9780345478009

The Lincolns

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780345478009

  • ISBN10:

    0345478002

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-01-13
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
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Summary

Although the private lives of political couples have in our era become front-page news, the true story of this extraordinary and tragic first family has never been fully told.The Lincolnseclipses earlier accounts with riveting new information that makes husband and wife, president and first lady, come alive in all their proud accomplishments and earthy humanity. Award-winning biographer and poet Daniel Mark Epstein gives a fresh close-up view of the couple's life in Springfield, Illinois (of their twenty-two years of marriage, all but six were spent there), and dramatizes with stunning immediacy how the Lincolns' ascent to the White House brought both dazzling power and the slow, secret unraveling of the couple's unique bond. The first full-length portrait of the marriage of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln in more than fifty years,The Lincolnsis written with enormous sweep and striking imagery. Daniel Mark Epstein makes two immortal American figures seem as real and human as the rest of us.

Author Biography

Daniel Mark Epstein is the author of biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman, Aimee Semple McPherson, Nat King Cole, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, as well as seven volumes of poetry. His verse has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review, among other publications. The American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded Epstein the Rome Prize in 1977 and an Academy Award in 2006. Daniel Mark Epstein lives in Baltimore.

www.danielmarkepstein.com


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts

The Tryst: Springfield, 1842

Walking east on Jefferson Street with the setting sun behind him, Abraham Lincoln followed his shadow toward the house on Sixth Street where he had arranged to meet his love in secret.

The tall man cast a long shadow in the November light. The October rains and wind had nearly stripped the trees of their leaves—the maple, the walnut, the oak of the prairie. He liked the trees without their foliage “as their anatomy could then be studied.” The outline of a silver maple against the sky was delicate but firm; the network of shades the branches cast upon the ground seemed to him a virtual “profile” of the tree.

“Perhaps a man’s character is like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow; the shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” This idea, which would attend the young man on an eventful journey into middle age, might now provide small comfort. For he had gone and made a fool of himself, during the previous two years of his life, a very public sort of fool at the age of thirty-three.

Now, strolling the wooden planks of a makeshift sidewalk laid along the mud ruts of Jefferson Street, past the new state capitol building with its stately columns and dome upon the square, Lincoln followed his shadow and his reputation toward the home of his friend Simeon Francis, where he could pursue his folly behind closed doors. If a man’s character is like the tree and one’s reputation like the shadow, he had begun, by trial and error, to understand his character, his virtues and weaknesses; but he still had little sense of what the world might make of his reputation.

He was a secretive man, who kept his own counsel. He was an ambitious man of humble origins, with colossal designs on the future. And it would always be advantageous not to be closely known, never to be transparent. Passing a farmer on a dray, he would tip his hat and grin. Everybody knew him. Nobody knew him. He would play the fool, the clown, the melancholy poet dying for love, the bumpkin. He would take the world by stealth and not by storm. He would disarm enemies by his apparent naïveté, by seeming pleasantly harmless. He would go to such lengths in making fun of his own appearance that others felt obliged to defend it.

On this November afternoon in 1842 it would hardly seem necessary to argue that he was appealing to women, this lanky, clean-shaven fellow, seeing as how one of the most attractive, nubile ladies of Springfield had singled him out, pursued him, and was now waiting for him in the parlor of that house on the northeast corner of Jefferson and Sixth streets.

The friend who owned the house, Simeon Francis, editor of the Sangamo Journal, and his wife, Eliza, were childless. They made their large home available for Lincoln and his beloved as a trysting place, where they had been meeting since the summer. The inhibitions that attend lovers when they first are alone, speechless, had gradually given way until they found themselves in a situation where marriage was, if not obligatory, inevitable.





Lincoln knew he had made a spectacle of himself on a grand scale recently, in the newspapers, caught up in a scandalous duel—there were rumors the cause of it was Miss Mary Todd. And now walking on his way to what might be greater imprudence, he could reflect that only a few years earlier he had resolved never again to get into such a scrape.

In 1838, on April Fool’s Day, he had written a letter to Eliza Browning, wife of his lawyer friend Orville Hickman Browning, in which he had reached the following conclusion: “Others have been made fools of by the girls; but this can never be with truth said of me. I most emphatically, in this instance, made a fool of myself. I have now come to the conclusion never again to think of marrying; and for this reason; I can never be

Excerpted from The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage by Daniel Mark Epstein
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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