Best Lincoln Stories Tersely Told
by J. E. Gallaher
Pub. in 1898


Lincoln's Melancholia.

A friend of Lincoln writes: Lincolnís periods of melancholy are proverbial. On one occasion, while in court in 1855, Maj. H. C. Whitney describes him as "sitting alone in one corner of the room remote from any one else, wrapped in abstraction and gloom. It was a sad but interesting study for me, and I watched him for some time. It appeared as if he were pursuing in his mind some sad subject through various sinuosities, and his face would assume at times the deepest phases of seeming pain, but no relief came from this dark and despairing melancholy till he was roused by the breaking up of court, when he emerged from his cave of gloom and came back, like one awakened from sleep, to the world in which he lived again." As early as 1837 Robert L. Wilson, who was his colleague in the legislature, testifies that Lincoln admitted to him that although he appeared to enjoy life rapturously, still he was a victim of extreme melancholy, and that he was so overcome at times by depression of spirits that he never dared carry a pocketknife.

To physicians he was something of a physiological puzzle. John T. Stuart insisted that his digestion was organically defective, so that the pores of his skin oftentimes performed the functions of the bowels; that his liver operated abnormally and failed to secrete bile, and that these things themselves were sufficient in his opinion to produce the deepest mental depression and melancholy.

Lincolnís law partner, Mr. Herndon, attributed Lincolnís melancholy to the death of Anna Rutledge, believing that this grief at her untimely death was so intense that it cast a perpetual shadow over his mental horizon. Another believed that it arose from his domestic environments; that his family relations were far from pleasant, and that that unhappy feature of his life was a constant menace to his peace and perfect equipoise of spirits. "Although married," says one, "he was not mated, so that if we see him come into his office in the morning eating cheese and bologna sausages philosophically, what can we expect but some periods of sadness and gloom? Emerson, who you and I hold in high esteem, had pie for breakfast all his married life, and in my opinion that is what clouded his memory the rest of his life after seventy years of age."

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