Lincoln's Sense of Humor
Southern Illinois University Press 2017
For many people today, the name Abraham Lincoln conjures up a mental image of a solemn but kindly statesman. Yet to his contemporaries, one of Lincoln’s defining traits was his humor, which he deployed to great effect throughout his career. In Lincoln’s Sense of Humor (Southern Illinois University Press, 2017), Richard Carwardine examines the role humor played in Lincoln’s life. Lincoln grew up in a family of storytellers, and had a healthy appetite for jokes and humorous stories. These he employed both in the courtroom and on the campaign trail in his appeals to people, to the point where he became famous for his wit. As Carwardine explains, Lincoln often used humor not just to amuse his audience, but to offer a moral critique of his targets that could be both gentle and pointed at the same time. Though Democrats criticized Lincoln during the war for resorting to humor during inappropriate times, it served as an important balm to the president as he struggled with the miseries of war and the challenges of reconciliation.