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MR RITCHIE'S List of Lincolniana in the Library of Congress (1906) extends to 86 pages, and contains perhaps one thousand entries. It is obvious, therefore, that a great bulk of material has been accumulated, both for the assistance and confusion of the biographer. I do not pretend to have read, or even to have glanced over, any but a fraction of the books and pamphlets which this list represents, or to have followed Lincoln's fame through the pages of all contemporary commentators and critics, yet I have endeavoured to inform myself adequately on all the significant facts bearing upon the subjects which the present volume discusses.
The material for the Life of Lincoln is not very evenly distributed over the several periods, and there are serious gaps and deficiencies, both in material and in evidence. It is to be feared that these are now little likely to be filled. Careful inquirers appear to have repeatedly covered the ground, and later gleaners cannot now hope for much of moment. The deficiencies are most serious in relation to the character of his parents, his own early years, the love passages of his early manhood, the most intimate of his friendships, and his domestic life.
But the general outlines, and the features of his character are not in doubt. For them, we have his own words, and an admirable series of portraits extending over the last seven years of his life, besides the evidence of a large number of intelligent witnesses. The chief difficulty of the biographer lies in balancing the continually conflicting statements of previous writers. Part of this contradiction is, of course, due to the personal equation, and part to the extreme singularity of the subject of their study, but part results also from changes in the character, or at least in the outward expression, of the man himself, under the greatly altered circumstances of the last four years of his life.
Among the many lives and studies of Lincoln to which this book is under obligation, I may mention especially those of Nicolay and Hay, of Herndon and Weik, of J. T. Morse, and of Ida M. Tarbell; but also those of F. B. Carpenter, J. G. Holland, I. N. Arnold, Noah Brooks, W. H. Lamon, Norman Hapgood, W. E. Curtis, J. H. Barrett, R. H. Browne, E. P. Oberholtzer, F. T. Hill, A. Rothschild, H. B. Stowe, C. G. Leland; and the Reminiscences of H. C. Whitney, J. R. Gilmore, and L. E. Chittenden. I am also much indebted to J. F. Rhodes' "History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850," and to Gov. Ford's History of Illinois.
Messrs Nicolay and Hay collected the Works of Abraham Lincoln in two volumes in 1894, which, in