counter create hit An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd

Availability: Ready to download

An enlightening narrative revealing aspects of the former president's life that are often overlooked, An American Marriage tells the tragic story of Abraham Lincoln’s marriage to Mary Todd. Abraham Lincoln was apparently one of those men who regarded “connubial bliss” as an untenable fantasy. During the Civil War, he pardoned a Union soldier who had deserted the army to ret An enlightening narrative revealing aspects of the former president's life that are often overlooked, An American Marriage tells the tragic story of Abraham Lincoln’s marriage to Mary Todd. Abraham Lincoln was apparently one of those men who regarded “connubial bliss” as an untenable fantasy. During the Civil War, he pardoned a Union soldier who had deserted the army to return home to wed his sweetheart. As the president signed a document sparing the soldier's life, Lincoln said: “I want to punish the young man—probably in less than a year he will wish I had withheld the pardon.” Based on thirty years of research, An American Marriage describes and analyzes why Lincoln had good reason to regret his marriage to Mary Todd. This revealing narrative shows that, as First Lady, Mary Lincoln accepted bribes and kickbacks, sold permits and pardons, engaged in extortion, and peddled influence. The reader comes to learn that Lincoln wed Mary Todd because, in all likelihood, she seduced him and then insisted that he protect her honor. Perhaps surprisingly, the 5’2” Mrs. Lincoln often physically abused her 6’4” husband, as well as her children and servants; she humiliated her husband in public; she caused him, as president, to fear that she would disgrace him publicly. Unlike her husband, she was not profoundly opposed to slavery and hardly qualifies as the “ardent abolitionist” that some historians have portrayed. While she providid a useful stimulus to his ambition, she often “crushed his spirit,” as his law partner put it. In the end, Lincoln may not have had as successful a presidency as he did—where he showed a preternatural ability to deal with difficult people—if he had not had so much practice at home.


Compare

An enlightening narrative revealing aspects of the former president's life that are often overlooked, An American Marriage tells the tragic story of Abraham Lincoln’s marriage to Mary Todd. Abraham Lincoln was apparently one of those men who regarded “connubial bliss” as an untenable fantasy. During the Civil War, he pardoned a Union soldier who had deserted the army to ret An enlightening narrative revealing aspects of the former president's life that are often overlooked, An American Marriage tells the tragic story of Abraham Lincoln’s marriage to Mary Todd. Abraham Lincoln was apparently one of those men who regarded “connubial bliss” as an untenable fantasy. During the Civil War, he pardoned a Union soldier who had deserted the army to return home to wed his sweetheart. As the president signed a document sparing the soldier's life, Lincoln said: “I want to punish the young man—probably in less than a year he will wish I had withheld the pardon.” Based on thirty years of research, An American Marriage describes and analyzes why Lincoln had good reason to regret his marriage to Mary Todd. This revealing narrative shows that, as First Lady, Mary Lincoln accepted bribes and kickbacks, sold permits and pardons, engaged in extortion, and peddled influence. The reader comes to learn that Lincoln wed Mary Todd because, in all likelihood, she seduced him and then insisted that he protect her honor. Perhaps surprisingly, the 5’2” Mrs. Lincoln often physically abused her 6’4” husband, as well as her children and servants; she humiliated her husband in public; she caused him, as president, to fear that she would disgrace him publicly. Unlike her husband, she was not profoundly opposed to slavery and hardly qualifies as the “ardent abolitionist” that some historians have portrayed. While she providid a useful stimulus to his ambition, she often “crushed his spirit,” as his law partner put it. In the end, Lincoln may not have had as successful a presidency as he did—where he showed a preternatural ability to deal with difficult people—if he had not had so much practice at home.

30 review for An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd

  1. 4 out of 5

    James Krohe

    This is an expanded version of the review that appeared under this title in the June 24, 2021, issue of Illinois Times. Hear the name “Lincoln” and you see the man splitting rails, say, or on a debate platform towering over Stephen A. Douglas. Few recall the soon-to-be President being shooed out the front door of his house in a hail of potatoes. But that image of Lincoln was as valid as the others, as we learn from An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd (Pegasus, This is an expanded version of the review that appeared under this title in the June 24, 2021, issue of Illinois Times. Hear the name “Lincoln” and you see the man splitting rails, say, or on a debate platform towering over Stephen A. Douglas. Few recall the soon-to-be President being shooed out the front door of his house in a hail of potatoes. But that image of Lincoln was as valid as the others, as we learn from An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd (Pegasus, 2021), the newest work from Lincoln biographer Michael Burlingame. The long-maligned William H. Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner and biographer, was the first major biographer to suggest that the marriage was hell for Lincoln. Burlingame, who holds the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield, has burrowed through what is known about the Lincolns’ married life and added much new material harvested from newspaper accounts only now becoming accessible to researchers. His conclusion? Herndon didn’t know the half of it. Herndon's placed most of the blame for that hell on Mary Todd, an opinion that got Herndon damned in polite circles as a Mary-hater. Later biographers tended to understate the difficulties of the union and Todd’s role in causing them. Male writers did it out of misplaced gallantry, not wishing to insult the First Lady, female writers did so out of sisterly solidarity. The Lincoln world, and Springfield in particular, was divided into pro-Mary and anti-Mary factions as early as 1866 when Herndon first offered his thesis that the first and the only love of Lincoln’s life had been New Salem’s Ann Rutledge, not Mary Todd. When journalist A. J. Liebling visited Springfield in 1950 he found that the topic was still debated. “"One section of local thought agreed with Herndon that Lincoln was. . . . driven into public life because his home was intolerable,” which view in turn was hotly disputed by “most church people and nearly all married women.” Many of those women insisted to any (male) biographer who would listen that Lincoln in fact loved Mary. By the 1950s women were writing biographies themselves. One was Ruth Painter Randall, the wife and colleague of a noted Lincoln scholar of that day. She put the Lincolns' happy marriage at the center of her Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage (1953), the first popular biography of Mary Todd. Painter Randall protected Todd's reputation at the expense of the facts in the opinion of Burlingame, who describes the book as “a biography that verged on hagiography.” Burlingame's cross examination of her use of sources is conclusive and devastating. Having knocked down the walls Painter Randall built to protect Todd’s reputation as a wife, he plants his flag on the rubble. Some readers will find Burlingame unsympathetic, even cruel in his relentless cataloging of Todd’s failures as a human being and as a wife and mother. But an historian is not a therapist; his or her responsibility is to understand, as in “comprehend,” not as in “sympathize with.” Burlingame at least treats Mary Todd as a person and not just the Little Woman, as too many historians have done. * * * All happy marriages are alike, you could say, but every unhappy marriage is unhappy in its own way. Burlingame's reconstruction of the Lincolns’ marriage gives us a Lincoln tried by Mary Todd, and a Todd tried even more sorely by life. Her father was neglectful and her stepmother was a villainess right out of a fairy tale. Her whole family showed tendencies toward mental instability; she was described by a neighbor as “nervous and crazy acting,” fearful of storms, peddlers, and pets. We have learned to be skeptical of male complaints about inconvenient women, but Mary Todd by all accounts was a pain to deal with. As a younger woman, Mary Todd was an ornament to a party but she had been raised with the help of servants and thought housework to be beneath her. Lincoln did the dishes and the grocery shopping, sat (sometimes inattentively) with the kids. She was capable of assaulting the hired help the point of injury, and once attacked Lincoln physically as well. People who knew him speculated that Lincoln continued to endure riding the judicial circuit in central Illinois after he could afford not to because it gave him a chance to get away from Todd for months each year. Lincoln, alas, could not escape his wife in the White House. She referred to herself not as First Lady but as “Mrs. President” and expected to be treated as such. She was a terror to visitors and staff (Lincoln’s secretary john Nicolay referred to her as “Her S[atanic] Majesty”) and a pest to many of Lincoln’s colleagues and subordinates. Stories of her jealousies, her shopping orgies, her feuds and backbiting and rages were common. She made herself so hated that when the widow Lincoln applied for a government pension, sentiment was against granting her the money. Burlingame casts light on a question that had puzzled dozens of their friends and family—why ever did they wed? People who knew each partner best thought them a poor match. Albert J. Beveridge, a close student of Lincoln’s pre-presidential years, noted that “[f]ew couples have been more unsuited in temperament, manners, taste, and everything else.” That Lincoln would be attracted to her was assumed at the time. Miss Todd was vain and frivolous, yes, but she had the kind of education and polish that he longed to have. His attraction to her had less obvious causes. As a young man, the qualities that make him great were not yet evident; while some of Todd's admirers insisted after his death that she had seen the greatness in him all along, we can ask whether she in fact saw only an up-and-coming professional man who was susceptible to her. One plausible reading of the engagement was that a desperate Todd, believing herself to be too old and plain to get any better mate, seduced him into making a proposal. (Lincoln’s good friend Orville H. Browning said: that there was “no doubt of her exceeding anxiety to marry him.” Why “anxiety” instead of eagerness or hopefulness?) Lincoln, realizing that they were ill-suited to each other and smitten by another woman, broke off the engagement for a time, but friends and acquaintances reported that Lincoln was tormented by the thought that he had thus treated Mary badly. Honor was considered (at least by Lincoln) to be worth much more then than it is today, when honor—how others see us—matters less than how we feel about ourselves. The dilemma Lincoln thus found himself in left him so wretched that friends fretted for his well-being. Herndon provides a knowing explanation, which Burlingame seconds. “Lincoln knew that he did not love the girl: he had promised to wed her: he knew what would eventually come of it and it was a conflict between sacrificing his honor and sacrificing his domestic peace: he chose the latter—saved his honor and threw away domestic happiness.” Did he really? That Lincoln was unhappy in ways we recognize is plain, but it’s hard to reconcile Burlingame’s suffering Lincoln with the man who showed endless solicitude and patience toward his wife. That he could care very much about a woman he didn’t care for confounds our simple-minded notions of conventional romantic love. A good marriage does not necessarily mean a happy one, whatever the marriage's trials to the partners, and this marriage was useful to both. Some speculate plausibly that she, timid and immature and all but helpless, aroused his protective instincts. If Todd needed a father, Lincoln needed to be a father, which he was, first to her, then to their unruly sons, and in the end to an unruly young nation. And who knows what new, unexpected bonds grew between them when Mary Todd became mother of his beloved boys? Its children are sometimes offered as the proof of any marriage, but the Lincolns’ boys did not flatter the parents, perhaps because the Lincolns disagreed about child-rearing as much as about everything else. Their two youngest, Eddie and Willie, died when not yet formed as personalities, but Tad (“probably darling only at a distance” in the words of historian Walter Johnson) was the sort of child that would give qualm to leave any young married contemplating parenthood. Robert, the first-born and longest-lived, is described by Burlingame generously as prudish and superior, more a Todd than a Lincoln. As a man, Robert became a servant to the grasping capitalist George Pullman, an arch-enemy of laborers’ right to organize to better their condition. We have no way of knowing whether Lincoln would have been pained by his eldest son’s politics, which so contradicted his own, but I doubt that he would have been surprised by them. Robert’s formative years occurred when his father was almost constantly away from home on the court circuit or the stump; later, when Robert was a young man, the boy was away at school. In any event, no one lists his sons among Lincoln’s accomplishments. If Todd was ill made to keep house, Lincoln was ill-made to parent, he apparently concluding that because his father, Thomas Lincoln, was a poor father, he, Abraham, would be a good father merely by not being Thomas. * * * Some readers will ask, who cares? For a long time, few historians did, Lincoln’s private life being judged irrelevant to his public career. In his preface to Here I Have Lived, for instance, the late Paul Angle eloquently argued that Lincoln could not have become Lincoln had it not been for nine circumstances of his life in Springfield that informed and tested him. Angle did not include among them Lincoln’s courtship and marriage. For his part, Burlingame argues that the marriage is important because Lincoln is important, and because Lincoln was shaped by his marriage. Consider politics. That Todd played a part in his political rise is pretty much undisputed, although how big a part is disputed vey much. Claims that Todd favored her husband with political insight, even that she was counselor to Lincoln, seem fanciful. Certainly, she liked to talk politics with the men, although one suspects that politics might have been for her merely another form of gossip or because it made her the center of attention in male company. Burlingame credits her with much more. Her ambitions for her husband were pretty clearly self-regarding. (Burlingame notes that by 1854, Lincoln had prepared himself to “not only facilitate the abolition of slavery, preserve national unity, and vindicate democracy; he would also slake his wife’s thirst for fame, recognition, and deference.”) Still, Lincoln may never have become president, he writes, “if his wife had not turbocharged the restless engine of his ambition.” She was talking about making him President back when they were courting; she wrote a friend, “You will see that, as I always told you, I will yet be the President’s wife.” Burlingame also gives Todd some credit for not only making Lincoln a president but for making him a great president. Lincoln’s marriage to this daughter of slave-owning Southerners was his own private Civil War, a domestic saga of insurrection and betrayals and heartbreak, and Burlingame suggests that President Lincoln’s preternatural ability to deal with difficult people owed to his having had “so much practice at home.” Charles B. Strozier's Lincoln's Quest for Union: Public and Private Meanings (Basic Books, 1982) anticipated Burlingame in this. Strozier was a budding young psychoanalyst on the teaching staff of Sangamon State University with time on his hands. As he put it in a preface “what else can one do in Springfield, Illinois but study Lincoln?” His study convinced him that Lincoln's grasp of political sectionalism owed much to his unhappy home life. Strozier’s old book and Burlingame’s new one are alike in another way. Writing of the former, David L. Wilson wrote, “Strozier [became] so engrossed with the manifold problems of Mary that he sometimes loses sight of his main subject.” But who could resist? Burlingame notes that Todd displayed what today is recognized as bipolar behavior: prolonged bouts of depression, excessive mourning for losses, wild spending sprees, ego inflation, and delusions of grandeur. Speculation that her miseries owed to premenstrual stress syndrome or narcissism or borderline personality disorder. Those last maladies are today’s version of the Victorian ladies’ maladies such as neurasthenia and probably ought to be regarded as gossip. and Burlingame notes but does not dwell on them. Recent scholars, most of them female, found the source of Todd’s ills in her social situation. In her Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography (1987), Jean Baker essays that Todd’s problem was that she was an unliberated woman, a victim of what Baker has called "male-prescribed true womanhood." That’s too simple by half—a victim of Vctorian sexual mores she might have been, but that was at most a factor, not the cause of her miseries. In his history of Lincoln’s Springfield, Angle lists Mary Todd in his index, a woman who disappears after she wed Lincoln to be reborn elsewhere in the index as “Mrs. Abraham Lincoln.” This was faithful to the conventions of the day, but anyone who knew her would have told him that even after their marriage, Lincoln’s wife remained Mary Todd to the end. * * * The publisher describes Burlingame’s book as the “untold story,” but the story has been told by not only by Herndon and Strozier but by Burlingame himself in his previous major works—Abraham Lincoln: A Life and The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln, which books borrow in turn from the revelations in William Herndon’s 1888 biography of his late partner. Burlingame’s version is, if not more nuanced, certainly more amply documented. When it comes to Todd, it sometimes seems that no stone was left unthrown. Even people who had nothing to say said it in ways that vividly described that unhappy woman. Lincoln relative Harriet Hanks, who lived with the Lincolns for a time, wrote to Herndon that she “would rather Say nothing about his Wife[;] as I Could Say but little in her favor I Conclude it best to Say nothing.” Burlingame, in contrast, is determined to say everything. In his method, Burlingame resembles Springfield attorney Logan Hay, long-time president of the Abraham Lincoln Association, who in the 1920s set that organization to collecting all the known facts about L’s life (to borrow from Liebling again) “as if he was preparing a lawsuit.” Burlingame does not intend merely to contribute to the debate about the nature and significance of the marriage but to settle the question once and for all. The present book runs to some 300 pages, and that total does not count his research notes, which Burlingame has published separately on the website of the University of Illinois Springfield. In an appendix he adds his critical appraisal of the literature on the Lincolns’ marriage, for which the serious student will be grateful. Some readers will conclude that, surely, Burlingame’s will be the last word on the subject. But there is no last word about the Lincolns. For example, the delicate matter of Mrs. Lincoln’s corruption as First Lady needs to be examined more deeply, he writes. And now that the facts have been laid out, let the interpretations begin. He adds, “There is a crying need for a modern, thorough, psychologically sophisticated biography . . . written with the goal of understanding rather than vindicating her.” Burlingame’s own research is deep rather than wide. He limits the scope of his inquiry to what is known about the Lincolns; his consideration of the marriage in the larger social context is perfunctory. Interesting questions thus are left unaddressed. One reviewer has already chided Burlingame for failing to fully take into consideration how the sexism of the era might have distorted the contemporaneous views of Todd's behavior on which his account relies. But that is to criticize a book that Burlingame did not write. This is not the first book that a newcomer to Lincoln should pick up, nor one that will much inform the students of Lincoln the war leader, the politician, the orator, or the lawyer. Anyone interested in Lincoln the man, however, also will profit from it. ●

  2. 4 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    Mary Lincoln with the bark off — WAY off. First, contra one-star screeds on Amazon — they are — and, if any similar ones arise here, Burlingame has excellent research skills and shows it by the amount of material he cites, as well as by pointing out BAD research (and that might be charitable) by previous Mary Lincoln biographers. And no, he's not a misogynist. Citing national statistics about how many men are victims of domestic abuse is not misogynist. Now that that's out of the way, let's procee Mary Lincoln with the bark off — WAY off. First, contra one-star screeds on Amazon — they are — and, if any similar ones arise here, Burlingame has excellent research skills and shows it by the amount of material he cites, as well as by pointing out BAD research (and that might be charitable) by previous Mary Lincoln biographers. And no, he's not a misogynist. Citing national statistics about how many men are victims of domestic abuse is not misogynist. Now that that's out of the way, let's proceed to the book, shall we? Burlingame thoroughly documents just how much of a "problem" Mary Lincoln was. Having read many Lincoln bios as well as the one about Robert Lincoln that came out a few years ago, I still have to say that a fair amount of this was new to me. Contra a reviewer here, and exactly to overturn the one-starrers at Amazon and those previous bad biographers, yes, Burlingame needed to refer extensively to all the research he had done. He also puts the lie to the claim that Herndon was a lifelong hater of Mary Lincoln. Now, just how bad? Mary assaulted Abe with both hot coffee and hot tea, with stove wood, and repeatedly with a broom. She drew blood on one occasion. I had heard only about the stove wood. Tying back to Bob Lincoln? I knew that Mary was severely depressed after Willie's death in 1862. I don't know that I had before heard that Abe himself had talked at that time about the possibility of institutionalizing her. Nor had I heard of the full degree of mental/emotional/verbal abuse she heaped on him, from shortly after they were married to, essentially the end of his life. Burlingame documents this with many comments from women as well as men in Springfield. He also has comments from or about servants that Mary ran off due to her abuse of them. Next, the grifting and grafting as First Lady. Again, I'd read a fair amount of this before, but not THIS much. Essentially accepting bribes to push people on her husband for nominations to a variety of positions, especially ones with opportunities for graft, like about anything related to the Collector of Customs for the Port of New York. And, I'd heard nothing before about the payroll skimming scheme. That's enough, to avoid spoiler alerts. Then, there's the issue of the start of the marriage itself. Lincoln wanted to save his honor after breaking the engagement. Burlingame offers circumstantial evidence that Mary helped him help himself out by seducing him, with Abe being a semi-willing partner. (The circumstantial evidence includes Bob being born less than nine full months later, and the wedding being a rushed affair and not in a church.) In his appendix — and don't you love it when academics squabble? — Burlingame throws several biographers of both Lincolns under the bus. The name probably best-known today is that of the "venerated" David Herbert Donald. In essence, Burlingame said they had much of the material available to them that he had (some of the items he used were only released in the middle 1990s), but took a powder. BUT? While it purports to be well-researched and gives every impression of that? No footnotes or endnotes. And, unlike some modern nonfiction, I'm not even referred to a website where they might exist. Kirkus Reviews talks about footnotes, but as I just told it on Twitter, ain't none in my copy. So, it loses a star. That's too bad, in light of the one-starrers, but it is what it is. And that "is," is inexcusable in a book that the author surely knew would be controversial both with the general public and with his fellow academics. There's also no formal bibliography.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Trisha

    I read this book while also reading Ronald White’s biography of Lincoln and it’s left me feeling like the author of this one has set out to focus solely on the most reprehensible qualities Mary Todd Lincoln brought to the marriage. And contrary to the title, there isn’t all that much about what Abraham Lincoln brought to it either except to cast him in the role of a helpless victim of domestic abuse. A quick glance at some of the chapter and section headings reads a little bit like what you’d exp I read this book while also reading Ronald White’s biography of Lincoln and it’s left me feeling like the author of this one has set out to focus solely on the most reprehensible qualities Mary Todd Lincoln brought to the marriage. And contrary to the title, there isn’t all that much about what Abraham Lincoln brought to it either except to cast him in the role of a helpless victim of domestic abuse. A quick glance at some of the chapter and section headings reads a little bit like what you’d expect to find in the supermarket tabloids: “Henpecked Lincoln” “Lincoln Escapes from Home by Traveling the Legal Circuit” “Lincoln Finds Ways to Avoid his Wife” “The Female President Sticks her Finger in the Government Pie” “The First Lady Helps Relatives Win Government Jobs” “Dishonest Mary: A Natural Born Thief” “Penny-pinching Penuriousness” ”The First Lady Humiliates Lincoln,” etc. Lincoln’s marriage was not a happy one and there’s evidence he regretted asking Mary to be his wife. (Burlingame, like other Lincoln biographers has suggested that the decision was not based on love and that in fact there was little love in the marriage.) Nor is there any doubt that Mary was a difficult woman to get along with, prone to uncontrollable fits of temper and violent mood swings. But to focus solely on the dark side of her personality does her a terrible disservice especially since most likely there was another side to her as well. But what’s most unfortunate is that Mary Todd Lincoln was suffering from mental and emotional disorders that were simply not acknowledged and dealt with at the time. (Were she alive today most likely her physician would want to keep close track of her meds!) She was also carrying a tremendous burden due to the grievous toll the deaths of her three children had on her. Unfortunately Burlingame doesn’t say much about this. But other Lincoln biographers do which leads me to wonder why this one chose to present Mary Todd Lincoln the way he has in this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mark O'brien

    Whew, it's amazing that the United Staes defeated the rebels considering the havoc Abraham Lincoln's wife was causing in the White House -- tantrums, phony payrolls, oodles of gentlemen friends, and "gifts" that served as bribes. The author lays out the evidence like a good prosecutor making his case. As he concluded, Abe was a lousy husband but Mary Todd Lincoln was very harmful individual, probably due to a bipolar condition. Whew, it's amazing that the United Staes defeated the rebels considering the havoc Abraham Lincoln's wife was causing in the White House -- tantrums, phony payrolls, oodles of gentlemen friends, and "gifts" that served as bribes. The author lays out the evidence like a good prosecutor making his case. As he concluded, Abe was a lousy husband but Mary Todd Lincoln was very harmful individual, probably due to a bipolar condition.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. “An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd” by Michael Burlingame sheds light on the troubled partnership of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. Unlike other Lincoln biographers, Burlingame has little patience or sympathy for Mary Todd Lincoln and her emotional issues. He depicts her as a liar, thief, cheat, and abusive spouse. His rendering of Mrs. Lincoln is backed by meticulous written accounts from those who knew the Lincolns or had witnessed Mary’s behavior. He even assi “An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd” by Michael Burlingame sheds light on the troubled partnership of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. Unlike other Lincoln biographers, Burlingame has little patience or sympathy for Mary Todd Lincoln and her emotional issues. He depicts her as a liar, thief, cheat, and abusive spouse. His rendering of Mrs. Lincoln is backed by meticulous written accounts from those who knew the Lincolns or had witnessed Mary’s behavior. He even assigns indirect blame to Mary for Lincoln’s death. He suggests that if Mary had not alienated Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia, the Grants would have been with the Lincolns at Ford Theater and Grant could have somehow prevented the assassination. Despite all of the author’s efforts and evidence, I still came away from “An American Marriage” with a good deal of sympathy for Mary Lincoln. Mrs. Lincoln almost certainly suffered from debilitating mental illness, depression, migraines, and menstrual problems for which there was little treatment in the 19th century. Only one of her sons survived to adulthood. Much of her behavior is inexcusable, particularly the verbal and physical abuse toward her husband. However, she soldiered on throughout a difficult life. And certainly, she’s not the worst First Lady in American history.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lucky Ringwood

    Burlingame's tome is highly researched and credible. It gets bogged down with too many quotes and verbatim letters. It would have been more interesting had Burlingame written a comprehensive narrative instead of copy/pasting tons of documents and calling it a book. One thing is certain: Mary Todd suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness. Burlingame's tome is highly researched and credible. It gets bogged down with too many quotes and verbatim letters. It would have been more interesting had Burlingame written a comprehensive narrative instead of copy/pasting tons of documents and calling it a book. One thing is certain: Mary Todd suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness.

  7. 5 out of 5

    False

    Do not blame the bearer of the bad news for the fact that this book is an unflattering portrayal of Mary Lincoln. She was an unpleasant and deeply troubled woman who managed to gain the enmity of Lincoln’s friends and peers, the wives of Lincoln’s professional associates and military leaders, her own relatives, and nearly the entire population of Springfield Illinois. Her own son had her committed to an insane asylum in 1873. Having read the other reviews posted here I can’t help but wonder if a Do not blame the bearer of the bad news for the fact that this book is an unflattering portrayal of Mary Lincoln. She was an unpleasant and deeply troubled woman who managed to gain the enmity of Lincoln’s friends and peers, the wives of Lincoln’s professional associates and military leaders, her own relatives, and nearly the entire population of Springfield Illinois. Her own son had her committed to an insane asylum in 1873. Having read the other reviews posted here I can’t help but wonder if any of the writers have actually read the entire book or bothered to check the sources cited. Despite the false claim of shoddy research and lack of sources by one reviewer, there are 152 pages of source notes and citations provided online that can be reviewed or downloaded at the website provided in the book. The only ax/axe being ground here is by angry reviewers who want to pillory one of the foremost Lincoln scholars for writing what most historians have long known to be true about Mrs. Lincoln. To call a distinguished scholar a misogynist while decrying his work as a hit job seems to be hypocritical at best, and according to multiple accounts quoted in the book, Mary Lincoln physically abused her husband. This book is not about gender-bashing or misogyny and reading those motives into this tremendously well-written piece of Lincoln scholarship can only be considered misdirected animus by the reviewer. The editorial reviews on this page extoll the value of this work and the credentials of its author far better than I could, but in my opinion it is contemptible to impugn the character of the author, or for that matter any historical figure (such as Mary Lincoln) without evidence or proof, which this book contains a copious abundance of. This work contains harsh truths that are substantiated with a massive amount of evidence in the form of direct quotes from people who knew the Lincolns well, such as Abraham’s long-time law partner William Herndon. After Lincoln’s assassination Herndon collected the depositions of dozens of people, which were not challenged by contemporary scholars for their veracity. The so-called Herndon’s Informants provided a treasure trove of primary source information about the Lincoln’s from those who knew them best. The discrediting of William Herndon’s research was itself a hit job perpetrated by twentieth century Lincoln scholar David Herbert Donald who concluded that Herndon “hated” Mary Lincoln, something that historian Douglas Wilson calls a presumption, not a fact. Donald’s work inspired a Mary Lincoln hagiography by Ruth Painter Randall that corroborated Donald’s view of Herndon which has largely and mistakenly prevailed to this day. An American Marriage is a deeply researched look at the Lincoln’s that does not concern itself with the niceties of giving equal treatment to the non-existent evidence that Mary Lincoln was a good wife or political advisor to her husband. The flaws of both Lincolns are addressed, and the testimony of the people that knew them speaks for itself, and it is their words that paint a dire portrait of the marriage, not the author’s.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Janice Robinson

    So whoah, Burlingame manages to indirectly blame Mary/Molly/Mother for her husband's assassination! Talk about a hatchet job, alright. But anyway, I've been fascinated by Abraham Lincoln my entire life, so most of what is in this book I already knew. Still, there is something to be said for bringing Mary's traits and behavior all together into one volume and talking about nothing else except her traits and behaviors. Spread out in other volumes, enmeshed into material about her husband and polit So whoah, Burlingame manages to indirectly blame Mary/Molly/Mother for her husband's assassination! Talk about a hatchet job, alright. But anyway, I've been fascinated by Abraham Lincoln my entire life, so most of what is in this book I already knew. Still, there is something to be said for bringing Mary's traits and behavior all together into one volume and talking about nothing else except her traits and behaviors. Spread out in other volumes, enmeshed into material about her husband and politics and The Civil War, it's much easier to minimize it and think it wasn't THAT big a deal, that Mary had her faults and foibles but she did love Abraham deeply, and to convince oneself that in spite of it all, he loved her and they had a happy marriage. I think there's a desire, among those who admire Lincoln, to believe that he did have a happy marriage, so we're easily convinced and find it easy to overlook a lot of things. Bringing it all together without interruption by any other material, it becomes much more clear that he married her solely due to a sense of obligation, that she married him out of fear of being an old maid, that she was seriously mentally ill, and their marriage was hell. But I'm giving it four stars instead of five stars because I'm only 99% convinced that this is true, not 100%. h

  9. 4 out of 5

    Serge

    An uneven work of historiography that paints a damning portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln as "unethical, tactless, unpopular, and scandalous." Burlingame describes the Lincoln marriage as "a domestic hell on earth, a burning scorching hell as terrible as death and as gloomy as the grave." Some of the book reads like a tabloid character assassination anchored by rumor and gossip. Other sections are armchair psychology assessments of the mental state of a First Lady who admittedly suffered from a bipol An uneven work of historiography that paints a damning portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln as "unethical, tactless, unpopular, and scandalous." Burlingame describes the Lincoln marriage as "a domestic hell on earth, a burning scorching hell as terrible as death and as gloomy as the grave." Some of the book reads like a tabloid character assassination anchored by rumor and gossip. Other sections are armchair psychology assessments of the mental state of a First Lady who admittedly suffered from a bipolar disorder, crippling migraines and the grief of burying three sons before they reached adulthood. Burlingame describes the young Mary Todd who caught Abraham Lincoln's attention as "quick, gay, frivolous, social, and conniving. His Freudian frame for the early Lincoln romance is laughable and his use of the Wayne C. Temple "Seduction Hypothesis" (to explain the accelerated nuptials) scurrilous. The merits of the book are that it offers historical evidence for the true failings of the First Lady: she took and extorted bribes, padded expense accounts, peddled trading permits, expedited pardons, and leaked sensitive documents. In this regard, she was the equal of her husband, willing to make expedient compromises for ambition's sake. The tantrums, the shoplifting, the public jealousy are and should remain historical footnotes.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amy Edwards

    This is a well-researched (footnotes and references not in the book but available online) compilation of quotes and reports of Mary Todd Lincoln’s life as Mrs. Lincoln. It is not really so much about the marriage as much as it as about the wife—poor Abe is seen mostly as the long-suffering victim of a very difficult, probably mentally ill, woman. I picked it up off the library “new books” shelves. I once read Carl Sandburg’s two-volume biography of Lincoln from library copies—which of course the This is a well-researched (footnotes and references not in the book but available online) compilation of quotes and reports of Mary Todd Lincoln’s life as Mrs. Lincoln. It is not really so much about the marriage as much as it as about the wife—poor Abe is seen mostly as the long-suffering victim of a very difficult, probably mentally ill, woman. I picked it up off the library “new books” shelves. I once read Carl Sandburg’s two-volume biography of Lincoln from library copies—which of course the library has since culled (the fate of so many old books)—and now have my own copy of Sandburg’s combined volume. I love that portrait of Lincoln, and was relieved the Burlingame’s appendix, which exposes several biographies as flawed or badly researched, did not criticize Sandburg. (How are biographers such as those scorned by Burlingame able to get away with sourcing books only from secondary sources?) I am sorry to learn just how badly Abraham Lincoln suffered in his marriage, but it only makes me admire him more for his kindness and commitment to his marriage covenant, even to an undeserving wife. Impressive research. Not a fun read. For one, sad content. But for another, it just becomes a string of anecdotes and quotations held together loosely.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kent

    The blurb on the inside of the book cover provides the reader with only a hint of how devastating this book is to the reputation of Mary Todd Lincoln. Michael Burlingame has used his 36 years of Lincoln research to present the most current and accurate documentation of her life and marriage to Abraham Lincoln. I personally would have preferred for Burlingame to have included his footnotes with the book instead of having to Google them (a PDF at notes-for-an-american-marriage). However at 152 pag The blurb on the inside of the book cover provides the reader with only a hint of how devastating this book is to the reputation of Mary Todd Lincoln. Michael Burlingame has used his 36 years of Lincoln research to present the most current and accurate documentation of her life and marriage to Abraham Lincoln. I personally would have preferred for Burlingame to have included his footnotes with the book instead of having to Google them (a PDF at notes-for-an-american-marriage). However at 152 pages, I suspect the publisher wanted to reduce the cost of the book. Also, I would have preferred the Appendix to have been presented as an Introduction to the book so that the reader could better understand why Burlingame was documenting seemingly every instance of embarrassment, mental frailty, fraud and theft committed, plus every terrible piece of gossip and innuendo uttered and written down about MTL. I have to knock off a star for the paltry number of pages (4) devoted to Burlingame's conclusion about the marriage of MTL and AL. However the insight gained that the country may have never had the AL we have of American history without MTL makes the book worth 4-stars no matter how exhausting it was to read at times.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth VanDyke

    I got the feeling as I was reading this book, because of the repetition and the structure that it was notes for a later, bigger book that the author/publisher decided were publishable now. Although I was a little put off by that I still have to give this book 5 stars for the incredible amount of information gathered in one volume. I could not put it down. I have been a Lincoln fan since my childhood in Illinois and have read many books about him and his family (my favorite is "The Last Lincolns" I got the feeling as I was reading this book, because of the repetition and the structure that it was notes for a later, bigger book that the author/publisher decided were publishable now. Although I was a little put off by that I still have to give this book 5 stars for the incredible amount of information gathered in one volume. I could not put it down. I have been a Lincoln fan since my childhood in Illinois and have read many books about him and his family (my favorite is "The Last Lincolns") I also taught Chasing Lincoln's Killer in my middle school literature classes. Although I knew Mary was a little unbalanced I had no idea about the extent of her craziness until now. It is amazing that AL was able to lead the nation. For people complaining about lack of references there are *152 pages* of them on the University of Illinois website. Here's the link: https://www.uis.edu/cfls/wp-content/u...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Richard Herndon

    This book was fascinating, containing many facts I had not previously known about Mary Todd Lincoln. It raised several questions in my mind: How much of Mrs. Lincoln's behavior could be attributed to the personal tragedies she endured, President Lincoln's interactions with Mrs. Lincoln were largely omitted, did she ever receive medical treatment for her behavior, and did she ever feel contrition? As President, did Mr. Lincoln endure her tirades and humiliations silently or confide in his friends This book was fascinating, containing many facts I had not previously known about Mary Todd Lincoln. It raised several questions in my mind: How much of Mrs. Lincoln's behavior could be attributed to the personal tragedies she endured, President Lincoln's interactions with Mrs. Lincoln were largely omitted, did she ever receive medical treatment for her behavior, and did she ever feel contrition? As President, did Mr. Lincoln endure her tirades and humiliations silently or confide in his friends, more than was described? There have been other books written about Mrs. Lincoln's life after the assassination corroborating Dr. Burlingame's narrative, and the author alluded to her brief confinement in a mental institution. As a postscript: Yes, I am distantly related to Lincoln's law partner, William Herndon, and I have lived most of my life in Springfield, Illinois.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Martin

    Burlingame is a respected and complete Lincoln scholar. This book pulls the curtain of privacy away from his marriage to Mary Todd. What is revealed is a woman intent on getting her way by either accepting bribes, currying favor, and as suggested having affairs with wealthy and influential donors. It is a tough book to go through not because Burlingame is a poor writer but rather that the subject matter is so seamy. How Lincoln held it all together during the Civil War is indeed a testament to h Burlingame is a respected and complete Lincoln scholar. This book pulls the curtain of privacy away from his marriage to Mary Todd. What is revealed is a woman intent on getting her way by either accepting bribes, currying favor, and as suggested having affairs with wealthy and influential donors. It is a tough book to go through not because Burlingame is a poor writer but rather that the subject matter is so seamy. How Lincoln held it all together during the Civil War is indeed a testament to his internal strength. Read the book to see how Mary Todd was not a model for First Ladies to follow.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sheri Hanrahan

    It was a bit dry which made it difficult to read but it was very interesting. It is hard to believe that the popular President Lincoln had to contend with a terrible wife. Not only did she make his life miserable but she was corrupt and a thief. Although it is true she definitely had mental problems, she really should have been arrested. It was no wonder that she had very few friends. She made enemies everywhere she went.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    As one who was born and raised in Illinois, and was always drawn to study Lincoln, Burlingame’s biography of the marriage is the most thoroughly documented book on the subject I have read. Apparently, the author has been privy to many more sources than past researchers, and thus gives us a more detailed and accurate account of the relationship between Abraham and Mary. For anyone who is interested in what factors molded the man and made him the President he was, this book is a must.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy

    Mary Lincoln was certifiably crazy. This book is a litany of her excesses and the resultant terrible marriage with Lincoln. He was the victim of her madness, jealousy, delusions of grandeur, terrible temper tantrums, mental and physical abuse. Lincoln was a saint to put up with her. The question remains: why did he ever marry her??

  18. 5 out of 5

    Donna Peake

    I could not put this book down. Mary Lincoln was a woman who wanted to be the Queen of the Ball. If any 1st Ladies tried to do what she did they would most likely be in jail. She didn't care if you were a friend of the President or not. Don't know how he ran the country with all the time that had to be spent picking up after Mary. They do say opposites attract. I could not put this book down. Mary Lincoln was a woman who wanted to be the Queen of the Ball. If any 1st Ladies tried to do what she did they would most likely be in jail. She didn't care if you were a friend of the President or not. Don't know how he ran the country with all the time that had to be spent picking up after Mary. They do say opposites attract.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ann Olszewski

    Very well researched, although I think the notes should actually be in the book, rather than on a website. I've been fascinated by the Lincolns for most of my life, and always saw Mary Todd Lincoln as an eccentric and tragic figure. This was eye-opening, and changed my perception of the Lincoln marriage completely. Very well researched, although I think the notes should actually be in the book, rather than on a website. I've been fascinated by the Lincolns for most of my life, and always saw Mary Todd Lincoln as an eccentric and tragic figure. This was eye-opening, and changed my perception of the Lincoln marriage completely.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karen Barbieri

    What can one say about the private life of Abraham Lincoln except for extremely sad and disrespectful. A man so kind and brilliant was ruled by an unbalanced and corrupt woman. Her political influence in choosing unqualified cabinet members and department heads was based on corruption. In the end, Lincoln learned to deal with difficult situations by learning to deal with his ungrateful wife.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Claudette R

    So very depressing.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Twanna R

    Too harsh and too destructive for the me as a reader in over 600 pages. A beat down of Mary Todd every page. Did nothing for Lincoln as the husband and president.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Mcbroom

    Burlingame delves into the dramatic marriage of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Chandler

    There was a lot of repetition. There was a great deal of first person testimony, presumably authenticated, but no evidence of that in the book. One thing is left unclear, unresearched, undiscussed; and that is the issue of Lincoln’s sexual orientation. There are a number of quotations that can be read as referring obliquely to Lincoln’s sexual orientation. The author chooses to completely ignore the issue, which makes this a lame diatribe against the abuses of Mary Todd Lincoln by a prig too delic There was a lot of repetition. There was a great deal of first person testimony, presumably authenticated, but no evidence of that in the book. One thing is left unclear, unresearched, undiscussed; and that is the issue of Lincoln’s sexual orientation. There are a number of quotations that can be read as referring obliquely to Lincoln’s sexual orientation. The author chooses to completely ignore the issue, which makes this a lame diatribe against the abuses of Mary Todd Lincoln by a prig too delicate to openly research and express a professional opinion about how Lincoln’s shotgun marriage to Mary Todd Lincoln, then subsequent difficulties satisfying her might be more understandable based on Lincoln’s history of sleeping with other men before and subsequent to the marriage to Mary Todd. For such an impotent biography, Burlingame deserved few stars from me, and less from the colleagues he has embarrassed with this poor excuse for published research.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  26. 4 out of 5

    jess

  27. 5 out of 5

    Diane Mather

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris Carson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

  30. 4 out of 5

    Evan

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.