Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Daddy, Where Do Bad Books Come From?

An interesting article by a former collaborator on the project that would eventually become The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, the recent book that claims to prove, definitively, that the Great Emancipator was an active homosexual. It's a fascinating story of an honest historian battling with an ideological one, and later with a publishing house that knows it's been duped but can't do much about it. The piece also contains a pretty thoroughgoing take-down of the book's methodology and reasoning. It's worth a read, if you have the time.

As to the substantive issues - whether Lincoln was attracted to other men, whether he acted on those attractions, whether he considered himself a "homosexual" in anything like the modern sense - I think they're probably unknowable by now. It is pretty clear that Lincoln was an odd bird, by the standards of his or any time. But the historical record is just too scant, and what evidence we have is subject to too many competing, plausible explanations, for us to answer those questions with anything other than a somewhat-educated guess. This is just one of those issues about which we'll just have to accept that so long as we're in this world we won't be able to understand all the mysteries of this world, and leave it at that.

UPDATE: Biographer-genius Richard Brookhiser reviewed the book for the New York Times this weekend.