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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Carpenter, Francis B. 'Francis B. Carpenter to William H. Herndon' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon494b.html


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391. Francis B. Carpenter to William H. Herndon.

New York Dec. 4th 1866.

My dear Sir,

Yours of last week, mentioning that you had sent me a pamphlet, — "a lecture on the mind:" reached me on Saturday. I have delayed answering it, hoping

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the lecture would come to hand also but it is behind for some unexplained reasons —

I am also indebted for your kind note of previous date, accompanying the lecture on Mr Lincoln's love for "Ann Rutledge," &c, You asked me in that note to write you frankly, my opinion of that lecture.

I should have done this before, for I read the whole of the lecture the evening it was received. The marvellous analytical power shown in your previous lecture, (which I found floating in the newspapers, and used, without knowing that it was one of a series.) [1] led me to expect much in anything coming from your lips or pen, I do not know as I can express precisely the effect produced upon me, by reading the lecture on that evening. I was a good deal disturbed by it, I will frankly confess. — It seemed to me an invasion of a sacred chamber — a tearing away of the veil which conceals the "holy of holies." I could see the reason for this, — the necessity the author felt of showing the secret springs of action in Mr Lincoln's life — feeling as he did, that this unrevealed history was the key to his character. — But it seemed to me that the fact of this experience might have been given without treading so far upon ground which all feel intuitively to be sacred.

The lecture seemed to me incoherent, in parts. — to dwell too long upon topography, etc. I know your object was to show the effect on Lincoln's mind of all these surroundings. You are decidedly a pre-Raphaelite in biography — the danger, I should say, is that "pre-Raphaelitism" may become morbid, and abnormal in your case, as it frequently has done with Art-students.

But I cannot criticise you. I will say — and I say it truthfully, when I finished reading the report of the first lecture (afterward incorporated in my little book) — I was as much impressed with the power and originality shown in it, as by any thing I ever read of Lincoln's I could but wonder how two such remarkable men could have come together, in co-partnership.

I should have written you and asked your consent to embody the lecture in my book. — But I did not fall in with it until after the most of the book was prepared — and as I have mentioned above I had no idea it was to be followed by other lectures. — It was in my mind that artists and sculptors would be likely to refer to my book for a personal description of Lincoln, and I desired to make this as full as possible. — And what you had given was so immeasurably beyond any thing I could say or write, that I made very little attempt as you have doubtless remarked at any thing of my own beyond a record of incidents.

The truth is I had no idea of writing a book at the time of painting my picture, — I did not even keep a record of incidents, but simply a pocket diary of my work from day to day. By referring to this however various incidents would return to me, — When I wrote my first sketch in the Independent [2] I had no thought of writing a record. — The interest of the public, in every thing relating to Lincoln was the occasion of the continuation of the series.

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I send you a copy of the book, with my "autograph" in the frontispiece [3]. I am much mortified that I should have neglected this so long. For six weeks or two months after its publication however I was absent in the country, and since my return have been very busy, engaged with other matters.

You ask if my "study" portrait of Lincoln is being engraved?" — I am happy to say that it is, and nearly completed. — The engraver Mr Halpin [4] (the best engraver in the style Known as stipple and line, in this country) has had the original portrait in his hands for the last eighteen months and has spared no pains to reproduce it faithfully As a piece of engraving it is exquisite. The original portrait was painted by itself, before I commenced my large painting It was pronounced by Mr Lincoln himself at the conclusion of one of the sittings, the best ever made of him. I think these were his words, "I feel that there is more of me in this portrait than in any representation, ever made"

It is sad, thoughtful, care-worn, the far-away expression in those eyes which was so often seen by those who were near to him, and loved him. I aimed to make it the standard portrait, — throwing enough of the ideal into the expression to satisfy those who should come after us. Whether I succeeded or not or whether the engraver has faithfully translated my meaning is for others to say — Meanwhile Marshalls portrait [5] — (made up from photographs,) has come out, though he returned from Europe — painted and engraved his picture some time after Mr Halpin commenced upon mine. — Marshall's is the more imposing perhaps the work being largely on the back-ground, while Halpin's is almost wholly upon the head. —

I shall next week send you a proof impression of this portrait. Do not make up your mind about it until after several days study, of it upon your wall Then write me what you think of it. — Of course I am sensitive as to its reception by the public. — I have aimed to represent the man in his most solemn moments — thoughtful, dignified, intently considering the problems of the age. — It is Lincoln the Emancipator. —

I hope it will strike you pleasantly, but I much prefer that it shall grow upon you by study. — However it must take its chances.

Pardon the freedom with which I have written to you. It seems almost as if you were a friend of years. Should you come to New York be sure nothing would give me more pleasure than to welcome you to my little house at "96 West 45th St."

Faithfully & truly yours
F. B. Carpenter

Library of Congress: Herndon-Weik Collection. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. 2841 — 44

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Carpenter, Francis B. 'Francis B. Carpenter to William H. Herndon' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon494b.html
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