Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Monday Letter Lore: "In the end you are sure to succeed"

Today marks the debut Monday Letter Lore, a weekly offering of  memorable letters in history as fodder for our imaginations, grist for our mills.

At times throughout The Letter Jar I have found myself writing a letter of encouragement -- to a friend or and family member facing illness or infertility, even simple indecision. While I sometimes struggle with what to say, I always feel better stumbling over a few well-intentioned words than saying nothing at all. I know that when I am hurting, it makes a difference when someone tells me they're thinking of me. And while any comfort through any medium is welcome, there is a special feeling that comes from knowing  someone took the time to pen a note and find a stamp and a mailbox.

For George Latham, a friend of one of Abraham Lincoln's sons, that someone was the would-be president himself. While Lincoln probably didn't have to find the stamp or mailbox himself, and indeed didn't have the option of firing off a quick text instead, it is nonetheless remarkable that he, while campaigning for president in July 1860, reached out to George after learning that the young man had been unable to get into Harvard.

My dear George

I have scarcely felt greater pain in my life than on learning yesterday from Bob's letter, that you failed to enter Harvard University. And yet there is very little in it, if you will allow no feeling of discouragement to seize, and prey upon you. It is a certain truth, that you can enter, and graduate in, Harvard University; and having made the attempt, you must succeed in it. "Must" is the word.

I know not how to aid you, save in the assurance of one of mature age, and much severe experience, that you can not fail, if you resolutely determine, that you will not.

The President of the institution, can scarcely be other than a kind man; and doubtless he would grant you an interview, and point out the readiest way to remove, or overcome, the obstacles which have thwarted you.

In your temporary failure there is no evidence that you may not yet be a better scholar, and a more successful man in the great struggle of life, than many others, who have entered college more easily.

Again I say let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.

With more than a common interest I subscribe myself Very truly your friend,

A. Lincoln.

(Special thanks to abrahamlincolnonline.org for the text of the letter. Check it out for much more history of and wisdom from our 16th president.)

"... In the end you are sure to succeed." Words with power, whether uttered by one of our most famous American statesmen to a family friend, or just you or me to someone near to our hearts.

Write on.

STILL TIME TO ENTER LAST WEEK'S MIDWEEK MOTIVATION: I've started my letter to S, my running companion and confidante. To whom are you writing to this week, and why? Comment through tomorrow for a chance to win a set of notecards from the chewytulip etsy shop.


Jen said...

I've always admired Lincoln, but I have to question his use of commas there... Not that he probably cares about my opinion. :)

I still owe you a return letter, but I have to admit I'm a little concerned about my penmanship - you're handwriting is so much more legible than mine, and prettier to boot.

Anonymous said...

The heartfelt sentiment seeps through the rich text of Lincoln's letter. What a great bit of social history. People just don't speak like that any more, let alone write like that. Maybe if they had more practice... I came across your nice site when searching for other blogs that have a letter theme. Kudos to you for giving letters the credit they deserve! They're not only a joy to send and receive, they're a huge part of social history that is simply disappearing keystroke by keystroke. A history major, public servant, and entrepreneur, I've kept this in mine with my endeavor, Letters of Lore, and am doing my part to continue the mailing of the letter. Thanks for doing yours. I hope you'll check out my site, Letters of Lore, at www.lettersoflore.com.
I am sincerely yours, Andi