Henry J. Raymond, the famous New York editor, thus tells of Mr. Lincoln’s fondness for the Nasby letters:
“It has been well said by a profound critic of Shakespeare, and it occurs to me as very appropriate in this connection, that the spirit which held the woe of Lear and the tragedy of “Hamlet” would have broken had it not also had the humor of the “Merry Wives of Windsor” and the merriment of the “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“This is as true of Mr. Lincoln as it was of Shakespeare. The capacity to tell and enjoy a good anecdote no doubt prolonged his life.
“The Saturday evening before he left Washington to go to the front, just previous to the capture of Richmond, I was with him from seven o’clock till nearly twelve. It had been one of his most trying days. The pressure of office-seekers was greater at this juncture than I ever knew it to be, and he was almost worn out.
“Among the callers that evening was a party composed of two Senators, a Representative, an ex-Lieutenant-Governor of a Western State, and several private citizens. They had business of great importance, involving the necessity of the President’s examination of voluminous documents. Pushing everything aside, he said to one of the party:
“‘Have you seen the Nasby papers?’
“‘No, I have not,’ was the reply; ‘who is Nasby?’
“‘There is a chap out in Ohio,’ returned the President, ‘who has been writing a series of letters in the newspapers over the signature of Petroleum V. Nasby. Some one sent me a pamphlet collection of them the other day. I am going to write to “Petroleum” to come down here, and I intend to tell him if he will communicate his talent to me, I will swap places with him!’
“Thereupon he arose, went to a drawer in his desk, and, taking out the ‘Letters,’ sat down and read one to the company, finding in their enjoyment of it the temporary excitement and relief which another man would have found in a glass of wine. The instant he had ceased, the book was thrown aside, his countenance relapsed into its habitual serious expression, and the business was entered upon with the utmost earnestness.”