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Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness
Synopses & Reviews
Drawing on seven years of his own research and the work of other esteemed Lincoln scholars, Shenk reveals how the sixteenth president harnessed his depression to fuel his astonishing success. Lincoln found the solace and tactics he needed to deal with the nation's worst crisis in the coping strategies he had developed over a lifetime of persevering through depressive episodes and personal tragedies.
With empathy and authority gained from his own experience with depression, Shenk crafts a nuanced, revelatory account of Lincoln and his legacy. Based on careful, intrepid research, Lincoln's Melancholy unveils a wholly new perspective on how our greatest president brought America through its greatest turmoil. Shenk relates Lincoln's symptoms, including mood swings and at least two major breakdowns, and offers compelling evidence of the evolution of his disease, from major depression in his twenties and thirties to chronic depression later on. Shenk reveals the treatments Lincoln endured and his efforts to come to terms with his melancholy, including a poem he published on suicide and his unpublished writings on the value of personal — and national — suffering.
By consciously shifting his goal away from personal contentment (which he realized he could not attain) and toward universal justice, Lincoln gained the strength and insight that he, and America, required to transcend profound darkness.
"Lincoln's Melancholy is an extraordinary story, for the depth of its scholarship and the lure of its style." Mike Wallace, cohost of CBS's 60 Minutes
"Lincoln not only coped with his depression, he harnessed it. Joshua Wolf Shenk [explains how] masterfully and memorably." Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
"A profoundly human and psychologically important examination of the melancholy that so pervaded Lincoln's life....Remarkable." Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and author of An Unquiet Mind
"A significant contribution to the study of Lincoln and his battle with depression that will resonate with contemporary Americans...inspirational." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Compelling...An estimable contribution to the Lincoln literature." Booklist
"[Shenk argues] with uncommon common sense, a rare understanding of historical context, and a close reading of the primary sources." Library Journal (Starred Review)
In this astonishing and illuminating book, Joshua Wolf Shenk reveals the deep melancholy that pervaded Abraham Lincoln's life and its influence on his mature character. Mired in personal suffering as a young man, Lincoln forged a hard path toward mental health. His coping strategies and depressive insight ultimately helped the sixteenth president find the strength that he, and America, needed to overcome the nations greatest turmoil. Drawing on seven years of research, Shenk offers a nuanced, revelatory perspective on Lincoln and his legacy.
A thoughtful, nuanced portrait of Abraham Lincoln that finds his legendary political strengths rooted in his most personal struggles.
Giving shape to the deep depression that pervaded Lincoln's adult life, Joshua Wolf Shenk's Lincoln's Melancholy reveals how this illness influenced both the president's character and his leadership. Lincoln forged a hard path toward mental health from the time he was a young man. Shenk draws from historical record, interviews with Lincoln scholars, and contemporary research on depression to understand the nature of his unhappiness. In the process, he discovers that the President's coping strategies—among them, a rich sense of humor and a tendency toward quiet reflection—ultimately helped him to lead the nation through its greatest turmoil.
Drawing on seven years of his own research and the work of other< BR> esteemed Lincoln scholars, Shenk reveals how the sixteenth< BR> president harnessed his depression to fuel his astonishing success.< BR> Lincoln found the solace and tactics he needed to deal with the nation& #39; s< BR> worst crisis in the & quot; coping strategies& quot; he had developed over a lifetime< BR> of persevering through depressive episodes and personal tragedies.< BR> < BR> With empathy and authority gained from his own experience with< BR> depression, Shenk crafts a nuanced, revelatory account of Lincoln and< BR> his legacy. Based on careful, intrepid research, Lincoln& #39; s Melancholy< BR> unveils a wholly new perspective on how our greatest president< BR> brought America through its greatest turmoil.< BR> < BR> Shenk relates Lincoln& #39; s symptoms, including mood swings and< BR> at least two major breakdowns, and offers compelling evidence of the< BR> evolution of his disease, from & quot; major depression& quot; in his twenties and< BR> thirties to & quot; chronic depression& quot; later on. Shenk reveals the treatments< BR> Lincoln endured and his efforts to come to terms with his melancholy, < BR> including a poem he published on suicide and his unpublished writings< BR> on the value of personal& mdash; and national& mdash; suffering. By consciously< BR> shifting his goal away from personal contentment (which he realized< BR> he could not attain) and toward universal justice, Lincoln gained the< BR> strength and insight that he, and America, required to transcend< BR> profounddarkness.
About the Author
JOSHUA WOLF SHENK is an essayist and independent scholar whose work has appeared in numerous magazines and in the national bestseller Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression. He has written for The New Yorker, Harpers Magazine, the Atlantic, the New York Times, Mother Jones, and other publications. He has been a correspondent for the New Republic, the Economist, and U.S. News & World Report. A contributing editor to the Washington Monthly and a faculty member at New School University, Shenk serves on the advisory council of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and consulted on the History Channels film Lincoln. He lives in Brooklyn.
Table of Contents
Prelude xiii Introduction 1
PART ONE 1. The Community Said He Was Crazy 11 2. A Fearful Gift 26 3. I Am Now the Most Miserable Man Living 43
PART TWO 4. A Self-Made Man 69 5. A Misfortune, Not a Fault 81 6. The Reign of Reason 97 7. The Vents of My Moods and Gloom 112
PART THREE 8. Its Precise Shape and Color 126 9. The Fiery Trial Through Which We Pass 159 10. Comes Wisdom to Us 191
Epilogue 211 Afterword: What Everybody Knows” 221 Notes 244 Bibliography 300 Acknowledgments 323 Index 328
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