January 11, 2005
RAIL-SPLITTER, NOT TAIL:
True Enough (Andrew Sullivan, 01.11.05, New Republic)
How gay was Abraham Lincoln? By asking the question that way, it's perhaps possible to avoid the historically futile, binary question of "gay" versus "straight." Futile, because we are talking about a man who lived well over a century ago, at a time when the very concepts of gay and straight did not exist. And C.A. Tripp, author of The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln was, despite the crude assertions of some reviewers, a Kinseyite who believed in a continuum between gay and straight. If completely heterosexual is a Kinsey zero and completely homosexual is a Kinsey six, Tripp puts Lincoln at five. Reading his engrossing, if uneven, book, I'd say you could make a case that Lincoln was, in fact, a four. It's going to be a subjective judgment, and I'm no Lincoln scholar. In any particular piece of evidence that Tripp discovers, I'd say it's easy to dismiss his theory. But when you review all the many pieces of the Lincoln emotional-sexual puzzle, the homosexual dimension gets harder and harder to ignore. As conservative writer Richard Brookhiser has noted, all we can say with complete confidence is that "on the evidence before us, Lincoln loved men, at least some of whom loved him back." That's a pretty good definition of the core truth of homosexuality.
It's quite early in 2005, but that's at least a contender for the silliest thing you'll read all year. Every normal, well-adjusted person has loved and been loved by members of the same sex, members of his family, maybe even by pets. Abnormality arises when one feels compelled to translate that moral love into a degraded and degrading physical love-making.
Honest, Abe?: A dishonest book claims Lincoln as the first log cabin Republican.: a review of The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln by C.A. Tripp (Philip Nobile, 01/17/2005, Weekly Standard)
C.A. Tripp, who died in 2003, was a well-known sex researcher, a protégé of Alfred Kinsey and the author of a 1975 volume, The Homosexual Matrix. After a decade of pondering Lincoln's relations with men, he pronounces in his posthumously published new book on Lincoln's masturbation habits, seduction
style, sex positions, and orgasms. Confidently naming five male lovers of the president, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln declares the conclusion absolute and obvious that this married father of four was "predominately homosexual."
The argument is "irrefutable," Gore Vidal blurbs on the book's cover. And, in fact, Tripp's work is as good as the case gets for Lincoln's walk on the Wilde side.
Unfortunately, that is merely a way of saying the Gay Lincoln Theory fails any historical test. "Useful history" is always a dubious kind of scholarship. But in its attempt to be useful for gays today, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln reaches far beyond the merely dubious. The book is a hoax and a fraud: a historical hoax, because the inaccurate parts are all shaded toward a predetermined conclusion, and a literary fraud, because significant portions of the accurate parts are plagiarized--from me, as it happens.
Tripp and I intended to be coauthors of the book, laboring together on the project from 1995 to 2000--when our partnership, already fissured by dueling manuscripts, came to a bitter end. We quarreled constantly over evidence: I said the Gay Lincoln Theory was intriguing but impossible to prove; he said it was stone-cold fact.
More advocate than historian, Tripp massaged favorable indicators (Lincoln's early puberty), buried negative ones (Lincoln's flirtations with women), and papered over holes in his story with inventions (Lincoln's law partner and biographer William Herndon never noticed the homosexuality because he was an extreme heterosexual and thus afflicted with "heterosexual bias").
I quit the project first in 1999, when Tripp refused to include citations to Charles Shively, a former University of Massachusetts historian and Tripp's main guide to the gay Lincoln. "Darwin didn't do it," he said to me, referring to Darwin's initial failure to cite precursors in The Origin of Species. Although Tripp profusely copied ideas and references from Shively's flamboyantly rendered Lincoln chapter in Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers, he brushed off proper mention because he thought Shively's reputation for being "too gay-lib" would dissuade readers.
After Tripp relented, I rejoined the book on one condition: We would write separate chapters, and a Lincoln expert would decide which one went in the book. In January 2000, when the time came to send out our competing versions of chapter one--about Lincoln's prized bodyguard--Tripp refused to let Dr. Tom Schwartz, secretary of the Abraham Lincoln Association and his choice for referee, do the expected peer review. Realizing that Tripp would never give up his homosexual bias or observe the customary standards of historiography, I resisted his offer to sign a new agreement. Sadly, we never spoke again.
Posted by Orrin Judd at January 11, 2005 12:43 PM