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This article is taken from PN Review 188, Volume 35 Number 6, July - August 2009.

Tragic Dreams and Spectral Doubles: The Metaphysical Lincoln Marcia Brennan

One of the most haunting images of the Lincoln presidency concerns an incident of doubled vision that occurred in the autumn of 1860, shortly after Lincoln’s election to his first presidential term, but prior to his assuming office. Confiding the story to a handful of close friends - including his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln; the journalist, Noah Brooks; his private secretary, John Hay; and his former law partner and personal bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon - Lincoln recounted how he looked into a mirror and saw two images of his own face gazing back at him.

The earliest account of this tale of spectral doubling can be found in Brooks’s article, ‘Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln’, which was published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (July 1865). Following the excitement accompanying news of the election, Lincoln told Brooks that, as he retired to his chamber:

Opposite where I lay was a bureau, with a swinging-glass upon it - (and here he got up and placed furniture to illustrate the position) - and, looking in that glass, I saw myself reflected, nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed, had two separate and distinct images, the tip of the nose of one being about three inches from the tip of the other. I was a little bothered, perhaps startled, and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished. On lying down again I saw it a second time - plainer, if possible, than ...

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