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Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns: Connected Lives and Legends [Hardcover]

Ferenc Morton Szasz

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Book Description

15 Nov 2008
This book examines the Lincoln-Burns connection. Today the images of Robert Burns and Abraham Lincoln are recognized worldwide, yet few are aware of the connection between the two. In "Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns: Connected Lives and Legends", author Ferenc Morton Szasz reveals how famed Scots poet Robert Burns - and Scotland in general - influenced the life and thought of one of the most beloved and important U.S. presidents and how the legends of the two men became intertwined after their deaths. This is the first extensive work to link the influence, philosophy, and artistry of these two larger-than-life figures.Lacking a major national poet of their own in the early nineteenth century, Americans in the fledgling frontier country ardently adopted the poignant verses and songs of Scotland's Robert Burns. Lincoln, too, was fascinated by Scotland's favorite son and enthusiastically quoted the Scottish bard from his teenage years to the end of his life. Szasz explores the ways in which Burn's portrayal of the foibles of human nature, his scorn for religious hypocrisy, his plea for nonjudgmental tolerance, and his commitment to social equality helped shape Lincoln's own philosophy of life. The volume also traces how Burns' lyrics helped Lincoln develop his own powerful sense of oratorical rhythm, from his casual anecdotal stories to his major state addresses."Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns" connects the poor-farm-boy upbringings, the quasi-deistic religious views, the shared senses of destiny, the extraordinary gifts for words, and the quests for social equality of two of the most respected and beloved world figures. The book is enhanced by twelve illustrations and two appendixes, which include Burns poems Lincoln particularly admired and Lincoln writings especially admired in Scotland.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press (15 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809328550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809328550
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,142,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


""Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns "is comparative history at its best."--Frank J. Williams, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, author of "Judging Lincoln"

About the Author

Ferenc Morton Szasz is Regents' Professor of History at the University of New Mexico and on appointment as Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Divinity, History, and Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He has written or edited eleven books, including Scots in the North American West, 1790-1917, and The Divided Mind of Protestant America, 1880-1930.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robert Burns and Scottish Ideas 16 Jun 2010
By Diane Mccullough - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Szasz's book,"Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns: Connected Lives and Legends" is a fascinating read. It reads like a novel. The research behind the facts and ideas is superb. Great bibliography. Very helpful for history buffs and anyone interested in influences on American freedom as well as those Burns fans still out there.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Robert Burns-Abraham Lincoln Unfamiliar Link 13 Jun 2013
By Earl B. Russell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have had a keen interest most of my life in key historical figures, and at this stage of my life I have an especially keen interest in both Robert Burns and Abraham Lincoln. Burns' life began fifty years before Lincoln's. Burns died at age thirty-seven, so his growing legendary status was well underway when Abraham Lincoln was a young man. Szasz reviews the early histories of both men, their birth on poor farms, their upward struggle to make something of themselves, their awareness of their own growing stature.

Szasz makes clear the philosophical independence of Scots in general from the English and the emergence of Robert Burns as the voice of the common people, a voice immortalized in poems and songs. Early in their marriage, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln enjoyed evenings together when they read the poems of Robert Burns. Historian Szasz makes a compelling case that Lincoln's reading of Burns was far more than just a pleasant way to pass the time. Burns belief in the common man, his disdain for inherited power and his distrust of wealth, and his passion for liberty and equality bore deeply into Lincoln's mind.

This fine book by Ferenc Morton Szasz made a connection with me that I had never considered, a connection that the wisdom of Lincoln could well have grown in significant part from the writings of Robert Burns. I had not previously seen this historical argument, but I find it perfectly plausible. It causes me to make a leap of logic to think that Scottish political philosophy became more of a guide to the formation of the political philosophy of the United States than did the royalty-based political philosophy of England.

I'm indebted to Ferenc Morton Szasz for helping me see the connection between Burns and Lincoln in a way that my separate reading of both men over a period of years had not revealed. Now, of course, I see the connection. And I"m grateful for that.
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