This year for my annual tradition of reading a book about Abraham Lincoln for Lincoln Day, I read The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics (2006) by James Oakes. This is an excellent dual biography tracing their parrallel lives in the fight against slavery. Oakes does a great job at describing the huge chasm between antislavery politics (Lincoln’s way) and abolitionism (Douglass), the former accepting slavery as Constitutionally protected but endeavoring to stop it’s spread (and thus hasten it’s demise) while the latter sought to go beyond politics and completely eliminate slavery and racism. Oakes also shows how Lincoln and Douglass brought the two together as Lincoln would become an emancipator while Douglass increasingly became involved in Republican politics.
Interestingly, the two men only met three times, each meeting detailed in the book. These meetings and correspondence engendered a friendship that irrevocably changed each of the men. The insight given to these meetings and thoughts Lincoln and Douglass had for another are tilted towards Douglass since he outlived Lincoln and had the opportunity to write and reflect on their relationship. I enjoyed reading this book and found it a valuable for its insights into these two great American leaders of the 19th-century.
I found the bloom falling off the blossom of the Embassie Hostel and the city of Liverpool on 18 February 1998. In the morning I couldn’t find a sink available to brush my teeth at, found the toaster eternally-in-use, and Argyle rambling on in an annoying fashion. So I just took off.
I visited the Merseyside Maritime Museum, one of the many great attractions on Liverpool’s Albert Dock. I enjoyed the exhibits of maritime history, customs agents, and art of the sea. Unfortunately, it was Half-Term (the British equivalent of Winter Break) and the museum was crowded with a gazillion children. This wasn’t bad in itself but between the kids and their children there was a lot of screaming, pushing, and downright obnoxious behavior. Out on the Dock itself I enjoyed a couple of buskers playing Beatles tunes on banjos.
I found more frustration in the crowded Lime Street Station where my train to Oxford departed an hour late. I went to Oxford on invitation from Billy, the American student I met in Kilkenny. I met Billy outside the porter’s gate of Magdalen College and he walked me through the quads and cloisters dating back to the 13th-century, then through a deer park, along a riverside path and finally to a door in a wall. Billy unlocked the door and on the other side it we were still outdoors. Billy was actually living in a modern residence hall set away from the main college.
Billy showed me a path to get in and out of the college without keys and went to work on a paper. I snuck out an found an Irish pub called The Elm Tree. I didn’t know it at the time but this would be the last pub I’d visit on my holiday even though I would travel for 12 more days. It was a good one with an Irish trad session. The musicians often stopped playing to allow an individual to sing unaccompanied. I was impressed that everyone in the pub would stop talking and give their attention to the singer during these solos. I was also impressed by the group of men who took a double whiskey, poured it in a bowl of peanuts, set fire to it, and then ate the flaming peanuts. They offered me one but I was too pyrophobic to reach in and get one myself, so I settled for an extinguished one offered by one of the men.
After that I went out dancing all on my own at The Zodiac where an enthusiastic crowd enjoyed a 70’s/80’s night. I’d actually meant to go to the reggae club downstairs, but hey I was having a good time and feeling good about myself. I skipped back to Magdalen and conked out on Billy’s air matress. Not bad for my first night in town.
Rockin’ to the Beatles on Banjo at Albert Dock.