to enable me to go to a law school? Would such a resolute and independent course not also be the best means of dispelling the prejudices that my article had revived against me? Such was my argument, and theoretically I was no doubt right. But the real test would, after all, be the proof of my ability to make the money needed.
While I was casting about in my mind as to ways and means regarding it, I came upon what seemed to be a proper solution. I read in the daily papers long and glowing advertisements of a new work, a ‘History [or Encyclopædia] of American Literature.’ The value of the work was endorsed strongly by literary men of national reputation. It was to be published in three large volumes for five dollars each, and sold by subscription. The advertising firm, well-known Chicago booksellers, invited enterprising young men of good address to enter into communication with them, and offered to assign certain parts of the country exclusively to persons considered suitable canvassers, and otherwise to make the most liberal arrangements with them.
I thought, here is the right thing for me. Why should it be difficult to sell any number of copies of so well recommended a book, especially when there would be no competition in the sale of it? Why should it not be possible, with a strong will and proper push, to dispose of enough copies in a few months to earn enough to go, perhaps, to the Harvard Law School in the fall? The scheme took complete possession of me. I felt too impatient merely to write to the Chicago firm, and, towards the end of February, 1856, got a week's leave of absence, packed my trunk, and went by train to Chicago.