Illustration of Henry Clay Dean by Edmund Garrett for 1899 edition of LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
He began life poor and without education. But he educated himself - on the curbstones of Keokuk. He would sit down on a curbstone with his book, careless or unconscious of the clatter of commerce and the tramp of the passing crowds, and bury himself in his studies by the hour, never changing his position except to draw in his knees now and then to let a dray pass unobstructed; and when his book was finished, its contents, however abstruse, had been burned into his memory, and were his permanent possession. In this way he acquired a vast hoard of all sorts of learning, and had it pigeonholed in his head where he could put his intellectual hand on it whenever it was wanted.
His clothes differed in no respect from a "wharf-rat's," except that they were raggeder, more ill-assorted and inharmonious (and therefore more extravagantly picturesque), and several layers dirtier. Nobody could infer the master-mind in the top of that edifice from the edifice itself.
He was an orator - by nature in the first place, and later by the training
of experience and practice. When he was out on a canvass, his name was a lodestone
which drew the farmers to his stump from fifty miles around. His theme was always
politics. He used no notes, for a volcano does not need notes.
- Life on the Mississippi
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