An election had taken place during his absence—an election which gratified him deeply, for it had resulted in the second presidency of General Grant and in the defeat of Horace Greeley, whom he admired perhaps, but not as presidential material. To Thomas Nast, who had aided very effectually in Mr. Greeley’s overwhelming defeat, Clemens wrote:
Nast, you more than any other man have won a prodigious victory for Grant—I mean, rather, for civilization and progress. Those pictures were simply marvelous, and if any man in the land has a right to hold his head up and be honestly proud of his share in this year’s vast events that man is unquestionably yourself. We all do sincerely honor you, and are proud of you.
Horace Greeley’s peculiar abilities and eccentricities won celebrity for him, rather than voters. Mark Twain once said of him:
“He was a great man, an honest man, and served his, country well and was an honor to it. Also, he was a good-natured man, but abrupt with strangers if they annoyed him when he was busy. He was profane, but that is nothing; the best of us is that. I did not know him well, but only just casually, and by accident. I never met him but once. I called on him in the Tribune office, but I was not intending to. I was looking for Whitelaw Reid, and got into the wrong den. He was alone at his desk, writing, and we conversed—not long, but just a little. I asked him if he was well, and he said, ‘What the hell do you want?’ Well, I couldn’t remember what I wanted, so I said I would call again. But I didn’t.”
Clemens did not always tell the incident just in this way. Sometimes it was John Hay he was looking for instead of Reid, and the conversation with Greeley varied; but perhaps there was a germ of history under it somewhere, and at any rate it could have happened well enough, and not have been out of character with either of the men.
“The gilded age”
Mark Twain did not go on the lecture circuit that winter. Redpath had besought him as usual, and even in midsummer had written:
“Will you? Won’t you? We have seven thousand to eight thousand dollars in engagements recorded for you,” and he named a list of towns ranging geographically from Boston to St. Paul.
But Clemens had no intention then of ever lecturing any more, and again in November, from London, he announced (to Redpath):
“When I yell again for less than $500 I’ll be pretty hungry, but I haven’t any intention of yelling at any price.”