Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More on Lincoln

I’m still reading the Lincoln biography and I came to a few more good parts.

I guess Mary Todd Lincoln thought she had a flair for the dramatic. The more I read about her, the more I think she’d be a natural on one of those “The Real Life Housewives Of…” programs. Never mind the spending and decorating and lying she did about the White House…apparently, she had a history of going overboard. I bet it stemmed from some deep seated, psychological need to be liked through her material things, the more the better. Or who knows, maybe she was bi-polar, like some scholars have wondered. Either way, she had a rough time of it, as the media, at the time, didn’t seem to like her at all. “While her husband, Abraham, served as a wartime president, she was rumored to be a Confederate spy, an unloved bride, a neglectful mother, and a frivolous fame-seeker. [Sounds like she was as liked as Kate Gosslin!] Three of her four sons died prematurely, and her husband was assassinated in front of her on Good Friday. Even in her grief she received less sympathy than other presidential widows: Critics sniffed that she sobbed too loudly and wore black too long.”

Anyway, in April 1856, the Lincolns lived at the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets in Springfield, IL.While Abe was away from home, “working the circuit,” Mary had their house remodeled and made it twice the size it was originally. It was rumored she did this on the sly and Abe didn’t know it until he came home and saw it completed. That wasn’t the case, “Of course, he had known about the remodeling, but he did complain to his wife about the cost of the project. Thereafter she developed the bad habit of concealing her expenditures from her husband” (page 197).

This remodeling actually included (I don’t know why she just didn’t buy another house, for God’s sake!): “ Adding a full second story to the house at least doubled the Lincolns’ living space. The entrance to the house remained the same, but to the right of the front corridor there was now a large sitting room, a comfortable place where the parents could read and the children could play. A front parlor of the left of the corridor served as a formal room for receiving guests. It was connected by double sliding doors with a back parlor that was Lincoln’s library and study…On the second floor Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln now had separate, but connecting, bedrooms, which were large and comfortable…Robert now had his own room on this floor, and Willie and Tad shared one adjacent to it. There was a handsome guest room and, at the rear, a small room for a maid” (pages 197-198).

My God, I think their house was bigger than the one we live in now!

For Abe’s birthday the following year, she invited 500 PEOPLE to show off their home. “Fortunately, a heavy rainstorm and a conflicting engagement kept many of them away. Even so, about three hundred had a chance to see her newly expanded and redecorated home.” (page 199).

And as far as her work to transform the White House goes, “Yet Mary Lincoln also embarrassed herself and her husband. She overspent her decorating budget by $7,000; she falsified and padded White House accounts and kept the money; she befriended individuals with shady reputations; and she accepted gifts and bribes in exchange for influence with her husband and government appointments.”

I guess all in all, it’s not so different from what Sarah Ferguson, former Dutchess of York, is going through right now.

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