Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1858 - Vol. 1

By Albert J. Beveridge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
YEARS OF DISCIPLINE

Then black despair,
The shadow of a starless night, was thrown
Over the world in which I moved alone.
SHELLEY, Revolt of Islam,

'WHEN he first came among us, his wit and humor boiled over,' said James H. Matheny, recalling the conduct and appearance of Lincoln during the early period of his life in Springfield. Excepting Speed, Matheny was the most intimate unmarried friend of Lincoln in Springfield at that time, and was his best man when, finally, Lincoln married.1

Springfield was a typical western town and grew rapidly after it became the State capital. Its population was that of a new and raw country, vigorous, hopeful, ambitious. For the most part manners were rough and hearty, and the general disposition was cordial though combative. Most of the people were from Kentucky and the dominant social group was almost entirely from that State. Springfield had a well-marked smalltown aristocracy, with pretension to fashion and class distinction. The new capital became at once the social centre of Illinois, especially when the Legislature was in session, as had been the case with Vandalia; but in this, as in every other respect, Springfield outclassed her former rival.

brks="brks">Amid this lively and variegated mixture of population, Lincoln had for four years made his happy and successful way. His quaint humor, his stories, and easy, genial companionableness rendered him a favorite among men of all classes. He joined with gusto in outdoor sports -- foot-races, jumping and hopping contests, town ball, wrestling.2 He wrote spicy poems and amusing papers for a select company of young associates who

____________________
1
Herndon was much closer to Lincoln, personally, than anybody else; but their partnership was not formed until seven years after Lincoln came to Springfield.
2
James Gourley's statement, no date. Weik MSS.

-298-

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