Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings

By Roy P. Basler; Abraham Lincoln | Go to book overview

PREFACE

HE HAS a style his own," has often been the comment on a writer or speaker. When it was said of Walt Whitman it meant that any imitation of his style, so distinctive was it, could at once be seen as mimicry. One result of this was many parodies.

And though we sometimes meet the expression, "a Lincolnian style," it has no strict meaning as in the case of Whitman. Lincoln had many styles. It has been computed that his printed speeches and writings number 1,078,365 words. One may range through this record of utterance and find a wider variety of styles than in any other American statesman or orator. And perhaps no author of books has written and vocalized in such a diversity of speech tones directed at all manners and conditions of men.

This may be saying, in effect, that the range of the personality of Abraham Lincoln ran far, identifying itself with the tumults and follies of mankind, keeping touch with multitudes and solitudes. The freegoing and friendly companion is there and the man of the cloister, of the lonely comer of thought, prayer, and speculation. The man of public affairs, before a living audience announcing decisions is there, and the solitary inquirer weaving his abstractions related to human freedom and responsibility.

Perhaps no other American held so definitely in himself both those elements -- the genius of the Tragic -- the spirit of the Comic. The fate of man, his burdens and crosses, the pity of circumstance, the extent of tragedy in human life, these stood forth in word shadows of the Lincoln utterance, as testamentary as the utter melancholy of his face in repose. And in contrast he came to be known nevertheless as the first authentic humorist to occupy the

-xvii-

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Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations xv
  • Preface xvii
  • Introduction xxiii
  • Lincoln's Development as a Writer *
  • Selections, with Notes 51
  • Sources and Bibliography 805
  • Index 823
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