Monday, February 20, 2006

President's Day Flash from the Past

Nowadays, when students are encouraged to write, their often given blank journal pages and sometimes silly story starter prompts, but the education of this eloquent president was very different.

Rather than doing a lot of personal writing as a child, he spent more of his time reading, and taking notes from great writers. He also read the dictionary.

Snippets from a Lincoln history published in Century Magazine, 1886 (we found in a used bookstore!):

"...he read everything he could lay his hands upon, and he was certainly fortunate in the few books of which he became the possessor...the Bible, Aesop's Fables, Robinson Crusoe, The Pilgrim's Progress, a History of the United States, and Weem's Life of Washington. These were the best, and these he read over and over till he knew them almost by heart. But his voracity for anything printed was insatiable. He would sit in the twilight and read a dictionary as long as he could see. He used to go to David Turnham's the town constable, and devour the Revised Statutes of Indiana, as boys in our day do the Three Guardsmen. Of the books he did not own he took voluminous notes, filling his copy book with choice extracts, and poring over them until they were fixed in his memory. He could not afford to waste paper upon his original compositions."

But it's also interesting to see how he eventually found his voice, as he become a young man... "His budding talents as a writer were not always used discreetly. He was too much given to scribbling coarse satires and chronicles, in prose, and in something which had to him and his friends the air of verse." It seems he had a bit of the pixies in him at times, too.

The Century Magazine volume Lincoln is in (11) isn't online, but Cornell has archived quite a bit here. Maybe they'll eventually get around to the earlier volumes.

The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln

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