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An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln: John G.…
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An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln: John G. Nicolay's Interviews and…

by Michael Burlingame (Editor), John G. Nicolay

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Burlingame, MichaelEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nicolay, John G.main authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809326841, Paperback)

Winner of the Abraham Lincoln Association Prize

In An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln, Michael Burlingame has uncovered buried Lincoln treasure from the papers of one of Lincoln’s private secretaries, John G. Nicolay. Between 1872 and 1890, Nicolay and John Hay worked on a monumental ten-volume biography of Lincoln for which they conducted thirty-nine interviews in Springfield and Washington. However, some of Nicolay’s notes were written in shorthand, making them inaccessible to researchers. Nicolay and Hay had made little use of the interviews in the published biography, partly because they considered the information too personal or embarrassing for the Lincoln family, especially to Robert Todd Lincoln, and partly because they wanted to rely on contemporary documents rather than reminiscences. Through the interviews Nicolay learned that Lincoln broke off his initial engagement to Mary Todd in 1841, that he suffered from frequent despondency, and that he was constantly anxious that his wife would embarrass him. In this first paperback edition of An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln, Burlingame unearths these documents, skillfully transcribes Nicolay’s interviews, and presents them here with context and annotation, offering new insight into previously unknown aspects of Lincoln’s life.

"Burlingame’s editorial work is solid. . . . Lincoln scholars should find this volume useful because of the information it brings together in one place and stimulating because of the larger questions it raises concerning the use of historical evidence." —Civil War History

"[T]his collection is important and contains as much new information on Lincoln as anyone is apt to find at this late date. I commend [Burlingame] for bringing these interviews to light." —The Journal of Southern History

"Who Lincoln was and who people remember him to be are often diametrically opposed. It is books like this . . . that are must-reads for everyone interested in Lincoln. . . . [A]n excellent contribution." —Illinois Historical Journal

"Burlingame has done a masterful job in selecting and editing these hidden treasures of first-person narratives on the life and person of Abraham Lincoln. The insights revealed . . . are invaluable." —Midwest Book Review

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:42 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"John G. Nicolay, who had known Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, served as chief White House secretary from 1861 to 1865. Trained as a journalist, Nicolay had hoped to write a campaign biography of Lincoln in 1860, a desire that was thwarted when an obscure young writer named William Dean Howells got the job. Years later, however, Nicolay fulfilled his ambition; with John Hay, he spent the years from 1872 to 1890 writing a monumental ten-volume biography of Lincoln." "In preparation for this task, Nicolay interviewed men who had known Lincoln both during his years in Springfield and later when he became the president of the United States. "When it came time to write their massive biography, however," Burlingame notes, "he and Hay made sparing use of the interviews" because they had become "skeptical about human memory." Nicolay and Hay also feared that Robert Todd Lincoln might censor material that reflected "poorly on Lincoln or his wife."" "Nicolay had interviewed such Springfield friends as Lincoln's first two law partners, John Todd Stuart and Stephen T. Logan. At the Iillinois capital in June and July 1875, he talked to a number of others including Orville H. Browning, U.S. senator and Lincoln's close friend and adviser for over thirty-five years, and Ozias M. Hatch, Lincoln's political ally and Springfield neighbor. Four years later, he returned briefly and spoke with John W. Bunn, a young political "insider" from Springfield at the time Lincoln was elected president, and once again with Hatch." "Briefer and more narrowly focused than the Springfield interviews, the Washington interviews deal with the formation of Lincoln's cabinet, his relations with Congress, his behavior during the war, his humor, and his grief." "To supplement these interviews, Burlingame has included Nicolay's unpublished essays on Lincoln during the 1860 campaign and on Lincoln's journey from Springfield to Washington in 1861, essays based on firsthand testimony."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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