Ulysses S. Grant's financial despair produces a lucrative collaborative venture with Clemens. There are conflicting accounts in Clemens's autobiography and Following the Equator regarding how and when he first met Grant. It would appear that Senator William Stewart introduced Grant to Clemens in late 1867 (Rasmussen, Mark Twain A to Z, p. 183). The two men saw each other again in 1879 at an army reunion in Chicago and again in 1880 and 1881 when Grant visited Hartford. The relationship deepened in late 1884. While on a lecture tour to extricate himself from financial debt as a result of investments in ill-conceived inventions, Clemens learned that Grant had agreed to write articles about his wartime experiences for Century. Grant's business partner's illegal dealings had driven their brokerage firm into bankruptcy, and Grant's dire financial straits were widely known. Clemens counteroffered Grant generous terms to publish his Civil War memoirs with his own company (the Charles L. Webster Company, run by his niece's husband).
A contract was signed in February 1885. The present letter was written shortly before Grant died on 23 July 1885—a scant four days after he completed the final revisions to his memoirs. "My dear Mr. Grant," writes Clemens, "I got back last night, & am detained here for the present, but shall reach New York Wednesday or Thursday evening to ask some qustions & get some information—further information, for the satisfying of hard-headed businessmen—& then I shall hope to see you." Clemens employed the subscription method to sell the book. Webster and Company engaged sixteen general agents and 10,000 canvassers to market the memoirs across the country. Sales of the two-volume set eventually reached 350,000 which eventually provided the president's widow Julia with more than $420,000 in royalities.
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