The Thought Clothier
by Edgar Wilson Nye
General Dado has been sharply criticised—roundly abused, even—for
making a claim against the Grant estate for alleged assistance in
preparing the "Memoirs" that have added to that estate some half-million
of dollars. The Philadelphia Bulletin says:—"There is no mark of
contempt so strong that it ought not to be fixed on so shameless and
unblushing an ingrate." And it is this—the man's ingratitude—that most
offends. General Grant's unswerving loyalty to Dado, his zeal in giving
places to him so long as he had them to give, and in soliciting others
to give them when it was no longer in his own power to do so, was an
offense in the nostrils of most Americans. His intimacy with Dado was
one of the causes of Grant's being in bad odor, as it were, at a certain
period of his career; and the present unpleasantness is a part of the
penalty for taking such a man into his bosom. The claimant is getting
the worst of it, however, and we are tempted to overlook his ingratitude
for the sake of the following skit called forth by his appearance as a
thinker and clothier of thoughts.—The Critic.
There is something slightly pathetic in the delayed statement that some
of General Grant's best thoughts were supplied by General Adam Dado.
While it is a great credit to any man to do the meditating, pondering,
and word-painting necessary for a book which can attain such a sale as
Grant's "Memoirs," it shows a condition of affairs which every literary
man or woman must sadly deplore. Who of us is now safe?
While the warrior, as a warrior, has nothing to do but continue
victorious through life, he can not safely write a book for posterity.
Literature is at all times more or less hazardous under present
copyright regulations, but it becomes doubly so when our estates have to
reimburse some silent thinker who thought things for us while
amanuensing in our employ. Even though we may have told him not to think
thoughts for us, even though we asked him as a special favor to avoid
putting his own clothing on our poor, little, shivering, naked facts,
there is no law which can prevent his making that claim after we are
And how can a court of law or an intelligent jury judge such a matter? A
great man thinks a thought in the presence of two amanuenses, provided I
am right in spelling the plural in that way. He thinks a thought, I say,
surrounded by those two gentlemen and an improved typewriter. He gives
utterance to the thought and dies. One of the amanuensisters then states
to the jury that he thought it himself, and that his comrade clothed it.
The estate is then asked to pay so much per think for the thoughts and
so much at war prices for clothing the ideas. Who is able, unless it be
an intelligent jury, to arrive at the truth?
The first question to ask ourselves is this: Was General Grant in the
habit of calling in a thinker whenever he wanted anything done in that
line? He says distinctly in his letter that he was not. He could not do
it. It was impracticable. Supposing in the crash of battle and in the
moment of victory your short, hard thinker has his head shot off and it
falls in a pumpkin orchard, where there is naturally more or less delay
in identifying it, what can you do? Suppose that you were the president
of the United States, and your think-supply got snow-bound at Newark in
a vestibule train, and congress were waiting for you to veto a bill. You
could not think the thought in the first place, and even if you could
you would hate to send it to congress until it was properly clothed. I
am told that nothing shocks congress so much as the sudden appearance
"in its midst" of a naked and new-born thought.
But General Dado has the advantage over General Grant in one respect. He
can not be injured much. Otherwise the case is against him. But the
matter will be watched with careful interest by literary people
generally, and especially by soldiers and magazines with a war history.
It is a warning to those who think their thoughts in unguarded moments
while stenographers may be near to take them down and claim them
afterwards. It is also a warning to people who thoughtlessly expose
naked facts in the presence of word-painters and thought-clothiers, who
may decorate and outfit these children of the brain and charge it up to
Is the time coming when general dealers in apparel and gents' furnishing
goods for the use of bare facts, and men who attend to the costuming,
draping, and swaddling of nude ideas, will compete so closely with each
other that, before a think has its eyes fairly open, one of these
gentlemen will slap a suit of clothes on it, with a Waterbury watch in
each pocket, and have a boy half way to the office with the bill?