Review by Choice Review
Most of this volume, essentially a collection of Wilson's essays on Lincoln, focuses on the rehabilitation of the reputation of Lincoln's law partner William Herndon, whose correspondence with Lincoln's friends and acquaintances in the two decades following the assassination created an invaluable archive of primary observances on the inner Lincoln, especially during the early years. Although some Lincoln scholars on occasion shamelessly dismissed Billy Herndon as a garrulous drunk with a vendetta against Mary Todd Lincoln, Wilson's exhaustive research into Herndon's life and methodology reveals a man sufficiently sober to reign as a civic leader in Springfield and one obsessed with historical truth and alarmed by portrayal of his friend and partner as a plaster saint. Wilson argues persuasively that Lincoln's loss of Ann Rutledge, resultant bouts of melancholy bordering on mental illness, and a troubled courtship with Mary Todd that led to a stormy marriage are not figments of mythic imagination, but rather are keys to the soul of the developing statesman. In tandem with the volume of primary source material Herndon's Informants (CH, Apr'98), this book provides a valuable window on the essential Lincoln. All levels. R. A. Fischer University of Minnesota--Duluth
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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