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This promises to be the Number One biography for holiday sales in the high priced field; and an essential item for all public libraries. When The Prairie Years was published in 1928, the critical press, supported by an enthusiastic public, felt that the Sandburg Lincoln, as evidenced by the quality of these first two volumes, would be our generation's definitive life of Lincoln. Now, after a long lapse of time, The War Years, in four volumes, is appearing. I have seen (and read) only the first volume, which carries through the year 1862. We follow the throes of a country on the verge of war, with a president newly elected by a minority vote, suspected by vast numbers, feared by others, disdained by even more. We follow his slow progress from Illinois to Washington, and share an intimate picture of his own uncertainty and his overwhelming desire to maintain the unity of a country torn by dissension. Sandburg, through voluminous quotation from all sources (journalistic, diarist, etc.) makes us feel that we had been there, and that we, too, shared the confusion of divided opinions. Bit by bit, he fits personalities into the canvas, he gives enough of background and appearance and human interest to make Lincoln's friends and foes, Lincoln's contemporaries in the political arena, Lincoln's adherents and Lincoln's opponents, living, breathing people. He gives one various parts of the country, and the reflection of public opinion. Then -- the inauguration, the turmoil of the months when war and peace still hung in the balance, the actual progress of the war, once launched, as day by day there seemed to be no action, no understanding that the country was at war. Through all the opening months, there was turmoil of another sort going on in the national capital, office seekers, campaign debts to pay, the making and unmaking of a cabinet. the last third of the book deals almost week by week with the campaigns, showing up McClellan's vacillation, his egotism, his inclination to blame everything on lack of cooperation in Washington. The book ends with his resignation. There are glimpses of the White House, of Mrs. Lincoln, of the boys and of the loss of a son. There are intimate glimpses of Lincoln himself, as well as the broader sweep of Lincoln in relation to the problems he faced.... Somehow, magnificent a piece of biography as this is, I miss the poetic quality of The Prairie Years, the sense of knowing the man, rather than the public figure. This -- while all-inclusive -- differs less in quality from other memorable lives of Lincoln; rather is it all in one, with a balance of Lincoln the man, Lincoln the politician, Lincoln the statesman, Lincoln the warrior. It is not all white --neither is it all black, in delineation of the personalities of the period. The succeeding volumes will not be reported individually, since the plans should be made now for selling this set. There's a chance for the limited, autographed, numbered edition, 100% rag paper, 500 copies for sale, at $50.00.... There's a chance for a plus sale on the reissue of The Prairie Years, 2 volumes, boxed, at $4.75. The publishers are prepared to supply any reasonable request for sales aids, and the displays with the dummy volume for advance orders, is already shipped.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1939
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace