Lincoln’s Copy of Pope’s Poetical Works

When the English traveler George Borrett met the president in 1864, he recorded that Lincoln was “a great admirer of Pope, especially of his ‘Essay on Man;’ going so far as to say that he thought it contained all the religious instruction which it was necessary for a man to know.” Lincoln began reading Pope’s work in his teens and returned to An Essay on Man, Pope’s great philosophical poem, on numerous occasions in his adult life. He quoted a line from it in his speech before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee on 30 September 1859. This copy of Pope’s poems was a gift from Ninian Edwards, Mary Todd Lincoln’s brother-in-law. Lincoln subsequently gave it to his law partner, William Herndon, in 1861.