Abe and Molly:
The Lincoln Courtship
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sympathetic review of the courtship of Lincoln and Mary.
He 'always' called her Molly so the author has used this nickname
to humanize the often demonized relationship. Using hundreds
of sources and his own inate sensibilities and sense of history,
we are immersed in the times and romances of pre Civil War
America. I recommend this book for all history students
especially Lincoln scholars.
Hunter is a great find. His Abe and Molly is one
of the finest histories I've encountered on Lincoln, combining
recollections, anecdotes, and detailed research on Lincoln
and his courtship of Mary ("Molly") Todd in Springfield
in 1840. It is no surprise that historian James McPherson
offered kudos for the novel. Hunter portrays Abe and Mary
in their crucial young adult years, as they really were, showing
what they were like and how their characters were formed.
We see Lincoln's nervousness and indecisiveness around women,
his humility, solidity, natural wit, and ambition, and Mary's
flirtatious nature, her more "modern woman" interest
in politics, and her attraction to Lincoln from the start.
She is a positive character. Beyond the romance, which is
the story tying the novel together, there is a wonderful historical
chronicle of the times. We get a ground-eye view of Whig politics
of the era, of the Presidential campaign of 1840, and the
political beginnings for Lincoln coming off the Black Hawk
war. We get the best picture ever of life on the frontier,
the circuit riding, the dances and competition for women,
the drinking, the dueling, the migrations from Kentucky. And,
we get a good view of Stephen Douglas and Lincoln's legal
colleagues. We see the pathos of Lincoln circuit riding, defending
a young farm boy who killed a co-worker that had threatened
him, and the background of Lincoln's tough childhood, losing
his mother, the family living in a lean-to in Indiana, having
to become a man at age eight, later cutting logs and selling
them down river. A wonderful story and history, a real inside
look. Can't wait to read more Hunter.
of The Daughters of Union Veterans of the Coivil War, Tent
22, Santa Barbara, CA at the Santa Barbara
Club. March 9, 2012
50 ladies descended from a Civil War veteran gathered at lunch
to hear Frederic Hunter discuss Lincoln's early years and
read extracts from his book, Abe and Molly. Q&A
followed. Everyone was entralled and very interested and had
very good detailed questions.
Club at the LaCanada Women's (Book) Club
LaCanada Flintridge, CA Feb. 16, 2012
65 ladies listed to author Fred Hunter give readings from
the book and answer many questions. The Thursday Club is one
of the largest and oldest boos clubs in the LA area.
Register, Springfield, IL newspaper
Blog - Dec. 3, 2011
an e-mail interview, Hunter said one of his TV films, "Lincoln
and the War Within," which was done for PBS, led him
to the story of the Abraham Lincoln-Mary Todd courtship. And
that led him to write "Abe and Molly: The Lincoln Courtship,"
published last year by Nebbadoon Press. Hunter describes "Abe
and Molly" as a "mainly true story." It's a
novel, with invented situations and dialogue -- but also with
a bibliography and nearly 50 pages of historical notes.
[Full entry here.]
Lead review in
relationships are of special construction. "Abe and Molly:
The Lincoln Courtship" tells the story of how our inept,
timid sixteenth president won the heart of an aristocrat,
a match no one thought would work. Frederic Hunter uses this
pairing to spin a novel out of it, providing a dramatized
look at the relationship between Abraham and Mary Todd. An
exciting tale of romance and high society in the first half
of the nineteenth century, "Abe and Molly" is a
fascinating and fun read.
Christian Science Monitor
Richard Dearborn Sr.
strained courtship of Abraham Lincoln is brought to life by
Frederic Hunter's novel Abe and Molly. Reading it is as though
one is eavesdropping on the Lincolns' conversations with no
an interview with reporter Kelly Mahan, Mr. Hunter responded
to a question about the untold true story of Mary Todd and
Abe Lincoln, "That's what the book is about. It's a great
story about fascinating people--and it's true! Lincoln could
not have become president without the encouragement, wisdom,
and practical political savvy she brought to the marriage."
Full Review >> Click Here
Barbara resident Frederic Hunter spent 10 years researching
the sometimes controversial courtship between Abraham Lincoln
and Mary Todd (or "Molly," as Abe called her), and
now has turned that into a fictional narrative of their relationship.
ago I put down your "Abe and Molly" having read
every word of it aloud to John and we both want you to know
how very much we enjoyed it. There is so much to say about
the book, all of it good and much of it funny. Of all the
books I've read about Lincoln, yours has made him come alive
so that I really feel I know him as a friend. And Molly -
well, she has needed and deserved a champion for a century
and a half. You have done a magnificent job.
finished the book last night. Your story of Lincoln's courtship
is irresistible. What sparkle! What a pair of intelligent,
unique and colorful odd ducks--taking risks, defying the
odds, to find their way to one another. I didn't want it
And it was such a feat of the imagination. How did you do
it? Those riveting conversations between them, the building
tension of their relationship. They seemed so alive, so
believable and so human in the best sense--drawn to each
other against the roiling political scene of their time.
Your Lincoln was a work of art: brilliant, rough-edged,
funny, sometimes clownish, powerful, flawed, honest, bold,
shy and totally engaging. I could go on and on: the townspeople,
the local life, the manners of the day--all a rich and carefully-drawn
Club Book Blog
Month Club interview with Heather Vogel Frederick includes
an in-depth interview about the book Abe and Molly:
The Lincoln Courtship (plus a pie recipe).
Placement U.S. History Teacher
Lincoln was not an attractive man. His seemingly wild and
untaimed hair, towering height, and gawky features do not
make him a likely protagonist for a romance novel. Yet,
in Frederic Hunter's newest book, Abe and Molly: The
Lincoln Courtship, a softer, more romantic side of Lincoln
comes alive as never before. Based on extensive research
thoroughly documented at the end of the novel, Hunter expertly
brings to life one of the most iconic figures in American
history. Full Review Continued >> Click
Top 1000 Reviewer
loved this book! It is so steeped in history that one can
easily imagine being part of the dinner party in the Edwards'
Springfield home. Or shivering while making the two-week
stagecoach / paddleboat trip from Lexington to Springfield
in wintertime. Brrrr. Full Review Continued >>
Feature Book Review
Todd was very badly treated by American History and deserved
another look." Full interview article >> Click
winning author of
Battle Cry of Freedom
so much for sharing the ms of your novel with me. I
have read it with great pleasure, and indeed have learned
a great deal from the ways in which you have dealt fictionally
with an important but often misunderstood facet of Lincoln's
life-and the life of Mary Todd. I am impressed by the way
in which you were able to incorporate the extensive research
you did into the story, which is more plausible than anything
else I have read. I was impressed with Doug Wilson's interpretation
in Honor's Voice, which centered around Lincoln's supposed
infatuation with Matilda Edwards, but you have convinced me
otherwise. I think your insight about Ninian Edwards (supported
by Elizabeth) doing everything they could to warn Lincoln
off is quite convincing. The only source of some doubt about
that interpretation is their ready acceptance of Abraham and
Mary's determination to marry two years later. In any event,
a wonderful book here,
and I am sure it will win a place in the current sweepstakes
of Lincoln books.
radio interview on "Curtain Call"
hour interview on NPR in Santa Rosa, CA
AP US History Teacher, continued
- - from Scott Wilson
the average person, Lincoln is the president who ended slavery,
led the Union to victory in the Civil War, and died tragically
at the hands of an assassin. Over two hundred years after
his birth, he is still revered as an important American
hero, yet relatively little is known about his pre-presidential
years and even less about his love life. Hunter has addressed
this oversight by creating a fun, easily readable piece
of historical fiction that is approachable for even the
most ardent haters of history. At its core Abe and Molly
reads like a Jane Austen novel, providing an excellent snapshot
of courting rituals in mid-19th century America while illustrating
class divisions that existed by highlighting the contrast
between Lincoln's extremely humble upbringing and Mary "Molly"
Todd's aristocratic family background.
The novel begins with Molly Todd's journey via stagecoach
to Springfield, Illinois and ends with her marriage to Lincoln.
While the ultimately satisfying conclusion comes as no surprise,
the journey that Federic Hunter takes the reader on is a
thoroughly enjoyable one that interweaves actual historical
events with fictional dialogue. Thus, we learn of Lincoln's
penchant for telling earthy stories, his frequent descent
into depression, and his awkardness with the fairer sex.
At the same time, Lincoln is portrayed as an astute politician,
not above certain shenanigans to aid his cause and to help
him achieve his goals. Moreover, Hunter provides a depiction
of Molly Todd that proves highly enlightening, and challenges
traditional assumptions of many historians. Nowhere in the
novel do we see the emotionally disturbed and unstable woman
that Molly became later in life. Instead, we are introduced
to a charming, well-educated, and flirtatious young woman
whose primary weakness was her sharp tongue and unwillingness
to conform to sharply prescribed gender roles. By incorporating
his extensive research into the couple, Hunter paints a
realistic portrait of a true love affair (complete with
a broken engagement and a meddling guardian) between two
people well suited for each other, despite, what seemed
at the time, insurmountable differences.
Of course, while the romance takes main stage, there is
also plenty for historians to sink their teeth into. Hunter
introduces the politically adept "Little Giant"
Stephen Douglas as a supporting character. Douglas, who
famously took part in the Lincoln-Douglas debates and authored
the infamous Kansas-Nebraska Act, is shown to be a realistic
challenger for the affections of Molly Todd. The novel also
illustrates the political context of the era by showcasing
the constant battle between Whigs and Democrats for national
supremacy. With the use of actual correspondence, excerpts
of campaign songs, and detailed research, Frederic Hunter
proves that it is possible to write an engaging work of
fiction that is still faithful to actual events.
With all of that said, the novel is not perfect. At times
the dialogue is stilted or unrealistic, attempting to incorporate
too much historical information in a way which makes characters
sound less like real people and more like encyclopedia entries.
There are also a number of background characters who are
never fully fleshed out and seem to exist solely because
of Hunter's faithfulness to the historical record. Yet,
these imperfections do not deter from the overall quality
of the novel or the enjoyment to be obtained from reading
a love story that features our sixteenth president. For
at its heart, Abe and Molly is the story of a socially awkward
self-made man trying to win the heart of a woman of privilege
despite society's expectations. The fact that you cannot
walk away from this timeless story without expanding your
knowledge of American history is just an added bonus.
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A blog about Abraham Lincoln, from a professor of history
and Lincoln scholar.
Sept. 18, 2011
Skinny: Frederic Hunter, an experienced writer, Lincoln
expert, and creator of one of the best Lincoln resources
on the Internet, Lincolnlink.com, has written an account
of the Lincolns' early days together, from their first meeting
to their wedding. Very familiar ground, of course, being
a subject and a time period that has attracted a multitude
of Lincoln scholars. The unique contribution of Hunter's
book is its singular literary style, a narrative account
written in the general style of a novel, with dialogue,
characterizations, settings, etc. of a sort more typically
found in a work of fiction, yet grounded in Hunter's quite
thorough knowledge of the available primary sources. A sample:
the lilac-scented evening air two men climbed the gentle
rise above the hill. A breeze stirred softly. The sun had
slipped below the horizon and the last light was fading
from the sky.
said Speed, 'you have not spoken a word since we left the
been whistling the entire time,' Lincoln observed. 'You're
acting--well, not quite like a dog in heat, though it puts
me in mind of that.'
party,' replied Speed, 'The best young ladies of the town
dressed up to please us. I thank them for that.'" (p.
get the idea. As Hunter himself puts it, this approach is
"not so much based on fact as it involves a variety
of interpretations of recollections of Lincoln and Mary
Todd, most of them collected after--often well after--Lincoln's
assassination in 1865 (p. 353). Which is to say that Hunter
has taken the body of postwar reminiscences about the Lincoln
courtship and woven them together in a solidly grounded
but still creatively interpreted historical narrative.
Good. Readability--or actually more than this, a dramatic,
richly textured narrative account, written with a nice feel
for the personalities involved, the tone and dialog of the
times, and the emotional structure of Lincoln and Mary's
rather odd, rollicking but ultimately affectionate courtship.
Hunter possesses both a critical eye for and a warm sympathy
with his characters--pretty much the ideal biographer's
perspective. He also knows his stuff. While Lincoln specialists
of one sort or another might quibble with this or that interpretation
Hunter brings to bear on his subjects, his interpretations
are not rooted in an ignorance of the subject matter, but
rather his firm judgment after carefully sifting through
what is often a maddeningly contradictory and vague pile
of primary source evidence. I for one found his arguments
convincing (the book includes a thorough afterword in which
he explains the evidence and the decisions he rendered),
and did not often think his narrative had struck a false
note. Highlights (at least for me): the barbed exchanges
between Lincoln and Douglas, Mary's thoughts as she entered
Springfield's social world as a Kentucky expatriate, and
Hunter's entertaining account of the Lincoln/Shields duel--or
rather almost duel.
Not-as-Good: I won't put this on Hunter, but rather his
publishers, who in all likelihood made such decisions--but
the book would be stronger if it included a more detailed
rendering of the primary sources. It does include the aforementioned
Afterword, as well as a brief bibliography, but I for one
would like to have seen a bit more detailed indication of
exactly which documents led to which narrative passages.
This is not a matter of trust, of course--go check out Hunter's
website; he knows the reminiscences quite well--but rather
the interest of a fellow Lincoln scholar who likes to see
exactly how all the little cogs fit together that make the
Bottom Line: an enjoyable, entertaining rendering of an
old set of Lincoln stories in a fresh way. I'd especially
recommend Abe and Molly to anyone who wishes to communicate
to a person unfamiliar with Lincoln's early years the fascination
and drama contained in this period of his life. I may
very well use this as an assigned class reading for my course
on antebellum America; it would be ideal for undergraduates.
Top 1000 Reviewer,
from Top 1000 Reviewer
one of the tenets of the new country -- the United States
-- was to be a classless society. No aristocracy. Don't
kid yourself. There absolutely was an aristocratic strata
in society, although not, of course, titled as in the UK
and other European countries.
turn of the 19th Century, the early states along the Eastern
seaboard -- Virginia, the Carolinas, Maryland, Delaware,
eastern Kentucky and a few other locations -- had a very
definite and rigid blue-blood society. Those families were
usually landed, with slaves, and a fairly long history in
this new land.
such family was the Todds of Lexington, Kentucky. Daughter
Mary was continually reminded of her heritage- 'You're a
Todd, and you must never forget that.' Perhaps unstated,
but certainly implied was the further admonition - 'don't
do anything to bring shame on our name.'
Lincoln, on the other hand, had little family to speak of
other than his mother, who died when he was rather young,
and his step-mother. He was not close to his father, who
was a moderately successful farmer. Abe set out on his own
as a teen-ager to better himself. His natural thirst for
knowledge led to his finally being able to read for the
law. All his hard work and determination proved that he
had been right to pursue his almost unreachable dreams.
in Springfield Illinois, where, among the other young men
he encountered was one Ninian Edwards, whose wife Elizabeth
was Mary Todd's older sister. The meeting between the lanky
raw-boned backwoodsman with little polish, and the intellectual
and supremely intelligent Mary Todd was inevitable, and
the outcome unpalatable to both families. But the two young
people ignored everyone around them, drawn as they were
to each other. It took several years to accomplish, but
they did eventually marry, and the self-taught young man
became one of the country's greatest presidents. One can
but wonder what might have become of this tumultuous young
nation had they been permanently separated by the barriers
thrown up to keep them apart.
they were too devoted to each other to allow such interference
in their lives, although there was a separation of about
18 months after Abe's first proposal and Molly's subsequent
return and acceptance of the second one.
especially, I enjoyed the afterwords -- the author's explanation
for the way he interpreted various bits and pieces to create
his story. The bibliography is extensive. But don't be mis-led.
First and foremost this is a caring look at a young couple
who are the epitome of the saying 'opposites attract'. Their
story will stay in your mind for a long while after you've
closed the book. It is entirely enjoyable reading for any
happily give it ten stars if I could!
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