Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lincoln's Melancholy, by Joshua Wolf Shenk

This book came from the Alachua County Library, was narrated by Richard Davidson, and was on 10 CDs.

This fascinating look at Lincoln and his personal battles with depression will make you think differently about mental illness. Lincoln was fortunate to live in a time when a melancholy spirit was not shunned as an imperfection, but accepted as part of the man's whole personality. However, even as a young adult he seemed to be plagued with such dark moods that his friends made a point to keep an eye on him sometimes because they feared for his life.

In the past, historians have avoided this subject. This was largely because many of them discounted the memories of Lincoln's earliest biographer, William Herndon. Herndon had been an early law partner of Lincoln, a political intimate, and someone who disliked Mary, Lincoln's wife. Later historians believed that Herndon, in an effort to disparage Mary Todd Lincoln, had embellished her husband's emotional state after a supposed love interest with a young woman named Ann Rutlege. But many more writings have come to light in recent years, which have become the basis of this book.

This book was every bit as much about clinical depression as it was about Lincoln, who is a very fit subject for such discussions. This is thought provoking for those of us who know sufferers, and a great encouragement for those who are sufferers. 4 stars.

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