Letter from Jun. 1, 1865

Letter from Francis Bicknell Carpenter to Sanford Thayer

  • Full Title

    Letter from Francis Bicknell Carpenter to Sanford Thayer

  • Description

    The portrait painter Francis Bicknell Carpenter lived in the White House with the Lincolns while working on "First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln." Over a month after Lincoln's death he wrote a letter to fellow painter, Sanford Thayer, reflecting on his work in the White House and his relationship with and respect for Lincoln.

  • Transcription

    653 Broadway N.Y
    June 1st 1865

    My Dear Thayer,

    It is so long since you and I have written each other that I am in some doubt if you will recognize either the hand or the signature?

    I have thought of my duty to you a great many times – but as you perhaps know I have had a great deal upon my hands during the last year and half and have had so many business letters to write that my old friends have been neglected.

    I was in Washington six months, I worked so incessantly upon my large canvas, that the result was a sickness after I got the picture on exhibition which came near ending my work in this world. I was attacked with dropsy of the chest about 12 days after I opened the picture to the public. I was so sick that I have not until quite recently felt like painting in earnest. I am now hard at work again however

    My extensive undertaking is likely to turn out well though the picture is full of faults. It has been very popular & is now in Chicago. It may get around to Syracuse, one of these days.

    With the knowledge I have acquired, in studying and painting it, I feel that I could now take up such a subject and do much better. It was no “childs play” I assure you.

    I wish you could have known Mr. Lincoln. – I remember you had a great contempt for him when I last visited you, _ but if you could have seen him as I did and realized how simple he was in his great position, how little he was affected by what people thought and said, how earnest he was to do his best for the country, how perfectly true to himself under all circumstances – never affecting a dignity he did not possess, or assuming to be anything but homely, plain, common sense, “Mr. Lincoln, of Springfield Ill.” I believe if you could have seen all this, you would have come to have a sincere respect for him. As Tennyson says, “In his simplicity he was sublime.” Now that he is gone, people begun to appreciate, not only his great tenderness of heart and real goodness of nature, but his sagacity and wisdom.

    The exhibition this year is crowded with visitors as it has never been. The galleries are too narrow but on the whole the building presents a fine appearance. The pictures so-so. I have spent but little time there, as yet, and had no time to go through the catalogue carefully for you as of old but I send you a catalogue nevertheless. Can’t you come down and see for yourself.

    We are living in our own house #96 West 45th st. and would be very glad to see you and Mrs. Thayer at any time.

    With regard to her, as of old yours – Frank Carpenter

    [Transcription by Kristina Kynaston]

  • Source

    Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

  • Rights

    This item is in the public domain and may be reproduced and used for any purpose, including research, teaching, private study, publication, broadcast or commercial use, with proper citation and attribution.

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  • Cite this Item

    Francis Bicknell Carpenter. "Letter from Francis Bicknell Carpenter to Sanford Thayer". Remembering Lincoln. Web. Accessed March 31, 2023. https://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/node/1174