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What are you reading now?
09-06-2012, 08:30 AM
Post: #46
RE: What are you reading now?
(09-04-2012 07:04 PM)L Verge Wrote:  Question for Donna: About thirty years ago, I read a very interesting book entitled Crowns of Thorns and Glory (can't remember the author's name). It compared the public's perception of Mary Lincoln as opposed to that of Varina Davis. It pointed out that the two women were similar in background, education, social position, etc. Yet, Mrs. Lincoln was despised by the Northerners while Mrs. Davis could do no wrong in the South.

As you have seen me admit in the past, I am a novice on general Lincoln history - both Mr. & Mrs. However, I will also admit to having a soft spot in my heart for Mary Lincoln.

Are you familiar with this book? If so, can you offer some thoughts? If not, can you offer some of your own thoughts anyhow??

Crowns of Thorns and Glory was written by Gerry Van Der Heuvel and published in 1988. Yes, I have read it - and yes, I own a copy of this little gem. The common ground between the two women inspired me to write a stage play set in a hotel restaurant in Canada in 1868 -- pure fiction - but lots of fun. The two ladies came together to discuss common ground, the war, and would it have been possible for the two of them to ever be 'friends.' The dialogue was sprinkled with quotes from their letters and writings. One of their common interest included an admiration for Henry Clay. I was surprised to learn that Varina had so much respect for Clay. Mary idolized him. Both women were well schooled in politics. Both women were raised in the Presbyterian faith. Personally, I think that our political views and our religious views shape much of our personalities - and influence our interests. Knowing these two women shared political and religious interest, one has to wonder . . . if there had not been a war, would they have been friends?
That is the unanswered question in my stage play.
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09-06-2012, 09:48 AM
Post: #47
RE: What are you reading now?
Julia Grant and Varina Davis became friends in 1893 after their respective husbands died.

"In June [1893], Varina went to Cranston's Hotel on the Hudson River to enjoy the cool weather and Mrs. Grant, who often summered at the hotel, happened to be there when Davis arrived. Grant said she had long wanted to make Davis's acquaintance and sought her out, knocking on her door.
'I'm Mrs. Grant,' she announced when Davis opened the door.
'I am very glad to meet you,' Davis replied and extended her hand."

They had friends in common and both had "sociable temperaments." In addition, "the widows shared something else, the intensity of the war experience and its profound effect on the memory."

Their friendship lasted until Julia's death in 1902.

Source: First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis's Civil War by Joan E. Cashin.
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09-06-2012, 09:56 AM
Post: #48
RE: What are you reading now?
I just finished Keith Erekson's book Everybody's History, which I think I posted on earlier. It is about the Lincoln Inquiry in the 1920s and 1930s which was a group of local historians in southwestern Indiana who worked to raise the reputation of Lincoln during his Indiana years and to rehabilitate the Indiana years in general. It is an excellent book and has several references to Tarbell, Sandburg, Beveridge, Barton and Randall. I was in historiographical heaven!

Best
Rob

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell
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09-06-2012, 10:14 AM
Post: #49
RE: What are you reading now?
Donna,

If Mrs. Davis had really been Mrs. Lincoln, do you think that the Northerners would have accepted her better than they did Mary? Do you think that Mary's background as a perceived "Southerner" from Kentucky worked against her as First Lady?

I would assume that having relatives fighting for the Confederacy had to taint her, but do you think she would have gotten the same mistreatment if all of her family had been Unionists? Do you think that having to follow Buchanan's popular niece, Harriet Lane, as the "official social hostess of D.C." also worked against her?
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09-06-2012, 12:18 PM
Post: #50
RE: What are you reading now?
(09-06-2012 10:14 AM)Laurie Verge Wrote:  Donna,

If Mrs. Davis had really been Mrs. Lincoln, do you think that the Northerners would have accepted her better than they did Mary? Do you think that Mary's background as a perceived "Southerner" from Kentucky worked against her as First Lady?

I would assume that having relatives fighting for the Confederacy had to taint her, but do you think she would have gotten the same mistreatment if all of her family had been Unionists? Do you think that having to follow Buchanan's popular niece, Harriet Lane, as the "official social hostess of D.C." also worked against her?

Laurie, I'm not sure that any woman would have been accepted in the White House in 1861 - just as I am not sure that any candidate for the Presidency would have been widely accepted. The election was close - there were many candidates - no majority was going to be happy.
Perhaps Varina would have been better accepted because she had lived in Washington City for many years.
I don't think that Mary's Kentucky origin worked against her as much as having lived in Illinois. She was an uncouth Westerner!
Mary's loyalities were questioned due to her fighting Confederate brothers. This gave Lincoln's political enemies foder for their fuel. If Mary had been born and raised in New York, and the press could have found one cousin fighting for the South, he would have been used against Mary. I doubt that any family from Kentucky or Illinois had every member taking one side or the other during the war. But Mary's family did not just fight for the south, they were vocal about their positions - thus causing both Abraham and Mary stress and embarrassment.

I am not sure if having followed Harriet Lane hurt Mary or not. Afterall, it was a new administration - people expect change. I think maybe the ever popular Kate Chase did more damage than Harriet Lane.

In the end, these are only my opinions -- speculations at best.
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09-06-2012, 01:18 PM
Post: #51
RE: What are you reading now?
I started to mention Kate Chase also, but decided not to because whenever I read about her I can envision turning her over my knee and spanking her!
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09-06-2012, 10:37 PM
Post: #52
RE: What are you reading now?
(09-06-2012 01:18 PM)Laurie Verge Wrote:  I started to mention Kate Chase also, but decided not to because whenever I read about her I can envision turning her over my knee and spanking her!

I am sure that ML would have enjoyed seeing someone do that to Kate. LOL!
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09-09-2012, 06:24 PM
Post: #53
RE: What are you reading now?
I spent a lot of this weekend reading a new book by Jefferson Morley entitled "Snow-Storm in August." It is a factual account of a little-known race riot that occurred in Washington City in 1835. It involved the widow of William Thornton, architect of the Capitol, one of the first and finest black restauranteurs in the city, and Francis Scott Key.

I always enjoy reading about the history of Washington, its society, culture, intrigues, etc. Having grown up ten miles from downtown, I am very familiar with many of the places mentioned. This book, however, is giving me a good insight into the growing abolitionist movement, the role of the free blacks in the fight for freedom, Jacksonian politics (in terms I can understand), and the man - Francis Scott Key, himself. I have to admit that I never realized his role in our government.
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09-09-2012, 07:14 PM
Post: #54
RE: What are you reading now?
(09-09-2012 06:24 PM)L Verge Wrote:  I spent a lot of this weekend reading a new book by Jefferson Morley entitled "Snow-Storm in August." It is a factual account of a little-known race riot that occurred in Washington City in 1835. It involved the widow of William Thornton, architect of the Capitol, one of the first and finest black restauranteurs in the city, and Francis Scott Key.

I always enjoy reading about the history of Washington, its society, culture, intrigues, etc. Having grown up ten miles from downtown, I am very familiar with many of the places mentioned. This book, however, is giving me a good insight into the growing abolitionist movement, the role of the free blacks in the fight for freedom, Jacksonian politics (in terms I can understand), and the man - Francis Scott Key, himself. I have to admit that I never realized his role in our government.

Laurie,
Have you ever read Margaret Leech's REVEILLE IN WASHINGTON about the capital city during the Cicil War? Highly recommended.
Joe
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09-10-2012, 03:53 PM
Post: #55
RE: What are you reading now?
REVEILLE was one of my favorites in college, and I often used it when I was teaching. Another good one on Washington during the Civil War is FREEDOM RISING by Ernest Furgurson. I also enjoyed a novel that came out near the beginning of last year - THE FIRST ASSASSIN by John J. Miller. It's a little bit of fiction based on lots of factual "landscape" - as I would call it.
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09-10-2012, 06:20 PM
Post: #56
RE: What are you reading now?
I'm really dating myself now, but I should have added two favorites from the 1950s (?): MR. LINCOLN'S WASHINGTON and MR. DAVIS'S RICHMOND. Both were by Stanley Preston Kimmel, who is better known for THE MAD BOOTHS OF MARYLAND.
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09-12-2012, 08:04 PM (This post was last modified: 09-12-2012 08:08 PM by Jim Garrett.)
Post: #57
RE: What are you reading now?
(07-07-2012 06:41 PM)BettyO Wrote:  I'm starting to reread Reville in Washington - read that about 30 years ago...really good book on life in 1860s Washington....

Hey Betty: You and I are on the same track, also read Revielle 25 to 30 years ago and re-read it. It does a great job of bringing a real flavor to the time.

I read The Last Lincolns this past summer. When I told Laurie I was reading it, she said, wait until Jason Emerson's book on RTL. Boy, I am not dissappointed. Hard to find a book THAT BIG that is a real page turner. Three cheers for Jason. I am only about 1/4 of the way through, and am completely impressed.
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09-26-2012, 09:31 AM
Post: #58
RE: What are you reading now?
I am reading an advance copy of Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America's Most Perilous Year by David von Drehle.
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09-26-2012, 03:02 PM (This post was last modified: 09-26-2012 03:02 PM by RJNorton.)
Post: #59
RE: What are you reading now?
Welcome to the forum, Jim!

Jim has his own American history blog here.
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10-12-2012, 08:19 PM
Post: #60
RE: What are you reading now?
Lincoln's Way: How Six Great Presidents Created American Power by Richard Stringer.

Who are the six listed great presidents?
Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, & Kennedy.

Bill Nash
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