Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Carl Sandburg’s six-volume Abraham Lincoln is a monumental work on a monumental theme: the life, works, and times of a symbolic American of history and legend. Sandburg sets Abraham Lincoln against a tremendous movement of history as he tells simultaneously, on different levels, the story of a man, a war, an age, and a people. In the end the qualities that set this work apart seem appropriate and significant. Lincoln, that ungainly, complex, humorous, melancholy, and serenely sad man, was also one of the great solitaries.
When Abraham Lincoln: The War Years appeared in 1939, more than one reviewer commented on the happy conjunction of the perfect writer and the perfect subject. In Sandburg’s case there is more truth in this critical generalization than in most, for he brought to his tremendous task a greater familiarity with the regional and folk aspects of Lincoln’s life than anyone had possessed since Lincoln’s day. In the late nineteenth century there was still no wide gap between Sandburg’s boyhood in Galesburg, Illinois, and Lincoln’s young years in the Sangamon River country. Familiar with New Salem, Vandalia, Springfield, and other landmarks of Lincoln’s early life, the Swedish immigrant’s son had known the men and women of Lincoln’s day and had listened to their stories. Poet, fabulist, folklorist, and singer of the American Dream, Sandburg felt in time that the Lincoln story had become a part of himself, not in...
(The entire section is 1683 words.)
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