Synopses & Reviews
Brash and skeptical when she first came to the United States in the 1950, Jan Morris cast a decidedly dubious eye on the saintly 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 portrait -- part historical fact, part travelogue, part reconstruction, part personal specullation -- her first book on America since the acclaimed 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 travelled wherever Loncoln traveled, from his alleged log cabin birthplace to the box where he was assasinated, 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 quabbles 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 the iconclasm and humor and marvelous sense of place, Morris seamlessly blends travel narrative, history and biography into the origins of the American Empire to reveal the real Lincoln -- maverick, artist, oddball, natural aristocrat.
With the magical blend of history and personal narrative that has made her a popular travel writer, Morris separates idolatry from truth in her journey through the life of Lincoln, our most revered president.
About the Author
Jan Morris has written more than thirty books on the British Empire, Europe, Venice, Oxford, Sidney, Hong Kong, Manhattan and Wales, as well as six volumes of collected essays and two autobigraphical 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 Institute of British Architects and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). She lives in Wales.