Saturday, July 14, 2018

Lincoln and Paradise Lost?

Abraham Lincoln

In Robert Bray's article on Lincoln's reading list, "What Abraham Lincoln Read — An Evaluative and Annotated List" (Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Volume 28, Issue 2, Summer 2007, pp. 28-81), we find the following in note 136:
[There] "is a story recounted in the diary of George Templeton Strong (March 29, 1863): "Story of Senator [James] Dixon calling on the President and suggesting a parallel between secession and that first rebellion of which Milton sang. Very funny interview. Abe Lincoln didn't know much about Paradise Lost and sent out for a copy, looked through its first books under the Senator's guidance, and was struck by the coincidences between the utterances of Satan and those of Jefferson Davis, whom by-the-by he generally designates as 'that t'other fellow.' Dixon mentioned the old joke about the Scotch professor who was asked what his views were about the fall of the Angels and replied, 'Aweel, there's much to be said on both sides.' 'Yes,' said Uncle Abraham, 'I always thought the Devil was some to blame!' (Allan Nevins and Milton Halsey Thomas, eds., The Diary of George Templeton Strong [New York: Macmillan, 1952], 3:308).
Some to blame! That's hilarious! But did Lincoln ever actually read all of Paradise Lost? He seems not to have read it before March 29, 1863, and since he had only about two years until his death on April 15, 1865, he wouldn't have had much time for reading the whole thing.

Does anyone know for sure?

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