Friday, January 22, 2016

Behind the Scenes

Subtitled: "Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House."
Nonfiction by Elizabeth Keckley.

Behind the Scenes: or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House

This is a memoir by the REAL "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker," written in 1868. Having recently read, not that book, but another novelization of Mary Todd Lincoln (Mary by Janis Cooke Newman), I was interested to see this true version.
Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker: A Novel
It's not exactly a story; it's more a collection of Elizabeth Keckley's musings. Still, she is a good writer, particularly for someone born a slave and never allowed any schooling, and seems to tell the truth as she sees it. She certainly led a fascinating life, and I don't think she told the half of it here.

Mary Todd Lincoln herself, I know, was sorely offended by the publication of this memoir by a person whom she had considered a friend. But I notice that Mrs. Keckley had actually intended the book as a defense of Mary, who was being vilified in the court of public opinion.

But poor Mary was a difficult person to defend, it seems, as many of us are. History, and life in general,  is full of characters we only hear a one-sided account of, and we should remember that each person has so many more sides than the one most popularly presented.

This is an excellent resource, but if you are reading for pleasure I recommend the fictionalized version.

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