Abraham Lincoln / Abraham Lincoln and a Nation Worth Fighting for / Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America / Judging Lincoln / Dispatches from Lincoln's White House: The Anonymous Civil War Journalism of Presidential Secretary William O. Stoddard / Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment / Lincoln's Quest for Equality: The Road to Gettysburg / Lincoln, Religion, and Romantic Cultural Politics

Article excerpt

Abraham Lincoln. By Thomas Keneally. Penguin Lives Series (New York: Penguin Putnam, 2003. Pp. iii, 183; Essay on sources. Cloth, $19.95).

Abraham Lincoln and a Nation Worth Fighting For. By James A. Rawley (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003. Pp. xv, 240. Maps, bibliographical essay, index. Paper, $19.95).

Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America. By William E. Gienapp (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Pp. xv, 239. Maps, illus., notes, bibliographical essay, index. Cloth, $26.00, paper $15.95).

Judging Lincoln. By Frank J. Williams. Foreword by Harold Holzer. Epilogue by John Y. Simon (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2002. Pp. xxiv, 205. Illus., notes, bibliography, index. Cloth, $25.00).

Dispatches from Lincoln's White House: The Anonymous Civil War Journalism of Presidential Secretary William O. Stoddard. Edited by Michael Burlingame (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002. Pp. xxvi, 287. Editor's introduction, notes, index. Paper, $39.95).

Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment. By Michael Vorenberg. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Pp. xviii, 305. Illus., notes, bibliography, index. Cloth, $30.00).

Lincoln's Quest for Equality: the Road to Gettysburg. By Carl F. Wieck (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2002. Pp. x, 214. Illus., notes, bibliography, index. Cloth, $36.00).

Lincoln, Religion, and Romantic Cultural Politics. By Stewart Winger (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003. Pp. viii, 271. Illus., notes, bibliography, index. Cloth, $38.00).

As a complement to Kim Bauer's comprehensive bibliography, the editors of the journal have invited me to contribute a review essay considering selected new and recent books on Abraham Lincoln and his world. Most or all of these books have several things in common. First and best is sound scholarship. Whether using manuscripts, published documents, or secondary literature, our authors (and one editor) have a commanding view of their subject. The general quality of Lincoln scholarship has never been higher. Nor, for that matter, has Lincoln himself been so clearly in focus. But however rich these particular books may be in sketching circumstances, background, and supporting cast, they are, with one partial exception, books about Lincoln, and can not be properly blamed for giving less than full measure to every significant aspect of United States history from 1809 to 1865. Most of the authors have made extensive and full use of Douglas Wilson's rediscovery of Lincoln's early life in Lincoln Before Washington (Urbana, 1997), Honors Voice: the Transformation of Abraham Lincoln (New York, 1998), and, with Rodney O. Davis, Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln (Urbana, 1998). A consequence of this is the extensive use of William Herndon's own recollections and judgments on Lincoln before his presidency. Some of these, perhaps, have been amplified by Michael Burlingame's analyses in his path-breaking Inner World of Abraham Lincoln (Urbana, 1994). Another recent book that has influenced several of these authors is Alien C. Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln, Reedemer President (Grand Rapids, 1999).

Perhaps farthest in the background in these books is (are?) the Confederate States of America. Readers who need a reliable account of the full stage which, however briefly, Abraham Lincoln dominated, should read James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: the Civil War Era (New York and Oxford, 1988). One should not be daunted by its nine hundred pages. Once well into it, readers often wish it were longer.

Three of the recent works are short biographies of Lincoln. Highly readable, brief, and fully abreast of Lincoln scholarship, Thomas Keneally's Abraham Lincoln fulfills all the specifications of its series, Penguin Lives. Keneally is a remarkable writer. Based in Australia, he has written mostly about the era of the U. …