By Brian Lamb
Edited through C-SPANвЂ™s Brian Lamb and Susan Swain, illustrated with LambвЂ™s photos of Lincoln landmarks, and promoted all year long on C-SPAN, Abraham Lincoln is a superb compendium of data and deeply-informed research that merits a admired position on each bookshelf.
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Additional resources for Abraham Lincoln: Great American Historians on Our Sixteenth President
Herndon was a man who owed Lincoln a great deal and who revered him. But the kind of biography he wanted to write [was one in which] he wanted to tell the whole truth. He wanted to get into everything. In his day, biography was supposed to be done sympathetically by your friends, and it was supposed to only talk about the positive and the honorific. He wanted to tell the whole story. He drew a lot of flak for that. [Herndon wrote that Lincoln’s friend Joshua Speed] “told me this story about Lincoln.
He needed some outside encouragement. He just had such a meager education—only a year of formal school. He didn’t learn polished grammar until after he was twenty-one years old. He didn’t learn basic geometry until he was forty. He thought his educational background was too limited to become a lawyer, and it took some encouragement from somebody else. But Stuart encouraged him, and Lincoln started reading on his own, and by 1836 he could become a lawyer. He served four terms in the Illinois Legislature, followed by a brief period in which he didn’t hold public office, but he was basically angling to be congressman from his district.
As soon as you put Lincoln’s writings and Lincoln’s speeches alongside those of Salmon Chase or Charles Sumner or Jefferson Davis, the differences become stark. Davis’s speeches are high-flown; the rhetoric is bombastic. It’s the literary equivalent of a three-decker novel. Lincoln’s prose is spare, direct, eloquent. It’s the prose of a lawyer speaking to a jury of twelve plain prairie settlers. He never wasted a moment. Herndon once said that Lincoln was so intent upon getting his ideas made crystal clear that he would ball himself up for hours on end, trying to get just the right words for just the right expression.