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- breaking him on the wheel - pounding him to a jelly."

While he was talking Colonel Grant said:

"Father is letting you see that the Grant family are a pack of fools, Mr.
Clemens."

The General objected to this statement. He said that the facts could be
produced which would show that when Ward laid siege to a man he was
pretty certain to turn out to be a fool; as much of a fool as any of the
Grant family. He said that nobody could call the president of the Erie
Railroad a fool, yet Ward had beguiled him of eight hundred thousand
dollars, robbed him of every cent of it.

He cited another man that no one could call a fool who had invested in
Ward to the extent of half a million. He went on to recall many such
cases. He told of one man who had come to the office on the eve of
departure for Europe and handed Ward a check for fifty thousand dollars,
saying:

"I have no use for it at present. See what you can do with it for me."
By and by this investor, returning from Europe, dropped in and said:

"Well, did anything happen?"

Ward indifferently turned to his private ledger, consulted it, then drew
a check for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and handed it over,
with the casual remark:

"Well, yes, something happened; not much yet - a little too soon."

The man stared at the check, then thrust it back into Ward's hand.
"That's all right. It's plenty good enough for me. Set that hen again,"
and left the place.

Of course Ward made no investments. His was the first playing on a
colossal scale of the now worn-out "get rich quick" confidence game. Such
dividends as were made came out of the principal. Ward was the Napoleon
of that game, whether he invented it or not. Clemens agreed that, as far
as himself or any of his relatives were concerned, they would undoubtedly
have trusted Ward.

Colonel Grant followed him to the door when he left, and told him that
the physicians feared his father might not live more than a few weeks
longer, but that meantime he had been writing steadily, and that the
first volume was complete and fully half the second. Three days later
the formal contract was closed, and Webster & Co. promptly advanced.
General Grant ten thousand dollars for imminent demands, a welcome
arrangement, for Grant's debts and expenses were many, and his available
resources restricted to the Century payments for his articles.

Immediately the office of Webster & Co. was warm with affairs. Reporters
were running hot-foot for news of the great contract by which Mark Twain
was to publish the life of General Grant. No publishing enterprise of
such vast moment had ever been undertaken, and no publishing event,
before or since, ever received the amount of newspaper comment. The
names of General Grant and Mark Twain associated would command columns,
whatever the event, and that Mark Twain was to become the publisher of
Grant's own story of his battles was of unprecedented importance.

The partners were sufficiently occupied. Estimates and prices for vast
quantities of paper were considered, all available presses were
contracted for, binderies were pledged exclusively for the Grant book.
Clemens was boiling over with plans and suggestions for distribution.
Webster was half wild with the tumult of the great campaign. Applications
for agencies poured in.

In those days there were general subscription agencies which divided the
country into districts, and the heads of these agencies Webster summoned
to New York and laid down the law to them concerning the new book. It
was not a time for small dealings, and Webster rose to the occasion. By
the time these men returned to their homes they had practically pledged
themselves to a quarter of a million sets of the Grant Memoirs, and this
estimate they believed to be conservative.

Webster now moved into larger and more pretentious quarters. He took a
store-room at 42 East 14th Street, Union Square, and surrounded himself
with a capable force of assistants. He had become, all at once, the most
conspicuous publisher in the world.




CLV

DAYS WITH A DYING HERO

The contract for the publication of the Grant Life was officially closed
February 27, 1885. Five days later, on the last day and at the last hour
of President Arthur's administration, and of the Congress then sitting, a
bill was passed placing Grant as full General, with full pay, on the
retired army list. The bill providing for this somewhat tardy
acknowledgment was rushed through at the last moment, and it is said that
the Congressional clock was set back so that this enactment might become
a law before the administration changed.

Clemens was with General Grant when the news of this action was read to
him. Grant had greatly desired such recognition, and it meant more to
him than to any one present, yet Clemens in his notes records:

Every face there betrayed strong excitement and emotion except one
- General Grant's. He read the telegram, but not a shade or
suggestion of a change exhibited itself in his iron countenance.
The volume of his emotion was greater than all the other emotions
there present combined, but he was able to suppress all expression
of it and make no sign.

Grant's calmness, endurance, and consideration during these final days
astonished even those most familiar with his noble character. One night
Gerhardt came into the library at Hartford with the announcement that he
wished to show his patron a small bust he had been making in clay of
General Grant. Clemens did not show much interest in the prospect, but
when the work was uncovered he became enthusiastic. He declared it was
the first likeness he had ever seen of General Grant that approached
reality. He agreed that the Grant family ought to see it, and that he
would take Gerhardt with him next day in order that he might be within
reach in case they had any suggestions. They went to New York next
morning, and called at the Grant home during the afternoon.

From the note-book:

Friday, March 20, 1885. Gerhardt and I arrived at General Grant's
about 2.30 P.m. and I asked if the family would look at a small
clay bust of the General which Gerhardt had made from a photograph.
Colonel Fred and Jesse were absent to receive their sister, Mrs.
Sartoris, who would arrive from Europe about 4.30; but the three
Mrs. Grants examined the work and expressed strong approval of it,
and also great gratification that Mr. Gerhardt had undertaken it.
Mrs. Jesse Grant had lately dreamed that she was inquiring where the
maker of my bust could be found (she had seen a picture of it in
Huck Finn, which was published four weeks ago), for she wanted the
same artist to make one of General Grant. The ladies examined the
bust critically and pointed out defects, while Gerhardt made the
necessary corrections. Presently Mrs. General Grant suggested that
Gerhardt step in and look at the General. I had been in there
talking with the General, but had never thought of asking him to let
a stranger come in. So Gerhardt went in with the ladies and me, and
the inspection and cross-fire began: "There, I was sure his nose was
so and so," and, "I was sure his forehead was so and so," and,
"Don't you think his head is so and so?" And so everybody walked
around and about the old hero, who lay half reclining in his easy
chair, but well muffled up, and submitting to all this as serenely
as if he were used to being served so. One marked feature of
General Grant's character is his exceeding gentleness, goodness,
sweetness. Every time I have been in his presence - lately and
formerly - my mind was drawn to that feature. I wonder it has not
been more spoken of.

Presently he said, let Gerhardt bring in his clay and work there, if
Gerhardt would not mind his reclining attitude. Of course we were
glad. A table for the bust was moved up in front of him; the ladies
left the room; I got a book; Gerhardt went to work; and for an hour
there was perfect stillness, and for the first time during the day
the General got a good, sound, peaceful nap. General Badeau came
in, and probably interrupted that nap. He spoke out as strongly as
the others concerning the great excellence of the likeness. He had
some sheets of MS. in his hand, and said, "I've been reading what
you wrote this morning, General, and it is of the utmost value; it
solves a riddle that has puzzled men's brains all these years and
makes the thing clear and rational." I asked what the puzzle was,
and he said, "It was why Grant did not immediately lay siege to
Vicksburg after capturing Port Hudson" (at least that is my
recollection, now toward midnight, of General Badeau's answer).

The little bust of Grant which Gerhardt worked on that day was widely
reproduced in terra-cotta, and is still regarded by many as the most
nearly correct likeness of Grant. The original is in possession of the
family.

General Grant worked industriously on his book. He had a superb memory
and worked rapidly. Webster & Co. offered to supply him with a
stenographer, and this proved a great relief. Sometimes he dictated ten
thousand words at a sitting. It was reported at the time, and it has
been stated since, that Grant did not write the Memoirs himself, but only
made notes, which were expanded by others. But this is not true. General
Grant wrote or dictated every word of the story himself, then had the
manuscript read aloud to him and made his own revisions. He wrote
against time, for he knew that his disease was fatal. Fortunately the
lease of life granted him was longer than he had hoped for, though the
last chapters were written when he could no longer speak, and when
weakness and suffering made the labor a heavy one indeed; but he never
flinched or faltered, never at any time suggested that the work be
finished by another hand.

Early in April General Grant's condition became very alarming, and on the
night of the 3d it was believed he could not live until morning. But he
was not yet ready to surrender. He rallied and renewed his task; feebly
at first, but more perseveringly as each day seemed to bring a little
added strength, or perhaps it was only resolution. Now and then he
appeared depressed as to the quality of his product. Once Colonel Fred
Grant suggested to Clemens that if he could encourage the General a
little it might be worth while. Clemens had felt always such a reverence
and awe for the great soldier that he had never dreamed of complimenting
his literature.

"I was as much surprised as Columbus's cook could have been to learn that
Columbus wanted his opinion as to how Columbus was doing his navigating."

He did not hesitate to give it, however, and with a clear conscience.
Grant wrote as he had fought; with a simple, straightforward dignity,
with a style that is not a style at all but the very absence of it, and
therefore the best of all literary methods. It happened that Clemens had
been comparing some of Grant's chapters with Caesar's Commentaries, and
was able to say, in all sincerity, that the same high merits
distinguished both books: clarity of statement, directness, simplicity,
manifest truthfulness, fairness and justice toward friend and foe alike,
soldierly candor and frankness, and soldierly avoidance of flowery
speech.

"I placed the two books side by side upon the same level," he said, "and
I still think that they belong there. I learned afterward that General
Grant was pleased with this verdict. It shows that he was just a man,
just a human being, just an author."

Within two months after the agents had gone to work canvassing for the
Grant Memoirs - which is to say by the 1st of May, 1885 - orders for sixty
thousand sets had been received, and on that day Mark Twain, in his
note-book, made a memorandum estimate of the number of books that the
country would require, figuring the grand total at three hundred thousand
sets of two volumes each. Then he says:

If these chickens should really hatch according to my account,
General Grant's royalties will' amount to $420,000, and will make
the largest single check ever paid an author in the world's history.
Up to the present time the largest one ever paid was to Macaulay on
his History of England, L20,000. If I pay the General in silver
coin at $12 per pound it will weigh seventeen tons.

Certainly this has a flavor in it of Colonel Sellers, but we shall see by
and by in how far this calculation was justified.

Grant found the society of Mark Twain cheering and comforting, and
Clemens held himself in readiness to go to the dying man at call. On the
26th of May he makes this memorandum:

It is curious and dreadful to sit up in this way and talk cheerful
nonsense to General Grant, and he under sentence of death with that
cancer. He says he has made the book too large by 200 pages - not a
bad fault. A short time ago we were afraid we would lack 400 of
being enough.

To-day talked with General Grant about his and my first great
Missouri campaign in 1861. He surprised an empty camp near Florida,
Missouri, on Salt River, which I had been occupying a day or two
before. How near he came to playing the devil with his future
publisher.

Of course Clemens would amuse the old commander with the tale of his
soldiering, how his company had been chased through the brush and mud by
the very announcement that Grant was coming. Some word of this got to
the Century editors, who immediately proposed that Mark Twain contribute
to the magazine War Series the story of his share in the Rebellion, and
particularly of his war relations with General Grant. So the "Private
History of a Campaign that Failed" was prepared as Mark Twain's
side-light on the history of the Rebellion; and if it was not important
history it was at least amusing, and the telling of that tale in Mark
Twain's inimitable fashion must have gone far toward making cheerful
those last sad days of his ancient enemy.

During one of their talks General Grant spoke of the question as to
whether he or Sherman had originated the idea of the march to the sea.
Grant said:

"Neither of us originated the idea of that march. The enemy did it."

Reports were circulated of estrangements between General Grant and the
Century Company, and between Mark Twain and the Century Company, as a
result of the book decision. Certain newspapers exploited and magnified
these rumors - some went so far as to accuse Mark Twain of duplicity, and
to charge him with seeking to obtain a vast fortune for himself at the
expense of General Grant and his family. All of which was the merest
nonsense. The Century Company, Webster & Co., General Grant, and Mark
Twain individually, were all working harmoniously, and nothing but the
most cordial relations and understanding prevailed. As to the charge of
unfair dealing on the part of Mark Twain, this was too absurd, even then,
to attract more than momentary attention. Webster & Co., somewhat later
in the year, gave to the press a clear statement of their publishing
arrangement, though more particularly denying the report that General
Grant had been unable to complete his work.




CLVI

THE CLOSE OF A GREAT CAREER

The Clemens household did not go to Elmira that year until the 27th of
June. Meantime General Grant had been taken to Mount McGregor, near the
Adirondacks. The day after Clemens reached Elmira there came a summons
saying that the General had asked to see him. He went immediately, and
remained several days. The resolute old commander was very feeble by
this time. It was three months since he had been believed to be dying,
yet he was still alive, still at work, though he could no longer speak.
He was adding, here and there, a finishing touch to his manuscript,
writing with effort on small slips of paper containing but a few words
each. His conversation was carried on in the same way. Mark Twain
brought back a little package of those precious slips, and some of them
are still preserved. The writing is perfectly legible, and shows no
indication of a trembling hand.

On one of these slips is written:

There is much more that I could do if I was a well man. I do not
write quite as clearly as I could if well. If I could read it over
myself many little matters of anecdote and incident would suggest
themselves to me.

On another:

Have you seen any portion of the second volume? It is up to the
end, or nearly so. As much more work as I have done to-day will
finish it. I have worked faster than if I had been well. I have
used my three boys and a stenographer.

And on still another:

If I could have two weeks of strength I could improve it very much.
As I am, however, it will have to go about as it is, with
verifications by the boys and by suggestions which will enable me to
make a point clear here and there.

Certainly no campaign was ever conducted with a braver heart. As long as
his fingers could hold a pencil he continued at his task. Once he asked
if any estimate could now be made of what portion would accrue to his
family from the publication. Clemens's prompt reply, that more than one
hundred thousand sets had been sold, and that already the amount of his
share, secured by safe bonds, exceeded one hundred and fifty thousand
dollars, seemed to give him deep comfort. Clemens told him that the
country was as yet not one-third canvassed, and that without doubt there
turns would be twice as much more by the end of the year. Grant made no
further inquiry, and probably never again mentioned the subject to any
one.

When Clemens left, General Grant was sitting, fully dressed, with a shawl
about his shoulders, pencil and paper beside him. It was a picture that
would never fade from the memory. In a later memorandum he says:

I then believed he would live several months. He was still adding
little perfecting details to his book, and preface, among other
things. He was entirely through a few days later. Since then the
lack of any strong interest to employ his mind has enabled the
tedious weariness to kill him. I think his book kept him alive
several months. He was a very great man and superlatively good.

This note was made July 23, 1885, at 10 A.M., on receipt of the news that
General Grant was dead. To Henry Ward Beecher, Clemens wrote:

One day he put his pencil aside and said there was nothing more to
do. If I had been there I could have foretold the shock that struck
the world three days later.

It can be truly said that all the nation mourned. General Grant had no
enemies, political or sectional, in those last days. The old soldier
battling with a deadly disease, yet bravely completing his task, was a
figure at once so pathetic and so noble that no breath of animosity
remained to utter a single word that was not kind.

Memorial services were held from one end of the country to the other.
Those who had followed him in peace or war, those who had fought beside
him or against him, alike paid tribute to his memory. Twichell, from the
mountains of Vermont, wrote:

I suppose I have said to Harmony forty times since I got up here,
"How I wish I could see Mark!" My notion is that between us we could
get ourselves expressed. I have never known any one who could help
me read my own thoughts in such a case as you can and have done many
a time, dear old fellow.

I'd give more to sit on a log with you in the woods this afternoon,
while we twined a wreath together for Launcelot's grave, than
to hear any conceivable eulogy of him pronounced by mortal lips.

The death of Grant so largely and so suddenly augmented the orders for
his Memoirs that it seemed impossible to get the first volume printed in
time for the delivery, which had been promised for December 1st. J. J.
Little had the contract of manufacture, and every available press and
bindery was running double time to complete the vast contract.

In the end more than three hundred thousand sets of two volumes each were
sold, and between four hundred and twenty and four hundred and fifty
thousand dollars was paid to Mrs. Grant. The first check of two hundred
thousand dollars, drawn February 27, 1886, remains the largest single
royalty check in history. Mark Twain's prophecy had been almost exactly
verified.




CLVII

MINOR MATTERS OF A GREAT YEAR

The Grant episode, so important in all its phases, naturally overshadowed
other events of 1885. Mark Twain was so deeply absorbed in this great
publishing enterprise that he wasted little thought or energy in other
directions.

Yet there are a few minor things that it seems worth while to remember.
Howells has told something of the Authors' Reading given for the
Longfellow Memorial, an entertainment managed by George Parsons Lathrop,
though Howells justly claims the glory of having fixed the price of
admission at five dollars. Then he recalls a pleasing anecdote of
Charles Eliot Norton, who introduced the attractions.

Norton presided, and when it came Clemens's turn to read he introduced
him with such exquisite praises as he best knew how to give, but before
he closed he fell a prey to one of those lapses of tact which are the
peculiar peril of people of the greatest tact. He was reminded of
Darwin's delight in Mark Twain, and how when he came from his long day's
exhausting study, and sank into bed at midnight, he took up a volume of
Mark Twain, whose books he always kept on a table beside him, and
whatever had been his tormenting problem, or excess of toil, he felt
secure of a good night's rest from it. A sort of blank ensued which
Clemens filled in the only possible way. He said he should always be
glad he had contributed to the repose of that great man, to whom science
owed so much, and then without waiting for the joy in every breast to
burst forth, he began to read.

Howells tells of Mark Twain's triumph on this occasion, and in a letter
at the time he wrote: "You simply straddled down to the footlights and
took that house up in the hollow of your hand and tickled it."

Howells adds that the show netted seventeen hundred dollars. This was
early in May.

Of literary work, beyond the war paper, the "Private History of a
Campaign that Failed" (published December, 1885), Clemens appears to have
done very little. His thoughts were far too busy with plans for
furthering the sale of the great military Memoir to follow literary
ventures of his own. At one time he was impelled to dictate an
autobiography - Grant's difficulties in his dying hour suggesting this
- and he arranged with Redpath, who was no longer a lecture agent and
understood stenography, to co-operate with him in the work. He dictated
a few chapters, but he was otherwise too much occupied to continue. Also,
he was unused to dictation, and found it hard and the result
unsatisfactory.

Two open communications from Mark Twain that year deserve to be
remembered. One of these; unsigned, was published in the Century
Magazine, and expressed the need for a "universal tinker," the man who
can accept a job in a large household or in a community as master of all
trades, with sufficient knowledge of each to be ready to undertake
whatever repairs are likely to be required in the ordinary household,
such as - "to put in windowpanes, mend gas leaks, jack-plane the edges of
doors that won't shut, keep the waste-pipe and other water-pipe joints,
glue and otherwise repair havoc done in furniture, etc." The letter was
signed X. Y. Z., and it brought replies from various parts of the world.
None of the applicants seemed universally qualified, but in Kansas City a
business was founded on the idea, adopting "The Universal Tinker" as its
firm name.

The other letter mentioned was written to the 'Christian Union', inspired
by a tale entitled, "What Ought We to Have Done?" It was a tale
concerning the government of children; especially concerning the
government of one child - John Junior - a child who, as it would appear
from the tale, had a habit of running things pretty much to his own
notion. The performance of John junior, and of his parents in trying to
manage him, stirred Mark Twain considerably - it being "enough to make a
body's blood boil," as he confesses - and it impelled him to set down
surreptitiously his impressions of what would have happened to John
Junior as a member of the Clemens household. He did not dare to show the


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Online LibraryAlbert Bigelow PaineMark Twain, a Biography — Volume II, Part 1: 1886-1900 → online text (page 18 of 20)