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Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
12-14-2016, 10:50 PM
Post: #16
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
The fact that he looked more like a Todd was commented on when he was alive, and he definitely seems to have once he put the weight on, but the photos of him as a young man have a definite resemblance to his father in my opinion. No one else ever remarks on it, but while he wasn't as unique looking as Lincoln, I feel like his eyes definitely resembled his father's.
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12-15-2016, 05:10 AM
Post: #17
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(12-14-2016 10:50 PM)kerry Wrote:  I feel like his eyes definitely resembled his father's.

In The Physical Lincoln Dr. John Sotos writes that both father and son suffered from forms of strabismus.
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12-14-2017, 02:56 AM
Post: #18
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
I can definitely see RTL's resemblance to his father in the eyes, ears, nose, and hairline. Especially those rare portraits taken of him where he appears more "natural" - messier hair, chin stubble, etc. I think historians have liked to exaggerated his physical differences to his father as much as possible, to emphasize their supposedly "not close" relationship.
However, less than his parents, I think he may have looked like someone else....like an ancestor of the Lincolns or Todds. He appears to have had some Native American-esque elements about him. (From Lincoln's mother Nancy?)

Sorry to bump an old-ish thread, but it's interesting!
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12-15-2017, 05:27 AM
Post: #19
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(12-14-2017 02:56 AM)ScholarInTraining Wrote:  I can definitely see RTL's resemblance to his father in the eyes, ears, nose, and hairline. Especially those rare portraits taken of him where he appears more "natural" - messier hair, chin stubble, etc. I think historians have liked to exaggerated his physical differences to his father as much as possible, to emphasize their supposedly "not close" relationship. However, less than his parents, I think he may have looked like someone else....like an ancestor of the Lincolns or Todds. He appears to have had some Native American-esque elements about him. (From Lincoln's mother Nancy?)

Sorry to bump an old-ish thread, but it's interesting!

Thank you for posting your opinion, Mari. Reactions to Robert Lincoln vary greatly. People see him through very different eyes. For example, here is what Ida Tarbell wrote:

"To be drinking tea with the son of Abraham Lincoln was so unbelievable to me that I could scarcely take note of his reply. I searched his face and manners for resemblances. There was nothing. He was all Todd, a big plump man perhaps fifty years old, perfectly groomed, with that freshness which makes men of his type look as if they were just out of the barber's chair, the admirable social poise of the man who has seen the world's greatest and has come to be sure of himself; and this in spite of such buffeting as few men had had the assassination of his father when he was twenty-four, the humiliation of Mary Lincoln's half-crazed public exhibition of herself and her needs, the death of his brother Tad, the heartbreaking necessity of having his mother committed for medical care, and more recently the loss of his only son. Robert Lincoln had had enough to crush him, but he was not crushed. At the moment he looked and felt, I think, that he had arrived where he belonged."
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12-15-2017, 09:00 AM
Post: #20
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
Are there any definitive descriptions of Robert's personality as a child? Was he mischievous and outgoing like Willie and Tad, or more withdrawn or solemn in nature? I have always thought of him as the proper Todd as a grown-up, but even his mother seems to have been an outgoing persona at first.
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12-15-2017, 09:41 AM
Post: #21
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(12-15-2017 09:00 AM)L Verge Wrote:  Are there any definitive descriptions of Robert's personality as a child? Was he mischievous and outgoing like Willie and Tad, or more withdrawn or solemn in nature? I have always thought of him as the proper Todd as a grown-up, but even his mother seems to have been an outgoing persona at first.

Ruth Painter Randall writes in Lincoln's Sons:

"He (Robert) was a difficult boy passing through a difficult age. Good evidence can be given of the special bond between Tad and his father and of that between Willie and his mother, but evidence of responsiveness and affection on Robert's part at this time seems lacking. Some element in his nature (perhaps shyness was a part of it) apparently kept him from letting himself go in a wholehearted expression of such emotions. He lacked the quality of enthusiasm. The magnetism of his father, the vivacious friendliness of his mother had not been handed down to him. In the collected record he appears, as a boy, to have had an uncomfortable aloofness from the rest of the family, with perhaps a suggestion of antagonism."
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12-15-2017, 10:24 AM
Post: #22
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
That is exactly how I have envisioned him as an adolescent (without doing any real research). I would suspect that his father's long absences while riding the circuit and then his entry into politics would stifle Robert in adolescence. I can also see him somewhat miffed at having to assume an adult male role at home during his father's absences -- and perhaps hearing his mother's complaints about having to run the house on her own. I bet his two, rambunctious little brothers would get on his nerves big time - just as they pester modern big brothers.
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12-15-2017, 04:38 PM
Post: #23
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(12-15-2017 09:41 AM)RJNorton Wrote:  
(12-15-2017 09:00 AM)L Verge Wrote:  Are there any definitive descriptions of Robert's personality as a child? Was he mischievous and outgoing like Willie and Tad, or more withdrawn or solemn in nature? I have always thought of him as the proper Todd as a grown-up, but even his mother seems to have been an outgoing persona at first.

Ruth Painter Randall writes in Lincoln's Sons:

"He (Robert) was a difficult boy passing through a difficult age. Good evidence can be given of the special bond between Tad and his father and of that between Willie and his mother, but evidence of responsiveness and affection on Robert's part at this time seems lacking. Some element in his nature (perhaps shyness was a part of it) apparently kept him from letting himself go in a wholehearted expression of such emotions. He lacked the quality of enthusiasm. The magnetism of his father, the vivacious friendliness of his mother had not been handed down to him. In the collected record he appears, as a boy, to have had an uncomfortable aloofness from the rest of the family, with perhaps a suggestion of antagonism."

You know, I actually read that! I loved it, but it wasn't 100% in spots. The thing about some biographers is that, depending on the research, some "facts" are spot on in some places and wildly inaccurate in others. Some of them write based on their opinion of who or what they're writing about and pass it off as fact.

But I think Painter-Randall's This contrasts with Emerson and Goff's analysis of what "Bob" was like personality-wise: a sociable, kind, fun-loving and occasionally prankish guy who could be quite sensitive and shy at times.

I think his father wrote that when he was around three he was full of "a great deal" of mischief. And there's a recorded instance of him running around with brother Eddy wreaking havoc on a train. So definitely mischievous! But maybe he knew how to "settle down" more than his younger brothers did.

I'm sure he had many "Wille-and-Tad"-ish moments that went unrecorded simply because his father wasn't as popular in the media publicity.
And given that he didn't really like being in the spotlight....he probably wouldn't have wanted all his life stories retold anyway. Big Grin
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12-15-2017, 04:55 PM
Post: #24
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(12-15-2017 04:38 PM)ScholarInTraining Wrote:  But I think Painter-Randall's This contrasts with Emerson and Goff's analysis of what "Bob" was like personality-wise: a sociable, kind, fun-loving and occasionally prankish guy

When I read Jason Emerson's biography I got the idea that Robert was as you describe when he was at Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard. I remember being surprised when I was reading this as I felt it was a change from the image I had of the younger Robert in Springfield.
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12-15-2017, 06:06 PM
Post: #25
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
Robert wasn't really described as shy until adulthood - he did seem to have a certain reserve in that he wasn't big on press attention at any point, but all the rumors have him being a little wild until adulthood. I don't know if any of the stories are true, but there's the one about him stealing the pipe, the one about him taking Tad's knife in exchange for candy, the one about him hanging the dogs, the one about him flipping the carriage, the one about him skipping school, the one about him being wild on the train to Lexington, being wild at the boardinghouse when Lincoln was in Congress, getting lost, etc. Then there's whatever adventures he got in trouble for at Exeter, and something about him writing on sofas in college? In college he seemed to be sociable and likeable but nothing crazy - everyone seemed to like him and he seemed active in activities, but he definitely wasn't looking for attention for being a Lincoln. Some people mention that he and Mary pulled pranks on each other and did a lot of activities like traveling together. Those are the stories that survive, but clearly very few compared to the younger brothers.

Tad and Willie seemed a little more sheltered, so their wildness was centered right at home, whereas Robert seemed more likely to venture out into typical adolescent trouble. But they all seem to have been fundamentally goodhearted people who didn't actually need traditional discipline in order to turn out well. Being raised in a loving, curious environment seemed to be enough. I think Robert's later issues were very much related to the strange and traumatic circumstances of Lincoln's assassination and his attendant responsibilities, and I think it affected him more than many historians admitted. He took a narrow view of life and obsessively followed the rules in order to gain a sense of stability and approval. Given the more risky/open-minded viewpoints of his parents, it can seem disappointing that he didn't take their example further. But it's also only fair to allow him his personality, which was unlike his parents' in that regard. He was in a tough situation with a lot of pressure.
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12-16-2017, 05:04 AM
Post: #26
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(12-15-2017 06:06 PM)kerry Wrote:  typical adolescent

Emerson writes the following description of Robert as he rode the inaugural train to Washington:

"Seventeen-year old Robert, at the height of his adolescence, experienced the journey as a typical teenager: he had as much fun as he could, and availed himself of every opportunity for such. It was reported that his jovial, colloquial ways contributed daily to the general good feelings of the train party. Robert, twenty-two-year-old Hay, twenty-nine-year- old Nicolay, and twenty-four-year-old Ellsworth, were the four youngest men on board and spent much time together. Most of Robert's chumming, in the form of socializing, drinking, smoking, and flirting with girls, was with Hay alone, as Nicolay was shy and extremely busy as Lincoln's secretary, and Ellsworth, head of the Springfield Zouaves, was full of a military dignity and abstemiousness."

...Some newspapers, especially those run by Democrats, characterized Robert as quite a partier, or "fast." The New York Tribune sought to rebut these statements by declaring him "a young man of fine abilities and much dignity of character" and stating that reports to the contrary were "no less painful to him than to his excellent parents, to whom he has ever been a dutiful and affectionate son." As dutiful and affectionate as Robert was, it is not incorrect to reveal his great desire and ability for smoking cigars, drinking, and carousing, which only increased during his college years."
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12-16-2017, 12:25 PM
Post: #27
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
Thanks, everyone, for giving me a better view of young Robert. I might learn to understand him better in later life.

I did read Goff's book first, but I admit to getting bogged down in Emerson's "Giant." Some of that could be because I have had a working relationship with Jason over the years, and he has spoken at Surratt conferences several times on both Robert and Mary. I know his feelings about Mary and have tended to think that his better portrayal of Robert was done to further discredit Mary's behavior. I may have to rethink my position.
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12-16-2017, 05:17 PM (This post was last modified: 12-16-2017 05:18 PM by kerry.)
Post: #28
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(12-16-2017 12:25 PM)L Verge Wrote:  Thanks, everyone, for giving me a better view of young Robert. I might learn to understand him better in later life.

I did read Goff's book first, but I admit to getting bogged down in Emerson's "Giant." Some of that could be because I have had a working relationship with Jason over the years, and he has spoken at Surratt conferences several times on both Robert and Mary. I know his feelings about Mary and have tended to think that his better portrayal of Robert was done to further discredit Mary's behavior. I may have to rethink my position.

After doing so much research into Mary's life, every time I go to write something, I get bogged down in this seemingly unavoidable tension. There should be away to evaluate both fairly without "promoting" one over the other, but it is surprisingly difficult. I agree with Emerson that Robert generally was trying to do the right thing as he saw it, but I think he had a narrow conception of what that was, as many people do. It is impossible to ignore the fact that society was so limiting of women that Mary had no choice but to fall out of bounds, and it's odd to me that Robert never seemed to look at it that way. The debate isn't settled by explaining, "well, under the norms of the time, she was super embarrassing to the Lincoln legacy." Of course she was considered embarrassing. Should Robert have allowed it to get to him so much? How much did Lincoln care about that while he was alive? Did he have a right to live free of embarrassment? (It is interesting to read about George Washington and Prince Philip's mothers, and how they dealt with it). Those are the better questions, in my opinion. To me it all boils down to Mary being fundamentally bored in an intellectual sense, and looking for an opportunity to be enterprising where there were few legitimate opportunities for women to do so. In a modern context, I think the judgment comes down to people's life philosophies, and goes far beyond just Robert and Mary's interactions. People who care foremost about following the rules and being normal/quiet are going to sympathize with Robert; people who care foremost about personal expression/freedom are going to sympathize with Mary. I think Emerson was right to look at Robert's many accomplishments and examine his perspective, as the existing literature on him missed a lot of that, but there's still more to it. I keep feeling like a Mary "defender" when I'm just trying to be accurate, and part of that is because it's hard to avoid defending someone so harshly criticized, but it seems so difficult to strike the right note.

One point I keep coming to is the comment about "your game of robbery." Emerson connects that to the gifts, and concludes she was irrational. Robbery has a specific meaning - taking things from your person, by force. I feel like those terms were used more precisely at the time, especially by a woman in a family of lawyers. She used it specifically to Swett when he threatened to take her bonds by force. I think the robbery comments were all related to the bonds, or other property he'd held as conservator. The taking back of the gifts was her way of accusing Robert of ingratitude; not a literal robbery/theft accusation. The threat to publish them was to show Robert as benefiting more from her than being drained by her, not a theft accusation.
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12-16-2017, 06:26 PM
Post: #29
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(12-16-2017 05:17 PM)kerry Wrote:  
(12-16-2017 12:25 PM)L Verge Wrote:  Thanks, everyone, for giving me a better view of young Robert. I might learn to understand him better in later life.

I did read Goff's book first, but I admit to getting bogged down in Emerson's "Giant." Some of that could be because I have had a working relationship with Jason over the years, and he has spoken at Surratt conferences several times on both Robert and Mary. I know his feelings about Mary and have tended to think that his better portrayal of Robert was done to further discredit Mary's behavior. I may have to rethink my position.

After doing so much research into Mary's life, every time I go to write something, I get bogged down in this seemingly unavoidable tension. There should be away to evaluate both fairly without "promoting" one over the other, but it is surprisingly difficult. I agree with Emerson that Robert generally was trying to do the right thing as he saw it, but I think he had a narrow conception of what that was, as many people do. It is impossible to ignore the fact that society was so limiting of women that Mary had no choice but to fall out of bounds, and it's odd to me that Robert never seemed to look at it that way. The debate isn't settled by explaining, "well, under the norms of the time, she was super embarrassing to the Lincoln legacy." Of course she was considered embarrassing. Should Robert have allowed it to get to him so much? How much did Lincoln care about that while he was alive? Did he have a right to live free of embarrassment? (It is interesting to read about George Washington and Prince Philip's mothers, and how they dealt with it). Those are the better questions, in my opinion. To me it all boils down to Mary being fundamentally bored in an intellectual sense, and looking for an opportunity to be enterprising where there were few legitimate opportunities for women to do so. In a modern context, I think the judgment comes down to people's life philosophies, and goes far beyond just Robert and Mary's interactions. People who care foremost about following the rules and being normal/quiet are going to sympathize with Robert; people who care foremost about personal expression/freedom are going to sympathize with Mary. I think Emerson was right to look at Robert's many accomplishments and examine his perspective, as the existing literature on him missed a lot of that, but there's still more to it. I keep feeling like a Mary "defender" when I'm just trying to be accurate, and part of that is because it's hard to avoid defending someone so harshly criticized, but it seems so difficult to strike the right note.

One point I keep coming to is the comment about "your game of robbery." Emerson connects that to the gifts, and concludes she was irrational. Robbery has a specific meaning - taking things from your person, by force. I feel like those terms were used more precisely at the time, especially by a woman in a family of lawyers. She used it specifically to Swett when he threatened to take her bonds by force. I think the robbery comments were all related to the bonds, or other property he'd held as conservator. The taking back of the gifts was her way of accusing Robert of ingratitude; not a literal robbery/theft accusation. The threat to publish them was to show Robert as benefiting more from her than being drained by her, not a theft accusation.

Thank you so much for a wonderful, clarifying comment.
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12-16-2017, 07:48 PM
Post: #30
RE: Robert Todd Lincoln --The vitals
(12-16-2017 05:17 PM)kerry Wrote:  
(12-16-2017 12:25 PM)L Verge Wrote:  Thanks, everyone, for giving me a better view of young Robert. I might learn to understand him better in later life.

I did read Goff's book first, but I admit to getting bogged down in Emerson's "Giant." Some of that could be because I have had a working relationship with Jason over the years, and he has spoken at Surratt conferences several times on both Robert and Mary. I know his feelings about Mary and have tended to think that his better portrayal of Robert was done to further discredit Mary's behavior. I may have to rethink my position.

After doing so much research into Mary's life, every time I go to write something, I get bogged down in this seemingly unavoidable tension. There should be away to evaluate both fairly without "promoting" one over the other, but it is surprisingly difficult. I agree with Emerson that Robert generally was trying to do the right thing as he saw it, but I think he had a narrow conception of what that was, as many people do. It is impossible to ignore the fact that society was so limiting of women that Mary had no choice but to fall out of bounds, and it's odd to me that Robert never seemed to look at it that way. The debate isn't settled by explaining, "well, under the norms of the time, she was super embarrassing to the Lincoln legacy." Of course she was considered embarrassing. Should Robert have allowed it to get to him so much? How much did Lincoln care about that while he was alive? Did he have a right to live free of embarrassment? (It is interesting to read about George Washington and Prince Philip's mothers, and how they dealt with it). Those are the better questions, in my opinion. To me it all boils down to Mary being fundamentally bored in an intellectual sense, and looking for an opportunity to be enterprising where there were few legitimate opportunities for women to do so. In a modern context, I think the judgment comes down to people's life philosophies, and goes far beyond just Robert and Mary's interactions. People who care foremost about following the rules and being normal/quiet are going to sympathize with Robert; people who care foremost about personal expression/freedom are going to sympathize with Mary. I think Emerson was right to look at Robert's many accomplishments and examine his perspective, as the existing literature on him missed a lot of that, but there's still more to it. I keep feeling like a Mary "defender" when I'm just trying to be accurate, and part of that is because it's hard to avoid defending someone so harshly criticized, but it seems so difficult to strike the right note.

One point I keep coming to is the comment about "your game of robbery." Emerson connects that to the gifts, and concludes she was irrational. Robbery has a specific meaning - taking things from your person, by force. I feel like those terms were used more precisely at the time, especially by a woman in a family of lawyers. She used it specifically to Swett when he threatened to take her bonds by force. I think the robbery comments were all related to the bonds, or other property he'd held as conservator. The taking back of the gifts was her way of accusing Robert of ingratitude; not a literal robbery/theft accusation. The threat to publish them was to show Robert as benefiting more from her than being drained by her, not a theft accusation.

I think it's actually quite possible to sympathize with both Mary and Robert. I certainly do.
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