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Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness Paperback – October 2, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (October 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618773444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618773442
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Abe the Emancipator, argues Washington Monthly contributor Shenk, struggled with persistent clinical depression. The first major bout came in his 20s, and the disease dogged him for the rest of his life. That Lincoln suffered from "melancholy" isn't new. Shenk's innovation is in saying, first, that this knowledge can be illuminated by today's understanding of depression and, second, that our understanding of depression can be illuminated by the knowledge that depression was actually a source of Lincoln's greatness. Lincoln's strategies for dealing with it are worth noting today: at least once, he took a popular pill known as the "blue mass"—essentially mercury—and also once purchased cocaine. Further, Lincoln's famed sense of humor, suggests Shenk, may have been compensatory, and he also took refuge in poetry. Unlike Americans today, Shenk notes, 19th-century voters and pundits were more forgiving of psychological and emotional complexity, and a certain prophetic pessimism, he notes, was appropriate to the era of the Civil War. Occasionally, Shenk chases down an odd rabbit trail—an opening meditation on whether Lincoln was gay, for example, is neither conclusive nor apposite. Still, this is sensitive history, with important implications for the present. (Sept. 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–In 1835, Lincoln, a likable, gifted law student, was so depressed that his community, who accepted his mental state as a component of his brilliance, put him on a suicide watch. The reaction to his depressions by those who knew him, and by Lincoln himself, is a revelation of 19th-century thinking. In his day, melancholia was seen as a personality type that, along with disadvantages, had attributes such as deep self-reflection. Blessed with insight into his condition, Lincoln used it as a resource, providing self-therapy in an era when professional therapies were scant. The man also was blessed with a sense of humor and, above all, good friendships that alleviated major life traumas, including the loss of two children. This is not a full biography. Emphasis is placed on aspects of Lincolns life that contributed to his mental burdens, such as his estrangement from his father. The value of this book is the authors ability to assess his subjects mental state based on eyewitness accounts and Lincolns own words. Shenk assumes his readers have a grasp of the periods history, making the book challenging, but teens interested in Lincoln or psychology will find the content compelling.–Jo Ann Soriano, Lorton Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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