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Reading with Lincoln

Robert Bray

Publication Year: 2010

This is the first monograph on Abraham Lincoln’s reading and what that reading contributed to his personal and political lives. It covers in great detail and depth Lincoln’s reading and self-education from early boyhood literacy to his death. Bray analyzes Lincoln’s radical period in New Salem, during which he came under the influence of Anglo-American and French Enlightenment thinkers such as Thomas Paine, C. F. Volney, and Voltaire, resulting in a strongly anti-Christian, anti-clerical bent in his thought during the early 1830s; his love of poetry in the dual contexts of his own poetry and early nineteenth-century literary taste; his social, economic, and political philosophy and theology; his love of American humor and Shakespeare; and his rhetorical use of the Bible.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Front Flap

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Copyright

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Contents

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pp. vii-

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

To a professor of the liberal arts, as I have been for several decades, Abraham Lincoln’s splendid self-education presents an occasion for humility. What I have long tried to accomplish with my students—better reading, better thinking, and better writing—he managed by himself, with-out formal schooling, and became one of the supreme...

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1. The Sometime Schoolboy

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pp. 1-40

How and when did Abraham Lincoln learn to read and write? Family tradition, as conveyed by Lincoln’s cousin-once-removed, Dennis Hanks, gave Nancy Hanks Lincoln the credit for teaching her young son his letters. She also read to him from the Bible. But if she coached her son in his own first reading, this is about as far as her homeschooling could have gone...

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2. Young Citizen Lincoln

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pp. 41-81

On the subject of Lincoln’s New Salem education in literacy, no textbook has received more frequent or respectful mention than Samuel Kirkham’s English Grammar (1824). The village’s collective memory testified variously that he read it with Ann Rutledge; he tutored in grammar with schoolmaster Mentor Graham, using a borrowed copy; he recited...

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3. Tragicomic Melancholy

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pp. 82-139

Two presidents have their literary work represented, a single poem each, in the canon of nineteenth-century American poetry (John Quincy Adams is the other one). Lincoln’s offering is “My Childhood-Home I See Again,” a ninety-six-line lyric in ballad stanzas, written in 1846.1 His having been president of the United States...

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4. Necessity and Invention

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pp. 140-188

In the congressional race of 1846, when partisans of the Democratic candidate and militant Methodist preacher Peter Cartwright accused Abraham Lincoln of “infidelity”—a renewal of whisperings about his New Salem and early Springfield freethinking radicalism—and Democrats pushed him hard on the issue, Lincoln late in the campaign...

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5. Nothing Equals Macbeth

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pp. 189-219

No literary influences on Abraham Lincoln are invoked more often, or more uncritically, than the poetic dramas of William Shakespeare and the Christian Bible. And in an important sense, both collections of texts were one: Elizabethan and Jacobean in origin, Shakespeare’s published plays and the King James Bible...

Appendix: The Books That Abraham Lincoln Read

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pp. 223-229

Notes

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pp. 231-252

Index

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pp. 253-261

Author Bio

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pp. 262-

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809385898
E-ISBN-10: 0809385899
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809329953
Print-ISBN-10: 0809329956

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 -- Books and reading.
  • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 -- Knowledge and learning.
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