Unsigned handwritten letter by Mary Todd Lincoln, four pages on two adjoining sheets of black-bordered mourning stationery, 5.25 x 8, October 28, 1869. Letter to Mrs. Sally Orne, written from Frankfurt, Germany, during a stressful time in her life. In part: "Although my front finger is still encased in its wrapping & paining me, I will write to you this morning. In my awkwardness in using my left hand, I have given my left thumb a terrible bruise by the door, that too is duly wrapped up—so with this chapter of accidents you will suppose I am not very prepared to write to my friends. The Dr. comes in an hour's time & I suppose he will make it all right. Now, that mythical maid (which both you and I wanted) so like to make a substantial reality would so gracefully come in—with her usual offices—but alas, I have unfortunately fallen upon 'evil times' & I must not venture to anticipate the little notice you so kindly enclosed me, is I believe only the note of preparation for the coming struggle…Colonel Forney is always a true hearted champion. I have always liked him, because my dear husband entertained so high an opinion of him. Will you not write to Cameron, Gen. Banks?—Sen. Wilson is a very noble man & I hope you will write to him. How much work I am giving you to do, dear friend, and yet your own kind, true heart, requires no suggestions from me…with all do not forget your promise of soon returning to Germany. How I sigh for that time, when we can cozily chat for hours together. My place is near Dr. Brown's, on the same street, near the railroad also—that I hope will bring you soon back…I do not hear the least noise—as my modest apartments open out on a large garden—well shaded by trees. The leaves of the trees, sear & drooping like my own sad heart & blighted hopes…Taddie is so grateful to be so kindly remembered by you all & sends his most respectful regards. Gen. Sickles is also passing through a stormy time, which I hope he may weather in safety." In fine condition, with small repairs to splitting along the folds and hinge. Accompanied by a carte-de-visite illustration of the Lincoln family. This letter is not recorded in Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters by Turner and Turner.
After traveling with her son Tad to Scotland, Paris, and London, Mary Lincoln returned to Frankfurt, where Tad went back to school. Upon her arrival, she had received mail from a friend from her Washington days, Sally Orne, one of her regular correspondents and the wife of James Orne, a wealthy carpet manufacturer in Philadelphia who was close to President Grant. She, too, was traveling through Europe with her daughters. The two ladies met in Frankfurt, where Sally—feeling empathetic toward Mrs. Lincoln's financial struggles—offered to help with the pension bill before Congress. Mrs. Orne wrote to Senator Charles Sumner, describing Mary's pathetic quarters—'There is a small desolate looking room with but one window—two chairs and a wooden table with a solitary candle'—as well as her poor state of mind: 'Mrs. Lincoln was completely overwhelmed with grief—her sobs and tears wrung my own heart.'
Orne advocated for an increase to Mary's pension, communicating this need to those in power in Washington. The pension bill for Mary's increased amount had stalled in Congress and her intense interest in the bill became an obsession that started to cause erratic behavior—something evident in this letter as she mentions that she has fallen on "evil times" and refers to her "own sad heart & blighted hopes." The "coming struggle" largely refers to the impending pension bill. It took nine more months, but the bill was ultimately passed—on a strict party-line vote—on July 14, 1870.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.