Lincoln Dreamt He Died: The Midnight Visions of Remarkable Americans from Colonial Times to Freud
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Before Sigmund Freud made dreams the cornerstone of understanding an individual's inner life, Americans shared their dreams unabashedly with one another through letters, diaries, and casual conversation. In this innovative book, highly regarded historian Andrew Burstein goes back for the first time to discover what we can learn about the lives and emotions of Americans, from colonial times to the beginning of the modern age. Through a thorough study of dreams recorded by iconic figures such as John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, as well as everyday men and women, we glimpse the emotions of earlier generations and understand how those feelings shaped their lives and careers, thus gaining a fuller, multi-dimensional sense of our own past. No one has ever looked at the building blocks of the American identity in this way, and Burstein reveals important clues and landmarks that show the origins of the ideas and values that remain central to who we are today.
Pines, outside Richmond. The image of him in life, and the pain of his untimely passing, returned to her mind often. One winter’s night, early in 1863, after a week without caring to compose her thoughts, Lucy was lured to the blank page of her diary (“this dear, stupid old book,” she bemoaned) in order to debate a vision. “I dreamed of peaches last night,” she wrote, “and upon waking lay in bed thinking of Dolly’s mournful interpretation: ‘to dream of fruit out of season is trouble without
returned with the dawn, all his nostalgic feeling dissolving into the ground where he lay—as “the voice in my dreaming ear melted away.” The old pastoral dream was a potent anthem for the romantic youth who put themselves in harm’s way in order to defend their ideals. Ohioan Charlie Tenney composed a love letter to his “dearest Addie” on stationery that reprinted Campbell’s poem. Above its title, the doomed private scrawled: “Is not this beautiful.”39 Soldiers’ dreams ranged from hot
hidden neuroses that could be therapeutically treated. For his part, Freud was greatly influenced by literary metaphors in arriving at the unconscious language through which interpretation became possible for him. By appreciating the impulse connecting the health of the body to the health of the mind, and dreams to destiny, he offered hope of clarity. In other words, reason to dream. It is a universal truth that we are all, sooner or later, meant to be forgotten. And so, dreams have always
1840s, dream narratives had become indiscriminate texts without a self-policing component, truer sources of emotional history. The balance between self-repression and self-exposure had tilted in the direction of the latter. More individuals were choosing to interpret themselves, and more diarists and letter writers opened their hearts when they sat down, often in a candlelit mood, to write. Ichabod Cook, the dream collector of the 1840s, was a kind of herald, sensitive to detail and eager to
their patients that their dreams were caused by indigestion, and for nearly a century, most people were loath to question this finding, at least publicly. The medical community’s dismissal of dreams was a textbook approach, a fallback position—a stagnant solution to a dynamic problem. As compilations of ancient wisdom were being published less, past dream authority declined and individual dreamers were empowered. It is not possible to pinpoint how or when this occurred, but beginning, at