Greatest Downfall By Mark Twain

.. do the work. He thought he ought to have twenty-five hundred dollars a year while he was learning the trade. I took a day or two to conduct the matter and study it out searchingly. I erected Webster into a firm-a firm entitled Webster and Company, Publishers-and installed him in a couple of offices at a modest rental on the second floor of a building below Union Square, I dont remember where.

I handed Webster a competent capital and along with it I handed him the manuscript of Huckleberry Finn. Ten years has elapsed and Webster was successful with Huckleberry Finn and a year later handed me the firms check for fifty-four thousand five hundred dollars, which included the fifteen thousand dollars capital which I had originally handed him (Neider 233-236). Twain was prosperous when he was publishing his own books. When he went to publishing other peoples books, Twain had another downfall. He became his own publisher by putting money into the firm of Charles L.

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Webster & Company, which prospered for a time but which was to fail disastrously in the end. It is no wonder that the teeth of life, gnawing at even so powerful a figure, gradually began to wear it away (Johnson 196). Twain started publishing others after an episode with General Grant. General Grant was trying to find someone to buy his memoirs and publish them, but his publisher was trying to sell them for an unrealistic price. Twain decided that he would help out the general.

His recollections are quoted in the following lines: Then I had an idea. It suddenly occurred to me that I was a publisher myself. I had not thought of it before. I said, “Sell me the memoirs, General. I am a publisher. I will pay double price.

I have a checkbook in my pocket; take my check for fifty thousand dollars now and lets draw the contract.” He laughed at that and asked me what my profit out of that remnant would be. I said, a hundred thousand dollars in six months. He was dealing with a literary person. He was aware, by authority of all the traditions, that literary persons are flighty, romantic, unpractical, and in business matters do not know enough to come in when it rains or at any other time. He did not say that he attached no value to these flights of my imagination, for he was too kindly to say hurtful things, but he might better have said he looked it with tenfold emphasis and the look covered the whole ground.

We had a long discussion over the matter. So the contract was drawn and signed and Webster took hold of his new job at once (Neider 242-246). Clemens was determined to a double act of piety and commerce by publishing Grant. “I wanted the Generals book,” he said, “and I wanted it very much.” He got it, too, after strenuous wooing, but he thereby became, in eventual terms, a party to his own undoing (Kaplan 130). Twain then, after Grants book was published, decided he had enough of the publishing business.

His partner, Webster, did not like any of the books that Twain thought should be published. Webster refused all of the books that Twain and his friends tried to give to him. Twain then gave Webster a twelve thousand dollar check and left him for his own business. Twain was still involved with the company, but Webster was no longer involved with it. As the business began to prosper again, things began to turn for the worse.

Webster and Company failed and owed Twain and Mrs.Clemens thousands of dollars. Twains biggest and most infamous investment was the Paige Typesetter. The Paige Typesetter was in competition with the Mergenthaler Linotype machine, which later became the industry standard. The Paige worked efficiently, but the Linotype had a better marketing campaign. “The machine worked, and worked efficiently,” says Ken Ljunquist, a professor of American literature at the Worcester college, and one of the advisers of the Paige project.

The reasons for its failure were not mechanical. The Linotype just took over the market” (Condon INTERNET). Twain, however, would not grasp that the other typesetter would be more successful. He put a great deal of hard work into this new project. He devoted about fifteen years and two hundred thousand dollars to Paige machine, using in addition, his publishing house as a private bank to finance it.

His mistake was in backing the wrong horse in a race for the right purse (Kaplan 141). The Paige Typesetter was the major source for Twains near bankruptcy. He had previous financial losses, but none as severe as the one from the typesetter. The typesetter caused Twain to lose the most money. Twain wasted at least $200,000 on the typesetting machine, which is often blamed for bringing him to the brink of bankruptcy in the mid 1890s (Condon INTERNET).

He believed that the typesetter would bring him millions and he wouldnt have to write any more. Financial troubles hit the Clemenses in the 1880s, particularly after Twain invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a mechanical typesetting device being developed by Jaimes Paige. The typesetter was a failure, and Twains investment was lost (Johansen INTERNET). Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, was an excellent writer. He was also very money hungry but didnt have the knowledge or sense to help get the money he desired. Twain never was to become a millionaire.

His brain always hot with schemes; he lost the fortune earned by books in backing an impractical typesetting machine; then in 1884 he invested in the Charles L. Webster Company, a publishing house which made enormous profits from its sales of Grants Memoirs, but gradually failed and went completely bankrupt in 1894, leaving Clemens penniless (Kunitz 159). Most people do not remember Twain for his investment losses. They do remember him for the excellent stories and novels that he had written. Some have heard about the Paige Typesetter and the loss that he incurred from it.

But, that is not the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the name Mark Twain. Fortunately, everyone will continue to remember his great stories and novels and not reflect on his near bankruptcy and ill-fate with investments. Bibliography Condon, Garret. “Typesetter Misses Deadline for Success.” November 29, 1985. Online. Netscape Navigator.

Available ge.htm. Howards, Oliver. The Mark Twain Book. Marceline: Walsworth, 1985. Johansen, Jay. “Maybe it all didnt happend, but the stories are true.” Online.

Netscape Navigator. Available htm. Johnson, Allen. Dictionary of American Biography: Volume II. New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1929.

Kaplan, Justin. Mark Twain and His World. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974. Kunitz, Stanley J. American Authors: 1600-1900.

New York: H.W. Wilson, 1938. Neider, Charles. The Autobiography of Mark Twain. New York: Harper & Row.