Another goody plucked at random from the estimable Project Gutenberg, this snapshot of Abraham Lincoln a decade before his presidency reminds me of other great men who were notorious for ‘being elsewhere’ at dinner: Thomas Acquinas, Archbishop Ramsey and Field Marshall Wavell.
“The habit of mental absorption, or ‘absent-mindedness’ as it is called, was common with him always, but particularly during the formative periods of his life. The New Salem people, it will be remembered, thought him crazy because he passed his best friends in the street without seeing them. At the table, in his own family, he often sat down without knowing or realizing where he was, and ate his food mechanically. When he ‘came to himself’ it was a trick with him to break the silence by the quotation of some verse of poetry from a favorite author. It relieved the awkwardness of the situation, served as a ‘blind’ to the thoughts which had possessed him, and started conversation in a channel that led as far as possible from the subject that he had set aside.”
Francis Fisher Browne The every-day life of Abraham Lincoln Chicago, 1913 p112