two-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
16-May-June-2005
By: 
C.A. Tripp
user_rating: 
0

A-IntimateWorldLincolnThis isn’t the first time a historian has suggested that Abraham Lincoln had homosexual tendencies. Tripp attempts to span the yawning gap between suggestion and confirmation through a close examination of Lincoln’s most intimate relationships. The author’s claims include evidence of an early puberty (in Kinseyan research, an indicator of homosexuality) and the first Republican’s habit of sharing his bed with other men. While Tripp confirms what many have already known, that Lincoln was certainly more comfortable around men than women, the question that hangs over The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln is whether Tripp’s further assertions are based in fact or bias.
Free Press. 384 pages. $27. ISBN: 0743266390

Advocate 4 of 5 Stars
"[I]n the venerable tradition of making all great men robustly heterosexual, almost every biographer of the great emancipator has ignored, suppressed, or distorted the abundant evidence that Lincoln was at the very least bisexual in his feelings—and probably in his acts." Charles Kaiser

Fort Wayne Jrnl Gazette 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Tripp makes a persuasive case that the friendship of Lincoln and Speed was extraordinarily deep, but provides only new interpretations, not new evidence, to support his theory of physical as well as emotional intimacy between the men." Gerald J. Prokopowicz

NY Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars
"Tripp argues that a cultural innocence—the word ‘homosexual’ had not yet been coined—allowed acts of physical closeness between men that had no deeper meaning, as well as acts that did but could escape scrutiny." Richard Brookhiser

Washington Times 2 of 5 Stars
"Like his mentor Kinsey, Mr. Tripp manages to change simple prurient interest into mathematical formulae, arguing that on a scale of 1-6 on homosexual tendencies, Lincoln is a 5. Tripp’s judgments are even less clear than those of Eastern European judges at swimming meets." Michael P. Riccards

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars
"In the end, however, the book reveals more about modern obsessions than it does about Lincoln. … His ascetic nature is part of his enduring mystery, and no resolution of that mystery will be found within this book’s pages. Dwelling on matters of the flesh will bring us no closer to Lincoln’s soul." Michael F. Bishop

New York Observer 1.5 of 5 Stars
"We could use more books about homosexuality in the 19th century, a vast stretch of American history, and surely gayer than we know. ... Ultimately, Tripp’s shabbily researched and self-obsessed book does homosexuality a great injustice by making it appear to be desperate and dishonest." Ted Widmer

Boston Globe 1 of 5 Stars
"[Tripp’s] real victim is history itself, always hovering uneasily between a science and an art, balanced only by its ethic of seeking unbiased truth from all available evidence." Scott Alarik

Critical Summary

Here’s a book that provokes more rebuttals than reviews. Every critic breaks out the textbooks to dispute, distort, and dismiss the evidence. Only The Advocate comes out with unabashed praise. Otherwise, the critical consensus is that the late Tripp, a former therapist, psychologist, Kinsey associate, and author of The Homosexual Matrix (1975), twists well-known evidence with an eye on an agenda rather than historical accuracy. More importantly, he doesn’t attempt to answer the trickier question of how Lincoln’s sexual predilections affected his role in American history. Reviewers also mourn Tripp, who passed away in 2003, with wishes that he’d been around to edit the manuscript’s jumpy, uneven prose.