Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Whitman & Lincoln

James L. Swanson writes a brief review of a new book by Daniel Mark Epstein called Lincoln and Whitman. I have been reading into it for about a week, and it is certainly worth reading, indeed I found it irresistable. This, despite the fact that he conjures up some possibilities--he takes liberties--that may be misleading, in the end. Epstein claims that it is probable that Lincoln read Leaves of Grass in 1857 when his law partner brought it into the office (by then Emerson had proclaimed Whitman a great poet) and that Lincoln was much affected by Whitman so that his literary and speaking style were made better. This is possible, but we already know that the Bible and Shakespeare had a greater influence on him, and, perhaps most important, the ordinary speech of ordinary men is what he heard above all else, what his ear was tuned to, and what his mouth and pen replicated. Just to remind you of some of Whitman’s work here is When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d
"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d", and "O Captain! My Captain!"

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