David S. Reynolds, a literary historian and the editor of Lincoln’s Selected Writings, grew up surrounded by history.
His childhood home was the Nayatt Point Lighthouse, built in 1828, on Narragansett Bay. The selection of writings in his latest book begin just four years later, with Abraham Lincoln’s address to the people of Sangamo County in 1832.
Lincoln, a candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives at the time, said, “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.” He continued, “How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition is yet to be developed.”
Reynolds, a Sagaponack resident, distinguished professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, author of 15 books, including Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography and Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson, and winner of the Bancroft Prize, will be on hand Wednesday, June 3, at 5:30 p.m. at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton, to discuss his book and delve into the “peculiar ambition” of the man largely regarded as the greatest American president.
“When planning this book, I realized there had never been a Lincoln volume that brought together three kinds of writing: a broad sampling of Lincoln’s own words, a range of comments on him in his own time, and modern views of him,” Reynolds said in an interview with the periodical Lincoln Lore.
Reynolds’ collection includes a wide-ranging selection of Lincoln’s writings, from private letters to speeches, eulogies and even debate transcriptions. It also includes contemporary responses to Lincoln from Walt Whitman, Horace Greely, Frederick Douglas, Herman Melville, Victor Hugo, Karl Marx and many others along with modern views from writers and historians including Carl Sandburg and Eric Foner.
“By representing these different view of him, my book tries to capture Lincoln’s ample spirit and his profound impact on history,” Reynolds said.
The discussion will be held Wednesday, June 3, at 5:30 p.m. in the Morris Meeting Room at Rogers Memorial Library, 91 Coopers Farm Road, Southampton. Register at myrml.org or call 631-383-0774 extension 523.