Lincoln’s Great Depression

Apologies, readers, for the prolonged silence on this blog. In Lincoln’s words below, I have been “not very well”. A short bout of depression left me all the more amazed at how Lincoln was able to soldier on, and accomplish as much as he did: I couldn’t muster the strength to write a blog, much less save a country.

The upside to this is that it caused me to seek out an absolutely fantastic article about Lincoln’s depressive states and his friends’ and acquaintances’ observations thereof. Enjoy, and be heartened!

The next day the convention closed. The crowds dispersed, leaving behind cigar stubs and handbills and the smells of sweat and whiskey. Later the lieutenant governor of Illinois, William J. Bross, walked the floor. He saw Lincoln sitting alone at the end of the hall, his head bowed, his gangly arms bent at the elbows, his hands pressed to his face. As Bross approached, Lincoln noticed him and said, "I’m not very well."

Lincoln’s look at that moment—the classic image of gloom—was familiar to everyone who knew him well. Such spells were just one thread in a curious fabric of behavior and thought that his friends called his "melancholy." He often wept in public and recited maudlin poetry. He told jokes and stories at odd times—he needed the laughs, he said, for his survival. As a young man he talked more than once of suicide, and as he grew older he said he saw the world as hard and grim, full of misery, made that way by fate and the forces of God. "No element of Mr. Lincoln’s character," declared his colleague Henry Whitney, "was so marked, obvious and ingrained as his mysterious and profound melancholy." His law partner William Herndon said, "His melancholy dripped from him as he walked."

via Lincoln’s Great Depression – Joshua Wolf Shenk – The Atlantic.

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