An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd

Pegasus. Jun. 2021. 496p. ISBN 9781643137346. $27.95. HIST
With this latest work, Burlingame (Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies, Univ. of Illinois Springfield), author of several books on the 16th U.S. president, including Abraham Lincoln: A Life, examines the intimacy of Lincoln’s marriage. Grounding his research in primary sources, Burlingame argues that the marriage was often cold. He paints Mary Todd Lincoln in an unflattering light, discussing her patronage requests and extravagant shopping sprees. Burlingame does not blame Todd alone for the staleness of the marriage; he also references Abraham Lincoln’s mercurial temperament and long work absences. While Burlingame makes a considerable effort to recast the historiography of the marriage, his aim appears to be rehabilitating Lincoln’s image and casting doubt on the legacy of Todd, who the author says was physically and emotionally abusive to her husband, children, and household staff. More time could have been spent detailing the effects of Todd’s difficult childhood or the deaths of her three of her four children.
VERDICT The latest by Burlingame is primarily recommended for Lincoln completists.
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