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Personal traits of Abraham Lincoln by Helen…

Personal traits of Abraham Lincoln

by Helen Nicolay

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“Personal Traits of Abraham Lincoln (1912)” by Helen Nicolay is one of Kessinger Publishing’s Rare Reprints, so that the pages are photocopied versions of the original text.

Helen Nicolay was the daughter of John G. Nicolay, one of Lincoln’s two main secretaries along with John Hay. In 1890 the two men published a ten-volume biography, “Abraham Lincoln: A History,” but omitted many of the personal details of Lincoln’s life. They had intended, at some future time, to write a smaller, more intimate biography. To that end, they had collected many notes, letters, newspaper clippings, and anecdotes in an envelope marked “Personal Traits.” The intimate volume never got published, and so Nicolay’s daughter Helen undertook that task herself.

The “personal traits” described in this book will be familiar to anyone who has read even one or two Lincoln biographies. There is no new information in Nicolay, but that’s not an entirely fair assessment: she, after all, came very much before our modern sources. A more reasonable criticism might be that the book is quite hagiographic, and moreover, doesn’t cover the full gamut of Lincoln’s interactions that might shed light on his personality.

In the seminal biographies by David Herbert Donald and by Benjamin P. Thomas, for example, we learn about the coldness of Lincoln’s father, about his bouts of melancholia, about his failed romance with Ann Rutledge, and about his courting of Mary Todd. In Doris Kearns Goodwin we reach a deeper understanding of his interactions with his “team of rivals.” Other books cover his personal relationships with his longtime friends, and with his Civil War Generals. And there are many books specifically on Lincoln’s marriage, about which there is no information whatsoever in “Personal Traits.”

There is in short, no real reason to read this book. The material in it has been totally covered and superseded by more comprehensive works by later historians. It should be acknowledged, however, as a resource for later books to come. ( )
  nbmars | Nov 17, 2008 |
This book attempts to show what kind of a man Lincoln was by giving examples of his life that supports a particular chapter 'topic', such as 'His Forgiving Spirit'. For someone who has not read much about Lincoln, this book would be very interesting. However, there is really nothing new in here. Despite the author's potential access to information from her father (John Nicolay) that might not have been published before, the author instead uses stories that have been told in virtually every Lincoln biography ever written. I was really looking forward to reading this, but was sorely disappointed. ( )
  estamm | Oct 22, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0548775109, Paperback)

This book is a facsimile reprint and may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:04 -0400)

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