"At long last the definitive work on Mrs. Abraham Lincoln's oft discussed mental state has been published."
-- Steven Lee Carson, Lincoln Herald 110, no. 3 (Fall 2008): 228-229
"Jason Emerson's The Madness of Mary Lincoln will become a
classic of American history. It has everything -- a compelling story; a fascinating
cast of characters; the thrilling discovery of long-lost documents; shrewd
analysis of the people, the period, and the sources; and it's a pleasure to
read. Here is a model of the historian's art."
-- Thomas J. Craughwell, American Spectator, December 2007/January 2008
"As a reader without a special curiosity
for these arguments or for this era of U.S. history, I found this book precise,
detailed, well annotated, and quite convincing. As a physician and a
psychiatrist, I was more interested in the idea of diagnostic certainty
regarding these historical personages and the state of medical-legal processes
of the day. With some appropriate caveats, Emerson offers credible behavioral
evidence, arrived at with the assistance of modern professional medical
opinions, that Mary Lincoln likely had a chronic mental illness."
-- Dr. Mark H. Fleisher, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Nebraska College of Medicine, Omaha, The Journal of the American Medical Association 299, no. 22 (June 11, 2008): 2688-2689.
"All this makes for a very good story, and Emerson's account
is absorbing, concisely told, and grounded in generous use of sources. . . .
The most admirable characteristic of Emerson's book is that he argues close to
the primary sources and includes all of the newly discovered material in
appendices. . . . Jason Emerson has provided a sympathetic, balanced account of
both Mary Lincoln and her son and has made accessible his cache of new
-- Joan D. Hedrick, Charles A. Dana Professor of History at
Trinity College (Hartford) and author of the Pulitzer-prize winning Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life, "The
Insanity File," Women's Review of Books, May/June 2008. Full review
"Not only does
Emerson clarify many facets of the trial and the institutionalization of Mary,
but he also rescues Robert from historical victimization and obscurity in the
Lincoln literature. . . . Emerson's intrepid study of this critical period in
Mary's life will be a lasting contribution to the scholarship on the Lincoln
family. It will surely stimulate new studies on her life and the Lincoln
family, and as scholars, we must be thankful for the discovery of these
--Matthew C. Sherman, Department of
History, Saint Louis University, "A Dutiful Son and a Disturbed Mother: New
Perspectives on Robert and Mary Todd Lincoln," H-CivWar Net, April, 2008. Full review
"Jason Emerson's The Madness of Mary Lincoln is a
work of meticulous historical research that reads like a novel. . . The
Madness of Mary Lincoln is an important and eminently readable addition to
the body of Lincoln scholarship. Jason Emerson is to be praised for his
outstanding work in telling a story with tools unavailable to any prior writer.
Given such an opportunity Jason Emerson stepped to the plate and hit a literary
home run with this insightful book."
-- Greg Romaneck, "Literary Notices," The Citizens' Companion:
The Voice of Civilian Reenacting, May 2008.
"Emerson's outstanding detective work has uncovered documents that are indispensable to an understanding of Mary and Robert Todd Lincoln. . . . In telling this story with compassion and understanding, Emerson has made an important contribution to a subject too often presented in rigid and absolute moral categories of good and evil."
-- Gerald N. Grob, The Journal of American History, vol. 94, no. 4, March 2008
"A fine new book by Virginia historian Jason Emerson."
-- John M. and Priscilla S. Taylor, The Washington Times, October 28, 2007. Full review
"Jason Emerson has
produced a well-founded, cleverly conceived, deeply researched and
smoothly written narrative. . . . It can be read as a mystery story, as
a morality tale, as an exploration in psycho-history or as a tragic
tale of mother set against son."
-- Thomas P. Lowry, Fredericksburg [Va.] Free Lance-Star, September 8, 2007. Full review
book that is not only one of the most original -- and important --
studies of American history to be published this year, but a book that
is as compelling to read as any great psychological mystery or
thriller. The book -- written in an easy, conversational style that
belies its meticulous research -- is almost impossible to put down."
-- Ron Miller, Front Porch Fredericksburg Magazine, September 2007. Full review
"With clarity and
eloquence, Jason Emerson has re-examined an episode of First Lady history that
has remained consistently fascinating and misunderstood for over a century. The
issues of Mary Lincoln’s mental health and her trial for insanity are presented
for the first time in a context of sound medical information and a legal
perspective—elements sorely lacking in all previous scholarship. There is no
padding here; every word counts and every word adds up to a riveting and
until-now neglected chronicle begging to be told. The Madness of Mary
Lincoln is precise, documented and detailed."
— Carl Sferrazza
Anthony, author of First Ladies, America's First Families,
and biographer of four individual First Ladies
"A well-conceived,well-researched, well-crafted, historical adventure story, backed
by clearly exhaustive research and a deep feeling for both the personalities,
and the medical and legal mores of the day. Jason Emerson is a very, very good
writer and is clearly a superior historical detective. He has combed original
sources and, even more intriguingly, chased down descendants of the original
characters in the Mary Lincoln insanity story, with clearly important results. This
is a most original study, taking new evidence to new heights of sophisticated
analysis. It will deservedly supplant previous analyses of the insanity issue."
— Harold Holzer, co-chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission,
author of Lincoln at Cooper Union
"Jason Emerson has written a sparkling, new and definitive
work on Mary Todd Lincoln's mental health in general and her insanity problems
in particular. He has discovered numerous unknown letters by Mary Lincoln and
others. These he has skillfully woven into the fabric of this book, which is
written with verve and complete understanding of the subject. It is a literary
masterpiece and can even be read as a short life of Mrs. Lincoln, too. It is a
very major contribution to Lincolniana, not to be missed."
— Wayne C. Temple, Chief
Deputy Director of the Illinois State Archives,author of Abraham Lincoln: From Skeptic
"The controversy surrounding Mary Lincoln,
including her mental state, still intrigues and fascinates. She has
variously been described at neurotic, spoiled, willful, a spendthrift,
and manic depressive. Jason Emerson's coda, using new primary sources,
should put to rest lingering doubts about this First Lady's insanity
and the trial that led to her commitment. Beautifully written, one
could only hope that all briefs be as cogent and well-argued as this."
— Frank J. Williams, Chief Justice, Rhode Island Supreme Court, Chair, The Lincoln Forum
"A judicious, convincing analysis of Robert Todd
Lincoln's conduct, showing that he acted conscientiously and honorably to
protect his demented mother from herself, that he was motivated by a strong
sense of duty and responsibility, and that Mary Todd Lincoln's exceedingly
irrational behavior made life miserable for him just as it had done for his
father. Emerson's new evidence demonstrates that Mary Todd Lincoln deserves to
be pitied more than censured, but also that she behaved very badly
— Michael Burlingame, Sadowski Professor of History
Emeritus, Connecticut College, author of The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln