Autobiography of Mark Twain
Edited by Robert Griffin and Harriet Elinor Smith
Univ. of California. 733 pp. $45
The material that composes this, the second volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography (the publication of which he forbade until a century after his death), was dictated by the Man from Missouri in 1906 and ’07. And in case you had any doubt about it, the new book demonstrates that Twain dictated as well as he wrote. Here is a beaut of an anecdote featuring Twain himself; his old crony William Morris Stewart, a U.S. senator from Gilded Age Nevada; and the president of the United States. (The same story is told in Volume 1 of the autobiography, though at shorter length and with much less oomph.)
As Twain tells it, he was in Washington during President Ulysses Grant’s first term. “Near the White House,” he recalls, “one morning, I encountered Senator Stewart. . . . He asked me if I would like to see the President. Naturally I said I would. General Grant was the tallest figure in Christendom at the time, and I had never seen him. I supposed that Stewart merely meant to intrude me into the White House and furnish me a distant look at the President. That he would actually introduce me was a thing which could not occur to me.” But in fact, that was just what the bumptious politician had in mind.