Description

    U.S. Grant passes a note to Mark Twain

    [Mark Twain]. Ulysses S. Grant Unsigned Autograph Note. One ruled page, 5.25" x 3", [Wilton, New York], circa early-July 1885, connecting the former president with one of America's greatest authors, Mark Twain. While on his deathbed suffering from throat cancer, the former general and U.S. president pens this note of regret about the cost his ill health was having on his ability to write his memoirs. Grant writes this note to Twain, the editor of his memoirs, while Twain was present - the general could no longer talk and used notes to communicate to others. This note contains provenance written by Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain's handpicked biographer. Grant's note is mostly clean, save for paper clip residue in the upper left corner. The note is affixed to a larger page for an overall size of 5.5" x 8.5".

    Grant's note reads in full: "There is much more that I can do if I was a well man. I do not write quite as clearly as I could if well. If I can read it over myself many little matters of anecdote and incident would suggest themselves to me." Written by Paine in ink on the larger backing page below Grant's note: "This is General U. S. Grant's writing. A mem[orandum] made for Mark Twain when the latter was publishing the Grant book - a short time before Gen. Grant's death. [Signed] A. B. P."

    Paine writes in his Twain biography of this note: "General Grant had been taken to Mount McGregor, near the Adirondacks. The day after Clemens reached Elmira [New York] 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" (Paine, Mark Twain, a Biography, [New York: Harper Brothers, 1912, Centenary Edition], page 813). A facsimile of this note appeared in Paine's biography captioned as "General Grant's Last Writing" (813). Grant died of throat cancer on July 23, 1885.

    Twain was financially strapped by 1885, so he focused on Grant's Memoirs, hoping the project would save his publishing company and help his finances. The Memoirs were a success and became one of Twain's proudest achievements and one of the greatest publishing successes of the nineteenth century. Only seven letters from Grant to Twain are known to exist (five are in institutions). Of those seven, this is the only one written in 1885 and in the presence of Twain, who kept the letter until his death in 1910, when Paine obtained the note and published it in his Twain biography.


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    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    9th Thursday
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