Kindred spirits despite their profound differences in position, Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman shared a vision of the democratic character. They had read or listened to each other’s words at crucial turning points in their lives, and both were utterly transformed by the tragedy of the Civil War. In this radiant book, poet and biographer Daniel Mark Epstein tracks the parallel lives of these two titans from the day that Lincoln first read Leaves of Grass to the elegy Whitman composed after Lincoln’s assassination in 1865.
Drawing on a rich trove of personal and newspaper accounts and diary records, Epstein shows how the influence and reverence flowed between these two men–and brings to life the many friends and contacts they shared. Epstein has written a masterful portrait of two great American figures and the era they shaped through words and deeds.
About the Author
Daniel Mark Epstein is the author of highly acclaimed biographies of Aimee Semple McPherson, Nat King Cole, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, as well as seven volumes of poetry. His verse has appeared in "The Atlantic," "The New Yorker," and "The Paris Review," among other national publications. Epstein lives in Baltimore. "From the Hardcover edition."
"Daniel Mark Epstein [brings] to life with passionate vividness...the parallel lives of the president and the poet."
—The Wall Street Journal
“RIVETING…the book places its two subjects in uniquely sharp perspective. A compelling portrait of Lincoln and Whitman as contemporaries, as visionaries, and as Americans.”
-- The Baltimore Sun
“A pleasure to read. It’s…easy to be charmed by Epstein’s style.”
-- The Savannah Morning News
“VIVID…Lincoln and Whitman is nothing if not balanced. Epstein deftly traces the links between Whitman’s poems and Lincoln’s speeches…echoes that reverberate.”
“There have not been many poet-biographers in this country…Epstein is part of [a] select company. Mr. Epstein’s new book shows that poetry is at the heart of what made both Lincoln, and the country great.”
-- The New York Sun
Beautifully written . . . Epstein’s portraits of the president and the poet, his sketches of a fascinating supporting cast, his depiction of Civil War Washington’s mix of squalor and majesty . . . all are exquisitely exact. Lincoln and Whitman is an elegant book.”
–The Providence Journal
“Whitman and Lincoln aren’t the only two poets in the work; Epstein himself is a well-published poet, and the rhythms of verse inform his prose. Under his hand the nation’s capital becomes a living character.”
–St. Petersburg Times
“A revealing character study.”
--ERIC FONER, The Washington Post
“Epstein memorably evokes the look and feel of Washington during the Civil War, the eerily adjacent lives there of Walt Whitman and Abraham Lincoln, and the frantic events that issued in the murder of our greatest president and the writing of our greatest poem, ‘When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.’ Combining biography and history, his ingeniously constructed double narrative of personal development and national tragedy radiates humor, wonderment, and terror.”
—KENNETH SILVERMAN, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Life and Times of Cotton Mather and Edgar A. Poe: Mournful Never-ending Remembrance
“Deftly written and carefully researched, this book uncovers fresh and often surprising connections between America’s greatest poet and its greatest statesman. Daniel Mark Epstein reveals a political side to Whitman and a literary side to Lincoln, finding new subtleties of character and skill in each of these towering figures. Along the way, he re-creates nineteenth-century life in fascinating ways.”
—DAVID S. REYNOLDS, City University of New York, author of the prize-winning Walt Whitman’s America and Beneath the American Renaissance
“Perhaps only a writer who has produced both biography and poetry could have crafted such an illuminating, elegant book. The scholarship is excellent, the ideas provocative, and the writing simply sublime. Both Lincoln and Whitman—together with the long-vanished culture in which they lived—come vividly, sometimes startlingly, alive in Daniel Mark Epstein’s luminous prose.”
—HAROLD HOLZER, author of The Lincoln Image and co-chairman of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission