Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness

Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness

by Joshua Wolf Shenk


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A thoughtful, nuanced portrait of Abraham Lincoln that finds his legendary political strengths rooted in his most personal struggles.


Giving shape to the deep depression that pervaded Lincoln's adult life, Joshua Wolf Shenk's Lincoln's Melancholy reveals how this illness influenced both the president's character and his leadership. Lincoln forged a hard path toward mental health from the time he was a young man. Shenk draws from historical record, interviews with Lincoln scholars, and contemporary research on depression to understand the nature of his unhappiness. In the process, he discovers that the President's coping strategies—among them, a rich sense of humor and a tendency toward quiet reflection—ultimately helped him to lead the nation through its greatest turmoil.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618773442
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 10/02/2006
Edition description: REPRINT
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 110,398
Product dimensions: 8.25(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

JOSHUA WOLF SHENK is a curator, essayist, and the author of Lincoln's Melancholy, a New York Times Notable Book. A contributor to The Atlantic, Harper's, The New Yorker, and other publications, he directs the Arts in Mind series on creativity and serves on the general council of The Moth. He lives in Los Angeles.

Table of Contents


Prelude xiii Introduction 1

PART ONE 1. The Community Said He Was Crazy 11 2. A Fearful Gift 26 3. I Am Now the Most Miserable Man Living 43

PART TWO 4. A Self-Made Man 69 5. A Misfortune, Not a Fault 81 6. The Reign of Reason 97 7. The Vents of My Moods and Gloom 112

PART THREE 8. Its Precise Shape and Color 126 9. The Fiery Trial Through Which We Pass 159 10. Comes Wisdom to Us 191

Epilogue 211 Afterword: “What Everybody Knows” 221 Notes 244 Bibliography 300 Acknowledgments 323 Index 328

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