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United States: Essays 1952-1992 - "First Note on Abraham Lincoln" (1981) Summary & Analysis

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Was the legendary sadness and depression so evident in portraits and historical descriptions of Abraham Lincoln because he gave syphilis to his wife, thereby causing her dementia and the early deaths of three of his sons? That is a possibility that can't be ruled out by the historical record, according to Vidal. In this brief essay on Lincoln, Vidal relies to an extent on the research and writings of Thomas Herndon, Lincoln's law partner and only friend. Despite the best efforts of "second rank poet" Carl Sandburg to depict Lincoln as a kind of "cornball Disneyland waxwork," he was an enormously complex and interesting man, Vidal says.

Born poor and possibly illegitimately, Lincoln was a wealthy lawyer and ambitious man by the time he was elected president. Vidal says...

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