tv Lincolns Sense of Humor CSPAN April 2, 2021 3:33pm-4:24pm EDT
c-span3. tonight, an evening of programs about the nation's fifth president, james monroe. we start with a look at his relationship with george washington. while the two men shared a bond forged in the revolutionary war, the politics of the young nation drove a wedge between them. in this lecture, from the university of mary washington's great live series, scott harris explains where things went wrong. watch tonight, beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern, and enjoy american history tv, every weekend, on c-span3. the annual abraham lincoln symposium at the former president's sense of humor, the ford theater society hosted the symposium at the historic ford theater in washington, d.c. to highlight the 16th president life, career and legacy. this is a minutes. -- this is a minutes.
this is 50 minutes. >> good morning, ladies and gentlemen. my name is michael bishop and i'm a board member at the abraham lincoln institute and ak former executive y director of e abraham lincoln bicentennial commission. thanks for joining us today. unlike that of winston churchill, abraham lincoln's humor tends towards self-deprecation. during one of the famed lincoln douglas debates in illinois, a spectator shouted that lincoln was being two-faced. two-faced, cried lincoln? if i had two faces, do you think i'd wear this one? lincoln's humor was an essential component of his personality and political persona. richard cardin will explore with us whether his humor might occasionally have been a handicap. richard was educated at corpus christi and queens colleges oxford. and at the university of
california at berkeley. for three decades, he taught history at the university of sheffield, before being appointed rhodes professor of american history and institutions at oxford university, and a fellow of saint katherine's college. he was elected president of corpus christi college oxford in 2010 and served in that post until 2016. he is the author of one of the finest modern biographies of the 16th president, lincoln, a life of purpose and power which was awarded the lincoln prize in 2007, and lincoln's sense of humor, a double-edged sword, on which today's lecture is based. ladies and gentlemen, professor richard karwardine.
>> good morning, fellow lincolnians. i'm going to begin with a well-known story. familiar to some of you i have no doubt. the occasion was an evening banquet in wintry illinois. the month was february and the year 1856. the setting was a convention ofe republican newspaper editors at decatur. abraham lincoln was there. and he spoke.put he apologized for being an inter loper as he put if and cast himself as a subject of t a sto about a man and i quote with ro features theth ladies could not call handsome. riding through the woods he met a lady on horseback, he waited n for her to pass, but instead, she stopped and scrutinized him before saying, wow, for land's
sake, you are the homeliest man i ever saw. yes, ma'am, but i can't help it, he replied. no, i suppose not said the ladyn but youce the might stay at hom. once the editors had stopped --s laughing, lincoln said he felt that with propriety, he might t home.tayed atat well, the story is, i chose it, because it's particularly apt. i was scheduled to speak here last year at the symposium, but when it came to it, i stayed ata home. and now, i may possibly be the ugliest man you've ever seen, trough i certainly hope not. but that wasn't why i stayed away. i simply wasn't well enough to travel. so i'm especially grateful to president john white, and the tn executive committee of a the abraham lincoln institute for
extending the invitation a second time.. particularly to thank michael burlingame with typicals lincolnian grace stepped in to i fill the gap a year ago. now, while i was working on my a book on lincoln's humor i was aware of those who questioned my choice of the subject so the seemingly lacking in gravitas and so marginal to the big issues of lincoln's time. arbelieve however that people are as much, ife not more, revealing about themselves, when being funny, than when they're serious. it was plato who reflected, serious thingsed cannot be grasd without ridiculous ones. and no one indulged humor more than lincoln. it was as characteristic of him as his stove pipe hat but unlike his hat, it was an intrinsic element of the man, a way of life, a habit of mind, it expressed his essential g of h
humanity, his sense of proportion, his understanding oa human foibles. what prompted my research and my inquiry was a remark lincoln made to david ross lock. lock was a long ohio newspaper man, and merciless satirist of the peace democrat, the copperheads. look's satire centered on a copperhead grotesque, petroleum nesby. a pastor g of a pro-slavery church, he was a drunken greedyi sordidm lying racist. lock called him a nickel-plated son of a bitch. the v stood for vesuvius, and allusion to the bigoted interruptions on the ideas of the day which was in thee
newspapers. paper and used him to look at the lia administration delighted lincoln. the paper were his constant companion. the copy in the library of his congressni has singe marks madey the president's candle for his nighttime reading. key quote passages at will. and on the final afternoon of d his life, lincoln delayed dinner by reading it allowed to two olu friends from illinois. for the genius to right these things, lincoln told the author, i would gladly give up my office. locke's look on rachel the pleasure he took on racial prejudice and anti-emancipatio'' sentiment speakss volumes about the moral springs of lincoln's own humor.sati here. admired the great ethical force of locke's satire. and leonard sweat, a close e. associate,
maintained that the president read nesby as much as he did the bible. lincoln relished pretty well every form of the comic, tall tales and absurdity, word play and delight in the plasticity, ambiguity, and surprises of language. quick wit, irony, logical fallacy, and notoriously, dirty jokes and stories. but his love of nesby tells us his chief pleasure was satirical humor that elicited righteous mir and laughter and designed tl deliver a moral critique. well, as my title indicates, i shall focus this morning on the utility of lincoln's humor. the purposes to which he put itt the personal and the political benefits that accrued, and the political danger that lay in being known as a humorist, particularly as a leader in time of war.uit of i would suggest on balance that
he derived more advantage than not from the pursuit of laughter, and that his humor waa an essential element in his statesmanship, in his skill in public affairs. we should recognize that lincol. deployed humor as an act of s ae deliberate self consciousness therapy. as a health-giving salve.er hisabil appetite for comic rele and his notorious vulnerability to depression, with were two to sides of the same coin.h he was laughter was a therapeutic antidote to the grievous low nt spirits to which he was prone. lincoln explained, if it were not for these stories, jests, jokes, i should die. they give vent. they are the vents of my moods and gloom. at the landmark cabinet meetingh of september the 22nd, 1862, where he unveiled the ng a s preliminary emancipation proclamation, he began by reading out a short piece by
artemus ward. gentlemen, why don't you laugh, he asked his irritated colleagues? with a a fearful strain, that is upon me night and day, if i didf not laugh, i should die. humor was also of course a means of empowerment. of imposing himself on others.im from an early age, lincoln's o comic story telling and mimic re made him entertaining company. his odddd lanky experience and bookish appetites might in another young man have been a recipe for social reticence and shyness.ad a s but his physical awkwardness seems to not have troubled him. rather he had a strong sense ofe self worth and enjoyed the personal regard he won for his aimable wit and great stories. this social empowerment helped for example to secure his election as a military captain in the black cold war, to win him the respect of fellow
congressmen in his washington boarding house and to make him the magnate for the well-disposed attention for lawyers and residents gathered at the county seats of the illinois eighth circuit. later in life, lincoln with gl, would repeat with appreciative glee the description of a type - of southwestern political or toro rosso and i quote, mouned the russtrum, threw back his head, shined his eyes, opened his mouth and left the consequences to god. in sharp contrast, there was np little inla lincoln's own speecs that was not planned and well calculated. his use of humor andnd stories in his public address and private conversations was rarely lacking in broader intent, or designed to cover up empty thought. the utility of his humor can be categorized under six headings.
at times crushing opponents.se more commonly, when used as a means of self-deprecation, and emphasizing his common touch, t humor could beit a weapon of o subtle attack. sometimes, it was a way of disingenously plunging a self-serving idea into the minds of his hearers. it provided, too, a means of tactical diversion and he also had a role in relation to public morale. above all, he used his stories as parables, as a persuasive form of political explanation. first then, the use of humor to opponents.nally as an aspiring wig politician, l lincoln occasionally resorted t. yuler and aggressive humor not to put opponents on the offensive, but to eviscerate and humiliate them.
spd one instance of lincoln using his power to hurt tori withering effect. the occasion was a meeting in front of a large crowd in sta springfield, during his campaign called re-election to the state prgislature in 1836. lincoln's im pressive speech prompted a request from george folker, a prominent local democrat that he had givenn the stand. folker was a recent convert from lincoln's wig party. and had been rewarded by his new associates with aouse lucrative public office. he had also built the best house in the city. over which he had erected a lightning rod. the only one in the place. 15 years, lincoln sr, the patronizing folker declared that the young man would have to be d taken down. after waiting with suppressed excitement, lincoln resumed the stand. he acknowledged that he was t young, and that he said, his
critics should remember, i am o old ner years than i am in the tricks and trades of tion b politicians. i desire to liveut and i desire a place of distinction but i woulv rather die now than like the gentleman live to see the day that i would change my politics for an office worth $3,000 a year, and then feel compelled to erect a lightning rod to protect a guilty conscious from an offended god. during the same phase of life, v lincoln learnede the painful lesson that self indulgence, aggressive humor could injure its author as well as its l. target. in september, 1842, he wrote fos theatir pages of the sangamore - journal, a satire ridiculing the 36-year-old james shields, the state auditor. shields was an impetuous man, with a short fuse.
and he had good reason to rage at the insult with its sexual insinuations, and demeaning assault on his character. shields challengesed lincoln to a duel. and lincoln reluctantly accepted the challenge. we cannot be sure how far he eas intended the dark. humor that lurked in his selection of weapons. calvary broad swords the of the largest size precisely equal inn all respects.s. taller than s shields, lincoln would have a huge advantage in reach.t turn he did manage a joke on the way to the duelling ground, past the hundreds who had turned out. he was reminded he said of the young kenzian whose sweetheart as he was leaving home to fight 1812, presented him with a belt, embroidered, that she had embroidered with the motto, victory or death. isn't that rather too strong, e. thee grateful volunteer said?
suppose you put victory or be crippled? only at the lastould moment was duel averted. by the hever again would lincoln, who was deeply embarrassed by the whole episode, never again would he write insulting sudonymous satire and he recognized when taken to an offensive extreme, l ridicule could damage thee. autr as well as the victim. over time, lincoln learned to bg more deft and subtle in sharpening the edge.e. as aa maturing politician he use gentler wit to put his opponents on the back foot. more aware of r thisli than stevennc douglas wh declared that he did not fail lincoln in matters of substance but confessed and i quote there is one thing however of which ih stand constantly in dread. when lincoln begins to tell a er story, iy begin to get my bac apprehensive. seems ne of his stories like a whack on my back.
that's exactly the effect of the attigrrees and anecdotals of which he is master have upon me. nothing else disturbs me.e.ov when heer begins to tell a stor i feel that i am to be over-matched. self-dep cation andd subtle attack, in the face, in his face toto face engagement with the public, lincoln's resorts to stories and jokes which were designed to remind his hearers of lowly origins of belonging to backwoods and the prairie and dy encouraged f common people to s him as a natural man, lacking artifice, able to engage with ordinary farmers and laborers on equal terms. lincoln's life-long self oted a identification with plain folk was closely allied to his tant of self-deprecation. oons as i noted at the outset, he made much of his unpre-possessing appearance. conscious of his unusual s
physical proportion, his height and unusually long limbs, and a word of many considered him an ugly man, he faced that head-on. his jesting gave rise to a young, as he was splitting rails he found himself looking down n thehe gun barrel of a passer-by who explained that he had promised to shoot the first man he met who was uglier than s himself. getting a good look at the man's face, lincoln remarked, while t] bearing his chest, if i am uglier than you, then blaze away. [ laughter ] this self mockery amounted to ye far more than amp means of securing a laughgh by pre-empti comments about his strange lookt modest wupbringing, and calculated eks centricities. it was also a means of enlistinm the audience on the sidean of tu underdog.e he used this big man/little man technique throughout his pre-presidential years, againstd some ofem the biggest or tore ct
beasts in theic illinois democracy. in his political wrestling witht douglas throughout the it1850s,e assumed the identity of a modese provincial facing the world wide renown of the democrat's prime hope for the white house. whoan whi enjoyed the status ofy great man, while he himself was only a small man.ve lit the heavy irony of this languagt intensified by theo site of th diminutive little giant standing next, to the elongated lincoln. lincoln also used laster to a largerself-serving idea. as a a lawyer he wielded humor plant a seed that would shape the deliberations of a jury.ory during aof lunch break, he is sd to have told jurors the story of a small boy who ran to summon his father. pa, pa, come quick, he said, the hired man is in a hay mowqso pee
all over pulling down his pants and she lifted her skirts and he is getting ready to pea all over our hay. >> and he said father, you have got your facts exactly right but you have drawn the wrong conclusion. later in opponents following the winding up speech, lincoln said my learned opponent has his ion. facts completely right but he has drawn the completely wrong o conclusion and won the case. he used anecdotals to turn or smooth a conference without f giving offense. john hay told how in late 1863, a fellow nuisance of a brooklyni post master, with his eyes on the following year's presidential election, fastenedf himself to the tycoon, and tried to get into conversation on the subject of the succession, would
lincoln run again.st theate president quickly put hip with a story of his friend jessy dubois, who as state auditor controlled the use of the illinois statehouse in for a re springfield. and an itinerant quack preacher requested it as the venue for as religious lecture. what's it about, says jessy. the second coming of christ says hem. nonsense roared uncle jessy, if christ had been to springfield once and got away, he's be dam clear of coming the again. one of the president's most stressful tasks as leader of the new administration in 1861 was dealing with the avalanche of applicants for government posts. he was bombarded with far more requests than he had jobs. one day, a delegation called tos urge the opponent of an acquaintance as commissioner of theno sandwich isles. w they earnestly emphasized not
only his fitness for the post, . but his poor health. which would benefit from the climate. the president closed the interview with effective regret, gentlemen, i'm sorry to say thae there are eight other applicants for that place, and they are all sicker than your man. [ laughter ] . but above serve alld color els story serve as parables as a ir colorfuluc and pointed means ofy obfuscation, i'm sorry of instruction, not obfuscation, and elus dation. the they gave him eco the means of t driving home politicalal argume within engaging economy. he never seemed to talk without some definite aim in mind one acquaintance reflected. the few stories i heard him relate were told in each instance to illustrate some well-defined point.i lincoln himself told a the c colleague, i calibrate many
story, i reckon i do but i have- found in the course of a long experience that common people, common people take them as theyh run, are more easily influenced ils and informed through the medium of broad illustration than in se anys other way.omy. as president, he used stories tg drive homeeneral political argu with engaging economy. when major general john pope telegraphed that he had captured 5,000 confederates, the cabinet asked the president's opinion. oh, that reminds me, he replied, of an old woman who was ill. fre doctor gave her medicine for her constipation. the next morning, he found her fresh, and well, and getting breakfast. she confirmed that the medicine worked.ed? now, how many movements, the e physician inquired? 142, she replied.
madam, i'm serious.i 142. madam, i must know, it istell necessary, i have the exact number of movements. i tell you, 142. 140 of them wind. lincoln closed the discussion, i am afraid pope's can tours of 140 of them wind. finding himself with the support of only one member of the cabinet during a critical phase of the trent affair where britain threatened war over the union navy seizure of confederate envoys from a british runks anship, he recallh drunk, there were lots of drunks lincoln's story, he recalled a drunk who strayed into an illinois church and fell asleeps in the front row. slumbered on as the revivalist asked who is on the lord's side. and the congregation responded by rising en masse.
when the preacher inquired, who are on the side of the devil? ii the sleeper stood. but not fully grasping the 't inquiry, and seeing the ministet on his feet,ly und he stood up. i don't exactly understand the question, he said, but i'll stand by you until the last but it seems to me that we're in a hopeless minority. the power of lincoln's humor to enforce his argument was on one estimate irresistible always. it confirmed the president as v the representative american. the women's right activist and abolitionist carolyn healy goll rebuked those fine ladies who were repelled by the president'n homely manners and jokes. as a nation, she wrote, we are an intelligent but not a cultivated people.ten a mr. lincoln fairly represents our average attainment.no and he hast unde never written letter that the humble of his constituents cannot understand.e
aesop told some stories and his homely wisdom has kept his name alive. our divine master knew little of classic law, or historic legend, but he did know how to tell a instructive story. during his presidency, lincoln n supporters seized on his studdet use of humor to show how an occupant of the white house couldon remain a genual man of n people. pro-administration newspapers r readily drew attentioniv to thee president's latest story. lincoln's private secretary, john hay, cultivated a warm s relationship with severalof journalists, and supplied them with examples of the president's wit. interests -- and commercial interests exploited this benign reading of lincoln's humor. in compilations of jokes an in story, supposedly, but rarely originating with the president. in setting up the moral value or lincoln's story telling, his d
supporters sought to counter his opponent's disdain for chief magistrate whose tastes in jokee theyiz declared madeed him unfir his position. both confederates and critics iw the union seized onith wh linco humor as a stick with which to beatgrav him. their common charge was their appetite for low jokes revealed a lack of gravitas. that he used humor to mask his deficiencies. his comic tales measured his cruel disregard for the victimsb of war. lincoln, the heartless buffoon o became a a recurrent theme. opposition presses were quick to circulate the essence of a powerful harper's weekly cartoon, columbia confronts her children, published after the grievous union losses at fredericksburg, a cartoon which i think is available to you in your packs this morning. a female figure with her arm
outstretched, a female figure w being columbia, points at lincoln who stands outside the water park between edwin stanton and joe hooker and asks, where are my 15,000 sons murdered at e fredericks burpg. spncoln's callous answer, it reminds me of a little joke, go tell your joke at springfield. democrats insinuated a critique of lincoln the joker into each and every of their key ging campaigning themes of 1864. none was more challenging than the charge of lincoln's shocking levity in the face of numbing military slaughter. the opposition's theme of lincoln, and i quote, the widowmaker who lays the nation w across his knee, and tickles her catastrophe with obscene jokes and little stories became a campaign staple. nothing gave this attack greater
power than the bogus accusation that when visiting the 1862, blood-drenched antetum battlefield in october 1862, lincoln had shattered its sanctity by asking to hear a tr vulgar comic song while touring the field, with bodies yet warm in their graves. accompanied by george mcclellan and another officer, lincoln drove over the field as heavy s details of men were burying the day. lincoln suddenly slashing marshal in the palm of the knee, explained, come on, lemon, give us that song about pippayune butler. mcclel ennever heard it. the general protested not now, marshall, i would prefer to hear it some other place and time. the 1864 campaign gave politica. cartoonist brian an opportunity to exploit this familiar theme of lincoln's compulsive jesting. in jose ev cartoon baker's lith
columbia demands her children but you also have an image of an angry columbia points at a discomforted president and shouts mr. lincoln give me my back my 500,000 sons which emins elicits a feeble m response, we, the fact is, by the way, that reminds me of a story. and then a courier and ives campaign running the machine asy lincoln is laughing uproariously at his own jokes white the secretary churns out greenbacks- the best attack, especially potent wasin-c a poorly made cartoon, the soldier's vote on the battlefield, which you also have in yourrlding a cap, a reminder of disguise was said to ha it placed lincoln at the center, in a long cloak and a tartan
cap, a reminder of the coward'ss disguise he was said to have ies worn when cutting short his journey to washington as president-elect. several dead bodiesounded are b carried from the field, while an officer everybody dentally mcclellan, tends to a wounded soldier. a distraught figure is back to the era, signals his distress by holding a hand to his eyes.ny. he remmen straightss as the president demands, now, marshal, sing us piccayune butler or something else that's funny. copperhead song books routinely deployed this malignant reading of lincoln in their verses. i quote, you may call your black battalions to aid your sinkingl cause. and substitute your vulgar jokes for liberty and laws. weow by the memory of our fathers, by those green unnumbered graves we will perish on 10 thou you fields as we become your slaves. and in the song, mack, my darling, the first verse is a ve
tribute to mcclellan's victory at antetum and the second verse, abe, the may crack his jol ji jokes or bloody fields of - stricken battle while ebbing the lifetime smokes of men that die like butchered cattles.yo the guns grow cold and pumps ani pet mace crack his stories. grander is of thee mold. and linkedit i with all of our brightest glories. what while it is impossible to h determinee precisely how 1864 lincoln's reputation as a joker shaped the political balance sheet in 1864, that the administration's supporters included many who found the president's lev ty nents bedist indicates for them at least the matter wasgr not decise ivl but his opponents had great electoral opportunity and ould lincoln too well understood for his reputation for levity could
expose him to misrepresentationo and electoral damage. it was only after careful reflection that he opted not ton respond publicly to the antetum fiction. in time, after his death, his reputation as the peerless tak presidential story spinner, jokf teller and ready wit would come to take on a character wholly positive and benign. that however was not the case during the dark and deadly dayso ofus war. my argument then is that lincoln's sense of humor has to be taken seriously.erstand we should recognize its rich meo variety and complexityn of purpose, and understand its ng ethical dimension, and remain aware of the political risk that lincoln ran in retaining jokes, for the nation, the republican t of suffering, was engaged in an existentialas struggle costing d least three quartersid of a million lives. as the nation suffered, so of course did the president.of
humor was his lifeline. lincoln was a shiny example of the truth proffered by the thee loej cal rinehold neeber who perceived humor as a proof of t the capacity of the self, to gain a vantage point from whichi it is able toousl look at itsel. people with a sense of humor do not take themselves too in seriously. perspe they're able toct stand off fro themselves, toto see themselvess perspective, and recognize the ludicrous aspects of their pretensions. all of us ought to be ready to laugh at ourselves, because all of us are a little funny in our foibles, our con seats and our pretensions. what is funny about us is precisely that we take ourselves too seriously. we are rather insignificant little bundles of energy and vitality in a vast organization of life. those human foibles conceits and
pretensions were at the heart of what made lincoln laugh. appreciation of the absurdity of the human conditiom infused the stories that he told. to draw on neeber again, the ouc sense of humore is in many respects a more adequate resource for the in congruities of life thanthe di the spirit o philosophy.ir toto meet the disappointments and h frustrations of life, the irrashts and contingencies with laughter is aas some high form wisdom. if man had some sense of the precarious nature of the human enterprise, they prove that they are looking at the whole of life, not merely from the circumscribed point of view of their own interest but from some further and higher vantage point. this was suggested was an aspect of the profound wisdom that underlay the american slaves, r astonishing capacity for -- fo laughter. neither considered a senseo hadg humor anindispensable to a man affairs who had the duty of organizing their fellow men in .
commonn endeavors. it reduces the frictions of life and makes the foibles of man, tolerable. in laughs at the absurdities of others and of ourselves, we mix mercy and judgment, censure and bearance. here was an indispensable ingredient of lincoln's statesmanship. in his strenuous nurturing of the republic, lincoln the statesman could call on mana strategic wisdom,ge clarity of principle, skill in political management and communication, grasp with human psychology and physical and mental strength. to these ingredients, i believe we shoe add his remarkable and celebrated sense of humor. an expression of his essential humanity, his sense of proportion, and understanding of human foibles. served by an exceptional intellect, flawless memory, quick wit, and mastery of to fo language, lincoln used his stock
of tall tales and jokes to foster friendship, build support and underlion mine opponent's arguments particularly when thee wreaked of injustice. and lincoln's example, leads us to ponder the question. a is sen it possible to exercise statesmanship without a sense of the ludicrous, of the absurdity, and flaws of human kind? f oneself included? it seems to me that all political leaders would do well toor les reflect on this truisms able to laugh at ourselves, the more it becomes necessary and inevitable that others laugh at us. thank you. [ applause ]ing or >> you mentioned that lincoln had a story for everything.al
orways a joke. and they always seemed to fit the situation perfectly. do you think that he memorized thousands or hundreds of stories or do you think he was really good at making them up at the as spur of the moment. >> it's the former, not the awa. latter. lincoln's memory was formidable. as i'm surehe said you're well heit said that once a thing was scratched on the metal of his mind, it was irrevocable. it was there forever. and what strikes me about lincoln's use of stories in rel every setting, where they were pertinent was his extraordinary capacity for recall, and an appropriate recall.l.sein diffe he did use, it has to be said he did use.ings so, stories several times over. in different settings but they often were making the same sort of point. he didn't make them up himself.
i mean he said he was a, he said he was a retail dealer. he was telling other people's . stories. but he adapted the stories that he had read, and one of his lle' sources was jo' miller's jests. joe miller's jest book first composed and compiled in 1730s, in london, by the british jester and joker joe miller, went t througham subsequently many, mat edition, and was circulating in the american west, and across american, certainly in the american west early in the 19th century. updated. new jests interpolated by other, not joe miller. over joke book was one that probably lincoln knew and then lincoln referred all of the her- stories that he i was told by others as they swapped yarns. rl hisat father was, it is often sd that lincoln had a poor
relationship with his father and that was no doubt a difficult tw relationship but that's one ofal the most important things lincoln got from his father was the capacity to tell stories. his father was a very, very good joke and story teller, anecdotal teller. the family exchange of stories was important to him. he heard stories as a young man, in, certainly on the circuit with other lawyerst a jo he acq stories. these were all filed away. i don't think he kept a joke ap book. it's said by some he had a lot of jokes and he certainly jolted them down, there was a moment he was waitingng in the line, being introduced at the white house and there was one person with whom he had quite a long conversation, and the conversation was about the source of a joke that lincoln had heard or he wanted the e source off that joke. and which he could then file it away. but i don't think it was a written file. it was filed away up there.
so lincoln said, no more than half a dozen t stories have i me up myself. but he did adapt those stories. so the story for example of the, you know, when he was complaining to him that the you don't knowup drank whiskey and don't knowup drank whiskey a■á■r send viral whis. i can to my other generals, that's straight from joe miller, that's in the joe miller joke book. that's not original to lincoln. >> obviously, his public life hu andmo political and cases et cetera, his humor really d you benefitted but would yousa say that especially because of his moroseness or depression, the greatest person to benefit his humor was his own psychology, his own ability to snap himself out of difficult moods. >> yes, i believe so. i mean there's no way of's
quantifying, and sort of the utilitarian way,what one calcul benefitted most from lincoln'sr- humorbe but what one can say ise himself regarded as absolutely essential to his well-being.paie and he said to francis carpenter, the painter in the th white house, that it will not, if it were not for these vents, and i quote, if it were nott fo these vent, it is the vent, that is important for my well-being. at one stage, and this is speak relevant to your question, at n one stage, he said, speaking of a member of his cabinet, it was probably simon chase but it might have been stanton. it was several potential candidates. he said, it was so difficult to get a joke into his head, that it would take a surgical operation to implant it. now, very funny, it's actually
not lincoln's, again, it's not his creation, he takes it from h the english clergyman sidney smith reverend sidney smith, who was somewhat acerbic wit, and i mention that because smith suffered from depression and her setecipe out a table of, a recir preventing the worst effects oft depression, so ten steps to avoiding the deepest, deepest depression. and at the center of these was humor.er finding humor. being able to find humor in whatever, whatever circumstance you felt it was. and i'm sure that lincoln woulde have read sid mini smith and he would have taken that lesson to
heart, he didn't make to take it to heart he already learned it but it was important. >> how did it affect his marriage good or bad. what did mary think? i thi >> well, i think michael may be able to answer that question ry better than i.hat linc but i think it was very unlikeli that lincoln told many of thesee stories toll mary.. i[l mean lin cone's story-telliy was intended for male company. the so-called smutty jokes he told, the off-color jokes s wouldn't strike us quite as appalling that they woulddth ha struck the victorian sensibles of the drawing room and they were intended for company in the taverns and the circuit and the cabinet room, in the political d intercourse, conversation.n. how did it affect his marriage? i don't know how far lincoln used humor within his marriage.y
i think almost certainly his sense of irony, his capacity for dry wit, his capacity to any situation, that was troubling, in a way that sort of might have turned into his advantage with mild humor, i think that public would have been true of his marriage but i don't think his conversation, the conversation of his marriage would have been the exchanging of stories. however decent. >> professor carwardine, are there any algoers or doels that you didn't include in thisto mi> morning's lecture and is there a an sequilt of sense of humor tt any british of th politicians t come to mind? >> i've given only a small smattering of the many jokes, which are of, the larger number
of course available in a book recently published publish call lincoln's sense of humor. i forget who the author is now. [ laughter ] but i certainly, it's one i benefitted enormously from reading it, i can tell you.iceb [ laughter ] soerg yes, this is just a, the tip of the iceberg that i've given you..ents? i thought you were going to says how does it compare with other american presidents. which is of course, a topic of its own. on the like the bishop who kindly introduced me and has been the michael bishop, who kindly hea introduced me, and has been the head of the churchill center in washington would probably want to say that churchill was the c most obvious parallel, and we were in fact talking before i came on about churchill's humor, and rather like lincoln, churchill was both very funny in
his own right, probably was more naturally witty, although lincoln had the capacity for c immediate wit and aboutof whom face of churchill there are man aprock fill tale and if i may i will talk that tale you were about, churchill got a telegram from, a message from george bernard shaw, and which shaw said, i'm sending you two i tickets for the firstng night o my new play, do come yourself and bring a friend, if you have one. to which churchill allegedly replied, thank you for your, for the two tickets, i can't get along on the first night, but i'll come along on the second night, if you have one.
[ laughter ] >> as the little league resident psychiatrist i would make a couple of points kind of to stir some thoughts here. i would suggest that there's a difference between lincoln's use of humor in public and private and his concerns and difficulties with intimacy, i was wondering if you would comment onains that, because lin remains a person unknowable in many ways including people who thought they knew him well, and i was wondering if you could comment on that. >> could you just, the distinction between his public use of humor and i missed the eu secondmo part? >> lincoln used stories and >> humor in many ways to deflect. and i was wondering if you would comment on that. >> i think that's a very good point that although lincoln was the life and soul of company, ai
andng conversations, whether one-on-one, or whether in larger gatherings, he remained unknowable to most of them.theya mistake, probably to all of k them, actually. did they really know the inner man? how forthcoming was he? and i think very often, i think understand the nature of your question, is that joke telling, being witty, being funny, is a way of deflecting discussion of matters of personal substance, so you're the psychiatrist but t find that entirely plausible. >> i was wondering againin in your studies whether you would go along with that. >> yes, i do. as david davis said about lincoln, and anyone who believes
they know what lincoln really believed, self delusional, they're self delusional. they are deluding themselves. he was the most shut-mouth man. he wasn't a shut-mouth man in the sense that he wrote he was wonderful speeches, he was wonderful company, but in termsh of the personal, being personally forthcoming and emotionally forthcoming i think davis was right. >> and you can certainly think about the impact on his marriag. in relation to that. >> i think that's, i think that was, that was the last question. [ applause ] >> thank