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Topic: discussion of Mary Todd Lincoln book

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Subject: discussion of Mary Todd Lincoln book
Date Posted: 2/21/2013 6:42 PM ET
Member Since: 4/28/2009
Posts: 9,822
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Had the book "Mary-- Mrs A Lincoln" recommended by several members here after seeing the movie "Lincoln" when it came out in NOV. Most of the recommended books were bios and they are still on my WL, but I am over halfway finished with this book and have some questions............

1) anyone know how much of the stuff about her incarceration in the asylum and the seance attendance while they were living in the WH is true history?

2) any factual info on her overspending to redecorate the WH since it was in bad shape when they moved in? Would you agree that it's more disturbing as to what happened to the $20K per President that was allotted for decorating that apparently was misused by several Presidents' wives than the $10K over budget that Mrs Lincoln spent to update the furnishings?

3) being born and raised in IL (lived there til I was 26), I have studied and read quite a bit about President Lincoln's assassination, but never had I heard any mention of his serious mental illness before this HF book. I know some of his bios mention his deep grief after Willie died of typhoid fever at the WH, but none of the books I've read mentioned any other MH concerns.  Makes me wonder how he ever got elected.................

Date Posted: 2/21/2013 6:57 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
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I recently read the book and saw the "Lincoln" movie as well, and I too enjoyed them both. I read the Wikipedia articles on both Abe and Mary. They might answer some of your questions. What I wondered about was if Robert Lincoln was as cruel to his mother as the book indicates or if perhaps in the book, Mary is delusional and what she says about him may not be entirely true. Wikipedia didn't answer my question on that.
Date Posted: 2/21/2013 7:05 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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There's some relatively new biographies on Lincoln that may answer your questions. The library should have one or two. Can't answer them myself, but they're interesting questions.
Date Posted: 2/21/2013 7:48 PM ET
Member Since: 1/8/2009
Posts: 2,016
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I saw the movie today. 

Regarding question #3, I read Lincoln's Melancholy last year and thought it was very well written. According to the author, Lincoln had two breakdowns in his earlier years and learned to turn his melancholy into a source of strength and resolve. There was also discussion of how mental illness was viewed during that time period. 

Date Posted: 2/22/2013 11:34 AM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
Posts: 6,035
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I read that book a couple of years ago. At that time, I found this thread on the HF forum with a lively and very entertaining discussion of the historical accuracy (or lack thereof) of the book.  It references some other works that may (or may not) answer some of your questions.  Get your popcorn ready before you read!

Date Posted: 2/24/2013 2:20 PM ET
Member Since: 4/28/2009
Posts: 9,822
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Thanks for everyone's help, references, and recommendations..........

Date Posted: 2/26/2013 10:57 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,334
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Two really good books that get very much inside the Lincoln's personal lives are:

Lincoln's Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldier's Home by Matthew Pinsker

Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckley: The Remarkable Story of the Friendship Between a First Lady and a Former Slave by Jennifer Fleischner