Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Black History Month Books: Two views of life with the Lincolns


Chiaverini, Jennifer, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker (Dutton, stated 1st ed., 1st printing, January 2013). ISBN 978-0-525-95361-6.  Chiaverini, author of the famed Elm Creek Quilt Series, makes her historical fiction debut with this tale of the slave turned “modiste”, Elizabeth Keckley, who became Mary Todd Lincoln’s White House confidante. An interesting counterpart to Keckley’s memoir, listed here under African-American works. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, fine condition. HBB price: $18.99: $30 for the set.

Keckley, Elizabeth, Behind the Scenes, Or, Thirty Years A Slave, And Four Years In The White House (Oxford University Press, 1st ed., 12th printing, 1988). This work, part of the Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers series, recovers a memoir by Keckley (1818-1907), a former slave who, as a seamstress in Washington, made dresses for Mrs. Jefferson Davis and Mrs. Robert E. Lee before meeting Mary Lincoln and becoming her confidante and dresser for the next six years. After Mrs. Lincoln made headlines selling used clothing from her White House days to raise money, Keckley published this book in 1868 to try and set the incident in perspective. While her portrait of the martyred president is hagiographic, her profile of Mrs. Lincoln caused its own scandal for its detached, sometimes pointed view of the neurotic former First Lady. Many objected to a White House personal servant spilling the beans- and a black one, at that!- and the book did not sell well. Lincoln severed ties with Keckley over the book. This copy is in good condition, 4.75” x 6.25”, paperback, with some warp to the front cover. A fascinating account of a unique time. HBBprice: $20; $30 for the set.


For more information about any listed book, or more photos, please contact Lindsay at Henry Bemis Books is also happy to entertain reasonable offers on items in inventory. Shipping is always free; local buyers are welcome to drop by and pick up their purchases at our location off Peachtree Road in Northwest Charlotte if they like. #RareBooks #HenryBemisBooks #ElizabethKeckley #MaryToddLincoln #JenniferChiaverini #BehindtheScenes #MrsLincolnsDressmaker

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