Six Months at the White House/LXVII

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"The world," writes one who knew Mr. Lincoln well, "will never hear the last of the 'little stories' with which the President garnished or illustrated his conversation and his early stump-speeches. He once said, however, that as near as he could reckon, about one sixth only of those credited to him were old acquaintances,--all the rest were the productions of other and better story-tellers than himself. 'I remember a good story when I hear it;' he continued; 'but I never invented anything original; I am only a retail-dealer.'"[1]

"Mr. Lincoln's jocoseness," wrote another, "though sometimes grim and sarcastic, was never abusive, and seldom wounded. Often nicely adapted to the place and the occasion, it was used, as the case might be, either as a shield or a weapon."[2]

Humor and shrewdness, together with a certain nameless individuality, were combined in his stories in a degree that will secure for many of them enduring interest. These characteristics, marked and prominent as they were, are directly traceable to the powerful effect produced upon the plastic mind of the pioneer boy, by the early study of Æsop's Fables, and the "Pilgrim's Progress." His lightest as well as his most powerful thought almost invariably took on the form of a figure in speech, which drove the point home, and clinched it, as few abstract reasoners are able to do.

The character of this volume, necessarily rambling and fragmentary, seems to present a legitimate field for the incorporation and preservation of some of the best of Mr. Lincoln's "little stories" and quaint sayings, other than those which came within my own personal observation. Beside these, there has accumulated in my possession a variety of incidents, many of which have never been published, throwing light not only upon the character of the man, but upon many events and circumstances connected with the war and the administration.

Believing everything of this kind to have more than a temporary interest and value, I devote the following section to their embodiment.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Noah Brooks, Harper's Monthly, July, 1865.
  2. Boston Watchman and Reflector.