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The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words Hardcover – January 11, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (January 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400061199
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400061198
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,138,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

White (Lincoln's Greatest Speech) traces Lincoln's evolving rhetoric over the course of his presidency in a series of highly detailed critical essays. He follows Lincoln from the cautious, lawyerly text of the First Inaugural to the soaring, triumphant poetics of the Gettysburg Address. As White rightly emphasizes, a great deal of presidential power emanates from "rhetorical leadership." During the darkest moments of Lincoln's generally grim presidency, he had only his own stark eloquence with which to keep his "house divided" from collapsing entirely, and—up to a point—it is intriguing to study the mechanics of Lincoln's vital words. Throughout his book, White not only documents the growth of Lincoln's capacity for great inspirational language, but also shows how each major speech and public remark of Lincoln's presidential career was influenced and shaped by shifting, and eminently practical, political considerations. White is adept at analyzing Lincoln's structural tics and cadences, and the subtle plays of syntax in which he relished the repetition of such complementary words as "renew" and "anew." This level of detail, however, makes for some very long and dry—albeit illuminating—analysis that only the most devoted Lincoln enthusiast will likely be willing to wade through. B&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

An extension of White's Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural (2002), this work follows the entire arc of the sixteenth president's Civil War speeches. As president, Lincoln made only three or four public statements per year. White selects 11 and discusses the background of the occasion for their delivery and the rhetoric of their composition. An evocative refrain in White's individual discussions is the consideration Lincoln gave to the sound of his speeches, which are characterized by alliteration, parallelism ("We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth"), and the repetition of anchoring ideas ("If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it"). They also increasingly departed from the legalistic first inaugural address and became markedly theological, culminating in the sermonlike second inaugural address. Stressing how Lincoln intended his words to be heard, White strengthens their appearance on the page. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Any reader who has any interest in those questions must read this book.
R. B. Bernstein
The author does a masterful job of weaving Lincoln's prose into a thoughly enjoyable journey of his life.
Boomer Boy
The previous comments sort of give you the idea that this is a special book.
David H. Eisenberg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By R. B. Bernstein on February 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Abraham Lincoln was eloquent; everybody knows that. But what kind of eloquence did he have? How did he use it to advance his ideas and political agenda? How did he use it to enlighten the American people and to summon up the best that this nation can be? Any reader who has any interest in those questions must read this book. It is a profound yet lucid and fast-moving examination of Lincoln's uses of oratory as president-elect and as president. It stands with yet somehow manages to eclipse studies of specific speeches such as Garry Wills's LINCOLN AT GETTYSBURG or the author's previous study of the Second Inaugural Address, LINCOLN'S GREATEST SPEECH. I teach Lincoln in my Law and Literature course and I plan to have this book at my elbow as I teach Lincoln this semester.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Scott E. Rosenau on July 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In this book, White expands the focus from his previous work on Lincoln's Second Inaugural ("Lincoln's Greatest Speech" published in 2002). White looks at the progression of Lincoln's thought and the increasing greatness and eloquence of his speeches and public letters during his presidency that leads to that final and considered by many to be his greatest major speech.

In the process of examining these speeches, White looks at them each individually, but also looks at their relationship to one another as "a string of pearls" (a term he uses more than once in the book). White uses this visual description of the speeches stating that while each pearl is beautiful in its own way and can be examined separately, they also come together and one pearl connects to others in the string that can best be understood by comparing them to each other and examining the ways they are connected. In many of the speeches, White demonstrates that Lincoln leaves the audience with thoughts and ideas that his mind is still wrestling with that are picked up again in a later speech and developed more fully as his thoughts on those subjects have matured over time.

White has also done an excellent job in selecting the best and most memorable speeches and public letters from Lincoln's presidency. He begins with Lincoln's farewell remarks at Springfield on February, 11, 1861 and includes remarks from his journey to Washington. Also included are both of Lincoln's Inaugural Addresses, his reply to Horace Greeley's "Prayer of Twenty Millions," the 1862 Message to Congress, Conkling Letter, and Gettysburg Address. As I read each chapter on each of the speeches, I got a sense of the growth of Lincoln and the development of his thought until it reached its twin climaxes of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By B. D. Weimer on March 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who enjoys the process of writing and speaking, this book is a great treat. Lincoln carefully selected words for their mental and emotional impact. And he seems to have gotten better every year. Very inspiring!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brian Lewis on May 26, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was really well done, and certainly can be appreciated not just by admirers of Lincoln, but readers interested in the process of writing and speaking - especially for the purpose of winning an argument.

Some earlier posts are correct in noting that the book is superior to some other efforts that focused on single speeches, such as Garry Willis' book on the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln at Cooper Union. I haven't read White's Lincoln's Greatest Speech.

However, my feeling is the book could have taken an even longer view. That is pick up Lincoln as a speaker at a much earlier point in his life and follow him from his days as a country lawyer to the Second Inaugural Address. As it is, starting at a point in his life when Lincoln was already an accomplished speaker, we see him go from very good to great.

Also, while I thought the Mr. White's argument that the Bible was a strong influence on Lincoln's speaking style has merit, it also often seemed forced. I would have taken Lincoln's comments that both sides were praying to the same God as the view of a religous skeptic, for example.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By The Concise Critic: on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
What a package: you see His picture, you know you will read His words (judged correctly "eloquent"), you review His chronology. . .and you can't not finish this book.(And the biggest prize is the end-matter, the over 100 pages of appendices and notes.)
I'm thankful--to a good extent--for Mr. White's tour. Without him, I would know less of the background of the speeches, less of the Civil War, less of the politics of the time. And he lets Lincoln star.
I tired only of Mr. White's repetition. It seemed he used the same putty to tie Lincoln's speeches together. But that might be too harsh: anything linking Lincoln to Lincoln will suffer. (But it seemed to suffer in the same ways: Yes, the divine meditation was for Lincoln's eyes only. . .for his eyes only. . .for his eyes only. Yes, Lincoln used parallel structures. . .parallel structures. . .parallel structures. Yes, the word count was minute with heavy use of one-syllable words. . .count. . .minute. . .syllables.)
Thank you, overall, for presenting the greatness of this man, the wisdom of his words, the nobility of his leadership to today's world. May we be wise enough to understand and think and feel him presently.
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