Abe Lincoln

I read with great interest Thomas V. DiBacco's article ``Ambitious Abe'' [Feb. 12], although I think DiBacco was a bit hard on our 16th President as regards his erudition. While it is true that Lincoln preferred newspapers to most books, which he ``rarely read . . . in their entirety,'' he was extremely well versed in the Bible and the works of Shakespeare. Also, though we can probably believe that as a lawyer Lincoln ``wrote few papers -- less perhaps than any man at the bar,'' he was known to dabble in poetry from time to time. How else can one explain the remarkable power and beauty of Lincoln's prose in defense of democracy? James Richter Cleveland Heights, Ohio

As I understand the matter, most Lincoln scholars now discredit the Billy Herndon version of the rupture of Lincoln's engagement to Mary Todd. So it is distressing to read a synopsis of it in the DiBacco piece.

For a very thorough assessment of known sources, readers are directed to Ruth Painter Randall's ``Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage.'' According to this study, there is no foundation to the DiBacco assertion that ``Lincoln in tasteless fashion stood [Mary] up on the intended day of their marriage in 1841.''

Randall gives a charming account of Mary Todd waiting through many months of family opposition until she and Lincoln were able to hatch a sudden plot to get themselves married. Frederic Hunter Santa Barbara, Calif. In defense of bean curd

The headline ``Bland bean curd makes a tasty dish'' [Feb. 19] cries out for response.

The popular misconception that bean curd is ``bland'' is refuted by bean curd's wonderful, subtle, tangy flavor, which delights in the right sauce. What is truly astonishing about bean curd is not simply the fact that it tastes great, but also that such excellent food should be so good for us. Frederic Grant Newton Highlands, Mass. . . . and peanut butter

I enjoyed the article ``For the Love of Peanut Butter'' [Feb. 19], by Jeanne Lesem. I know I love peanut butter; but I would like to know more about its nutritional qualities. How about a follow-up article? Howard E. Sollenberger McLean, Va.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address to ``readers write.''

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