BOOKS: Lincoln in Private: Ronald C. White

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Aug. 28—"Lincoln in Private" is a provocative title.

It sounds like it's sharing the bedroom secrets of the 16th president but what author Ronald C. White does is delve into the notes which Abraham Lincoln scribbled to himself through the years.

It is actually a remarkable book of depth despite the salacious sounding title. And in case any shelf browser gets too much of the wrong idea from "Lincoln in Private," the subtitle sets folks straight: "What His Most Personal Reflections Tell Us About Our Greatest President."

Through the decades since Lincoln's 1865 assassination, historians have gathered notes written by Lincoln. These aren't drafts of his famed speeches such as the Gettysburg Address or his second inaugural address or direct words from his debates with Stephen Douglas.

However, these notes reveal the development of ideas that later became part of the themes of those public works and statements. While in some cases, they are simply ideas that Lincoln wanted to explore.

The notes were not intended for public reading but rather a way for Lincoln to personally wrestle with various concepts and ideas, ranging from slavery, democracy, being an effective lawyer, etc.

While dozens of Lincoln notes have been preserved through the years, White focuses on about a dozen here. And he doesn't simply regurgitate the notes but analyzes them.

White is the author of "A. Lincoln," a full biography on Lincoln, and the author of "American Ulysses," a biography of U.S. Grant, as well as additional books on Lincoln. So, he has some idea what he's talking about.

The book also includes a look at all of Lincoln's personal notes. On the photo pages that normally provide portraits of people depicted in a book or scene-setter photography or art, this book contains photos of the original notes penned in Lincoln's hand.

"Lincoln in Private" provides an intimate look at how Lincoln's mind worked, how he wrestled to better understand ideas and situations, not only for himself but how to better understand and explain his insights as a writer and orator.

"Lincoln in Private" deserves public accolades.

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