The President, of course, was the center of the group, – kind, genial, thoughtful, tender – hearted, magnanimous Abraham Lincoln! It was difficult to know him without knowing him intimately, for he was as guileless and single-hearted as a child; and no man ever knew him intimately who did not recognize and admire his great abilities, both natural and acquired, his large-heartedness and sincerity of purpose. With a mind well stored with the grandest and most beautiful in English literature, and a memory so wonderful that he could repeat, almost word for word, whatever he had read, he would sit for hours during the trip repeating the finest passages of Shakspere’s best plays, page after page of Browning and whole cantos of Byron. He was as familiar with belles lettres as many men who make much more pretension to “culture.” His inexhaustible stock of anecdotes gave to superficial minds the impression that he was not a thoughtful and reflecting man, whereas the fact was directly the reverse. These anecdotes formed no more a part of Mr. Lincoln’s mind than a smile forms a part of the face. They came unbidden and like a forced smile were often employed to conceal a depth of anxiety in his own heart and to dissipate the care that weighed upon the minds of his associates.
Quoted in Egbert L. Viele, “A Trip with Lincoln, Chase, and Stanton,” Scribners Monthly 16 (October 1878), p. 813