A question from Jessica Bar of New York, NY
How is the Lincoln in your book different from Gore Vidal's Lincoln?
Prof. Donald responds:
Finally, to Jessica Bar, I can say that I am a great admirer of Gore Vidal's Lincoln, which he was kind enough to ask me to read in manuscript for him, and I think it is one of the great portraits of the President. My own differs somewhat in that it is more closely grounds in fact--and remember that Vidal's work is fiction, not history--and that it is based upon more intimate knowledge of behind-the-scenes activities in Civil War Washington. In addition, Vidal's Lincoln is--quite properly--a heroic figure who moves to change the very nature of American government and American society. Mine is a more troubled, pragmatic Lincoln, who was working out solutions to difficult problems always without a fixed plan or ideology in mind, save his determination to save the Union. Mr. Vidal and I had a considerable correspondence about his manuscript, and he was gracious enough to accept a good many of my suggested revisions. But on occasion he would refuse, saying that he knew very well that I was factually correct but that, for the purposes of his novel, he had to state his case in such-and-such a way. He was, I think, entirely correct in so doing--but, of course, as a historical biographer, I did not have the liberty of tampering with even the smallest of facts.
Friday, January 02, 2009
Something I might have noticed had I bothered to look
A few days ago I mentioned that I was planning on reading David Donald's biography of Lincoln in conjunction with Gore Vidal's same titled historical fiction novel to compare for historical accuracy. In the course of adding in a link - this link - to that original post that I had forgotten to include when I first published it, I saw that Donald had actually reviewed Vidal's manuscript for him to help improve for historical accuracy. Donald commented about Vidal to PBS's NewsHour back on Feb. 12, 1996
Posted by Hume's Ghost at 1/02/2009