Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Booknotes: The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant

New Arrival:
The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant) edited by John Y. Simon (SIU Press, 2020).

From the description: "Written in the early twentieth century for her children and grandchildren and first published [by Putnam] in 1975, these eloquent memoirs detail the life of General Ulysses S. Grant’s wife. First Lady Julia Dent Grant wrote her reminiscences with the vivacity and charm she exhibited throughout her life, telling her story in the easy flow of an afternoon conversation with a close friend. She writes fondly of White Haven, a plantation in St. Louis County, Missouri, where she had an idyllic girlhood and later met Ulysses."

Originally introduced and edited by John Y. Simon (with a foreword from Bruce Catton), this paperback 45th Anniversary Edition has a new foreword from John Marszalek and Frank Williams along with a new preface written by Pamela Sanfilippo. Like another title mentioned a few days ago, The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant) is part of SIUP's World of Ulysses S. Grant series. Also new to this edition is a 'further reading' list and photo gallery. Apparently, Mrs. Grant's life and White House memoir is also notable for being the first published account of its type written by a former First Lady. The Ralph Geoffrey essay titled "The First Lady as an Author," which first appeared in the 1975 Putnam edition, is not reproduced here again in print but can be found at

The memoir also discusses the darker times. More from the description: "In addition to relating the joys she experienced, Grant tells about the difficult and sorrowful times. Her anecdotes give fascinating glimpses into the years of the American Civil War. One recounts the night President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Grant insisted she and her husband turn down an invitation to the theater. Her decision saved her husband’s life: like Lincoln, he too had been marked for assassination."

A number of motivations, for both public and private consumption, lay behind the memoir's publication. "Throughout these memoirs, which she ends with her husband’s death, Grant seeks to introduce her descendants to both her and the man she loved. She also strives to correct misconceptions that were circulated about him. She wanted posterity to share her pride in this man, whom she saw as one of America’s greatest heroes. Her book is a testament to their devoted marriage."


  1. Drew: Back in 2003, Mr. Simon lectured at Johns Hopkins University here in Baltimore as part of a series on U.S. Grant. I spoke with him afterwards and he was kind enough to sign my first edition copy of the hardback book. A courtly, old school gentleman who held the rapt attention of the classroom. Despite the understandable bias of the author, Grant students will find much to enjoy in this book.

    1. I never had any personal interaction with him, but from the videos I watched he was clearly one of the best speakers in the field.


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