While he was alive, no one ever commended Abraham Lincoln for his looks. He was tall and shambling, awkward and flat-footed: the rough rail-splitter from the West. ‘It would be hard work to find a great man in his face or figure,’ wrote the patrician Charles Wainwright, who saw him in Washington in 1862 and was actually on his side. ‘He is infinitely uglier than any of his pictures … he grinned like a great baboon. I was ashamed to think that such a gawk was president of the United States.’ The best Lincoln could manage to say about himself was that he was homely.
All that changed with the shock of his assassination on Good Friday, the most symbolic day of the year for such an act, of 1865, less than a week after the surrender of the Confederacy and the end of the Civil War. Ten days earlier he had walked unmolested through