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The Lincoln Enigma: The Changing Faces of an American Icon Hardcover – February 8, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0195144581 ISBN-10: 0195144589 Edition: First Printing

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Printing edition (February 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195144589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195144581
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,849,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

A recent popular poll found Abraham Lincoln remains one of the best-regarded American Presidents. This title, based on papers presented at a Gettysburg College Civil War Institute conference in summer 2000, shows that such interest is still shared by scholars as well. Boritt, the director of the institute and author of numerous works on the conflict, edited this excellent collection of essays by eight of our leading Civil War scholars (David Herbert Donald, William C. Davis, Jean Baker, Douglas Wilson, and others). Topics range from the late President's views on race (and ideas about the formation of an all-black colony) to his love life; the young Lincoln, the married Lincoln, and the strategist Lincoln; biographer Donald even imagines how the Great Emancipator might have run the Confederacy. An epilog by Borrit and Harold Holzer on Lincoln in art is particularly intriguing. The release of this title was designed to coincide with the recent PBS documentary on Abraham and Mary Lincoln. An excellent choice for both public and academic libraries. Daniel Liestman, Kansas State Univ. Libs., Manhattan
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"The Lincoln Enigma turns out to be a provocative, thoughtful consideration of two aspects of this atonishingly interesting man: his capacity to be all things to all people and the deep mystery at the very core of him."--Jonathan Yardly, The Washington Post

"Grounded on new archival treasures and state-of-the-art research, edited by the great Lincoln historian Gabor Boritt, The Lincoln Enigma is a rich, absorbing and sometimes startling book, rendered by some of the most distinguished scholars in the Lincoln world." --Michael Beschloss, PBS and NBC commentator

"Enigma or not, Lincoln greatly benefits from this collection of essays--and so do we as readers. After Gabor Boritt's picturesque travelogue in search of Lincoln effigies all over the world, we are given, with ample documentation, views that overturn the conventional about Lincoln's early life, marriage, self-will, and military mind, all this topped off by a superb meditation on Lincoln and death. A visual bonus follows in the form of a gallery of portraits and caricatures mostly unfamiliar. Few books of this size contain so much." --Jacques Barzun, author of the bestseller From Dawn to Decadence

"Each essay is a tiny gem of originality and insight; taken together, they form a splendid whole which goes as far as any single book to illuminate the Lincoln enigma." --Doris Kearns Goodwin, PBS and NBC commentator, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning bestseller, No Ordinary Time, and of Wait Till Next Year

"The stimulating essays in this volume prove that despite the thousands of books about Lincoln, there are still new insights and fresh perspectives to engage the reader. At the same time, many aspects of Lincoln's life--his marriage for instance--remain an enigma." --James M. McPherson, Princeton University, author of the bestselling Pulitzer winning Battle Cry of Freedom

"The Licoln Enigma is a splendid collection of essays that explores the mind, the personality, and the social conscience of one of America's most important presidents. From the socialization of his youth, to his marriage, to his evolution as leader of the nation at its most critical hour, to his death and his place in the American memory, these writings tell of a remarkable man and president, who remains a mystery even to those who have spent a lifetime studying him. This is fascinating reading, a must for every student of American politics, social history and biography." --James Oliver Horton, Banneker Professor of American Studies and History, George Washington University, and co-author of In Hope of Liberty: Community, Culture and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Toby Joyce on June 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Look at me and I'll tell you without blinkin' this southerner prefers Abraham Lincoln"
goes a rap at the start of this book, and it is aimed at those of like mind, southerner or not.
A warning - half the book consists of illustrations of Lincolniana so that this is one for the specialist. The Lincoln- seeker should read David Donald's excellent biography before opening this book.
That said, does this book tell us anything new about Lincoln? The answer is yes, without being final or definitive. I liked particularly the article on Lincoln and the Constitution, showing that he was not the 'dictator' of Copperhead legend, nor the conscious revolutionary of Garry Wills' 'Lincoln at Gettysburg'. However, did his actions not have revolutionary results?
The article on the Lincoln marriage I felt a bit limited, but also a good corrective to the image of Lincoln the hen-pecked husband trapped in a loveless union. 'Mary, Mary, we are elected!" he cried to his wife on arriving home that great day, showing the essential nature of the partnership between them. However, this essay does not use Mariah Vance's remininscences, though written very much later that the 1850s, which show Mary Todd Lincoln as addicted to paregoric (which contained opium) and subject to alternating fits of drugged lassitiude, and withdrawal-induced sickness. However, even the Vance memoirs (she was the Lincoln's servant) are not entirely negative on Mary Lincoln.
Other essays cover the Lincoln youth, his fascination with death, his status as war leader and finally his image in American art. The enigma is somewhat clarified but somehow the enigma, and the continuing fascination, remains.
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Format: Paperback
Nine scholars writing ten essays take some of the most discussed and often controversial aspects of Lincoln's life and test them in the context of historical events. For me the most exciting reading was Allen Guelzo's analysis of Lincoln's understanding of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and their use in the Gettysburg Address.

Guelzo is the first person I can recall reading or hearing who offered this understanding of the cause of the Civil War from two Lincoln quotes:

"'My opinion is that no state can, in any way lawfully, get out of the Union, without the consent of the others,' he told Thurlow Weed in 1860 `and that it is the duty of the President, and other government functionaries to run the machine as it is.' Just as slavery was a violation of the spirit of the Declaration, secession was a violation of the whole idea of constitutional government. `A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks, and limitations, and always changing, with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people.' But secession was an insult to the notion of majority rule and constitutional government, a flight `to anarchy or despotism.'" Last quote from First Inaugural Address - Final Text - July 4, 1861

Guelzo went on to give a detailed explanation of Lincoln's thinking on the Constitution and the Declaration.

As in his other writings, Guelzo's insights are deep, based on solid research, expressed in vivid prose and sound insights.

Having read the public library copy, I'm adding this book to my next order.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on February 4, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What were Lincoln's views on death, afterlife and religion? Did he really have a loveless marriage? Would things have been different if he and Jeff Davis had swapped places?

Speculative thought, and some answers, are to be found in this new volume, along with a wealth of perspective of Lincoln in artwork.

The reason I only four-starred this book is that the body copy of text, before the artwork appendices, is only about 160 pages. This book could have used at least 50, if not 100, pages of additional meat on his bones.

AND, this is LINCOLN! It's not like that would have been that hard to do.
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