New book explores whether Abraham Lincoln was gay

0

The historical fiction “Courting Mr. Lincoln” focuses on the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and his future wife, Mary Todd — as well as his best friend, Joshua Speed, with whom he shared a bed while living in Springfield, Ill. The Post talked to author Louis Bayard about why Honest Abe’s sex life made such compelling material for his novel (published by Algonquin Books), out Tuesday.

Lincoln was open about sharing a bed with Speed — was this a common arrangement at the time? It was a common arrangement among bachelors because beds were expensive. [What was strange] was the length of time [they shared the bed] — three years. And they got married late in life.

What research did you do? I learned as much as I can about these guys, and the book is a promiscuous mixture of fact and invention. The book that was helpful was “The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln” by C.A. Tripp. He was a Kinsey Institute sex researcher and the first to declare that Lincoln was homosexual. The book is a bit over-the-top and was savaged at the time, but it was the first to bring up that possibility. Although [Lincoln biographer] Carl Sandburg brought up in his 1926 biography that the friendship had a “streak of lavender,” which was code.

Were there ever whispers of Lincoln being gay from his political opponents? I’ve never come across a whisper of that nature. There were whispers about James Buchanan. One of the things that did come up with Lincoln’s early biographers is that he wasn’t a player with the gals. Even his own stepmother, who adored him, said he was never much for girls.

Author Louis Bayard

How did you come to this topic? I have Paula McLain (author of “The Paris Wife,” historical fiction about Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley) to thank. I thought that “The Paris Wife” was such an interesting model for a book — to look at a famous person through the eyes of someone who loved them. And the famous person that came to mind was Lincoln. I thought of Mary Todd and that strange marriage and how that happened. There was also the mystery of Lincoln’s second nervous breakdown in 1841. Scholars thought it was because he had broken off his engagement to Mary Todd. But it was also when Speed had announced he was going back to Kentucky. That was when my book became a double narrative, and I realized it was a love triangle with Lincoln as the enigmatic middle.

Louis Bayard will read from “Courting Mr. Lincoln” on April 25 at 7 p.m., Barnes & Noble, 150 E. 86th St.

Source link

LEAVE A REPLY