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Certainly there is something to be said in favor of his plan, and I often thought it the best plan for his kind of autobiography, which was really not autobiography at all, in the meaning generally conveyed by that term, but a series of entertaining stories and opinions--dinner-table talks, in fact, such as he had always delivered in his own home and elsewhere, and with about the same latitude and elaboration.
I do not wish to convey that his narrative is in any sense a mere fairy tale.
A number of important things happened to Mark Twain during the next dozen years, among them his business failure, which left him with a load of debt, dependent entirely upon authorship and the lecture platform for rehabilitation and support.
The story of his splendid victory, the payment to the last dollar of his indebtedness, has been widely told.
Elsewhere I have told of that arrangement and may omit most of the story here.
It had been agreed that I should bring a stenographer, to whom he would dictate notes for my use, but a subsequent inspiration prompted him to suggest that he might in this way continue his autobiography, from which I would be at liberty to draw material for my own undertaking.
These chapters were handwritten, his memory was fresh and eager, and in none of his work is there greater charm.
He completed some random memories of more or less importance, and might have carried the work further but for his wife's rapidly failing health.
It probably never occurred to him during those years that he had achieved anything like a permanent place in literary history; if the idea of an autobiography had intruded itself now and then, it had not seriously troubled him. Grant brought him into daily association with the dying conqueror, the thought came that the story of this episode might be worthy of preservation.
Most of Mark Twain's work up to this time, Roughing It, Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi, etc., had been of an autobiographical nature. But a year later, when the publication by his firm of the Memoirs of Gen. It was not, for the present, at least, to be an autobiography, but no more than a few chapters, built around a great historic figure.
Her death and his return to America followed, and there was an interval of another two years before the autobiographical chapters were again resumed.
It was in January, 1906, that the present writer became associated with Mark Twain as his biographer.