Synopses & Reviews
Brash and skeptical when she first came to the Unites States in the 1950s, Jan Morris cast a decidedly dubious eye on the sainly image of Abraham Lincoln and the log-cabin-to-the-White-House legend that surrounded him. In innumerable visits over the last fifty years, she has tried to make up her own mind about the sixteenth president, and after nearly half a century she has crystallized her conclusions in this unique portraitpart historical fact, part travelogue, part reconstruction, part personal specualtion her first book on American since the accliamed Manhattan '45
Renowned on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the finest writers on history and travel in this century, Morris is part of the long tradition of foreigner observers who are able to illuminate America for Americans. In Lincoln: A Foreigner's Quest, she looks at Lincoln with her singular perspective, and the result is a historical journey free of sentiment and nostalgia.
Morris has not only traveled wherever Lincoln traveled, from his alleged log cabin birthplace to the box in Ford's Theater where he was assassinated, but she has willed herself into his time and, with wit and sagacity, she brings us as close as she can to the presence of the man. She conjures him in both his personal and public capacities politician and father, commander-in-chief in a time of national calamity, orator, and husband.
We sit in the chair of an Illinois judge as Lincoln the lawyer argues a case. We hear from across the road in Springfield of Lincoln's household squablles with his wife. We take tea with President Lincoln at the White House. We imagine his responses to the seductive comforts of a slave plantation, and wonder what would have happened had he come face-to-face with his celebrated opponent in the Civil War, Robert E. Lee. Morris excavates myths about Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks; his love affair with Ann Rutledge; his marriage to the unstable Mary Todd; and his often frustrated relationships with his Union generals.
With her iconoclasm and humor and marvelous sense of place, Morris seamlessly blends travel narrative, history and biography with transatlantic insights into the origins of the American Empire to reveal the real Lincoln maverick, artist, oddball, natural aristocrat.
"Lincoln: A Foreigner's Quest is a witty, urbane, imaginative, sometimes cynical but at other times admiring narrative of Lincoln's life and its meaning." From James M. McPherson Times Literary Supplement
"Morris certainly cuts a worldly figure on the literary scene, but even so, her latest book may surprise many of the loyal fans who have followed the flow of works from this superb British historian and travel writer. The new book is about the life of Abraham Lincoln, but more than that, it's about Morris' personal investigation into Lincoln's mythical status of saint and icon, which she insists she has had trouble with for a long time in her continued attempts to grasp American culture....she finishes her tour of Lincoln country obviously moved, now comfortably able to embrace the myth, beneath which she had discerned the truth of Lincoln's grandness of mind and his still-resonant impact on the country he governed not one single day in peacetime." Brad Hooper
"Morris's efficient skepticism cuts through the ridiculous and sentimental, and Lincoln: A Foreigner's Quest is a marvelously compressed and persuasive portrayal of this most iconic of American presidents. So often the gawky and ridiculous in Lincoln's life and (more important) in his legacy became for her the route to explaining what about him was most grand and enduring." David Walton, The New York Times Book Review
First time in paperback: "A marvelously compressed and persuasive portrayal of this most iconic of American presidents." -New York Times Book Review
With a fresh eye and inimitable style, the peerless travel and history writer Jan Morris journeys through the life of Abraham Lincoln to sketch an insightful new portrait of America's sixteenth president, one of our greatest and most enigmatic figures. Looking past his saintly image and log-cabin legend, Morris travels from Lincoln's birthplace to the White House to the infamous Ford Theater and conjures him in public and in private, as politician and as father, as commander-in-chief and as husband. With her skepticism and humor and marvelous sense of place, Morris seamlessly blends narrative, history, and biography to reveal the man behind the myth.
About the Author
Jan Morris has written more than thirty books on the British Empire, Europe, Venice, Oxford, Sydney, Hong Kong, Manhattan, and Wales, as well as six volumes of collected essays and two autobiographical works. Her novel, Last Letters from Hav, was a finalist for the Booker Prize in London. She is an honorary D.Litt. of the Universities of Wales and Glamorgan, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). She lives in Wales.