Lincoln Dreamt He Died

When they went to bed at night, what kinds of dreams did 18th- and 19th-century Americans have?  What images, what fractured narratives, did they write down? Until now, no one imagined it possible to reconstruct the American Dream literally.

Lincoln Dreamt He Died: The Midnight Visions of Remarkable Americans from Colonial Times to Freud  (2013) chronicles the often bizarre sleep narratives of Americans past, offering an uncommonly rich meditation on bygone lives.

Historian Andrew Burstein, the author of such books as Jefferson's Secrets and The Passions of Andrew Jackson, peels back the curtain to take us inside the minds of scores of earlier dreamers, including well-known figures such as John and Abigail Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain. . . and the notably superstitious Abraham Lincoln.

Here we glimpse the fragile inner world of dreamers who once inhaled the same air we do, but live now only on the printed page.

Andrew Burstein is the Charles P. Manship Professor of History at Louisiana State University, and the author of books on early American politics and culture.