Some of the best bits from a “trove of Lincolniana” are on display at the Morgan Library in New York, Ted Widmer reports in The New York Review of Books. The exhibit closes on June 7th; with any luck I hope to see it, though, as Neil Genzlinger writes in The New York Times, “ideas don’t fade, but ink does.” Even without seeing the physical artifact, the words remain.
Included, on loan from the Library of Congress, some “mischievously scrawl[ed] doggerel” shows off Lincoln's nascent poetic talent:
his hand and pen
he will be good but
God knows when.
Maintaining it required a steely discipline, and some testy exchanges with the editors he needed to get his writing to a national audience. Lincoln is often remembered for his modesty, but it is refreshing to see the letter he wrote to a New York editor who had presumed to alter a few of Lincoln’s sentences (from his Cooper Union Address) for publication. Lincoln responded tersely that he would not permit any changes to “a hair’s breadth,” because he knew much more than the editor did about the subject.
Certainly, in the realm of literature, I have been no more expert than my editors, and in fact much less; the only area in which I might surpass them is in the knowledge of my own mind. Without recourse to cavils against an editor, I sheepishly grant that “mistakes remain my own.” The restored pieces are “Blake in the Academe” and “Joseph Epstein and the Death of Poetry.”