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PART I

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND

HIS BOOKS

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND HIS BOOKS

1. THE BOOKS THAT MADE LINCOLN

The boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln had a library of six books,-the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, Æsop's Fables, Robinson Crusoe, Weems' Life of Washington, and a History of the United States. It was an almost ideal collection of books for a young American. We can trace the influence of these six books upon his subsequent career. He could have found no nobler examples of fine and pure literary style than were available to him in King James' version of the Bible, in John Bunyan's immortal allegory and in De Foe's masterpiece. The fables of Æsop gave color to his inherent love of illustrative argument. Weems' Life of Washington, now commonly referred to in terms of mirth, contained nothing that seemed to him unworthy of his country's father, even the cherry-tree story having its justification in its own generation and those that immediately

followed in the reverence which it inculcated for truth. We do not know what author taught to Abraham Lincoln the history of his own country. The book was probably one of no great literary merit, but it related the story of Christopher Columbus, the romance of colonization, the struggles which led to liberty, and the notable events in the life of the nation down to the time, perhaps, of the inauguration of President James Monroe.

In school, he had become familiar with Dillworth's Speller, and then with that of Noah Webster, the latter being more than a spellingbook, and serving many pupils in backwoods schools until the pupil was able to read in the Bible. The schools which he attended, three in Kentucky and two in Indiana, gave to him a total of less than twelve months of schooling. Lincoln cannot be classed with George Bernard Shaw, among those whose education was interrupted by their schooling. The backwoods schools which Lincoln attended were "blabschools" in which the pupils studied their lessons aloud, the teacher moving among them and encouraging with a switch those who did not give this continuous audible evidence that they were at work.

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