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Friday, June 02, 2006

Quite contrary 


Some mother/son relationships just don't go that well. Some recently-discovered letters shed some light into the relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and Robert Lincoln. Details are in American Heritage:


In August 1875, after spending three months in a sanitarium in Batavia, Illinois, put there by her son against her will, Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the martyred President, wrote: “It does not appear that God is good, to have placed me here. I endeavor to read my Bible and offer up my petitions three times a day. But my afflicted heart fails me and my voice often falters in prayer. I have worshipped my son and no unpleasant word ever passed between us, yet I cannot understand why I should have been brought out here.”

This letter, along with 24 others, completely unknown and unpublished, was recently discovered in a steamer trunk owned by the children of Robert Todd Lincoln’s attorney. They are known as the “lost” insanity letters of Mary Lincoln, and their discovery will forever rewrite this famous—and infamous—chapter in the Lincoln-family history.

The newly discovered letters document a long and intimate correspondence between Mary Lincoln and Myra and James Bradwell, Mary’s legal advisers and the people most responsible for getting her out of the sanitarium....

The Bellevue patient logbook shows that for the first two months of her stay, Mary Lincoln was quiet and solitary, a bit erratic with her desires, and at times depressed. Dr. Patterson thought she was improving. Robert Lincoln visited his mother every week, and he found her most cordial. “While she will not in words admit that she is not sane, still her entire acquiescence in absolutely everything … makes me think that she is aware of the necessity of what has been done,” Robert wrote to John Hay, his father’s secretary. The situation changed from a lamentable family affair to a painful public controversy upon the entrance of Myra and James Bradwell....

The “lost” insanity letters collection contains 11 letters from Mary’s time at Bellevue. Most were written by her, but some are from Myra and James Bradwell, Elizabeth Edwards, and Dr. Patterson. They show Mary questioning her religious faith, illuminate her continuing mania about money and clothing, and, perhaps most interesting, reveal the Bradwells to have been more instrumental than previously known both in securing her release and in causing her resentment of Robert....

Mrs. Lincoln is supposed to have secretly mailed letters to several people seeking help in her release. One of the newly discovered letters shows that in fact she sent only one, to her attorney, James Bradwell. “May I request you to come out here just so soon as you receive this note. Please bring out your dear wife, Mr. Wm. Sturgess and any other friend,” she wrote. “Also bring Mr. W. F. Storey with you. I am sure you will not disappoint me. Drive up to the house. Also telegraph to Genl. Farnsworth to meet you here.”

Mary’s request for w. f. storey is another interesting revelation from this letter. The editor of the Chicago Times, Storey had been an antiwar Copperhead during the Civil War and afterward was an outspoken reporter and critic of Chicago society. His motto was: “To print the news and raise hell.” Storey did not visit Bellevue but sent a reporter, Franc B. Wilkie, who wrote the August 24 Times story about Mary’s sanity that caused such a public controversy. This letter shows the story was Mary’s idea, not the Bradwells’, as has long been supposed....

Robert’s chagrin at his mother’s clothing mania was not the cause of their ultimate estrangement, which lasted five years. In fact the new letters suggest that it was not the incarceration that caused the family split but rather the influence of the Bradwells. Both the Bellevue patient logs and Robert’s own letters attest that at first Mary Lincoln was very cordial to him during his weekly visits, but the Bradwells seemed to have planted seeds of resentment. Myra’s letters and newspaper interviews make no secret that she considered Mary a prisoner. It is no great leap to suggest that Myra berated Robert and his motives in his mother’s presence and, whether implicitly or directly, encouraged Mary to do the same.

Mary’s changing attitude is shown when she wrote the Bradwells in early August: “… if I have used excited words in reference to my son, may God forgive me, and may you both forget it.” Yet a week later a coolness was evident: “I rather think he would prefer my remaining here in his heart,” almost as if echoing some similar sentiment of Myra Bradwell’s. The mother-son relationship soured from there, with Mary constantly flinging accusations that Robert was hoarding her possessions.



From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Comments:
Hi there. Hoder has an interesting video taken in Israel. Read this article about Hoder's tricks. Visit our website to see our fact sheet about him.
 
She was an incredibly afflicted woman. Such a sad, sad story.
 
She certainly faced her share of tragedy.

Should I visit the Hoder website? Does he bend spoons?
 
Perhaps he can call on the spirit of the poor misunderstood First Lady and set these rumors to rest.
 
Tonight on From the Dead, we have Mary Todd Lincoln, John Lennon, Maurice Gibb, and Adlai Stevenson! Now to our host, Steve Allen. "I pioneered this format with a show called Meeting of the Minds" - shut up, Steve.
 
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