- Publisher: Basic Books; 36661st edition (1994)
- ASIN: B00BUWF4I0
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The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln unknown Edition by C. A. Tripp (2006) Paperback – 1994
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The big question concerns Lincoln's sexuality and his relationships with women, including Mary Todd Lincoln. There is fascinating evidence that he may have been bi-sexual with a strong leaning toward homosexuality, yet there is also strong evidenced that he may have been heterosexual. With the present evidenced, no final determination is possible. Tripp, who was homosexual himself, tries to present evidence from both sides. It seems the Lincoln scholars go back and forth on this question, sometimes with teeth and nail determination. Some of the evidence is derived from direct quotes from Lincoln's friends and associates, letters to and from Lincoln, and other documents, while other evidence is circumstantial. The most convincing evidence is that Lincoln slept in the same tiny beds with a few males when it was not necessary and, in one case, only when his wife was out of town.
The book includes critical evaluations of the text by champions of both sides, fairly presented. Correspondence is directly reproduced in text and appendix.
In the end, no definitive statement can be made other than the facts that Lincoln admitted he was always uncomfortable in the company of women, that he did sleep inordinately long periods (up to 4 years) with men who claimed they had the most intimate relationships possible with Lincoln, that he didn't want to marry but was required to in order to remain in politics, and that whenever Mary was away, he would invite one particular bodyguard to sleep in his bed with him.
There can be no sure answer to this question at this time or maybe ever, but I learned a LOT about the private Lincoln that was fascinating and not in the typical bio. He had a filthy sense of humor, for instance, and loved to tell crass sexual and toilet humor jokes (to the men only) whenever he got the chance. He wasn't always the depressed character we've come to know so well and could be hilariously funny.
I recommend this book.
A psychologist and associate of Alfred Kinsey, Tripp uses both the research gathered by Kinsey on human sexuality and factual information from Lincoln's life to arrive at his conclusions. He ascertained that Lincoln arrived at puberty very early, at age nine or ten, and from Kinsey's research, hypothesized that Lincoln would have been more likely to have been homosexual or bisexual because of that. On Kinsey's seven-point continuum, with zero being completely heterosexual and six exclusively homosexual, he opined that Lincoln would fall at five.
Although there are other men mentioned-- Billy Greene, a lad who helped Lincoln with his grammar, often slept with him and said of the small cot they slept on that when one of them turned over the other had to do likewise-- Tripp discusses in detail three men that Lincoln may have had a romantic or sexual interest in. David Derickson was a captain in the Union Army, from a "socially prominent" family in Pennsylvania and nine years younger than Lincoln. For a time, when Mrs. Lincoln was away from the White House, this young man slept with Lincoln. Colonel Elmer Ellsworth was the "first casualty of the Civil War" and someone who had come to Lincoln's attention through a Col. John Cook. Lincoln invited him to study law at the Lincoln law office and later wrote letters to the Secretary of War recommending promotions for him. Ellsworth was killed in an effort to tear down a Confederate flag that waved across the Potomac in Alexandria that Lincoln could see from the White House. Upon learning of this young man's death, the President was distraught. The most compelling evidence, however-- though of course circumstantial-- comes from Lincoln's relationship with Joshua Speed. These two men shared the same bed for four years in Springfield, Illinois. When Speed moved out and moved back to Kentucky, Lincoln had a nervous breakdown. Speed later married and had promised to write to Lincoln the following day to report on "how the wedding night had gone." Lincoln responded as follows: "I opened the latter [letter] with intense anxiety and trepidation; so much, that although it turned out better than I expected, I have hardly yet, at the distance of ten hours, become calm." It is Tripp's belief that these men had concerns over whether Speed would be able to perform on his wedding night and that this letter is the closest we have of a smoking gun. Speed and his wife never had children. There are other interesting facts: apparently Lincoln married Mary Todd because of societal pressures if he were to be a public figure. He only bought the marriage license on the day of the wedding. Mary later nixed the naming of their first child "Joshua" and never liked Speed. After Lincoln's death, when people were gathering all the information available about this martyred president, Speed gave some of Lincoln's letters to William Herndon but only those of "any interest." Finally, Speed is the only person that Lincoln ever signed his letters, "Yours forever."
There is more here-- about what a shrew Mary was as well as evidence that the story of Ann Rutledge as Lincoln's one tragic love is probably as mythical as George Washington's cutting down the cherry tree. For starters, she was engaged to someone else. Tripp discusses Lincoln's lack of conventional religious beliefs-- nowhere in his writings does he discuss a personal savior or mention Jesus. During the illness and death of his first born-- whatever Lincoln felt about marriage, he adored his children-- at no time did he appear to pray or seek divine intervention.
Tripp winds up this certainly intriguing study in a final chapter labeled "On Lincoln's Sexuality with Extensions" with comparisons of Lincoln to Churchill -- I didn't know heretofore that Churchill admitted to at least one homosexual involvement that he labeled "musical"-- and the World War II code-breaker Alan Turing-- a somewhat bizzare ending, but perhaps Tripp would have made revisions had he lived (he died before the publication of this book).
If Tripp's conclusions are accurate-- we will never know, although other scholars believe that Lincoln was at least bisexual-- then ironies abound. Walt Whitman's tribute to Lincoln, the elegiac and beautiful "When Lilacs Last In The Dooryard Bloomed" takes on new meaning. (According to the footnotes from my college Norton anthology, lilacs in some cultures are symbolic of male love as I recall). And maybe we have the last laugh on that great heterosexual President Mr. Jefferson who, although he apparently had no qualms about impregnating his slave again and again, suggested that sodomites be castrated. Of course "jelly babies," Lincoln's term for what happens when two men have sex, leave no DNA evidence, Mr. Jefferson.
In the final analysis, it probably doesn't matter who slept with Lincoln. But at the very least, as Jean Baker says in her introduction, we should give this book a "fair reading."