U.S. Intellectual History Blog

The Mind of Lincoln

Most of our coverage of Abraham Lincoln at USIH has touched on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals or allusions to Obama and Lincoln. Illinois Wesleyan Professor of English, Robert C. Bray, however, offers us something new in his recent book, Reading with Lincoln. Here are some excerpts from the publisher’s description of the work (bolds mine):

Reading with Lincoln uncovers the how of Lincoln’s inspiring rise to greatness by connecting the content of his reading to the story of his life.

At the core of Lincoln’s success was his self-education. …From his early studies of grammar school handbooks and children’s classics to his interest in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the Bible during his White House years, what Lincoln read helped to define who he was as a person and as a politician. …

Bray follows Lincoln’s progress closely, from the young teen composing letters for illiterate friends and neighbors to the politician who keenly employed what he read to advance his agenda. 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, and he investigates Lincoln’s appreciation of nineteenth-century lyric poetry, which he both read and wrote. Bray considers Lincoln’s fascination with science, mathematics, political economics, liberal social philosophy, theology, and the Bible, and devotes special attention to Lincoln’s enjoyment of American humor. …Bray also examines the connections and intertextual relations between what Lincoln read and how he wrote and spoke.

Good stuff. Amazon lets you see more of the book’s content.