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Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words Paperback – October 9, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Ever since publication of Garry Wills's Pulitzer Prize–winning Lincoln at Gettysburg (1992), the woods have been alive with considerations of Lincoln's rhetoric, both spoken and written, by among others Henry Mark Holzer, Allen C. Guelzo and Ronald C. White. Thus this new work by Wilson (author of the Lincoln Prize winner Honor's Voice) is necessarily redundant. Wilson's emphasis—aside from placing key remarks into historical context—is on applying excruciatingly detailed and tireless (sometimes tiresome) textual analysis to such utterances as Lincoln's farewell to Springfield, Ill.; the First Inaugural; the July 4th, 1861, message to Congress; the Emancipation Proclamation; and the Gettysburg Address. Robert Lincoln recalled his father as "a very deliberate writer, anything but rapid." It is Lincoln's very deliberate, painstaking, multidraft process that Wilson seeks to document. Readers deeply immersed in Lincoln trivia will find Wilson's intricate forensics inviting. Others, nurturing a more casual interest, will fast find themselves drowned in details of subtle variations between drafts of Lincoln's various major addresses, all so carefully dissected in order to reveal the mechanical, trial-and-error process that lay behind Lincoln's soaring eloquence. 50 b&w illus. (Nov. 17)
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 Bookmarks Magazine
Douglas L. Wilson, codirector of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and 1999 Lincoln Prize winner for Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln, has again won the Lincoln Prize for Lincoln's Sword. Wilson says the book resulted from his work transcribing Lincoln's most famous writings for the Library of Congress, where he was struck by Lincoln's literary craftsmanship and penchant for revision. While a few reviewers criticize Wilson's academic prose style and reiteration of Lincoln material (he breaks no new ground), most admire his scholarship and inside look at Lincoln's writing process and find the book an insightful and revelatory study of our 16th president.Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
As a documentary scholar, Wilson cannot be surpassed: he properly acknowledges prior scholars who celebrated the high quality of Lincoln's prose--Jacques Barzun and Don Fehrenbacher, among others. Wilson examines not only Lincoln's own papers, but also relevant correspondence, news reports, and testimony. Lincoln sometimes showed drafts to colleagues, friends, and secretaries, then revised to respond to their criticisms.
Wilson takes care to distinguish Lincoln's public oratory from the printed records of it, and shows how--in case after case--Lincoln was sensitive to and took advantage of differences in media. Lincoln knew when his writing should be formal or folksy, terse or expansive, tacit or explicit, congenial or hortatory. No less important, he knew how to seize an opportunity and when to create one. Modern presidents rely on television to reach the citizenry; Lincoln wrote highly influential editorials and public letters. He wrote his own speeches. Then he rewrote them.
Wilson shows that Lincoln was a relentless reviser. No matter how well he spoke and how well a speech was received, he would guide it into print with alterations to make it work as well on the page as possible. Wilson probes whether the Gettysburg Address that millions have memorized is what Lincoln actually said.
Wilson does not ask us to take him on faith: he includes facsimile reproductions of many key documents as evidence of Lincoln's attentive labor. Readers can see the cross-outs, scribbles, and additions for themselves.
Finally, Wilson reminds us of the immense literary work--reading, writing, and revising--that Lincoln did in the course of his presidency. Getting the general sense across was not enough for Lincoln: he sought precision. For any parent or educator who wishes proof of the importance of good writing for good judgment and good effect, there are few better examples than the Lincoln shown here.
Many other authors over the years have mined the rich lode of speeches and other texts left by this great man for insights related to the art of writing--- the noted scholar Douglas Wilson's present effort on this specific topic will rank among the best.
I highly recommend this well-written work to all students of Lincoln, of history, and of communication.