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"GATH'S" CHAT WITH MARK TWAIN
Grant's Book -- Success in the Publishing Business -- Autobiographical.
The day the copyright people came to Washington to talk before one of the committees I sat down for a few minutes at a table with Mark Twain, and I asked him if it was true that Mrs. Grant had received $250,000 from the memoirs of her husband. Said he, "It is not due her for about a month, but she will get more than that."
"Good," said Senator Hawley.
Said I: "Mr. Clemens, you are as great a publisher as you were an author. Sir Walter Scott failed as a publisher, but you make money."
"Yes," said Mark Twain, "I own nine-tenths of the capital in the publishing-house which has issued Grant's book. It has a remarkable sale. But I received not long ago $52,000 for my profits on one of my own books, 'Huckleberry Finn,' the last book I produced."
Said I: "I understood you to say that there was no money in books except the pleasure of writing them."
"Oh, no," said Clemens; "I did not say that. I said that the only way to make a successful book was to write it with no other avarice than the pleasure of doing it, and then it might be a great success; whereas, if written for money it generally fails."
I looked at Mark Twain with a mild interest. Eighteen years ago I first met him in this city, before he was married, when he was writing a few letters to the newspapers for $25 apiece. He had just returned from his trip to Europe and foreign lands, and boarded in a plain house in Washington, and was embarrassed to get possession of the letters which he had published, which his newspaper employers had copyrighted and were indisposed to give him. He got the letters at last and issued his book, and he met about the same time his wife. He is now gray, but hale-looking, but can be quite entertaining when he desires.
While we were talking John P. Jones passed through the room, the Nevada senator. "I must see Jones," said Clemens, "for he and I were old chums out in Nevada when he was superintendent of a mine there, and had not come to greatness."
Something was said about the monument to Gen. Grant, and a statue of him. Mark Twain remarked: "There could have been no statue made of Gen. Grant except within the last five or six years of his life. His face had not assumed the lines and the fullness of expression until after 1880. Then you began to see a portrait there, signs of experience, tones of expression and the effects of the world and great events upon a man."
- [reprinting] Washington Letter in Cincinnati Enquirer.