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"John H. Muller" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 1 Jul 2019 12:13:54 -0700
text/plain (189 lines)

Thanks for your note. The walking tour of Twain in D.C. is mostly
Pennsylvania Avenue from the White Hose to the area of the Newseum. We
visit the Willard, which warrants a mention of Grant, but we do not visit
the area where Grant lived before becoming President. The story I think you
are alluding to was contained in the January 16, 1868 dispatch Twain sends
from Washington City to the Daily Alta California, which published the
story 14 February 1868.

While Twain does not name who "we" are it is likely William Swinton, one of
his most well-known drinking pals while in Washington City.

Here's the link to the dispatch

*Grant's Reception.*

We went there, last night, to see what these great receptions are like. A
crowd of carriages was arriving, and a procession of gentlemen and ladies
pouring in at the door. We found a "good house" within, already, but
evidently the reception had not begun. A band of uniformed Dutchmen were
playing brass instruments, and ladies were flitting about from parlor to
parlor like the little busy bee that improves each shining hour. We removed
overcoats, up-stairs, where the gentlemen were corralled, and at the proper
time followed down with the rest. General and Mrs. Grant stood in one of
the back parlors, and the people were filing past them and shaking hands.
At intervals, some lady or gentleman well known to them, halted for a
moment and spoke a few words, and occasionally some lout that did not know
as much as a large dictionary stopped to say the dozen sentences he had
gotten by heart for the occasion -- and he always got pushed along by the
crowd, and never had a chance to finish them; then he felt awkward, and
backed on somebody's feet, and turned to apologize and lowly bowed his head
into somebody's intervening back, and at the same moment stepped on
somebody else's toes -- and so, butting, and crushing, and apologizing, he
would shortly be swallowed from sight in the crowd. I stood against the
wall, close by, and watched the reception ceremony for an hour, and I
cannot tell when I enjoyed anything so much. Poor, modest, bored, unhappy
Grant stood smileless, anxious, alert, with every faculty of his mind
intensely bent upon the business before him, and nervously seized each hand
as it came, and while he gave it a single shake, looked not upon its owner,
but threw a quick look-out for the next. And if for a moment his hand was
left idle, his arm hung out from his body with a curve that was suggestive
of being ready for business at a moment's notice. And so he seized each
hand, passed it on, grabbed for the next, passed it, grabbed again, with
his soul in his work and that absorbed anxiety in his eye; and it reminded
me irresistibly of a new hand catching bricks -- a new hand that was full
of misgivings; fearful that he might make a miss, but determined to catch
every brick that came, or perish in the attempt. He is not a large man; he
is a particularly plain-looking man; his hair is straight and lustreless,
his head is large, square of front and perpendicular in the rear, where the
selfish organs of the head lie; he is less handsome than his pictures, and
his face, at this time, at any rate, lacked the satisfied, self-possessed
look one sees in them; he is broad of beam, and his uniform sat as
awkwardly upon him as if he had never been in it before.

General Grant had all my sympathies -- I had none for the visitors. The
stylishly dressed old stagers who had been at receptions before, and knew
all about them, moved complacently up, with many a smirk and stately
obeisance, shook hands, laughed pleasantly, said a word, and swept on,
composedly -- perfectly well satisfied with themselves. But the towering
boys from the interior, with a kind of human vegetable look about them, and
a painful air of discomfort about their gloved hands and their unfamiliar
Sunday clothes, were in a constant flutter of uneasiness; they seized the
General's hand, gave it a wring and dropped it suddenly, as if it had been
hot, then staggered, in a bewildered way, discovered Mrs. Grant, came to
the scratch again, got tangled as to the etiquette of the business, thrust
out a paw, drew it back, thrust it out again, snatched it back once more,
bent down, far down, in a portentous salaam, and then reeled away giddily
and ground somebody's foot to pulp under their responsible No. 13's.
Everyone of them came with his mind made up as to what he was going to do
and say, and then forgot it all, failed to do it or say it either.

Bye and bye the parlors were crowded. Old Dowagers were there with
marketable daughters; little maids in the blushing diffidence of girlhood;
imperious dames of the F. F. V. in the imposing costumes of a former
generation; chattering young ladies of fashion, with elaborately painted
faces and uncovered bosoms; General officers in uniform; foreign Ministers
with orders upon their breasts; gold-laced naval heroes; and half a dozen
young masculine noodles in white kids a size to small, scarf-pins that were
dazzling, claw-hammers without dust or wrinkle, hair fearfully and
wonderfully done up, and faces whereon were written -- nothing. About
one-half the company had the old complaint -- they could not think of
anything to say -- they could not determine upon an attitude that was
satisfactory to them -- they did not know what on earth to do with their
hands. They were an aimless, uneasy, unhappy lot, and deserved compassion.
General Sheridan was there -- a little bit of a round-headed,
broad-breasted, short-legged young Irishman, with hair cropped down to
plush on his large, ungainly head, and with nothing in him that is in his
features save the bright spirit that is in his eye and the bravery that is
in his lip. He is very homely. And Seward was present also, with his
splendid beak, and a scar and an ugly protuberance on his port cheek that
come of the murderous attempt upon his life the night Mr. Lincoln was shot.
The reception was still under headway and Grant was still wearily "shaking"
the old crowds and shaking hands with the news ones when we departed. His
gloves that were so white and smooth at first, were worn and soiled and
greasy then. His exhausting watch was only half over -- it was but little
after nine o'clock.

On Sat, Jun 29, 2019 at 3:51 PM Arianne . <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> ) Dear John
> (I have always wanted to say that)
>  Do you by any chance include the house where Ulysses S Grant lived before
> he became president? Somewhere I read that Clemens and some reporter friend
> of his went to that house to contact grants father to take him out
> drinking. I can’t remember where I heard that or read it. Have you heard
> that story? I would love to pin down the source of it  And to know which
> reporter friend was with him.
> Thanks for any help.  I sure would love to go on your tour if I ever get
> back to New York. Thanks again Arianne Laidlaw
> On Tue, Jun 18, 2019 at 12:03 PM John H. Muller <
> [log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > ---
> >
> > Starting near the Jackson statue in Lafayette Square, journey back to the
> > mid-19th century, when Mark Twain spent the winter of 1867–68 working as
> a
> > journalist for a half-dozen newspapers. Join historian and author of
> “Mark
> > Twain in Washington, D.C: The Adventures of a Capital Correspondent” John
> > Muller as you travel to sites like the Willard Hotel, Newspaper Row, and
> > the old City Hall to uncover this little-known but pivotal chapter in
> > Twain’s life. While walking, you’ll hear captivating stories about
> Twain’s
> > time in various boarding houses and the lively, irreverent, and
> > hard-drinking bohemian correspondents he ran with.
> >
> > Learn About Mark Twain’s Years in Washington, DC!
> >
> > - Historian and author John Muller reveals the untold stories of one of
> the
> > most famous authors of all time.
> >
> > - Visit Essential Historic Sites
> >
> > - John leads you on an adventure stretching more than a half-century as
> you
> > visit places like Newspaper Row, the old Police Court, and more.
> >
> > - Get some steps in - approximately 1.5 miles - with friendly,
> like-minded
> > people.
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > John Muller
> > 202.236.3413
> > Capital Community News l Greater Greater Washington l Washington
> Syndicate
> >
> > *Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C: The Lion of Anacostia
> > <
> >
> > >*
> > [The
> > History Press, 2012]  Winner of 2013 DC READS
> > Mark Twain in Washington, D.C.: The Adventures of a Capital Correspondent
> > <> [The History Press, 2013]
> >
> --
> Arianne Laidlaw A '58

John Muller
Capital Community News l Greater Greater Washington l Washington Syndicate

*Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C: The Lion of Anacostia
History Press, 2012]  Winner of 2013 DC READS
Mark Twain in Washington, D.C.: The Adventures of a Capital Correspondent
<> [The History Press, 2013]