As Abraham Lincoln is by far the most written about president in American history, there hardly seems room for yet another book about his life. Professor Douglas L. Wilson’s HONOR’S VOICE: THE TRANSFORMATION OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, however, sheds new light on a relatively unknown period when Lincoln made the remarkable transformation from backwoods surveyor and country lawyer to national figure.
Working largely from interviews and letters compiled by Lincoln’s law partner and lifelong friend William Herndon, Wilson carefully reconstructs the important events in his life between 1831 and 1842, from the time he left home to his marriage to Mary Todd. Early jobs as a storekeeper, postmaster, surveyor, and self- taught lawyer honed his political skills, his legendary encounter with local tough Jack Armstrong gave him confidence and self assurance, and forays into local politics set the stage for his rise to national prominence.
Wilson also shows us another side of Lincoln, often brooding and melancholy, and at times not as “honest” as legend so often portrays him. He was especially uncomfortable with women—as a suitor he was nervous and awkward. Also fascinating is Lincoln’s courtship of Mary Todd. It was far from being a classic love affair, and Lincoln’s complex and sometimes stormy relationship with her formed a very important part of his later life.
Wilson has given readers an original and revealing portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s formative years. In an area of Lincoln scholarship largely neglected by historians, he has set a high standard of excellence with this well-researched and entertaining book.
Sources for Further Study
America’s Civil War. XI, September, 1998, p. 90.
Booklist. XCIV, January 1, 1998, p. 773.
Library Journal. CXXIII, February 15, 1998, p. 158.
The New York Review of Books. XLV, March 26, 1998, p. 6.
The New York Times Book Review. CIII, February 15, 1998, p. 13.
The New Yorker. LXXIV, June 8, 1998, p. 89.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLIV, December 22, 1997, p. 48.
The Wall Street Journal. February 12, 1998, p. A20.