The Lincoln Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Legacy from 1860 to Now
Edited by Harold Holzer
“A thrilling book. Here at last is the living portrait of Lincoln that has eluded photographers and painters for 200 years. Only this great chorus of poets and playwrights, novelists and essayists, historians and statesmen could capture the protean spirit of the man.”
—DANIEL MARK EPSTEIN, author of The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage
Read an exclusive interview with volume editor Harold Holzer (PDF 80K)
Read an excerpt, "Robert Russa Moton, Draft of Speech at the Lincoln Memorial (1922)" (PDF 70K)
Read an excerpt, "Walt Whitman on Abraham Lincoln" (PDF 60K)
The Lincoln Anthology brings together for the first time 110 insightful and imaginative selections by a diverse array of 95 writers from William Cullen Bryant to E. L. Doctorow. Here is a composite portrait of our greatest president told by the journalists, biographers, satirists, essayists, novelists, clergymen, poets, play-wrights, historians, memoirists, and statesmen who have shaped our understanding of Lincoln and his complex and crucial legacy over the last 150 years.
The collection includes fascinating firsthand observations by Emerson and Hawthorne, satirical sketches by Artemus Ward and Petroleum V. Nasby, and surprising contemporary commentary by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Karl Marx, George Templeton Strong, and Horace Greeley. Moving eulogies by Henry Ward Beecher and George Bancroft join poetic tributes from James Russell Lowell, Henrik Ibsen, and Walt Whitman. Dramatically contrasting views of Lincoln are provided by his presidential secretaries, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, and his law partner, William H. Herndon. Lincoln's views and deeds on race and emancipation are examined by Frederick Douglass with keen critical candor, while his democratic virtues are extolled by Whitman in luminous prose.
As Lincoln faded from personal memory his legacy grew, becoming more deeply resonant of abiding American themes—and also more contested. The Lincoln Anthology traces this evolution through the works of Lincoln's path-breaking biographer Ida Tarbell; through the defining poems of Edwin Arlington Robinson, Vachel Lindsay, and Edgar Lee Masters; through the political rivalry of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, as they vie to lay claim to Lincoln's political mantle; and through the powerful writings of Booker T. Washington, Robert R. Moton, and W.E.B. Du Bois, who testify to the continued power of Lincoln's memory for African Americans struggling with the unfulfilled promise of emancipation.
Later in the 20th century, Carl Sandburg, Robert E. Sherwood, and Mario Cuomo discover in Lincoln a democratic hero for new periods of crisis and conflict; Jacques Barzun, Marianne Moore, and Garry Wills explore his greatness as a writer; and Delmore Schwartz, Edmund Wilson, and Lerone Bennett Jr. make provocative contributions to the anti-Lincoln tradition. As the book draws to the present, Richard Slotkin, Adam Braver, and E. L. Doctorow exemplify the renewed vigor of fictional depictions of Lincoln at the beginning of the 21st century, and Barack Obama lays claims to an unfinished legacy as he announces his bid for the office that Lincoln so memorably transformed.
Harold Holzer, volume editor, is the co-chairman of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. He has written, co-written, or edited 22 books on Abraham Lincoln, including Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860–1861; Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President; Lincoln on Democracy (with Mario M. Cuomo); and The Lincoln Image (with Gabor S. Boritt and Mark E. Neely Jr.). He is Senior Vice President for External Affairs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
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