Letter: Grant could write; didn’t need help from Twain | letters to the editor
Regarding Lynn Schmidt’s column, “Remembering the fights of Ulysses Grant” (April 27): On the 200th anniversary of his birth, Ulysses S. Grant enjoys a well-deserved reputation. I applaud Post-Dispatch columnist Lynn Schmidt for including her hymn of praise in the chorus of praise. But I must clarify one statement in her column: Grant “did not commission Mark Twain to write his memoirs.”
Twain published, edited, and helped edit the memoir. Grant’s field reports during the war were written so clearly that they left no room for error in interpretation. Moreover, his autobiography is modest and self-deprecating. I doubt Twain would treat his friend’s story that way.
His friend Twain encouraged him to write his memoirs and offered him a better financial offer than his first publisher’s original offer. Grant knew he was dying of throat cancer and didn’t want to leave his beloved wife destitute. Grant was a terrible businessman, in large part because he trusted charlatans and believed everyone was as honest as he was. He wrote 25 to 50 pages a day and finished his story just five days before his death.
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Twain published the memoir and marketed it brilliantly, making a then fortune of $450,000 for his Grant’s widow, former St. Louisan Julia Dent Grant.
Carol Shepley • St.Louis