Inside the White House in War Times: Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln's Secretary

By William O. Stoddard; Michael Burlingame | Go to book overview

Sketch 11

My Dear General--So much has been said about Mr. Lincoln's theatre going that a great many people have imbibed the idea that his tastes were dramatic; but this was not so. With the exception of a few of Shakespeare's plays, I do not believe that he ever read a play in his life.

I have heard him say that there were several of even Shakespeare's dramas at which he had hardly ever looked. "Macbeth" was certainly one of his prime favorites, and I went with him one night to see Charlotte Cushman as Lady Macbeth.1 It was of course a grand impersonation, but it was impossible to get Mr. Lincoln to make many comments upon it. He seemed to have a poor opinion of his own powers as a dramatic critic.

Another of his favorites was "Othello," and he eagerly embraced the opportunity of seeing it when Davenport and Wallack brought it out in Washington.2 I was very much struck with the keen interest with which he followed the development of Iago's subtle treachery. One would have thought that such a character would have had few points of attraction for a man to whose own nature all its peculiar traits were so utterly foreign. Perhaps he was fascinated by that very contrast.

He did not lose a word or a motion of Mr. Davenport, who played his part exceedingly well, and conversed between the acts with, for him, a very near approach to excitement. He seemed to be studying what sort of soul a born traitor might have.

His strong love of humor made Falstaff a great favorite with him, and he expressed a great desire to see Hackett in that character.3 The correspondence between that gentleman and Mr. Lincoln has been already published.4 He expressed himself greatly pleased with the representation, and went more than once during Hackett's engagement. I was with him the first night, and expected to see him give himself up to the merriment of the hour,

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Inside the White House in War Times: Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln's Secretary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Editor's Introduction vii
  • 1 - Inside the White House in War Times 1
  • Opening the Door 3
  • Persons and Papers 11
  • Weapons and War Ships 19
  • Gifts and Visitors 26
  • The Critics and the Gamblers 33
  • Bronzes and Earthworks 40
  • The Reception 47
  • A Variety of Uniforms 54
  • The Two Chieftains 61
  • The Monitor and the Union League 68
  • The Capitol and the Future 75
  • Sentries and Passes 82
  • A Battle Summer 89
  • The Echoes of the Proclamation 96
  • Realities and the Drama 103
  • A Vigil and a Victory 110
  • July 4th, 1863 117
  • The Contrabands and the New Captain 121
  • Pictures and Reports 127
  • There is an End of All Things 134
  • 2 - White House Sketches 141
  • Sketch 1 143
  • Sketch 2 148
  • Sketch 3 153
  • Sketch 4 156
  • Sketch 5 160
  • Sketch 6 165
  • Sketch 7 170
  • Sketch 8 176
  • Sketch 9 180
  • Sketch 10 184
  • Sketch 11 189
  • Sketch 12 193
  • Sketch 13 198
  • Notes 203
  • Index 221
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