Lincoln in Private: What His Most Personal Reflections Tell Us about Our Greatest President

Random. May 2021. 368p. ISBN 9781984855091. $28. HIST
Biographer and Civil War scholar White shows there still is space on crowded Lincoln bookshelves for a unique work. He has selected an underappreciated group of the president’s writings, in the form of fragments and notes that the Illinois politician jotted down for himself over three decades. White shows that these private documents—some only a line or two, others just a couple paragraphs, and a few several pages in length—reveal much about the development of Lincoln’s personal and political thinking, as well as the deep emotions and beliefs that shaped his better-known public utterances. White devotes over half of his book to an examination of 10 of these informal documents, penned between 1848 and 1862 as Lincoln rose from Illinois lawyer to the presidency. These brief essays place the notes and fragments in historical and biographical context, revealing Lincoln’s emotions as well as his logical analysis. The latter part of the volume, roughly a third, consists of the first published transcribed collection of all 109 of Lincoln’s known fragments and notes.
VERDICT Not for a general audience, but this book will delight devoted readers who are searching for ways to more deeply understand the mind and heart of one of the greatest presidents.
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