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Although Abraham Lincoln's intellectual interests were not nearly so broad, or his public activities so varied, as Jefferson's, the American public's fascination with Lincoln's life and political career is sufficiently intense to sustain the exploration of virtually anything that purports to be new or newly interpreted information.
Because Lincoln is widely regarded as the greatest of all Americans, and is thus part of our national identity, a substantial audience exists for the revelation of even the smallest anecdotes and bits of incidental information.
Lincoln's other friends did not so much dispute this fact as regret it, for they did not regard Herndon as a suitable person to write the life of Abraham Lincoln.
It was not that Herndon wasn't truthful and honest, for he was; it was not that he was spiteful or envious toward Lincoln, for he was not.
Only four years later the historian Fawn Brodie published a biography that treated the relationship with Sally Hemings as a central fact in Jefferson's life.
To the dismay of Malone and most other authorities on Jefferson's life, Brodie's treatment was not only seriously entertained but enthusiastically embraced by a large proportion of the American public.
For reasons that have been widely discussed by Lincoln scholars in the past few years, Herndon and his biographical efforts have been under a cloud of suspicion for a good portion of the twentieth century, but we are coming to see how much of the criticism aimed at him has been misguided or misplaced and needs to be reconsidered.
Now diary entries have materialized, written by a woman who saw the memorandum books in 1866, and who recorded her shocked reactions to accounts of "profligacy" and "debauchery." A distinguished Lincoln scholar describes the discovery, and considers anew the collision of privacy and history EVERY age needs its own biographies of the great historical figures.Outgoing and exuberant by nature, he was as communicative and unbuttoned as Abraham Lincoln was guarded and reserved.