Editor's Note

By Skinner, David | Humanities, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

Editor's Note


Skinner, David, Humanities


The literary admirers of Ulysses S. Grant-commanding general of the Union Army, eighteenth president of the United States, and one heckuva memoirist-are legion. Ta-Nehisi Coates called Grant a superhero. Sherwood Anderson and Gertrude Stein considered cowriting a biography of him. Mark Twain served as his literary agent.

The retired warrior was not drawn to writing by any lofty motives. Grant was a money writer. He wrote to earn his way out of a financial crisis, as Meredith Hindley shows in an essay inspired by the new annotated edition of Grant's memoirs from the editors of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, a project NEH has supported since the 1960s.

William James was born and raised to be an intellectual. He avoided military service, and, if he could have, he might have avoided writing and teaching as well. He was the kind of person who had to fight his way out of bed. A victim of depression, he was also a great student of psychology and especially wise on the benefits of doing instead of dwelling. Peter Gibbon writes about the unusual mix of qualities that made James one of the most important thinkers of his day and one who is still influential a hundred years later.

Yet another student of the human mind, Shirley Jackson wrote from a terrible awareness that evil can be found even in a nice small town on a sunny afternoon. …

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