partner of both Lincoln and Edgar’s father,rnHardin Masters. Up to the age ofrn43, Edgar Lee Masters himself pursuedrnthe profession of law. In 1892, after arnyear of college, he passed the Illinois barrnand moved to Chicago, where he eventuallyrnformed a partnership with ClarencernDarrow, which lasted from 1903 to 1911.rnLike his fellow Midwesterner SherwoodrnAnderson, Masters abandoned a conventionalrncareer in middle age to follow thernliterary muse. His reputation rests largelyrnon Spoon River Anthology, a collection ofrnpoems published in serialized form inrn1914andl915.rnAlthough Masters is often lumpedrnwith Vachel Lindsay and his fellow LincolnographerrnCarl Sandburg, two poetsrnborn in Illinois a decade after Masters,rnhis sensibility was radically differentrnfrom theirs. Sandburg and Lindsay, likernWhitman before them, subscribed torna kind of mystical populism, whichrnromanticized a collective abstractionrnknown as “the people.” (One of Sandburg’srnmost characteristic collections ofrnverse was entitled The People, Yes.) Bothrnpoets proudly positioned themselves onrnthe left wing of the political spectrum.rnIn contrast. Masters was a states’ rightsrnpopulist. Neither as poet nor politicalrnthinker did he ever view “the people”rnapart from their rooted lives in a localrncommunity. Masters was also an anti-romanticrnrealist. In Spoon River Anthology,rnthe dead (William Herndon and AnnrnRutledge among them) speak from beyondrnthe grave, often in contradiction ofrnthe pious epitaphs inscribed on theirrntombstones. In much the same vein,rnLincoln, The Man is a work of monumentalrnimpiety.rnMasters uncovers no significantrnnew information regarding Lincoln.rnAt the outset, he freely confessesrnhis debt to two previous Lincoln biographers,rnAlbert Beveridge and his oldrnfamily friend William Herndon. {Timernclaimed that Masters had written thern112th life story of the Great Heart.) Mastersrnis interested less in rehashing knownrnfacts (although he does plenty of that inrnthis 500-page tome) than in arguing forrna particular, and highly unfashionable,rninterpretation of Lincoln’s life. Citingrnsuch Confederate texts as Pollard’s ThernLost Cause, Stephens’ ConstitutionalrnView of the War, and the work of JeffersonrnDavis, Masters writes:rnThese could call Lincoln a sophistrnand a usurper, only to be smiled atrnby the rich and populous North,rnthe North of poets and historians,rnand great captains, and the statesmenrnof a new regime of politicalrncontrol, of a government made arnnation from a confederacy of statesrnby the glorious acts of an armyrnheaded by Lincoln!rnThese are the words of a copperheadrnwho, like his contemporary Robert LeernFrost, never forgot that he was named inrnpart for a figure of Southern myth.rnLincoln may have been a poor boyrn(Masters stops just short of brandingrnhim white trash), but his economicrnviews were always in sympathy with thernmonied interests. Masters traces hisrnphilosophical lineage to AlexanderrnHamilton, a would-be aristocrat whorncould never quite erase his origins as arn”West Indian bastard.” Lincoln’s ownrngreat hero was the senatorial deal-makerrnand national compromiser Henrv Clay.rnA sort of 19th-century Bob Dole, Clayrnbelieved in a mutually beneficial partnershiprnbetween corporate wealth and arnhighly centralized federal government.rnLike his fellow Whigs, Lincoln supportedrna national bank, high tariffs, and “internalrnimprovements.” Had he beenrnbrighter and more industrious, he probablyrnwould have ended his days finessingrnthe law for some predator}’ robber baronrnrather than trampling out the vintagernwhere the grapes of wrath are stored.rnIf Masters has nothing but contemptrnfor Lincoln’s Whiggish sympathies,rnhe attributes all sweetness and light tornthe agrarian tradition exemplified byrnThomas Jefferson. {Lincoln, The Manrnappeared less than a year after /’// TakernMy Stand and received one of its mostrnpositive reviews from Andrew Lytle inrnthe Virginia Quarterly Review.) Wishingrnto leave no doubt about his own politicalrnloyalties. Masters dedicates his book “Tornthe Memory of Thomas Jefferson.” Hernsees the Lincoln administration as the finalrntriumph of economic and politicalrncentralization —in short, of the Hamiltonianrnvision. “The history of Americarnsince the day of Lincoln,” Masters concludes,rn”has been nothing but a filling inrnof the outlines of implied powers, whichrnLincoln did more than even Hamiltonrnor Webster to vitalize; it has been nothingrnbut further marches into the pathsrnwhich he surveyed toward empire andrnprivilege.”rnNot content with reviling Lincoln’srnpolitics. Masters finds fault with virtuallyrnevery aspect of his character. Prayingrnand reading the Bible while belonging tornno church, Lincoln, in Masters’ view,rnpossessed all the vices but none of thernvirtues of a religious fanatic. Unrestrainedrnby any theology, he saw himselfrnas the instrument of God’s will and usedrnbiblical rhetoric to sanctify actions thatrnfell beyond the bounds of human justicernand prudence. Lacking in normal humanrnsympathy, he refused to visit his father’srndeathbed. Even the story of hisrnlove affair with the doomed Ann Rutledgern(which Masters himself did muchrnto promote in Spoon River Anthology) isrnjudged improbable. When he agreed tornwed Mary Todd, he initially stood her uprnat the altar. Mary, however, was not to berndenied. Like Hillarv- Rodham more thanrna century later, she was an ambitious girlrnfrom Illinois who saw the makings of arnfuture President in what others took to bernnothing more than a pushy bumpkin.rnMasters is such a thoroughgoing iconoclastrn(or “Lincolnoclast,” as Time calledrnhim) that one is left wondering how suchrna banal mediocrity as Lincoln couldrnhave become the most influential politicalrnfigure of the past hvo centuries. Onernwould think that it requires superior abilitiesrnto accomplish great evil; however,rnthe Lincoln Masters gives us seems nornmore prepossessing than the eminentlyrnforgettable figures who preceded and followedrnhim in the Wliite House. Thus,rnin explaining Lincoln the man, Mastersrnleaves the myth that the man spawnedrnmore inexplicable than ever.rnIf Father Abraham remains our nationalrngod, then the man who shot him isrnsurely the American Antichrist. Becauserndemons are usually more interestingrnthan deities, one approaches DavidrnRobertson’s novel Booth with high expectations.rnFollowing the example ofrnGore Vidal in Burr, Robertson rewritesrnan important chapter in American historyrnfrom the ostensible villain’s perspective.rnBut Robertson does not portrayrnJohn Wilkes Booth as a martyr or even tr’rnto elicit our sympathy for this deeplyrntroubled man. Indeed, he shows us thatrnLincoln was not the only casualty ofrnBooth’s dementia. Like the Prince ofrnDarkness himself. Booth had the powerrnto assume a pleasing shape, and he usedrnthat power to con some of life’s losers intorndoing his bidding. Today, we are aptrnto think of political assassins as anonymousrnwretches desperate to achieve no-rn28/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn