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Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
06-24-2014, 09:42 AM
Post: #1
Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
Has anyone read this? If so, please comment.
Since we've been talking a bit about Herndon, I was curious about this book. Written back in 1948, the Amazon review indicates that the author challenges much of what Herndon wrote. Has the book stood the test of time?

http://www.amazon.com/Lincolns-Herndon-D...1403620047

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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06-24-2014, 12:43 PM
Post: #2
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
I've never read it either. I'll be interested what others think of it.

Bill Nash
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06-24-2014, 06:49 PM (This post was last modified: 06-24-2014 07:00 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #3
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
I don't have this one, Gene, but I have Donald's "We are Lincoln Men" which has a "Herndon chapter", too. The book is about those who claimed they had been A. L.'s closest friends, and Donald examines the respective kind of relationship. The other chapters are on his boyhood friends, on Speed, on Browning, on Seward, and on Hay and Nicolay. I absolutely recommend "We are Lincoln Men" as well as the other of his works I read.
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06-24-2014, 07:10 PM
Post: #4
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
Hi Eva-

I have been wondering about that book. Now that you've recommended it I feel it's safe to go ahead and check it out!Wink
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06-25-2014, 07:30 AM
Post: #5
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
I started it, but got sidetracked by another book. I'll be going back to it once the other book reaches its tragic end.

It's very well well written, but I got bogged down a bit with the minutia of pre-Civil War politics. I expect it to be more engrossing once Donald turns to the subject of Herndon's writing his book.
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06-26-2014, 04:41 AM (This post was last modified: 07-09-2014 08:55 AM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #6
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
Toia, just to add (referring to the Rutledge thread) as this book is on A. L.'s (male) friendships, he doesn't go into depth to explain why he thought intimacy with Mary was increasing towards the end of their marriage (but I could imagine some reasons, to me it makes sense).

D. Donald IMO also wrote quite convincing on why Herndon embellished the Ruthedge and some other legends, and also that he was always somewhat insecure with women and with men as "buddies" just felt more convenient. (I think it was in that book that) he explains features of men's friendships and interaction in the 19th century some of which are quite different from today's.

(I can't remember the minutia of pre-Civil War politics, but in any case I didn't get bored anywhere. But everyone has, of course, different likes and dislikes.) One book by Donald I like very much, too, is "Lincoln Reconsidered", an essay collection (quite old little book, but good IMO).
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08-05-2014, 06:34 PM (This post was last modified: 08-05-2014 06:48 PM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #7
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
(06-24-2014 09:42 AM)Gene C Wrote:  Has the book stood the test of time?
For all the following goes: IMO.
Yes, Gene, it absolutely has, regarding the content as well as the style. You would never believe you were reading an old book - rather that it was the latest publication!!!
I 100% agree on a review on the cover reading: "A superb job...scholarly without ever being dull, critical, but not pedantic, as brilliant in analysis as it is colorful in narrative...This is biography at its best."

One little remark: Like in "We are Lincoln Men", there are some "minutia of pre-Civil War politics" in this one, but even if you only skim this part, the rest is fascinating.

E.g. D. Donald, corroborated by excellent footnotes, profoundly analyzed the way Herndon "found", grew and embellished such as the Rutledge legend, or A. L.'s illegitimacy or "family situation", and what made him (Herndon) do this. Donald also points out where Herndon did not embellish but was very reliable.

Despite this Donald uncovers and portraits Herndon as a fascinating specimen - stubborn and peculiar on the one hand, a widely read intellectual and most generous, helpful human being on the other hand, a dreamer, who - partly due to his strubborness, but to a great deal undeservedly due to very bad luck - failed in almost all his endeavors to an extent that one can feel nothing but sorry and pity for him, especially as for the poverty he had to face. E.g. as a farmer (which he was forced to be because of lacking cases in his law practice) "his fruit trees died, his potatoes were eaten by beetles, his cows were mutilated by a vicious dog, his mule was killed, his hogs had the cholera". Somehow he was a Don Q..
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08-05-2014, 06:38 PM (This post was last modified: 08-05-2014 06:40 PM by LincolnToddFan.)
Post: #8
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
Eva E.,

That is a wonderful, insightful review! David Donald and Stephen Oates are my very favorite Lincoln biographers.

Abraham Lincoln was indeed a sort of Don Quixote.
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08-05-2014, 06:46 PM
Post: #9
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
Thanks, Toia! Donald is my favorite, too! As for Don Q. I actually thought of Herndon, butayne that would apply to A. Lincoln, too, in a different way.
The info and detailed research Donald presented in this book is just breathtaking!!! And still narrated so well that it reads like a good novel. (A tragic one.)
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08-05-2014, 07:12 PM
Post: #10
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
(08-05-2014 06:34 PM)Eva Elisabeth Wrote:  For all the following goes: IMO.
Yes, Gene, it absolutely has, regarding the content as well as the style. You would never believe you were reading an old book - rather that it was the latest publication!!!
I 100% agree on a review on the cover reading: "A superb job...scholarly without ever being dull, critical, but not pedantic, as brilliant in analysis as it is colorful in narrative...This is biography at its best."

One little remark: Like in "We are Lincoln Men", there are some "minutia of pre-Civil War politics" in this one, but even if you only skim this part, the rest is fascinating.

E.g. D. Donald, corroborated by excellent footnotes, profoundly analyzed the way Herndon "found", grew and embellished such as the Rutledge legend, or A. L.'s illegitimacy or "family situation", and what made him (Herndon) do this. Donald also points out where Herndon did not embellish but was very reliable.

Despite this Donald uncovers and portraits Herndon as a fascinating specimen - stubborn and peculiar on the one hand, a widely read intellectual and most generous, helpful human being on the other hand, a dreamer, who - partly due to his strubborness, but to a great deal undeservedly due to very bad luck - failed in almost all his endeavors to an extent that one can feel nothing but sorry and pity for him, especially as for the poverty he had to face. E.g. as a farmer (which he was forced to be because of lacking cases in his law practice) "his fruit trees died, his potatoes were eaten by beetles, his cows were mutilated by a vicious dog, his mule was killed, his hogs had the cholera". Somehow he was a Don Q..

Eva,

Excellent review/overview!! Succinct and still thorough. I think I have just added another book to my "to buy" list.
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07-18-2015, 08:03 AM (This post was last modified: 07-18-2015 12:23 PM by Gene C.)
Post: #11
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
Just finished this book, it is very good, and I highly recommend it. I can't improve on Eva's comments.
Copyright 1948, about 370 pages with lots of footnotes. Herndon was quite a character, and I found the parts about how he went about researching and writing his book to be very interesting. It is an excellent companion book to "Herndon's Lincoln" and Herndon's Informants"

It is available online
https://archive.org/details/lincolnsherndon007410mbp

An inexpensive hardback copy is available. A new softbound is under $10
http://www.amazon.com/Lincolns-Herndon-D...1437222194

This page and a half, from the epilogue of the book, will help give you a better idea on the content.
https://archive.org/stream/lincolnshernd...6/mode/1up

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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07-18-2015, 06:48 PM
Post: #12
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
Here's a rather nuanced perspective on why a new biography of Herndon is needed.

Best
Rob

http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/2629860...w=fulltext

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

I want the respect of intelligent men, but I will choose for myself the intelligent.
--Carl Sandburg
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07-18-2015, 08:43 PM
Post: #13
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
Thanks for posting that interesting article. Burlingame makes some interesting points, but his falling out with Donald, in my opinion, seems to be an underlying reason for some of the negative comments and tone in the article. I agree that a new biography of Herndon would be nice due to new info available, but some of the criticism of the book, which was written over 65 years ago, seems petty and unnecessary. It is apparent they have a different view of Mary Lincoln among other things.

They are both men with a vast knowledge, who have different viewpoints.

Now to read "William H Herndon and Mary Todd Lincoln", by Doug Wilson that Mr. Burlingame mentioned in his article
http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/2629860...w=fulltext

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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07-19-2015, 04:16 AM (This post was last modified: 07-19-2015 04:17 AM by Eva Elisabeth.)
Post: #14
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
Very well said and summarized, Gene - they are both men with a vast knowledge, who have different viewpoints. However, although Mr. Burlingame calls D. D. respectively his writings hostile, it's Mr. Burlingame and his writings and comments who seem to me the way more hostile and aggressive of the two of them.
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07-19-2015, 06:51 AM
Post: #15
RE: Lincoln's Herndon by David Herbert Donald
Thank you Eva, and I made the same mistake I felt Burlingame made. My tone was a bit too negative. I judged his reason and writing style for the article without being more objective. (If Burlingame had not mentioned his falling out with Donald, I never would have known, but it was better to hear about it from him) He made some excellent points, I was not ready to read his views which differed from mine while I was still full of the enthusiasm from reading a good book by an author I enjoyed. In a week or two, I'll need to go back and re-read his article.

There is a lot to learn from both men who have spent so much time in study and research on Lincoln and his times.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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