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LINCOLN AS I KNEW HIM by Harold Holzer


Gossip, Tributes, and Revelations from His Best Friends and His Worst Enemies

edited by Harold Holzer

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1999
ISBN: 1-56512-166-X
Publisher: Algonquin

Holzer, author and editor of numerous books on the Civil War and Lincoln (The Lincoln Mailbag, not reviewed, etc.), has assembled another collection for those with insatiable appetites for information about the 16th president. Holzer has arranged the comments categorically: We hear first from family members, then from friends, from fellow lawyers, journalists, foreign observers, enemies, military men, noted authors, artists, African-Americans, and White House employees. Many excerpts are truly engaging. A cousin remembers that a horse once kicked the young Lincoln so hard that he was speechless for several hours; when he once again started talking, he completed the sentence that the kick had interrupted. A law partner recalls Lincoln’s annoying habit of reading the newspaper aloud. A Frenchman remembers listening to the president discourse on Shakespeare for hours. A sculptor relates a charming anecdote about Lincoln forgetting to put on his undershirt after posing. Many of the observers note the president’s lean and lanky and unkempt appearance: One says he looked like a “country schoolmaster”; another, a “professional undertaker.” Walt Whitman identifies the president’s “deep latent sadness.” A political enemy (Gen. George McClellan) calls him a “baboon”; an admirer (Harriet Beecher Stowe) compares him with Moses. And after her brief meeting with him, Sojourner Truth comments: “I felt that I was in the presence of a friend.” There is, unfortunately, a numbing sameness about some of the encomiums for Lincoln. A volume with a pleasing admixture of the strange and the familiar, of poignance and humor, of iron and irony. (photos, not seen)