wealthy Rhode Island Senator William Sprague. "As her father's host and confident," prior to her marriage, Kate Chase "was one of the most talked about women in the capitol, second only to Mrs. Lincoln. She shared her father's desire to live in the White House and considered that she would have made a much more fitting ornament there than its rightful resident. Her ambitions were no secret, and the President's wife despised her for them..." (J.G. Turner and L.L. Turner, Mary Lincoln: Her Life and Letters, p.136)

The Lincolns are known to have attended Ford's Theater on some seven occasions prior to their fatal visit on the night of 14 April, 1865, but the occasion described in this letter is apparently unrecorded, perhaps an indication that the group was unable to attend that night.
Recently discovered in the papers of the recipient's descendants in Europe; not in J.G. Turner & L.L. Mary Lincoln: Her Life and Letters, and hitherto unpublished.

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