novel with extensive historical notes about this true story.
wonderful book" -- James M. McPherson, Historian
and Pulitzer Prize winner for Battle Cry Of Freedom
Abraham Lincoln courted Mary Todd, rejection, poverty, lack
of polish and background, all tried to deter him. He was a self-taught
young lawyer, plagued with debts and raised in log cabins. She
was of aristocratic background and highly educated. Everyone
in Springfield, Illinois, thought them badly matched. Did they
just get married and live happily ever after?
No. Her family interfered, told Lincoln he was unworthy. Did
he believe them? Well, he broke the engagement. Then he went
into such a tailspin of depression that friends thought he might
commit suicide. Her family refused to let Mary go to him. She
had to seem unconcerned, her witty and vivacious self.
They did not see one another for 18 months. Then they resumed
meeting -but in secret. This secret courtship got Lincoln challenged
to a duel. Not your sweetness and light path to marriage. Were
they in love? Lots of controversy about that. In Abe and
Molly Frederic Hunter provides the details.
A special feature of this novel is a section with extensive
notes about the historical sources for this story and why Hunter
interpreted them as he did.
Hunter served as a foreign service officer of the United States
Information Service in Brussels, Belgium, and at Coquilhatville
and Bukavu in the ex-Belgian Congo. He covered sub-Saharan Africa
as a foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor.
Later he wrote screenplays for film and television, including
Lincoln and the War Within for PBS, which triggered his
interest in the Lincoln courtship. His writings include The
Hemingway Play and Africa, Africa!, a collection of fifteen
stories. He and his wife Donanne have a website
spanning fifty years of experiences in Africa.
Abe and Molly: The Lincoln Courtship
available in bookstore chains. ISBN # 978-1-891331-16-9
-- 6" x 9" Softcover.
Some years ago
while researching a film project for PBS, aired as Lincoln and the
War Within, I stumbled on the story of the courtship between Abraham
Lincoln and Mary Todd. What a classically romantic tale! She called
him Mr. Lincoln. He called her Molly. Two young people attracted
across barriers of class and background who manage to break down
those barriers to grab a bit of happiness. Great stuff!
In the England of Jane Austen it is the women who are poor-and destined
to lives of genteel poverty--unless the men wake up, realize how
exceptional they are and rescue them. In the middle America of the
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it is the young men who
are poor. They seek fulfillment with women of higher social standing.
(Check out F. Scott Fitzgerald and Theodore Dreiser.)
In Abe and Molly the story is anchored in the actual lives of two
people familiar, almost legendary, to most of us. Lincoln, impoverished
and socially awkward, is trying to conceal a backwoods heritage.
He has undeniable talents, including a tremendous capacity for growth,
but he's also full of self-doubt. Molly, of extraordinary education
and aristocratic background, hardly more than twenty, is vivacious,
witty and sharp-tongued. Despite the opposition of her family, she
and Lincoln fall in love; they decide to marry. But the family interferes.
The engagement is broken. After the breakup, they live separate
lives for eighteen months. And a lot more happens.
Why are such stories a staple of people's imaginative lives? Because
they reassure readers that perseverance in the face of opposition
leads to happiness and enlarged capacities.
Readers may say of Austen's Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy that
it's only a story. The particular pleasure of the Lincoln courtship
story is that it's mainly true--and would be entirely true if only
we knew the threads that have been lost across time.
Our story takes these young people no farther than their wedding.
Most readers will know what happened to them later on. But our story
knows them only as a young man and woman moving forward into life
with hopes and ambitions--and with no knowledge of whether or not
they will be fulfilled.
Our story adheres to the historical facts, at least as far as we
know them. Educated speculation fills in what is not known. This
speculation involves the interpretation of facts, character and
probabilities. Many people have mulled these facts, characters and
probabilities, and interpretations of them differ.
There's an unusual aspect to this volume. It includes extensive
notes about how the interpretations offered here came to be. It
also notes how other interpreters have arrived at different conclusions.
This is mainly a true story. But it's not history. The dialogue
makes no pretense of being factual. Did Molly Todd's first look
at Abraham Lincoln occur just after she arrived in Springfield?
Just as he threw a drunken shoemaker into a trough to discipline
him for beating his wife? That's what we have here. It probably
did not happen that way. But Lincoln and some friends did toss the
shoemaker into the trough and saw to it that his wife beat him.
If you'd prefer to encounter the story after first learning what's
fact and what speculation, you may want to start at the back of
the book and read the notes first. Wherever you start, may you enjoy