The Lincoln Story Book

Henry L. Williams
The Lincoln Story Book [with

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Title: The Lincoln Story Book
Author: Henry L. Williams
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one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on April 18,
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A Judicious Collection of the Best Stories and Anecdotes of the Great
President, Many Appearing Here for the First Time in Book Form

The Abraham Lincoln Statue at Chicago is accepted as the typical
Westerner of the forum, the rostrum, and the tribune, as he stood to be
inaugurated under the war-cloud in 1861. But there is another Lincoln
as dear to the common people--the Lincoln of happy quotations, the
speaker of household words. Instead of the erect, impressive,
penetrative platform orator we see a long, gaunt figure, divided
between two chairs for comfort, the head bent forward, smiling broadly,
the lips curved in laughter, the deep eyes irradiating their caves of
wisdom; the story-telling Lincoln, enjoying the enjoyment he gave to
This talkativeness, as Lincoln himself realized, was a very valuable
asset. Leaving home, he found, in a venture at "Yankee
notion-pedling," that glibness meant three hundred per cent, in
disposing of flimsy wares. In the camp of the lumber-jacks and of the
Indian rangers he was regarded as the pride of the mess and the
inspirator of the tent. From these stages he rose to be a graduate of the
"college" of the yarn-spinner--the village store, where he became clerk.
The store we know is the township vortex where all assemble to "swap
stories" and deal out the news. Lincoln, from behind the counter--his

pulpit--not merely repeated items of information which he had heard,
but also recited doggerel satire of his own concoction, punning and
emitting sparks of wit. Lincoln was hailed as the "capper" of any "good
things on the rounds."
Even then his friends saw the germs of the statesman in the lank,
homely, crack-voiced hobbledehoy. Their praise emboldened him to
stand forward as the spokesman at schoolhouse meetings, lectures,
log-rollings, huskings auctions, fairs, and so on--the folk-meets of our
people. One watching him in 1830 said foresightedly: "Lincoln has
touched land at last."
In commencing electioneering, he cultivated the farming population
and their ways and diction. He learned by their parlance and Bible
phrases to construct "short sentences of small words," but he had all
along the idea that "the plain people are more easily influenced by a
broad and humorous illustration than in any other way." It is the
Anglo-Saxon trait, distinguishing all great preachers, actors, and
authors of that breed.
He acknowledged his personal defects with a frankness unique and
startling; told a girl whom he was courting that he did not believe any
woman could fancy him; publicly said that he could not be in looks
what was rated a gentleman; carried the knife of "the homeliest man";
disparaged himself like a Brutus or a Pope Sixtus. But the mass
relished this "plain, blunt man who spoke right on."
He talked himself into being the local "Eminence," but did not succeed
in winning the election when first presented as "the humble" candidate
for the State Senate. He stood upon his "imperfect education," his not
belonging "to the first families, but the seconds"; and his shunning
society as debarring him from the study he required.
Repulsed at the polls, he turned to the law as another channel,
supplementing forensic failings by his artful story-telling. Judges
would suspend business till "that Lincoln fellow got through with his
yarn-spinning" or underhandedly would direct the usher to get the rich
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