Aug. 19, 1861.
MY DEAR SIR:
I am the unluckiest wretch that lives. I did not receive the kind note you sent me until Friday night at Long Branch. As it was horribly dull there, I concluded instantly upon reading your kind invitation, to return to New York and go to you Saturday afternoon. But then I found there was no telegraphic station at Irvington or Dobb's Ferry, and that I could not apprize you of my coming. I went down town and lunched with Mr. Roosevelt at Exchange Place. Coming back I was thunder-struck to find you had been at my hotel and were gone.
There were only three resources left me: — Suicide, intoxication or profanity. As I never drink and am still living, you can imagine which I chose. I thought my stupidity could only be expiated by a rigorous penance. So I resolved not to return to Long Branch, not to enjoy myself in New York, but to go sulkily back to Washington and stay at my desk until my luck changed.
Some day, before long, I will take my fate by the throat and conquer it. It has become a monomania with me to eat salt with you at Nevis, and it shall be done.
SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 34-5; Michael Burlingtame, Editor, At Lincoln’s Side: John Hay’s Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings, p.10.