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.
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.