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The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln Hardcover – January 4, 2005

2.9 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Psychologist, therapist and former Kinsey sex researcher Tripp—author of the 1975 classic The Homosexual Matrix—died in May 2003 at the age of 83, just after completing this riveting new study that makes a surprisingly compelling case for Lincoln's bisexuality. Tripp merges a sexual psychologist's knowledge with a prosecutor's eye for evidence as he scrutinizes letters, diaries and oral histories gathered by early Lincoln researchers. Seeing what others either could not or would not, Tripp itemizes in telling detail three homosexual liaisons from different stages of Lincoln's life. The first involved young Billy Green, a frequent bunk mate in New Salem during the 1830s. The second was a passionate union with the aristocratic Kentuckian, and Lincoln's lifelong friend, Joshua Speed in Springfield, Ill., during the 1840s (Tripp notes, refuting others' arguments, that poverty did not necessitate their long-term sharing of a bed). The last involved Capt. David V. Derickson, President Lincoln's bodyguard and intimate companion between September 1862 and April 1863; it is documented that the president shared his bed with him on numerous occasions during Mary Lincoln's frequent absences. Throughout the book, the most important factor is Tripp's knowledgeable sex therapist's eye running over key sources to detect telltale markers missed by previous writers who lacked Tripp's training. An Introduction by Jean Baker (biographer of Mary Todd Lincoln) and concluding comments from Lincoln scholar Michael Chesson help put Tripp's groundbreaking—and sure to be controversial—study into historical context. BOMC, InsightOut Book Club alternates. (Jan. 11)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Here’s a book that provokes more rebuttals than reviews. Every critic breaks out the textbooks to dispute, distort, and dismiss the evidence. Only The Advocate comes out with unabashed praise. Otherwise, the critical consensus is that the late Tripp, a former therapist, psychologist, Kinsey associate, and author of The Homosexual Matrix (1975), twists well-known evidence with an eye on an agenda rather than historical accuracy. More importantly, he doesn’t attempt to answer the trickier question of how Lincoln’s sexual predilections affected his role in American history. Reviewers also mourn Tripp, who passed away in 2003, with wishes that he’d been around to edit the manuscript’s jumpy, uneven prose.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (January 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743266390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743266390
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,303,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The world of Lincoln scholarship can be highly contentious, but controversy about this book relates to Tripp's use of evidence, not the topic he examines. My own specialty is Lincoln's pre-presidential life. Determining what happened in those years can involve surmise and supposition. I don't fault Tripp for lacking unobtainable proof. Even outright speculation can freshen thought.

I am concerned, however, by Tripp seizing a kernel of evidence, extrapolating from it, and pronouncing the resultant structure to be proof of his contention. For example, he finds a unique statement from Bill Greene noting that Lincoln had well-developed thighs. Tripp then turns to the Duncan and Nichols biography of Mentor Graham, a source I consider so unreliable that I have never dared cite it as authority for anything. Relying on an undependable source and a single comment from Greene, Tripp claims to prove a homosexual relationship between Greene and Lincoln.

Tripp extrapolates further and argues that because Greene became embarrassed when Lincoln introduced him to Secretary of State Seward as Lincoln's grammar teacher, that meant Greene was uneasy about his old homosexual relationship with Lincoln. Tripp considers and rejects the possibility that Greene said little during the meeting because he didn't want to reveal his poor grasp of grammar to Seward, thereby belying Lincoln's praise and humiliating himself. I find the possibility that Tripp rejects to be more plausible than the one he embraces.

Another type of reasoning is illustrated by Tripp arguing for a homosexual relationship between Lincoln and Joshua Speed because (in part) when Lincoln moved into their sleeping quarters, Speed failed to say anything about his admiration of a Lincoln speech.
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Format: Hardcover
Tripp offers an intriguing thesis -- Lincoln's fundamental
homosexuality -- that can be useful in understanding and
explaining many of the most difficult aspects of his character.
Lincoln's famed melancholy, his evident sorrows, and his stormy
marriage and difficult family life can be readily explained and
perhaps rightly understood in the light of this premise.

Nevertheless, though Tripp's conclusions make a great deal of
sense from a psychological perspective, I do not find them
wholly convincing. This is possibly an inherent scepticism I
have with pyshological explanations of historical figures: I
am unsure and unconvinced that what we know now about
pyschology must always hold true for the past (it was a
different context, and thus quite similar manifestations may
have quite dissimilar causes while similar causes may have very
dissimilar manifestations.)

My scepticism is also due to my training as a historian. While
a pyschologist may well be allowed (perhaps MUST be allowed) to
make great conclusions from scant evidence, a historian
generally should not be. Tripp offers a goodly body of
evidence about the relationship between Lincoln and Speed (one
that I find persuasive, even.) But he draws a great deal of
inference from a small body of evidence for other examples.
And Tripp relys upon a style of argumentation which I cannot
abide: "Since we know my premise to be true, all this that
follows must be true." This is a common tact in psychological
writing starting with Freud, at least, but it fails to convince
me.
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Format: Paperback
In order to get anything out of this book, one has to keep the times of Lincoln firmly in mind. There won't be any "hey look, y'all, I'm gay" statements found anywhere because that didn't happen during that time. Just read and see what your gut says. For ex., yes, it was common for poorer men to share a bed back then. But when they became less poor, and other beds were available, they didn't opt for the buddy in a bed scenario anymore. When someone clings to that convention and then limits the buddy in the bed to young, good looking guys (why not the toady, old guys if it's just about convenience?), you have to wonder. And then, there is the amazing ability of people very close to you to NOT see what is obvious. In college, I shared my dorm room with three straight guys and not one ever guessed I was gay (this in spite of the opera record collection, arty/gay friends, interest in theatre, and total absence of any female dates, pix, posters or interest when they showed theirs . . . twenty yrs later these roommates expressed shock in finding out, one even wrote a nonfiction piece on "the discovery"). Today, you'd think that's all amazingly blind. But just 30 years ago, folks worked really hard to NOT see things they didn't want to see. Take it back 100+ years and you see how much more willful blindness there was likely to have been.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I carry THE INTIMATE WORLD OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN with me, people comment on the book's content and express their opinion. However, I discover that few of these people have actually read the book! Clearly, this is a controversial book that generated a great deal of TV talk, but the talk lacks substance. Mostly frustratingly, people will draw conclusion regarding the validity of Tripp's position without reading the book. Thus, my first recommendation is to read the book and assess Tripp's methodology. Don't buy the TV talk.

Tripp (deceased just prior to publication), a well known clinical psychologist, has hypothesized that Lincoln was not a heterosexual. This is considerably different from stating that Lincoln was a homosexual - which is how people who haven't read the book (i.e., Bill O'Reilly) interpret Tripp's findings. Besides failing to read the book, many people lack the biological, historical and sociological background to understand Tripp's findings. Here is where a solid liberal arts education pays off and perhaps herein lays the major criticism of Tripp's work. Tripp fails to build the biological, historical and sociological foundation that provides the legitimacy for Tripp's conclusions.

I can give examples of critical foundation issues that Tripp failed to address. First, he needed to review the function of genes in human biology. Many people with limited knowledge believe that genes provide discrete and clear cut outcomes - male/female; blue eyes/brown eyes. Many genes don't function in this manner. This biological tidbit has profound implications for sexual orientation.
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