Six Months at the White House With Abraham Lincoln. The Story of a Picture


Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln. The Story of a Picture. By F. B. CARPENTER. New York : Hurd and Houghton.
THE grandeur which can survive proximity was peculiarly Abraham Lincoln’s. Had that great and simple hero had a valet, —it is hard to conceive of him as so attended, — he must still have been a hero even to the eye grown severe in dusting clothes and brushing shoes. Indeed, first and last, he was subjected to very critical examination by the valet-spirit throughout the world ; and he seems to have passed it triumphantly, for all our native valets, North and South, as well as those of the English press, have long since united in honoring him.
We see him in this book of Mr, Carpenter’s to that advantage which perfect unaffectedness and sincerity can never lose. It is certainly a very pathetic figure, however, that the painter presents us, and not to be contemplated without sadness and that keen sense of personal loss which we all felt in the death of Abraham Lincoln. During the time that Mr. Carpenter was making studies for his picture of the President signing the Emancipation Proclamation, he was in daily contact with him,—saw him in consultation with his Cabinet, at play with his children, receiving office-seekers of all kinds, granting many favors to poor and friendless people, snubbing Secession insolence, and bearing patiently much impertinence from every source,—jesting, laughing, lamenting. It is singular that, in all these aspects of his character, there is no want of true dignity, though there is an utter absence of state, — and that we behold nothing of the man Lincoln was once doubted to be, but only a person of noble simplicity, cautious but steadfast, shrinking from none of the burdens that almost crushed him, profoundly true to his faith in the people, while surveying the awful calamity of the war with
“ Anxious, pitying eyes,
As if he always listened to the sighs
Of the goaded world."
We have read Mr. Carpenter’s book through with an interest chiefly due, we believe, to the subject; for though the author had the faculty to observe and to note characteristic and striking things, he has not the literary art to present them adequately. His style is compact of the manner of the local reporters and the Sunday-school books. If he depicts a pathetic scene, he presently farces it by adding that “ there was not a dry eye among those that witnessed it,” and goody-goody dwells in the spirit and letter of all his attempts to portray the religious character of the President. It is greatly to his credit, however, that his observation is employed with discretion and delicacy ; and as he rarely lapses from good taste concerning things to be mentioned, we readily forgive him his want of grace in recounting the incidents which go to form his entertaining and valuable book.