[LINCOLN'S BIOGRAPHERS] HERNDON, William Henry (1818-1891) Autograph letter signed ("W. H. Herndon") to Hall, Springfield, Ill., 22 January 1866. 1 page, 4to, ruled paper. -- HAY, John M. (1838-1905) Autograph letter signed ("John Hay") to Frank Harris, Lafayette Square, Washington, D. C. 22 December. 1 page, 8vo. -- NICOLAY, John G. (1832-1901). ALS ("Jno. G. Nicolay") to Edwin M. Stanton, Washington, D. C., 29 December 1862. 1 p., 8vo, Executive Mansion stationery, WITH AES ("EDWIN M. STANTON").
"Will you have the kindness," Herndon asks, "to copy Mr. Lincoln's bond to Johnson or your father, which I saw when I was down to see you. Copy every word--figure, and name carefully from top to bottom, and send to me, if you please. Don't fail. I want it to defend Lincoln's memory. Please write to me at any time you may think of anything that is good or bad of Mr. Lincoln, truthfully just as it happened and took place. Were any of you boys applicants for any office made to Mr. Lincoln while he was President? Hall--what is your honest opinion--come honest opinion--in reference to Mr. Lincoln's love for his kind and relations generally. Please--friend--accommodate me."
Despite his prodigious research, Lincoln in many ways remained a stranger to Herndon. Indeed, it seems one of the reasons he embarked on this biographical enterprise was to capture something that had eluded him in all the years that he shared a law office with his subject: Lincoln's inner life. We can also see, through Herndon's questions, the thrust that his Life would ultimately take when Jesse Weik completed it for him in 1889: melancholy and frustration were the emotional keynotes. Lincoln was an unhappy man, estranged from his birth family, embattled with his difficult wife.
The definitive early biography came not from Herndon but from the two young men who worked closely with "The Titan": John Hay and John G. Nicolay. Here, Hay addresses a question of the President's lineage: "I thank you very much for the interesting paper you have so kindly sent me. I think the Abraham mentioned must have been the half-brother of John Lincoln, the President's great grandfather--and therefore a cousin of Abraham, the Kentucky Pioneer, the grand father of the President." Nicolay's war-date letter reads: "You will please notify the officers of the Army that the President will receive them on New Year's day at half past eleven o'clock, precisely." Stanton's endorsement directs the Adjutant General "to issue instructions in conformity with the foregoing notice." Together three items. (3)