Lincoln the writer at 200: the statesman and orator constantly revised his prose

Dennis Baron debaron at
Thu Feb 12 21:14:11 UTC 2009

There's a new post on the Web of Language:

Lincoln the writer at 200: the statesman and orator constantly revised  
his prose

It is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, or to mix  
19th- with 21st-century styles, the man whom CNN and Time would call  
"16" was born ten score years ago today.

Lincoln's Birthday is a day that used to be a school holiday, a day to  
honor Lincoln the emancipator, Lincoln the orator, and Lincoln the  
martyr separate from Presidents Day, a holiday which serves as little  
more than an excuse to go out and buy stuff  – and so to add to the  
many celebrations of Lincoln on this bicentennial anniversary, we  
might also consider one of his lesser-known qualities: according to  
Douglas L. Wilson, Abraham Lincoln was a constant reviser of his own  

For example, the Library of Congress manuscript collection has three  
versions of the Gettysburg Address.The "first draft," also called the  
"Nicolay draft," because Lincoln gave that copy to one of his two  
private secretaries, John Nicolay, was written on two pieces of paper  
– a piece of executive mansion stationery and a sheet of lined note  
paper. It may or may not have been the copy Lincoln read from at the  
dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery, but it contains one autograph  
correction at the bottom of the page:

Lincoln changed the original "It is rather for us, the living, to  
stand here" to, "It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated  
to the great task remaining before us."

See the rest of the ways that Lincoln championed the unstable text.  
Read the post on the Web of Language:

Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

read the Web of Language:

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