Well, yesterday my family and I made our annual pilgrimage to Springfield to attend the Lincoln Museum and go to the Lincoln Tomb. As we made our way though the Museum we encountered a large number of Amish touring the Museum, the women wearing long dresses and poke bonnets that made them look as if they stepped from the 1860s. The Amish were obviously fascinated by what they were seeing and talked among themselves in “Pennsylvania Dutch”. Illinois has had a large colony of Amish in the Arthur, Illinois area, about 72 miles from Springfield, since the 19th century. (Although the Amish are as theologically as far from the Church as it is possible for Christians to be, I should note that I have a huge amount of respect for them. They take care of their own, and ask nothing from the larger society in which they live, except to be left alone, a sentiment which resonates with me.) After the museum my family went to the Prairie Archives bookstore where I again marveled at their large collection of Lincoln books.
As usual we had a first rate lunch at the nearby The Feed Store. (Nothing shouts Midwest more than eating in a restaurant with a name like that.) We finished our day at Lincoln’s tomb praying for the repose of his soul and the souls of his wife and kids.) Once again I thought to myself how nice it was that the first or second greatest President in our history, has his tomb in a cemetery open to all, where there are no guards, no charges for admission, not even for parking. You simply pull up to the small parking area next to the tomb, go in and make your way through the tomb. We owe Mary Todd Lincoln for that. After Lincoln’s murder, there was an attempt to have Lincoln buried in Washington with a grand mausoleum being erected thereafter over his remains. Mary Lincoln would have none of it. She took her dead husband, and had the remains of her dead son Willie exhumed, and traveled with them both back to Springfield for burial. She wanted nothing more from Washington except to get out of there as quickly as she could, a city where she had suffered grief that makes her such a poignant figure in American history. (An exhibit in the Museum shows her framed by a rain stained window, sitting forlornly, mourning the loss of Willie. My bride observed to me yesterday that, sadly, we know precisely how she feels.)
It wouldn’t be a McClarey expedition if we didn’t buy books. We bought books yesterday at the Museum, the Prairie Archives and a used book store in Bloomington during an extended pit stop on our way home to Dwight. Most of the books were about Lincoln (surprise!) and here are those books:
- Lincoln’s Political Generals, David Work (2009)-Usually the incompetence of the generals appointed for political reasons is highlighted by historians, but it has always struck me how many of them, a perfect example is Illinois Congressman turned general John “Black Jack” Logan, eventually became competent officers. Just as more than a few West Pointers failed the iron test of war, more than a few politician-soldiers passed it.
- Abraham Lincoln: The Quest For Immortality, Dwight G. Anderson (1982)-A controversial book, Anderson contends that Lincoln deliberately sought to achieve immortality by becoming a second Washington. I find his thesis unconvincing, but I was happy to add his book to my collection as it is well argued and does highlight an aspect of Lincoln often missed, surprisingly, by other historians: that Lincoln was very conscious of history and how he and his contemporaries would be perceived by future generations.
- Lincoln the President, volume II (1945-reprinted 1974)-James G. Randall’s Lincoln the President is an exhaustive look at Lincoln as President, from an interesting standpoint: an admirer of Lincoln who also thought the Civil War was unnecessary. Scholarship was superb, albeit dated after six decades. I now have three volumes, of the four, in my library.
- Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Winter 2008 and Summer 2009. Cutting edge articles on studies of Lincoln and his times are published twice a year by the Springfield based Abraham Lincoln Association.
- Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times, Rae Katherine Eighmey, (2013)-I told my bride that Lincoln had a marked indifference to what he ate, with a slight preference for the humble country fare on which he was raised, but that did not dampen her enthusiasm for this tome.
- “Here I Have Lived”: A History of Lincoln’s Springfield, Paul M. Angle (1933-reprint 1971)-A look at Springfield during the life of Lincoln. It is hard to overestimate the impact of that community on Lincoln.
- Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason, David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften (2010-first paperback printing 2015)-A look at the impact of Lincoln’s study of Euclid on the way he thought. Go here to read a post I wrote back in 2012 on that subject.
- The Annotated Lincoln, edited by Harold Holzer and Thomas A. Horrocks (2016)-A 604 page look at most of the major writings of Lincoln and a representative sample of his correspondence. The clarity, and logical precision, of Lincoln’s mind shines through in his writings. When one considers the meager education that Lincoln had, viewing his body of work makes one weep for the output of most modern politicians, albeit one can rarely be certain what is written by any modern politician after they attain office, and what is the product of the minds of staffers. O tempora, O mores!
As faithful readers of his blog know, I am a biblioholic. Last week my bride and I were on vacation from the law mines, well for three of the days of last week, and we went to a fantastic book sale put on each year by the local chapter of the American Association of University Women in Naperville. This is a big sale with approximately 40,000 books. We purchased 45, well actually 46 because I accidentally picked up two copies of the same book, for $100.00. Here is a list of the books with commentary. Fortunately my bride shares to the full my biblioholism! She will be doing the commentary for 4-12 on the list.
1. From Savannah to Yorktown, Henry Lumpkin (1981)-Perhaps the best one volume modern study on the campaign waged by the British in the latter half of the Revolution to conquer the South. Lumpkin does a good job of detailing the savagery of this fighting, with Northern and Southern Tories in the ranks of the British adding an air of civil war to the conflict.
2. How to Stop a War, James Dunnigan and William Martel (1987)-Dunnigan is the founder of Simulations Publications Illustrated (dear old SPI) and the designer of numerous war games. After SPI went bankrupt in the early eighties and was sold to TSR, he began a career of writing books about war. This is one of his early efforts and contains his usual skillful use of historical examples to make his points.
3. An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire, Arundhati Roy, (2005)-The one dud in our purchases. Roy is a left wing loon and her tome reads like a fairly illiterate sophomore’s take on the world after having dozed through a class on Marxian Analysis of the World Crisis, while her boyfriend took occasional notes. She is a supporter of the Naxalites, a particularly bloody and futile Maoist insurrectionary movement that has been going on in India since 1967. This book is soon to be seen on e-bay.
4. Saint Louis and the Last Crusade, Margaret Ann Hubbard, (1958)-This and the following 4 books are all Vision Books children’s biographies of saints, in the original hardcover editions (not the Ignatius Press paperback reprints). Similar to Landmark Books, but on Catholic subjects and written from a Catholic perspective. This one is a biography of King Louis IX of France.
5. Katharine Drexel, Friend of the Neglected, Ellen Tarry, (1958)-A biography of St. Katharine Drexel (not yet canonized at the time of publication). Cathy read this to the kids for their afterschool “mommy school” when they were in grade school.
6. Saint Elizabeth’s Three Crowns, Blanche Jennings Thompson, (1958)-A biography of St. Elizabeth of Hungary; Cathy vaguely remembers reading about her to the kids during “mommy school” (might have been this book, or possibly a shorter account of her life elsewhere).
7. Saint Isaac and the Indians, Milton Lomask, (1958)-A biography of St. Isaac Jogues, one of the Jesuit “Blackrobes” who worked (and died) among the Indians in North America (mostly Canada). Cathy definitely remembers reading this one to the kids during “mommy school”!
8. Saint Thomas More of London, Elizabeth M. Ince, (1957)-A biography of St. Thomas More, of course; Cathy thinks homeschoolers could use this alongside a family viewing of A Man for All Seasons (preferably the 1960s version) as an introduction to the Reformation in England.
9. The Pattern Library, Crochet, Amy Carrol and Dorothea Hall, (1982)-An inexpensive crochet stitch dictionary for Cathy (if a family member knits or crochets, they’ll know what that is).
10. Knitting into the Mystery, Susan S. Jorgensen and Susan S. Izard, (2003)-A book on prayer shawl ministries coauthored by a female United Church of Christ minister (Izard) and a Roman Catholic laywoman (Jorgensen); mostly about the spiritual side of such groups, rather than making the shawls themselves (although 2 simple patterns – 1 each knit & crochet – are included); tries hard (maybe a little too hard) to appeal to an interfaith audience.
11. The Illustrated Afghan, Leslie Linsley, (1990)-A crochet afghan pattern book where the main panel or squares are done in plain Tunisian crochet (what Cathy says earlier generations called “afghan stitch”), and the intricate designs are cross-stitched on top.
12. Norwegian Rosemaling, Margaret M. Miller and Sigmund Aarseth, (1974)-A book on Norwegian folk art decorative painting on wood, featuring lots of stylized flowers/leaves/scrolls/etc.; looks a lot like tole painting (but don’t let a rosemaaling fan hear you say that!). We still have a couple of small rosemaalt items (a trinket box & a small decorative plate) Cathy acquired back in college while minoring in Scandinavian studies and connecting with distant cousins in Norway.
13. Socrates in the City, Eric Metaxas, editor, (2011)-A collection of lectures by such luminaries as Peter Kreeft, the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, the late Chuck Colson, et al on the big issues: God, Good, Evil, etc. Metaxas is a man to keep your eye on. He combines profound learning, a deep faith in God and a profound commitment to the pro-life cause. His biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a grand example of using the past to help illuminate the present.
14. Drummer Hodge: The Poetry of the Anglo-Boer War, M. Van Wyk Smith, (1978)-Now what list of books purchased by me would be complete without some obscure tomes. A good look at the poetry, and there was a fair amount of it, unleashed upon the world by the Boer War. Most of it was forgettable and much of it was bad, but looking at it helps us understand the passions roused by this controversial war.
15. Churchill’s Secret War, Madhusree Mukerjee, (2010)-Ms. Mukerjee claims in her book that Churchill’s dislike of Indians contributed to the toll of the Bengal Famine of 1943-44. Arthur Herman, who wrote a recent joint biography of Churchill and Gandhi has written a devastating rejoinder. Go here to read it. I will reserve judgment until I have read the book.
16. Platoon Leader, Thomas R. McDonough, (1985)-I have been reading this book since we purchased it last Thursday and have completed it. It relates the story of the author as a newly graduated West Pointer, assigned as a First Lieutenant to command an understrength platoon occupying a village in a Viet Cong dominated section of Vietnam. McDonough relates his struggles to be a competent platoon commander as he learns all the things that the Army had failed to train him about and that were vital for him to learn quickly if he and his men were to survive and prevail. McDonough learned that when it came to stand up fights with the Viet Cong assaulting his village, American fire power would prevail and inflict heavy losses on the enemy. What was deadly for the troops were the drip, drip losses caused on daily patrols through booby-traps planted by the Cong. (Shades of IEDs in Iraq!) McDonough comes to respect and like almost all the men he commands, impressed by their courage and their willingness to fight for each other. He does not romanticize them, but he clearly shows the nobility of spirit of most of them as they stoically endure their tours. The burden of command lays heavily on McDonough, a constant theme of the book. This is illustrated when he sends a squad to swim in the ocean, hoping that the salt water will be good for their jungle sores, and be fun for the men. Two of the men are caught in the tide and drown, and McDonough blames himself for their deaths, learning the old military fact of life that when you are in command, everything is your responsibility. Continue reading
When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.
We at The American Catholic like to keep an eye, frequently jaundiced, on popular culture. One recent development that I enthusiastically endorse are videos posted by individuals on Youtube discussing “book hauls”, books that they have recently purchased. I find this heartening. I have always regarded myself as a hopeless book addict, and now I learn that my addiction is socially acceptable, perhaps even cutting edge! This post will therefore tell you about a book haul I made yesterday, but first a bit of background information.
When I was growing up in Paris, Illinois, my mother and father used to give me and my brother a dollar each as our allowance. (Considering that between them my parents brought home about a $100.00 a week, I thought the allowance was rather generous. ) My parents expected us to clean the house each day before school, to do the dishes and to run to the grocery store to pick up items during the week. It was emphasized to us that the allowances were not payment for our work. We worked at our chores because we were members of the family, and our parents gave us our allowances because we were members of the family.
You could do a lot with a dollar when you were a kid in the sixties. Comic books cost 12 cents, cokes were a dime, candy could be purchased for a nickel to a dime. However, I spent a fair part of my money at the local Goodwill. Paris did not have a bookstore, but the Goodwill had a bookcase with used paperbacks and hardbacks. The paperbacks were a nickel and the hardbacks were a dime. New used books came in fairly frequently. Most Saturday mornings I would go into the Goodwill and search through the books. It was there I first made the acquaintance of Plato, Aristotle and Aristophanes. On one memorable day, the divine Dante came my way for the first time with a paperback copy of Purgatorio, and a “new life” began for me. History books were plentiful, especially on the Civil War and World War II and I gobbled them up. Thus I began my personal library, and I have some of those books to this day. And so my
shameful addiction devotion to purchasing mass quantities of books as cheaply as I can began. Continue reading