MARK TWAIN AND GRANT - MAJOR POND'S TRIBUTE
After an absence of five years Mr. S. L. Clemens (Mark Twain) returns to his home from "a tour around the world to pay his debts." He is accompanied by his wife and family.
One the 15th of July, 1895, he began his tour in Cleveland. The great Music Hall there gave him a send-off with an audience of over 8,000 people who packed the building, on a mid-July night, with the mercury in the nineties. He had been very ill, subject to many annoyances from being dragged from a sick bed to appear in supplementary procedures in New York the day before starting, and suffering from a huge carbuncle that had kept him confined to his home for seven weeks.
In my announcement of the tour across the continent "Mark" suggested to me that traveling around the world was nothing, as everybody did that, but what he was traveling for was unusual; everybody didn't do that.
From Cleveland he went by the steamers Northland and Northwest to Duluth, Minn., and St. Paul and Winnipeg, and over the Great Northern rout to Puget Sound, Vancouver, and Victoria, B. C., where he sailed on the 21st day of August by steamship Warrimoo for Australia, having delivered twenty-four lectures in twenty-two cities.
It was not until we reached Great Falls, Mon., half way across the continent, that Mark was able to leave his hotel, except as he was driven to and from the lecture hall or took a short walk, but a greater exhibition of courage and determination I never witnessed than in these struggles from day to day to carry through the work he had planned for ridding himself of the bondage of debt.
At Seattle he was interviewed by his nephew, Mr. Samuel Moffett of The San Francisco Examiner, when he gave himself four years to make money enough to pay his debts. Two years from that time he wrote me from Lucerne, Switzerland, that he was now satisfied that those debts would be paid off a year earlier than the prophecy and without any further help from the platform, and that he was now a cheerful man; that he had managed to pull through the lecture campaign, although from the first night in Cleveland to the last one in Cape Town he stood on a platform for the last time.
Later I wrote, offering him $10,000 if he would deliver ten lectures on his return home this Autumn. He replied that no terms I could offer would remove his prejudice against the platform. He had lectured once in Vienna and once in Budapest for fun, not for money; that he liked to talk for nothing about twice a year; but talking for money was work, and "that takes the pleasure out of it."
I consider Mark Twain one of the greatest geniuses of our time. I think I know him better than he is known to most men - wide as his circle of acquaintance is, big as his reputation is. He is as great a man as he is a genius, too. Tenderness and sensitiveness are his two strongest traits. He has one of the best hearts that ever beat. One must know him well fully to discern all of his best traits. I sometimes think that he fights shy of having it generally suspected that he is kind and tender-hearted, but many of his friends do know it. He possesses some of the frontier traits - a fierce spirit of retaliation and the absolute confidence that lifelong "partners" in the Western sense develop. Injure him and he is merciless, especially if you betray his confidence. Gen. Grant and "Mark Twain" were the greatest of friends. C. L. Webster & Co. (Mark Twain) published Gen. Grant's Memoirs. Yet how like and unlike are the careers of the soldier and the citizen!
Grant, poor, a tanner, a small farmer, selling cordwood for a living, with fewer prospects for rising than any ex-West Pointer in the army; then the greatest military reputation of any age; twice President of the United States, the most honored guest of peoples and rulers who ever made the circuit of the earth.
"Mark Twain," a printer's apprentice in a small Missouri River town, then a "tramping jour" printer, a Missouri River roustabout guarding freight piles all night on the levee for pocket money; a river pilot, a rebel guerrilla, a reporter in a Nevada mining town, then suddenly the most famous author of the age, a man of society, the most aristocratic clubs of America and all around the civilized globe flung open to him; adopted with all the honors into one of the most exclusive societies on this continent; the favored companion of the most cultivated spirits of the age, welcomed abroad in all Courts almost as a crowned head. "Peace hath its victories," &c.
There is indeed another parallel between Grant and "Twain." Grant found himself impoverished two years before his death, when was left to him the most heroic part of his life work, to write his memoirs, (while he knew he was dying,) for which through his publishers, C. L. Webster & Co. - (Twain,) his family received nearly $500,000. That firm failed in 1894, leaving liabilities to the amount of $80,000 over and above all it owned, for "Mark" to pay, and which he has earned with his voice and pen in a tour around the world, paying every creditor in full, in one year less time than he calculated when he started in Cleveland on July 15, 1895. Yes, there is a parallel between the two great heroes, more like than unlike. It is an enviable homecoming this most popular writer in the English language is having.
J. B. POND.
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