What friends and observers simply described as "melancholy," we know now are the classic symptoms of depression, from which Lincoln suffered most of his life, even before the Civil War and the deaths of two of his sons. Lincoln "often wept in public and recited maudlin poetry," Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of the 2006 book "Lincoln's Melancholy," wrote in The Atlantic in 2005. "He told jokes and stories at odd times -- he needed the laughs, he said, for his survival. As a young man he talked more than once of suicide, and as he grew older he said he saw the world as hard and grim, full of misery, made that way by fate and the forces of God." There are different degrees of depression, however, and clearly Lincoln was able to carry out his duties during the nation's darkest period.
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