David Herbert Donald: It’s hard to explain how any great writer comes to have the gift that he does, and we’ll explain, say, Shakespeare or Racine, by saying he did this, that, or the other. So you can’t pinpoint Lincoln as “This was influential,” but there were things that were influential. First of all, as a boy, he had very few books, and they were, as it turned out, the great books. He had the Bible; he had Pilgrim’s Progress; he may have had Robinson Crusoe. Just a few books like that he memorized by heart because he had no others. He loved to read. So that the patterns that he learned growing up were those of simplicity and directness, as well as eloquence, but there were other forces, too. When he became a lawyer, his first law partner didn’t teach him much, but his second one was Stephen Trigg Logan. Logan, a little wizened, dried-up man who had a hot temper, was nevertheless a master lawyer, and he would go over briefs that he and his partners drew up. And he would cross out page after page of nonsense, of legal formalities, and so on, to say, “This is what we want to say, just these 12 lines, not these 14 pages,” and Lincoln watched, and he learned. There’s a great difference between the briefs Lincoln drew up before he met Logan and the ones after he practiced with Logan. He gained in succinctness, in clarity, in avoidance of technicalities, so that many of his briefs are really, literally, short essays, works of art.