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Experiments" printed since the “Life” was issued, “though the vocabulary was scanty, the words were short and forcible.” He learned among men and women poor and inured to hardship how the plain people think and feel.
In his young manhood at Springfield he measured wits with other bright young lawyers, in plain and direct language before plain and simple-minded auditors, either in political discussion or in the court-room; either in the capital or in the country towns of Illinois. His mathematical and legal studies were an aid to precise statement, and his native honesty made him frank and convincing in argument. He felt himself to be a poor defender of a guilty client, and sometimes shirked the job.
If for a brief period in his youth he indulged in anything resembling the spread-eagle style of oratory, he was quick, as Nicolay declares, to realize the danger and overcome the temptation. His secretary relates that in his later years he used to repeat with glee the description of the Southwestern orator of whom it is said: “He mounted the rostrum, threw back his head, shined his eyes, and left the consequences to God.”
By practice in extemporary speaking Lincoln learned to do a most difficult thing-namely, to produce literature on his legs. It is difficult thus to produce literature, because the words must flow with immediate precision. It is unusual for a politician to through life always addressing audiences, and yet always avoid
ing the orator's temptation to please and captivate by extravagant and false sentiment and statement. The writer, and particularly the political writer, is tempted to this sort of immorality, but still more the speaker, for with the latter the reward of applause is prompt and seductive. It is amazing to look over Lincoln's record and find how seldom he went beyond bounds, how fair and just he was, how responsible and conscientious his utterances long before these utterances became of national importance. Yet it was largely because of this very quality that they assumed national importance. And then both his imagination and his sympathy helped him here, for while he saw and keenly felt his own side of the argument, he could see as clearly, and he could sym
pathetically understand, the side of his opponent.
Lincoln was barely twentythree when, as a candidate for the legislature, he issued a formal address to the people of Sangamon County. It is the first
paper preserved by Nicolay and Hay in their collection of his addresses and letters. Nicolay well says that “as a literary production no ordinary college graduate would need to be ashamed of it."
In this address we already find that honest purpose, that “sweet reasonableness" and persuasiveness of speech, which is characteristic of his later and more celebrated utterances. In his gathered writings and addresses we find, indeed, touches of the true Lincoln genius here and there from the age of twenty-three on. In the literary record of about his
thirty-third year occur some of the most surprising proofs of the delicacy of his nature-of that culture of the soul which had taken place in him in the midst of such harsh and unpromising environment. Reference is made to the letters written to his young friend Joshua F. Speed, a member of the Kentucky family associated by marriage with the family of the poet Keats.
In Lincoln's early serious verse the feeling is right, though the art is lacking; but the verses are interesting
in that they show a good ear. Note has been made of a pleasing cadence in Lincoln's prose; and it is not strange that he should show a rhythmical sense in his verse. He showed a good deal of common sense in not going on with