Abraham Lincoln's remarkable emergence from the rural Midwest and his rise to the presidency have been the stuff of romance and legend. But as Douglas L. Wilson shows us in Honor's Voice, Lincoln's transformation was not one long triumphal march, but a process that was more than once seriously derailed. There were times, in his journey from storekeeper and mill operator to lawyer and member of the Illinois state legislature, when Lincoln lost his nerve and self-confidence - on at least two occasions he became so despondent as to appear suicidal - and when his acute emotional vulnerabilities were exposed.
Focusing on the crucial years between 1831 and 1842, Wilson's skillful analysis of the testimonies and writings of Lincoln's contemporaries reveals the individual behind the legends. We see Lincoln as a boy: not the dutiful son studying by firelight, but the stubborn rebel determined to make something of himself. We see him as a young man: not the ascendant statesman, but the canny local politician who was renowned for his talents in wrestling and storytelling (as well as for his extensive store of off-color jokes). Wilson also reconstructs Lincoln's frequently anguished personal life: his religious skepticism, recurrent bouts of depression, and difficult relationships with women - from Ann Rutledge to Mary Owens to Mary Todd.
Meticulously researched and well written, this is a fascinating book that makes us reexamine our ideas about one of the icons of American history.
About the Author
Douglas L. Wilson, co-director, with Rodney O. Davis, of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College, is the author "Lincoln before Washington: New Perspectives on the Illinois Years "(University of Illinois Press, 1997); "Herndon's Informants: Letters and Interviews about Abraham Lincoln "(edited with Rodney O. Davis, University of Illinois Press, 1998); and "Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln "(Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), which was awarded the Lincoln Prize for 1999, and "Herndon's Lincoln "(edited with Rodney O. Davis, University of Illinois Press, 2006). The Lincoln Studies Center is currently retained by the Library of Congress to transcribe and annotate documents in its Lincoln Papers for the World Wide Web. He lives in Galesburg, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln's hometown.