To begin at the middle, list a few things about Mary Todd Lincoln’s behavior as First Lady that would come back to haunt her in later years. Mary Todd Lincoln used opiates. She cried all the time after Willie died. She held spiritualist seances in the White House. She ran up $70,000 in clothing and jewelry bills which she was unable to pay. She liked to declare that her husband was the only honest man in the country, and that his cabinet and party were filled with men who used their positions to profit off government war contracts, both personally and on behalf of other Union profiteers.
She was the first to be called the First Lady, you know. Her opinion of her predecessors was loudly low—she claimed she had to overspend her White House furnishings allowance because they’d pocketed theirs and left the place a wreck. She was personal.
What is the single quotation attributed to Mary Todd Lincoln included on CyberNation International Inc.’s Ultimate Success Quotations web site, last updated 1999? My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry 'til a more convenient season.
Union Square. A bench. After the war. Mary Todd Lincoln has journeyed from Chicago to New York under an assumed name for the purpose of selling her dresses and effects. As a “Mrs. Clarke,” she is staying at a small, bad hotel in an extremely small, bad fifth floor room adjoining that of her White House dressmaker and enduring confidante, Elizabeth Keckley, born a slave, who at Mrs. Lincoln’s urgent request has left a thriving business in Washington to join her here, on a park bench, among pigeons, on this milk-skied Manhattan morning. The breakfast they’ve just passed at a local restaurant was Mrs. Keckley’s first meal in over twenty-four hours—she was forced to go dinner-less upon her prior evening's arrival when the key to the hotel’s “servants” dining room couldn’t be located. Mrs. Keckley fears they are defenseless in their anonymity against such slights and even more dangerous suspicions. Mrs. Lincoln, heavily veiled, is agitated—the day before, in a shop where she was trying as “Mrs. Clarke” to sell her jewelry, an inscription, initials, dates, engraved in a ring she hadn’t meant to show were spotted, she’s sure, by a keen-eyed man who will, in fact, come calling later that day with a proposition. But he will fail to raise an income for Mrs. Lincoln out of pamphlets and subscriptions; he will fail to sell her dresses to private benefactors and collectors; he will wind up putting them on public view—along with a price list—in a storefront on Broadway and his plans for a Providence tour will not be curtailed before the press has unleashed howls of “disgrace to the nation.” Union Square Park is sooty and littered with oyster shells. By the time the keen-eyed man is through with Mary Todd Lincoln, she’ll owe him $820, an amount she will pay upon the return of her remaining much-soiled dresses and effects to her rooms in Chicago. The check will be conveyed to him by the hands of Mrs. Keckley, by then twelve months stranded in New York and at the end of her memoirs still counting the sad, perplexing days.
Consolation site: In her own words