Academic journal article South Carolina Historical Magazine

Lincoln on Lincoln

Academic journal article South Carolina Historical Magazine

Lincoln on Lincoln

Article excerpt

Lincoln on Lincoln. By Paul M. Zall. (Lexington, KY: The University of Kentucky Press, 1999. Pp. 216. $25.00, cloth.)

Paul Zall's first book, Abe Lincoln Laughing, is the best collection in existence of Lincoln's humor. In that book, Zall carefully sorts through the maze of often confused and contradictory sources to construct a collection of reasonably authenticated examples of Lincoln humor. "Reasonably" is as close as one can get to certainty on this subject, for there is very little direct documentation about Lincoln's jokes, anecdotes, tales. All we know for sure is that humor oozed from his every pore. The exact stories he told are harder to ascertain.

In Lincoln on Lincoln, Zall sets himself the task of constructing a kind of Lincoln autobiography from varied sources, including what he wrote about his childhood and youth in 1860 for John L. Scripps, who in turn wrote a campaign book about the relatively unknown Republican candidate from Illinois. After the 1830s, Zall weaves into the story selections from Lincoln's letters and speeches to make as coherent a story as possible. If the transition is confusing, or if the document seems to need some explanation, Zall adds a few sentences set off from the text. The book is accurate, even meticulous, in its selections. There is nothing unreliable. …

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