Grant and Twain
The Story of an American Friendship
By Mark Perry
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780812966138, 352pp.)
Publication Date: May 10, 2005
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In the spring of 1884 Ulysses S. Grant heeded the advice of Mark Twain and finally agreed to write his memoirs. Little did Grant or Twain realize that this seemingly straightforward decision would profoundly alter not only both their lives but the course of American literature. Over the next fifteen months, as the two men became close friends and intimate collaborators, Grant raced against the spread of cancer to compose a triumphant account of his life and times—while Twain struggled to complete and publish his greatest novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.In this deeply moving and meticulously researched book, veteran writer Mark Perry reconstructs the heady months when Grant and Twain inspired and cajoled each other to create two quintessentially American masterpieces.
In a bold and colorful narrative, Perry recounts the early careers of these two giants, traces their quest for fame and elusive fortunes, and then follows the series of events that brought them together as friends. The reason Grant let Twain talk him into writing his memoirs was simple: He was bankrupt and needed the money. Twain promised Grant princely returns in exchange for the right to edit and publish the book—and though the writer’s own finances were tottering, he kept his word to the general and his family.
Mortally ill and battling debts, magazine editors, and a constant crush of reporters, Grant fought bravely to get the story of his life and his Civil War victories down on paper. Twain, meanwhile, staked all his hopes, both financial and literary, on the tale of a ragged boy and a runaway slave that he had been unable to finish for decades. As Perry delves into the story of the men’s deepening friendship and mutual influence, he arrives at the startling discovery of the true model for the character of Huckleberry Finn.
With a cast of fascinating characters, including General William T. Sherman, William Dean Howells, William Henry Vanderbilt, and Abraham Lincoln, Perry’s narrative takes in the whole sweep of a glittering, unscrupulous age. A story of friendship and history, inspiration and desperation, genius and ruin, Grant and Twain captures a pivotal moment in the lives of two towering Americans and the age they epitomized.
MARK PERRY, writer, reporter, and foreign policy analyst, has published articles in dozens of magazines and newspapers, including The Nation, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, and New York Newsday. His critically acclaimed books include Four Stars: The Inside Story of the Forty-Year Battle Between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and America’s Civilian Leaders; Eclipse: The Last Days of the CIA; Fire in Zion: The Israeli-Palestinian Search for Peace; and Lift Up Thy Voice: The Grimke Family’s Journey from Slaveholders to Civil Rights Leaders. Perry lives in Arlington, Virginia.
“In this lovely surprise of a book, Mark Perry uncovers a crucial sliver of American literary and cultural history: the little-known connection between Grant and Twain, who, in the twilight of the old general’s life, formed a friendship that is both interesting and important.”
—JON MEACHAM, author of Franklin and Winston
“The authors of the greatest American novel and of our greatest military memoirs did much to inspire each other to create their masterpieces. Suffering from terminal cancer, ‘Sam’ Grant worked against a deadline of death to complete his memoirs while Sam Clemens stood at his side as editor and publisher even as Huckleberry Finn was entering the world. This gripping account of a remarkable partnership and friendship is a book that everyone interested in Twain and Grant will want to read.”
—JAMES M. MCPHERSON, author Battle Cry of Freedom, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“The slender book by Mark Perry tells a large tale about two misfits turned American giants turned friends and grand collaborators. Grant and Twain is a charming and evocative story.”
—JAY WINIK, author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America
“In this fascinating story, Mark Perry details the friendship that grew between two American titans, Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain. Exploring how each man dealt with his America, particularly the questions of slavery and race, Perry illuminates not only their views, but also the America of their time. Moreover, he highlights the impact each of these remarkable individuals had on the other, especially on their marvelous and enduring books, American classics both, Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
—WILLIAM J. COOPER, award-winning author of Jefferson Davis, American
“When a great author convinced a great soldier to write his memoirs the outcome was an unlikely friendship and an American literary masterpiece. Mark Perry engagingly intertwines the lives of two near opposites, Mark Twain and Ulysses S. Grant, revealing how in a stunning burst of creativity the two friends produced works of genius that would lead America to find its distinctive literary voice. Discovering their little-known association is like discovering literary, biographical and historic gold.”
—JOSEPH E. PERSICO, author of Roosevelt’s Secret War
"A great many biographies of Ulysses S. Grant have been written, and Mark Twain's life is so well-chronicled that it has reached mythological status in the general culture [but] Perry has performed the amazing feat of finding a gap in the stories of both American heroes. We owe Mark Perry a debt of gratitudefor presenting to us the dignity and humanity of Mark Twain and Ulysses S.Grant and their joint contribution to American history and letters." - The Houston Chronicle
"The story of the frienship and of how Twain aided Grant in writing and publishing is highly absorbing." -Chicago Sun-Times
"Between May 1884 and July 1885, an unlikely friendship developed between two of America's most recognized personalities. Perry's juxtaposition of the two writers' careers offer[s] a glimpse into the development of cultural history in the late 19th-Century America." -Library Journal