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13 April: The CFL Authorship Group, Aston University

The CFL Authorship Group: Jack Grieve, Emily Carmody, Isobelle Clarke, Mária Csemezová, Hannah Gideon, Cristina Greco, Annina Heini, Andrea Nini, Maria Tagtalidou, and Emily Waibel

Attributing the Bixby Letter: A case of historical disputed authorship 

In November 1864, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, sent a letter of consolation to Lydia Bixby, the mother of five sons who were believed to have died in the Civil War. Although Mrs Bixby was in fact a confederate sympathizer, who tore up the letter upon receipt, a copy was published the next day in the Boston Evening Transcript. The Bixby Letter went on to become one of America’s most renowned pieces of correspondence. Despite its fame, the authorship of the letter has long been in dispute, with some historians claiming, based primarily on external evidence, that Lincoln’s young personal assistant, John Hay, the future Secretary of State under McKinley and Roosevelt, was its likely author. In this talk, the CFL Authorship Group presents the preliminary results of our linguistic analyses of the Bixby Letter, with an aim of helping to finally resolve this famous case of disputed authorship.