LINCOLN, Mary Todd, First Lady. Autograph letter signed ("Mary Linoln") to "My Dear Madame Berghmans," "Executive Mansion," Washington, D.C., 4 January 1865. 1 full page, 8vo, integral blank, lined stationery with narrow black mourning borders, with imprinted "Department of State" envelope addressed to "Mrs Alfred Berghmans."
AN INVITATION TO JOIN THE PRESIDENT AND MRS. LINCOLN AT FORD'S THEATRE TO SEE EDWIN FORREST
In the first days of 1865, Mary Lincoln organizes a party to attend the theater: "The President & myself accompanied by Miss Kinney & Col. Forney, propose going to night, to see [the actor Edwin] Forrest in 'Richelieu,' if Monsieur & yourself will accompany, we will be pleased. Come over about 7 1/2 o' clock. Yours truly Mary Lincoln."
A fascinating, newly discovered letter documenting a previously unrecorded occasion on which the Lincolns may have attended Ford's theatre. The role of Cardinal Richelieu, here played by Edwin Forrest, was ironically a signature role of John Wilkes Booth. Forrest played in Richelieu at Ford's Theatre on 10th Street on the night of Wednesday, 4 January 1865, but the Lincolns' presence is otherwise un-noted, so it is possible the outing never materialized. Mrs. Alfred Berghmans, was apparently the wife of a foreign diplomat or attach resident in the capitol. This letter, along with those of lots 131, 134, 137, and 140, were recently discovered in the papers of the recipient's descendants in Europe; not in J.G. Turner & L.L. Turner, Mary Lincoln: Her Life and Letters, and hitherto unpublished. We are grateful to Ford's Theatre historian, Michael Maione, for generous assistance in cataloguing.
Edwin Forrest (1806-1872), the first important American-born Shakespearean, toured with great success in both America and England, but was approaching retirement by 1865. "He dominated an audience by his unique animal vigor and his outbursts of impassioned speech."(DAB) The Lincolns had witnessed Forrest's power on stage at least once before, having attended Forrest's impersonation of King Lear on 8 April 1864.