The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant are widely considered to be one of the most well-written pieces of non-fiction American literature. Mark Twain, a close friend of Grant’s and whose company published the first edition of the memoirs, called them ‘a great, unique and unapproachable literary masterpiece.’ The memoirs have been in continuous print since their original publication in 1885, which highlights the historical impact of the book. However, in those 130 years, no one has ever thoroughly contextualized the memoirs for the modern reader, until now. Just recently, the Ulysses S. Grant Association, under the management of the Executive Director John F. Marszalek, has announced an upcoming publication of the first comprehensively annotated edition of Grant’s memoirs. Published by Harvard University Press’s Belknap imprint, it will be available for purchase in September 2017.
This newest edition of Grant’s memoirs contains over 2,000 explanatory notes, which identifies nearly every person that Grant mentions, elaborates on details that Grant might have missed, and corrects him if he made an error. All of the scholarly notes that are included in this edition will be invaluable to researchers, historians, academics, and more importantly the casual reader.
Interestingly enough, Grant did not see himself as a writer, nor did he assume that people were interested in hearing his take on the Civil War. However, in June 1884, Grant’s financial trouble, and a diagnosis of severe throat and mouth cancer, forced him to reconsider his abilities as a writer. Immediately after his diagnosis, he began to compose his life story. The oncoming threat of death did not deter Grant. He was determined to complete his memoirs so he could leave his family with a hardy income. With astounding clarity, Grant was able to capture the essence of his early life and detail his personal experience in the Civil War. The general public was enamored by Grant’s direct and lucid writing style.
Sadly, Grant passed away only four days after completing his manuscript, so he was never able to see just how successful and well-received his memoirs would become. Hopefully, this latest edition will add to the historical value of the memoirs, and provide every student of American history with a more nuanced perspective of Grant.
If you are interested in purchasing this invaluable piece of Grant scholarship, you can visit any bookstore or online retailer. Or, you can purchase the book through Harvard, here:
Louie P. Gallo