We began with this understanding, and during two hours of the forenoon, on several days of each week, he talked pretty steadily to a select audience of two, wandering up and down the years as inclination led him, relating in his inimitable way incidents, episodes, conclusions, whatever the moment presented to his fancy.
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.
Often he did not know until the moment of beginning what was to be his subject for the day; then he was likely to go drifting among his memories in a quite irresponsible fashion, the fashion of table conversation, as he said, the methodless method of the human mind.
He had concluded that this was the proper way to write autobiography, or, as he best conveys it in his own introductory note: Start at no particular time of your life; wander at your free will all over your life; talk only about the things which interest you for the moment; drop it the moment its interest threatens to pale, and turn your talk upon the new and more interesting thing that has intruded itself into your mind meantime.
Also, as early as 1870 he had jotted down an occasional reminiscent chapter, for possible publication, though apparently with no idea of a continuous narrative. General Grant's own difficulties in setting down his memories suggested prompt action.
Such of these chapters as have survived are included in Vol. Mark Twain's former lecture agent, James Redpath, was visiting him at this time, and with a knowledge of shorthand became his amanuensis.
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.
The work they did together was considerable, covering in detail the story of the Grant publishing venture.