The next time I think writing is hard, maybe I’ll think of Ulysses S. Grant. A new book about Grant (GRANT’S FINAL VICTORY: Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year) is out. A Roanoke Times book review reminded me of a Grant story I had read years ago.
Grant, of course, was many things. Chief among them were Civil War hero and 18th president of the United States. But Grant was also a writer and an author. After his presidency, Grant entered into business with one of his sons and two of his son’s friends. The friends ran off with Grant’s money.
To support his wife, Julia, Grant picked up a pen. Not long after he was assigned four magazine articles on Civil War battles, Grant developed a sore throat, which was diagnosed as cancer when his physician returned from a European vacation. Grant’s writing accelerated. He didn’t want to leave his wife penniless.
A publisher materialized, and Grant went to work on his Civil War memoirs. Before computers, typewriters, legal pads and ballpoint pens, the former general produced a two-volume work of 291,000 words, or 1,215 pages. This while he suffered with throat cancer.
Grant finished the work four days before he died. His wife received $600,000 in royalties. He was a hero once more.