THE COMPLETE WORKS OF ARTEMUS WARD
(CHARLES FARRAR BROWNE)
WITH: PRELIMINARY NOTES BY JOHN CAMDEN HOTTEN. A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH BY MELVILLE D. LANDON, "ELI PERKINS" AN INTRODUCTION BY T.W. ROBERTSON. A PREFATORY NOTE BY EDWARD P. HINGSTON.
PRELIMINARY NOTES BY JOHN CAMDEN HOTTEN.
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH BY MELVILLE D. LANDON.
AN INTRODUCTION BY T.W. ROBERTSON.
A PREFATORY NOTE BY EDWARD P. HINGSTON.
ESSAYS, SKETCHES, AND LETTERS.
1.1. One of Mr. Ward's Business Letters.
1.2. On "Forts."
1.3. The Shakers.
1.4. High-handed Outrage at Utica.
1.5. Celebration at Baldinsville.
1.6. Among the Spirits.
1.7. On the Wing.
1.8. The Octoroon.
1.9. Experience as an Editor.
1.11. The Showman's Courtship.
1.12. The Crisis.
1.13. Wax Figures vs. Shakespeare.
1.14. Among the Free Lovers.
1.15. A Visit to Brigham Young.
1.16. Scandalous doings at Pittsburg.
1.17. The Census.
1.18. An Honest Living.
1.19. The Press.
1.20. Edwin Forest as Othello.
1.21. The Show Business and Popular Lectures.
1.22. Woman's Rights.
1.23. Would-be Sea Dogs.
1.24. The Prince of Wales.
1.26. Little Patti.
1.27. Ossawatomie Brown.
1.28. Joy in the House of Ward.
1.29. Boston. (A. Ward to his Wife.)
1.30. How Old Abe Received the News of his Nomination.
1.31. Interview with President Lincoln.
1.32. Interview with the Prince Napoleon.
1.35. A Hard Case.
1.36. Affairs around the Village Green.
1.37. About Editors.
1.40. A Little Difficulty in the Way.
1.41. Colored People's Church.
1.43. Mr. Blowhard.
1.44. Market Morning.
1.45. We See Two Witches.
1.46. From a Homely Man.
1.47. The Elephant.
1.48. How the Napoleon of Sellers was Sold.
1.49. On Autumn.
1.50. Paying for his Provender by Praying.
1.51. Hunting Trouble.
1.52. Dark Doings.
1.54. He had the Little Voucher In His Pocket.
1.55. The Gentlemanly Conductor.
1.56. Morality and Genius.
1.57. Rough Beginning of the Honeymoon.
1.58. A Colored man of the Name of Jeffries.
1.60. He found he Would.
1.61. "Burial in Richmond and Resurrection in Boston."
1.62. A Mayoralty Election.
1.63. Fishing Excursion.
2.1. The Show is Confiscated.
2.2. Thrilling Scenes in Dixie.
2.3. Fourth of July Oration.
2.4. The War Fever in Baldinsville.
2.5. A War Meeting.
2.6. The Draft in Baldinsville.
2.7. Surrender of Cornwallis.
2.8. Things in New York.
2.9. Touching Letter from a Gory Member.
2.10. In Canada.
2.11. The Noble Red Man.
2.12. Artemus Ward in Richmond.
2.13. Artemus Ward to the Prince of Wales.
STORIES AND ROMANCES.
3.1. Moses the Sassy; or, The Disguised Duke.
3.2. Marion: A Romance of the French School.
3.3. William Barker, the Young Patriot.
3.4. A Romance—The Conscript.
3.5. A Romance—Only a Mechanic.
3.6. Roberto the Rover; A Tale of Sea and Shore.
3.7. Red Hand: A Tale of Revenge.
3.8. Pyrotechny: A Romance after the French.
3.9. The Last of the Culkinses.
3.10. A Mormon Romance—Reginald Gloverson.
TO CALIFORNIA AND RETURN.
4.1. On the Steamer.
4.2. The Isthmus.
4.6. Mr. Pepper.
4.7. Horace Greely's Ride to Placerville.
4.8. To Reese River.
4.9. Great Salt Lake City.
4.10. The Mountain Fever.
4.11. "I am Here."
4.12. Brigham Young.
4.13. A Piece is Spoken.
4.14. The Ball.
4.15. Phelp's Almanac.
4.16. Hurrah for the Road.
4.17. Very Much Married.
4.18. The Revelation of Joseph Smith.
THE LONDON PUNCH LETTERS.
5.1. Arrival in London.
5.2. Personal Recollections.
5.3. The Green Lion and Oliver Cromwell.
5.4. At the Tomb of Shakespeare.
5.5. Introduction to the Club.
5.6. The Tower of London.
5.7. Science and Natural History.
5.8. A Visit to the British Museum.
ARTEMUS WARD'S PANORAMA.
6.1. Prefatory Note by Melville D. Landon.
6.2. The Egyptian Hall Lecture.
6.3. "The Times" Notice.
6.4. Programme of the Egyptian Hall Lecture.
6.5. Announcement and Programme of the Dodworth Hall Lecture.
7.1. The Cruise of the Polly Ann.
7.2. Artemus Ward's Autobiography.
7.3. The Serenade.
7.4. O'Bourcy's "Arrah-na-Pogue."
7.5. Artemus Ward among the Fenians.
7.6. Artemus Ward in Washington.
7.7. Scenes Outside the Fair Grounds.
7.8. The Wife.
7.9. A Juvenile Composition On the Elephant.
7.10. A Poem by the Same.
7.11. East Side Theatricals.
7.12. Soliloquy of a Low Thief.
7.13. The Negro Question.
7.14. Artemus Ward on Health.
7.15. A Fragment.
7.16. Brigham Young's Wives.
7.17. A. Ward's First Umbrella.
7.18. An Affecting Poem.
7.19. Mormon Bill of Fare.
7.20. "The Babes in the Wood."
7.21. Mr. Ward Attends a Graffick (Soiree.)
7.22. A. Ward Among the Mormons.—Reported by Himself—or Somebody Else.
* * *
PUBLISHERS' PREFACE TO THE NEW (1898) EDITION.
The present edition is of a work which has been for more than thirty years prominently before the public, and which may justly be said to have maintained a standard character. It is issued because of a demand for a BETTER EDITION than has ever been published.
In order to supply this acknowledged want, the publishers have enlarged and perfected this edition by adding some matter not heretofore published in book form.
More than one hundred thousand copies of the work have been printed. The plates had become so worn as to render it unreadable, yet the sale kept on. In preparing this new edition, many of the author's fragmentary pieces, not contained in the old edition, have been added. The earliest of the author's writings, published in periodicals in 1862, are included, together with many additional illustrations, which now, for the first time, make the work complete.
It is universally conceded that no country in the world has ever produced a genius like Artemus Ward. Writers of ACKNOWLEDGED GENIUS are never very numerous. He attained a great and deserved popularity, which will be lasting.
It has been observed that the wit of one generation is rarely appreciated by the next, but this is not true of Artemus Ward. There is a constant demand for his writings, for the reason that his jokes require no appendix for their elucidation. No one who speaks the English language can fail to appreciate his wonderful humor. It will always be funny. There is a fascination about it which can neither be questioned nor resisted. His particular niche in the temple of Fame will not be claimed by another. His intellect was sharp and electric. He saw the humor of anything at a glance, and his manner of relating these laughter-provoking absurdities is original and "fetching."
PRELIMINARY NOTES BY JOHN CAMDEN HOTTEN.
Piccadilly, W. Jan. 30, 1865.
There is a story of two "smart" Yankees, one named Hosea and the other Hezekiah, who met in an oyster shop in Boston. Said Hosea, "As to opening oysters, why nothing's easier if you only know how." "And how's how?" asked Hezekiah. "Scotch snuff," replied Hosea, very gravely—"Scotch snuff. Bring a little of it ever so near their noses, and they'll sneeze their lids off." "I know a man who knows a better plan," observed Hezekiah. "He spreads the bivalves in a circle, seats himself in the centre, reads a chapter of Artemus Ward to them, and goes on until they get interested. One by one they gape with astonishment at A. Ward's whoppers, and as they gape my friend whips 'em out, peppers away, and swallows 'em."
Excellent as all that Artemus Ward writes really is, and exuberantly overflowing with humour as are nearly all his articles, it is too bad to accuse him of telling "whoppers." On the contrary, the old Horatian question of "Who shall forbid me to speak truth in laughter?" seems ever present to his mind. His latest production is the admirable paper "Artemus Ward among the Fenians" which appears in Part 7.
If Artemus has on any occasion really told "whoppers," it has been in his announcements of being about to visit England. From time to time he has stated his intention of visiting this country, and from time to time has he disappointed his English friends.
He was coming to England after his trip to California, when, laden with gold, he could think of no better place to spend it in.
He was on his way to England when he and his companion, Mr. Hingston, encountered the Pi-ute Indians, and narrowly escaped scalping.
He was leaving for England with "Betsy Jane" and the "snaiks" before the American war was ended.
He had unscrewed the head of each of his "wax figgers," and sent each on board in a carpet-bag, labelled "For England," just as Mr Lincoln was assassinated.
He was hastening to England when the news came a few weeks ago that he had been blown up in an oil well!
He has been on his way to England in every newspaper of the American Union for the last two years.
Here is the latest announcement:
"Artemus Ward, in a private letter, states that Doctor Kumming, the famous London seer and profit, having foretold that the end of the world will happen on his own birthday in January 1867, he, Artemus, will not visit England until the latter end of 1866, when the people there will be selling off, and dollars will be plentiful. Mr. Ward says that he shall leave England in the last steamer, in time to see the American eagle spread his wings, and with the stars and stripes in his beek and tallents, sore away to his knativ empyrehum.—" American Paper.
But even this is likely to be a "whopper," for a more reliable private letter from Artemus declares his fixed purpose to leave for England in the steamship City of Boston early in June; and the probabilities are that he will be stepping on English shores just about the time that these pages go to press.
Lest anything should happen to him, and England be for ever deprived of seeing him, the most recent production of his pen, together with two or three of his best things, are here embalmed for preservation, on the principle adopted by the affectionate widow of the bear-trainer of Perpignan. "I have nothing left," said the woman; "I am absolutely without a roof to shelter me and the poor animal." "Animal!" exclaimed the prefect; "you don't mean to say that you keep the bear that devoured your husband?" "Alas!" she replied, "it is all that is left to me of the poor dear man!"
If any other excuse be needed for thus presenting the British public with A. Ward's "last," in addition to the pertinency of the article and its real merit, that excuse may be found in the fact that it is thoroughly new to readers on this side of the Atlantic.
The general public will undoubtedly receive "Artemus Ward among the Fenians" with approving laughter. Should it fall into the hands of a philo-Fenian the effect may be different. To him it would probably have the wrong action of the Yankee bone-picking machine.
"I've got a new machine," said a Yankee pedlar, "for picking bones out of fish. Now, I tell you, it's a leetle bit the darndest thing you ever did see. All you have to do is to set it on a table and turn a crank, and the fish flies right down your throat and the bones right under the grate. Well, there was a country greenhorn got hold of it the other day, and he turned the crank the wrong way; and, I tell you, the way the bones flew down his throat was awful. Why, it stuck that fellow so full of bones, that he could not get his shirt off for a whole week!"
In addition to the paper on the Fenians, two other articles by Artemus Ward are reprinted in the present work. One relates to the city of Washington, and the other to the author's imaginary town of Baldinsville. Both are highly characteristic of the writer and of his quaint spellings—a heterography not more odd than that of the postmaster of Shawnee County, Missouri, who, returning his account to the General Office, wrote, "I hearby sertify that the four going A-Counte is as nere Rite as I now how to make It, if there is any mistake it is not Dun a purpers."
Artemus Ward has created a new model for funny writers; and the fact is noticeable that, in various parts of this country as well as in his own, he has numerous puny imitators, who suppose that by simply adopting his comic spelling they can write quite as well as he can. Perhaps it would be as well if they remembered the joke of poor Thomas Hood, who said that he could write as well as Shakespere if he had the mind to, but the trouble was—he had not got the mind.
* * *
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH BY MELVILLE D. LANDON.
Charles Farrar Browne, better known to the world as "Artemus Ward," was born at Waterford, Oxford County, Maine, on the twenty-sixth of April, 1834, and died of consumption at Southampton, England, on Wednesday, the sixth of March, 1867.
His father, Levi Browne, was a land surveyor, and Justice of the Peace. His mother, Caroline E. Brown, is still living, and is a descendant from Puritan stock.
Mr. Browne's business manager, Mr. Hingston, once asked him about his Puritanic origin, when he replied: "I think we came from Jerusalem, for my father's name was Levi and we had a Moses and a Nathan in the family, but my poor brother's name was Cyrus; so, perhaps, that makes us Persians."
Charles was partially educated at the Waterford school, when family circumstances induced his parents to apprentice him to learn the rudiments of printing in the office of the "Skowhegan Clarion," published some miles to the north of his native village. Here he passed through the dreadful ordeal to which a printer's "devil" is generally subjected. He always kept his temper; and his eccentric boy jokes are even now told by the residents of Skowhegan.
In the spring, after his fifteenth birthday, Charles Browne bade farewell to the "Skowhegan Clarion;" and we next hear of him in the office of the "Carpet-Bag," edited by B.P. Shillaber ("Mrs. Partington"). Lean, lank, but strangely appreciative, young Browne used to "set up" articles from the pens of Charles G. Halpine ("Miles O'Reilly") and John G. Saxe, the poet. Here he wrote his first contribution in a disguised hand, slyly put it into the editorial box, and the next day disguised his pleasure while setting it up himself. The article was a description of a Fourth of July celebration in Skowhegan. The spectacle of the day was a representation of the battle of Yorktown, with G. Washington and General Horace Cornwallis in character. The article pleased Mr. Shillaber, and Mr. Browne, afterwards speaking of it, said: "I went to the theatre that evening, had a good time of it, and thought I was the greatest man in Boston."
While engaged on the "Carpet-Bag," the subject of our sketch closely studied the theatre and courted the society of actors and actresses. It was in this way that he gained that correct and valuable knowledge of the texts and characters of the drama, which enabled him in after years to burlesque them so successfully. The humorous writings of Seba Smith were his models, and the oddities of "John Phoenix" were his especial admiration.
Being of a roving temper Charles Browne soon left Boston, and, after traveling as a journeyman printer over much of New York and Massachusetts, he turned up in the town of Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio, where he became reporter and compositor at four dollars per week. After making many friends among the good citizens of Tiffin, by whom he is remembered as a patron of side shows and traveling circuses, our hero suddenly set out for Toledo, on the lake, where he immediately made a reputation as a writer of sarcastic paragraphs in the columns of the Toledo "Commercial." He waged a vigorous newspaper war with the reporters of the Toledo "Blade," but while the "Blade" indulged in violent vituperation, "Artemus" was good-natured and full of humor. His column soon gained a local fame and everybody read it. His fame even traveled away to Cleveland, where, in 1858, when Mr. Browne was twenty-four years of age, Mr. J.W. Gray of the Cleveland "Plaindealer" secured him as local reporter, at a salary of twelve-dollars per week. Here his reputation first began to assume a national character and it was here that they called him a "fool" when he mentioned the idea of taking the field as a lecturer. Speaking of this circumstance while traveling down the Mississippi with the writer, in 1865, Mr. Browne musingly repeated this colloquy:
WISE MAN:—"Ah! you poor foolish little girl—here is a dollar for you."
FOOLISH LITTLE GIRL:—"Thank you, sir; but I have a sister at home as foolish as I am; can't you give me a dollar for her?"
Charles Browne was not successful as a NEWS reporter, lacking enterprise and energy, but his success lay in writing up in a burlesque manner well-known public affairs like prize-fights, races, spiritual meetings, and political gatherings. His department became wonderfully humorous, and was always a favorite with readers, whether there was any news in it or not. Sometimes he would have a whole column of letters from young ladies in reply to a fancied matrimonial advertisement, and then he would have a column of answers to general correspondents like this:—
VERITAS:—Many make the same error. Mr. Key, who wrote the "Star Spangled Banner," is not the author of Hamlet, a tragedy. He wrote the banner business, and assisted in "The Female Pirate," BUT DID NOT WRITE HAMLET. Hamlet was written by a talented but unscrupulous man named Macbeth, afterwards tried and executed for "murdering sleep."
YOUNG CLERGYMAN:—Two pints of rum, two quarts of hot water, tea- cup of sugar, and a lemon; grate in nutmeg, stir thoroughly and drink while hot.
It was during his engagement on the "Plaindealer" that he wrote, dating from Indiana, his first communication,—the first published letter following this sketch, signed "Artemus Ward" a sobriquet purely incidental, but borne with the "u" changed to an "a" by an American revolutionary general. It was here that Mr. Browne first became, IN WORDS, the possessor of a moral show "consisting of three moral bares, the a kangaroo (a amoozing little rascal; 'twould make you larf yourself to death to see the little kuss jump and squeal), wax figures of G. Washington, &c. &c." Hundreds of newspapers copied this letter, and Charles Browne awoke one morning to find himself famous.
In the "Plaindealer" office, his companion, George Hoyt, writes: "His desk was a rickety table which had been whittled and gashed until it looked as if it had been the victim of lightning. His chair was a fit companion thereto,—a wabbling, unsteady affair, sometimes with four and sometimes with three legs. But Browne saw neither the table, nor the chair, nor any person who might be near, nothing, in fact, but the funny pictures which were tumbling out of his brain. When writing, his gaunt form looked ridiculous enough. One leg hung over the arm of his chair like a great hook, while he would write away, sometimes laughing to himself, and then slapping the table in the excess of his mirth."
While in the office of the "Plaindealer," Mr. Browne first conceived the idea of becoming a lecturer. In attending the various minstrel shows and circuses which came to the city, he would frequently hear repeated some story of his own which the audience would receive with hilarity. His best witticisms came back to him from the lips of another who made a living by quoting a stolen jest. Then the thought came to him to enter the lecture field himself, and become the utterer of his own witticisms—the mouthpiece of his own jests.
On the 10th of November, 1860, Charles Browne, whose fame, traveling in his letters from Boston to San Francisco, had now become national, grasped the hands of his hundreds of New York admirers. Cleveland had throned him the monarch of mirth, and a thousand hearts paid him tributes of adulation as he closed his connection with the Cleveland Press.
Arriving in the Empire City, Mr. Browne soon opened an engagement with "Vanity Fair," a humorous paper after the manner of London "Punch," and ere long he succeeded Mr. Charles G. Leland as editor. Mr. Charles Dawson Shanly says: "After Artemus Ward became sole editor, a position which he held for a brief period, many of his best contributions were given to the public; and, whatever there was of merit in the columns of "Vanity Fair" from the time he assumed the editorial charge, emanated from his pen." Mr. Browne himself wrote to a friend: "Comic copy is what they wanted for "Vanity Fair." I wrote some and it killed it. The poor paper got to be a conundrum, and so I gave it up."
The idea of entering the field as a lecturer now seized Mr. Browne stronger than ever. Tired of the pen, he resolved on trying the platform. His Bohemian friends agreed that his fame and fortune would be made before intelligent audiences. He resolved to try it. What should be the subject of my lecture? How shall I treat the subject? These questions caused Mr. Browne grave speculations. Among other schemes, he thought of a string of jests combined with a stream of satire, the whole being unconnected—a burlesque upon a lecture. The subject,—that was a hard question. First he thought of calling it "My Seven Grandmothers," but he finally adopted the name of "Babes in the Woods," and with this subject Charles Browne was introduced to a metropolitan audience, on the evening of December 23d, 1861. The place was Clinton Hall, which stood on the site of the old Astor Place Opera House, where years ago occurred the Macready riot, and where now is the Mercantile Library. Previous to this introduction, Mr. Frank Wood accompanied him to the suburban town of Norwich, Connecticut, where he first delivered his lecture, and watched the result. The audience was delighted, and Mr. Browne received an ovation. Previous to his Clinton Hall appearance the city was flooded with funny placards reading—
ARTEMUS WARD WILL SPEAK A PIECE.
Owing to a great storm, only a small audience braved the elements, and the Clinton Hall lecture was not a financial success. It consisted of a wandering batch of comicalities, touching upon everything except "The Babes." Indeed it was better described by the lecturer in London, when he said, "One of the features of my entertainment is, that it contains so many things that don't have anything to do with it."
In the middle of his lecture, the speaker would hesitate, stop, and say: "Owing to a slight indisposition we will now have an intermission of fifteen minutes." The audience looked in utter dismay at the idea of staring at vacancy for a quarter of an hour, when, rubbing his hands, the lecturer would continue: "but, ah—during the intermission I will go on with my lecture!"
Mr. Browne's first volume, entitled "Artemus Ward; His Book," was published in New York, May 17th, 1862. The volume was everywhere hailed with enthusiasm, and over forty thousand copies were sold. Great success also attended the sale of his three other volumes published in '65, '67, and '69.
Mr. Browne's next lecture was entitled "Sixty Minutes in Africa," and was delivered in Musical Fund Hall, Philadelphia. Behind him hung a large map of Africa, "which region," said Artemus, "abounds in various natural productions, such as reptiles and flowers. It produces the red rose, the white rose, and the neg- roes. In the middle of the continent is what is called a 'howling wilderness,' but, for my part, I have never heard it howl, nor met with any one who has."
After Mr. Browne had created immense enthusiasm for his lectures and books in the Eastern States, which filled his pockets with a handsome exchequer, he started, October 3d, 1863, for California, a faithful account of which trip is given by himself in this book. Previous to starting, he received a telegram from Thomas Maguire, of the San Francisco Opera House, inquiring "what he would TAKE FOR FORTY NIGHTS IN CALIFORNIA." Mr. Brown immediately telegraphed back,—
"Brandy and water. A. Ward."
And, though Maguire was sorely puzzled at the contents of the dispatch, the Press got hold of it, and it went through California as a capital joke.
Mr. Browne first lectured in San Francisco on "The Babes in the Woods," November 13th, 1863, at Pratt's Hall. T. Starr King took a deep interest in him, occupying the rostrum, and his general reception in San Francisco was warm.
Returning overland, through Salt Lake to the States, in the fall of 1864, Mr. Browne lectured again in New York, this time on the "Mormons," to immense audiences, and in the spring of 1865 he commenced his tour through the country, everywhere drawing enthusiastic audiences both North and South.
It was while on this tour that the writer of this sketch again spent some time with him. We met at Memphis and traveled down the Mississippi together. At Lake Providence the "Indiana" rounded up to our landing, and Mr. Browne accompanied the writer to his plantation, where he spent several days, mingling in seeming infinite delight with the negroes. For them he showed great fondness, and they used to stand around him in crowds listening to his seemingly serious advice. We could not prevail upon him to hunt or to join in any of the equestrian amusements with the neighboring planters, but a quiet fascination drew him to the negroes. Strolling through the "quarters," his grave words, too deep with humor for darkey comprehension, gained their entire confidence. One day he called up Uncle Jeff., an Uncle-Tom-like patriarch, and commenced in his usual vein: "Now, Uncle Jefferson," he said, "why do you thus pursue the habits of industry? This course of life is wrong—all wrong—all a base habit, Uncle Jefferson. Now try to break it off. Look at me,— look at Mr. Landon, the chivalric young Southern plantist FROM NEW YORK, he toils not, neither does he spin; he pursues a career of contented idleness. If you only thought so, Jefferson, you could live for months WITHOUT PERFORMING ANY KIND OF LABOR, and at the expiration of that time FEEL FRESH AND VIGOROUS ENOUGH TO COMMENCE IT AGAIN. Idleness refreshes the physical organization —IT IS A SWEET BOON! Strike at the roots of the destroying habit to-day, Jefferson. It tires you out; resolve to be idle; no one should labor; HE SHOULD HIRE OTHERS TO DO IT FOR HIM;" and then he would fix his mournful eyes on Jeff. and hand him a dollar, while the eyes of the wonder-struck darkey would gaze in mute admiration upon the good and wise originator of the only theory which the darkey mind could appreciate. As Jeff. went away to tell the wonderful story to his companions, and backed it with the dollar as material proof, Artemus would cover his eyes, and bend forward on his elbows in a chuckling laugh.
"Among the Mormons" was delivered through the States, everywhere drawing immense crowds. His manner of delivering his discourse was grotesque and comical beyond description. His quaint and sad style contributed more than anything else to render his entertainment exquisitely funny. The programme was exceedingly droll, and the tickets of admission presented the most ludicrous of ideas. The writer presents a fac-simile of an admission ticket which was presented to him in Natchez by Mr. Browne:—
ADMIT THE BEARER AND ONE WIFE. YOURS TROOLY, A. WARD.
In the spring of 1866, Charles Browne first timidly thought of going to Europe. Turning to Mr. Hingston one day he asked: "What sort of a man is Albert Smith? Do you think the Mormons would be as good a subject to the Londoners as Mont Blanc was?" Then he said: "I should like to go to London and give my lecture in the same place. Can't it be done?"
Mr. Browne sailed for England soon after, taking with him his Panorama. The success that awaited him could scarcely have been anticipated by his most intimate friends. Scholars, wits, poets, and novelists came to him with extended hands, and his stay in London was one ovation to the genius of American wit. Charles Reade, the novelist, was his warm friend and enthusiastic admirer; and Mr. Andrew Haliday introduced him to the "Literary Club," where he became a great favorite. Mark Lemon came to him and asked him to become a contributor to "Punch," which he did. His "Punch" letters were more remarked in literary circles than any other current matter. There was hardly a club-meeting or a dinner at which they were not discussed. "There was something so grotesque in the idea," said a correspondent, "of this ruthless Yankee poking among the revered antiquities of Britain, that the beef-eating British themselves could not restrain their laughter." The story of his Uncle William who "followed commercial pursuits, glorious commerce—and sold soap," and his letters on the Tower and "Chowser," were palpable hits, and it was admitted that "Punch" had contained nothing better since the days of "Yellowplush." This opinion was shared by the "Times," the literary reviews, and the gayest leaders of society. The publishers of "Punch" posted up his name in large letters over their shop in Fleet Street, and Artemus delighted to point it out to his friends. About this time Mr. Browne wrote to his friend Jack Rider, of Cleveland:
"This is the proudest moment of my life. To have been as well appreciated here as at home; to have written for the oldest comic Journal in the English language, received mention with Hood, with Jerrold and Hook, and to have my picture and my pseudonym as common in London as in New York, is enough for "Yours truly, "A. Ward."
England was thoroughly aroused to the merits of Artemus Ward, before he commenced his lectures at Egyptian Hall, and when, in November, he finally appeared, immense crowds were compelled to turn away. At every lecture his fame increased, and when sickness brought his brilliant success to an end, a nation mourned his retirement.
On the evening of Friday, the seventh week of his engagement at Egyptian Hall, Artemus became seriously ill, an apology was made to a disappointed audience, and from that time the light of one of the greatest wits of the centuries commenced fading into darkness. The Press mourned his retirement, and a funeral pall fell over London. The laughing, applauding crowds were soon to see his consumptive form moving towards its narrow resting-place in the cemetery at Kensal Green.
By medical advice Charles Browne went for a short time to the Island of Jersey—but the breezes of Jersey were powerless. He wrote to London to his nearest and dearest friends—the members of a literary club of which he was a member—to complain that his "loneliness weighed on him." He was brought back, but could not sustain the journey farther than Southampton. There the members of the club traveled from London to see him—two at a time—that he might be less lonely.
His remains were followed to the grave from the rooms of his friend Arthur Sketchley, by a large number of friends and admirers, the literati and press of London paying the last tribute of respect to their dead brother. The funeral services were conducted by the Rev. M.D. Conway, formerly of Cincinnati, and the coffin was temporarily placed in a vault, from which it was removed by his American friends, and his body now sleeps by the side of his father, Levi Browne, in the quiet cemetery at Waterford, Maine. Upon the coffin is the simple inscription:—
"CHARLES F. BROWNE, AGED 32 YEARS, Better Known to the World as 'Artemus Ward.'"
His English executors were T.W. Robertson, the playwright, and his friend and companion, E.P. Hingston. His literary executors were Horace Greeley and Richard H. Stoddard. In his will, he bequeathed among other things a large sum of money to his little valet, a bright little fellow; though subsequent denouments revealed the fact that he left only a six-thousand-dollar house in Yonkers. There is still some mystery about his finances, which may one day be revealed. It is known that he withdrew 10,000 dollars from the Pacific Bank to deposit it with a friend before going to England; besides this, his London "Punch" letters paid a handsome profit. Among his personal friends were George Hoyt, the late Daniel Setchell, Charles W. Coe, and Mr. Mullen, the artist, all of whom he used to style "my friends all the year round."
Personally Charles Farrar Browne was one of the kindest and most affectionate of men, and history does not name a man who was so universally beloved by all who knew him. It was remarked, and truly, that the death of no literary character since Washington Irving caused such general and widespread regret.
In stature he was tall and slender. His nose was prominent,— outlined like that of Sir Charles Napier, or Mr. Seward; his eyes brilliant, small, and close together; his mouth large, teeth white and pearly; fingers long and slender; hair soft, straight, and blonde; complexion florid; mustache large, and his voice soft and clear. In bearing, he moved like a natural-born gentleman. In his lectures he never smiled—not even while he was giving utterance to the most delicious absurdities; but all the while the jokes fell from his lips as if he was unconscious of their meaning. While writing his lectures, he would laugh and chuckle to himself continually.
There was one peculiarity about Charles Browne—HE NEVER MADE AN ENEMY. Other wits in other times have been famous, but a satirical thrust now and then has killed a friend. Diogenes was the wit of Greece, but when, after holding up an old dried fish to draw away the eyes of Anaximenes' audience, he exclaimed "See how an old fish is more interesting than Anaximenes," he said a funny thing, but he stabbed a friend. When Charles Lamb, in answer to the doting mother's question as to how he liked babies, replied, "b-b-boiled, madam, BOILED!" that mother loved him no more: and when John Randolph said "THANK YOU!" to his constituent who kindly remarked that he had the pleasure of PASSING his house, it was wit at the expense of friendship. The whole English school of wits—with Douglas Jerrold, Hood, Sheridan, and Sidney Smith, indulged in repartee. They were PARASITIC wits. And so with the Irish, except that an Irishman is generally so ridiculously absurd in his replies as to only excite ridicule. "Artemus Ward" made you laugh and love him too.
The wit of "Artemus Ward" and "Josh Billings" is distinctively American. Lord Kames, in his "Elements of Criticism," makes no mention of this species of wit, a lack which the future rhetorician should look to. We look in vain for it in the English language of past ages, and in other languages of modern time. It is the genus American. When Artemus says in that serious manner, looking admiringly at his atrocious pictures,—"I love pictures—and I have many of them—beautiful photographs—of myself;" you smile; and when he continues, "These pictures were painted by the Old Masters; they painted these pictures and then they—they expired;" you hardly know what it is that makes you laugh outright; and when Josh Billings says in his Proverbs, wiser than Solomon's "You'd better not know so much, than know so many things that ain't so;"—the same vein is struck, but the text-books fail to explain scientifically the cause of our mirth.
The wit of Charles Browne is of the most exalted kind. It is only scholars and those thoroughly acquainted with the SUBTILTY of our language who fully appreciate it. His wit is generally about historical personages like Cromwell, Garrick, or Shakspeare, or a burlesque on different styles of writing, like his French novel, when hifalutin phrases of tragedy come from the clodhopper who—"sells soap and thrice—refuses a ducal coronet."
Mr. Browne mingled the eccentric even in his business letters. Once he wrote to his Publisher, Mr. G.W. Carleton, who had made some alterations in his MSS.: "The next book I write I'm going to get YOU to write." Again he wrote in 1863:
"Dear Carl:—You and I will get out a book next spring, which will knock spots out of all comic books in ancient or modern history. And the fact that you are going to take hold of it convinces me that you have one of the most MASSIVE intellects of this or any other epoch.
"Yours, my pretty gazelle,
When Charles F. Browne died, he did not belong to America, for, as with Irving and Dickens, the English language claimed him. Greece alone did not suffer when the current of Diogenes' wit flowed on to death. Spain alone did not mourn when Cervantes, dying, left Don Quixote, the "knight of la Mancha." When Charles Lamb ceased to tune the great heart of humanity to joy and gladness, his funeral was in every English and American household; and when Charles Browne took up his silent resting-place in the sombre shades of Kensal Green, JESTING CEASED, and one great Anglo-American heart,
Like a muffled drum went beating Funeral marches to his grave.
MELVILLE D. LANDON.
INTRODUCTION BY T.W. ROBERTSON.
Few tasks are more difficult or delicate than to write on the subject of the works or character of a departed friend. The pen falters as the familiar face looks out of the paper. The mind is diverted from the thought of death as the memory recalls some happy epigram. It seems so strange that the hand that traced the jokes should be cold, that the tongue that trolled out the good things should be silent—that the jokes and the good things should remain, and the man who made them should be gone for ever.
The works of Charles Farrar Browne—who was known to the world as "Artemus Ward"—have run through so many editions, have met with such universal popularity, and have been so widely criticised, that it is needless to mention them here. So many biographies have been written of the gentleman who wrote in the character of the 'cute Yankee Showman, that it is unnecessary that I should touch upon his life, belongings, or adventures. Of "Artemus Ward" I know just as much as the rest of the world. I prefer, therefore, to speak of Charles Farrar Browne, as I knew him, and, in doing so, I can promise those friends who also knew him and esteemed him, that as I consider no "public" man so public, that some portion of his work, pleasures, occupations, and habits may not be considered private, I shall only mention how kind and noble-minded was the man of whom I write, without dragging forward special and particular acts in proof of my words, as if the goodness of his mind and character needed the certificate of facts.
I first saw Charles Browne at a literary club; he had only been a few hours in London, and he seemed highly pleased and excited at finding himself in the old city to which his thoughts had so often wandered. Browne was an intensely sympathetic man. His brain and feelings were as a "lens," and he received impressions immediately. No man could see him without liking him at once. His manner was straightforward and genial, and had in it the dignity of a gentleman, tempered, as it were, by the fun of the humorist. When you heard him talk you wanted to make much of him, not because he was "Artemus Ward," but because he was himself, for no one less resembled "Artemus Ward" than his author and creator, Charles Farrar Browne. But a few weeks ago it was remarked to me that authors were a disappointing race to know, and I agreed with the remark, and I remember a lady once said to me that the personal appearance of poets seldom "came up" to their works. To this I replied that, after all, poets were but men, and that it was as unreasonable to expect that the late Sir Walter Scott could at all resemble a Gathering of the Clans as that the late Lord Macaulay should appear anything like the Committal of the Seven Bishops to the Tower. I told the lady that she was unfair to eminent men if she hoped that celebrated engineers would look like tubular bridges, or that Sir Edwin Landseer would remind her of a "Midsummer Night's Dream." I mention this because, of all men in the world, my friend Charles Browne was the least like a showman of any man I ever encountered. I can remember the odd half disappointed look of some of the visitors to the Egyptian Hall when "Artemus" stepped upon the platform. At first they thought that he was a gentleman who appeared to apologise for the absence of the showman. They had pictured to themselves a coarse old man, with a damp eye and a puckered mouth, one eyebrow elevated an inch above the other to express shrewdness and knowledge of the world—a man clad in velveteen and braid, with a heavy watch-chain, large rings, and horny hands, the touter to a waxwork show, with a hoarse voice, and over familiar manner. The slim gentleman in evening dress, polished manners, and gentle voice, with a tone of good breeding that hovered between deference and jocosity; the owner of those thin—those much too thin—white hands could not be the man who spelt joke with a "g." Folks who came to laugh, began to fear that they should remain to be instructed, until the gentlemanly disappointer began to speak, then they recovered their real "Artemus," Betsy Jane, wax-figgers, and all. Will patriotic Americans forgive me if I say that Charles Browne loved England dearly! He had been in London but a few days when he paid a visit to the Tower. He knew English history better than most Englishmen; and the Tower of London was to him the history of England embalmed in stone and mortar. No man had more reverence in his nature; and at the Tower he saw that what he had read was real. There were the beef-eaters; there had been Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh, and Lady Jane Grey, and Shakspere's murdered princes, and their brave, cruel uncle. There was the block and the axe, and the armour and the jewels. "St George for Merrie England!" had been shouted in the Holy Land, and men of the same blood as himself had been led against the infidel by men of the same brain and muscle as George Washington. Robin Hood was a reality, and not a schoolboy's myth like Ali Baba and Valentine and Orson.
There were two sets of feelings in Charles Browne at the Tower. He could appreciate the sublimity of history, but, as the "Show" part of the exhibition was described to him, the humorist, the wit, and the iconoclast from the other side the Atlantic must have smiled at the "descriptions." The "Tower" was a "show," like his own—Artemus Ward's. A price was paid for admission, and the "figgers" were "orated." Real jewellery is very like sham jewellery after all, and the "Artemus" vein in Charles Browne's mental constitution—the vein of humour, whose source was a strong contempt of all things false, mean, shabby, pretentious, and only external—of bunkum and Barnumisation—must have seen a gigantic speculation realising shiploads of dollars if the Tower could have been taken over to the States, and exhibited from town to town—the Stars and Stripes flying over it—with a four-horse lecture to describe the barbarity of the ancient British Barons and the cuss of chivalry.
Artemus Ward's Lecture on the Mormons at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, was a great success. His humour was so entirely fresh, new, and unconventional, it took his hearers by surprise, and charmed them. His failing health compelled him to abandon the lecture after about eight or ten weeks. Indeed, during that brief period he was once or twice compelled to dismiss his audience. I have myself seen him sink into a chair and nearly faint after the exertion of dressing. He exhibited the greatest anxiety to be at his post at the appointed time, and scrupulously exerted himself to the utmost to entertain his auditors. It was not because he was sick that the public was to be disappointed, or that their enjoyment was to be diminished. During the last few weeks of his lecture-giving he steadily abstained from accepting any of the numerous invitations he received. Had he lived through the following London fashionable season, there is little doubt that the room at the Egyptian Hall would have been thronged nightly. Our aristocracy have a fine delicate sense of humour, and the success, artistic and pecuniary, of "Artemus Ward" would have rivalled that of the famous "Lord Dundreary." There are many stupid people who did not understand the "fun" of Artemus Ward's books. In their vernacular "they didn't see it." There were many stupid people who did not understand the fun of Artemus Ward's lecture on the Mormons. They could not see it. Highly respectable people—the pride of their parish, when they heard of a lecture "upon the Mormons"- -expected to see a solemn person, full of old saws and new statistics, who would denounce the sin of polygamy, and bray against polygamists with four-and-twenty boiling-water Baptist power of denunciation. These uncomfortable Christians do not like humour. They dread it as a certain personage is said to dread holy water, and for the same reason that thieves fear policemen—it finds them out. When these good idiots heard Artemus offer, if they did not like the lecture in Piccadilly, to give them free tickets for the same lecture in California, when he next visited that country, they turned to each other indignantly, and said "What use are tickets for California to us? We are not going to California. No! we are too good, too respectable, to go so far from home. The man is a fool!" One of these ornaments of the vestry complained to the doorkeepers, and denounced the lecture as an imposition; "and," said the wealthy parishioner, "as for the panorama, it's the worst painted thing I ever saw in all my life!"
But the entertainment, original, humorous, and racy though it was, was drawing to a close! In the fight between youth and death, death was to conquer. By medical advice Charles Browne went for a short time to Jersey—but the breezes of Jersey were powerless. He wrote to London to his nearest and dearest friends—the members of a literary club of which he was a member—to complain that his "loneliness weighed on him." He was brought back, but could not sustain the journey farther than Southampton. There the members of the beforementioned club travelled from London to see him—two at a time—that he might be less lonely—and for the unwearying solicitude of his friend and agent, Mr. Hingston, and to the kindly sympathy of the United States Consul at Southampton, Charles Browne's best and dearest friends had cause to be grateful. I cannot close these lines without mention of "Artemus Ward's" last joke. He had read in the newspapers that a wealthy American had offered to present the Prince of Wales with a splendid yacht, American built.
"It seems," said the invalid, "a fashion now-a-days for everybody to present the Prince of Wales with something. I think I shall leave him—my panorama!"
Charles Browne died beloved and regretted by all who knew him, and by many who had known him but a few weeks; and when he drew his last breath, there passed away the Spirit of a true gentleman.
T.W. ROBERTSON London, August 11, 1868.
BY EDWARD P. HINGSTON.
In Cleveland, Ohio, the pleasant city beside the lakes, Artemus Ward first determined to become a public lecturer. He and I rambled through Cleveland together after his return from California. He called on some old friends at the Herald office, then went over to the Weddel House, and afterwards strolled across to the offices of the "Plain Dealer", where, in his position as sub-editor, he had written many of his earlier essays. Artemus inquired for Mr. Gray, the editor, who chanced to be absent. Looking round at the vacant desks and inkstained furniture, Artemus was silent for a minute or two, and then burst into one of those peculiar chuckling fits of laughter in which he would occasionally indulge; not a loud laugh, but a shaking of the whole body with an impulse of merriment which set every muscle in motion. "Here," said he, "here's where they called me a fool." The remembrance of their so calling him seemed to afford him intense amusement.
>From the office of the Cleveland Plain Dealer we continued our tour of the town. Presently we found ourselves in front of Perry's statue, the monument erected to commemorate the naval engagement on Lake Erie, wherein the Americans came off victorious. Artemus looked up to the statue, laid his finger to the side of his nose, and, in his quaint manner, remarked, "I wonder whether they called him 'a fool' too, when he went to fight!"
The remark, following close as it did upon his laughing fit in the newspaper office, caused me to inquire why he had been called "a fool," and who had called him so.
"It was the opinion of my friends on the paper," he replied. "I told them that I was going in for lecturing. They laughed at me, and called me 'a fool.' Don't you think they were right?"
Then we sauntered up Euclid Street, under the shade of its avenue of trees. As we went along, Artemus Ward recounted to me the story of his becoming a lecturer. Our conversation on that agreeable evening is fresh in my remembrance. Memory still listens to the voice of my companion in the stroll, still sees the green trees of Euclid Street casting their shadows across our path, and still joins in the laugh with Artemus, who, having just returned from California, where he had taken sixteen hundred dollars at one lecture, did not think that to be evidence of his having lost his senses.
The substance of that which Artemus Ward then told me was, that while writing for the "Cleveland Plain Dealer" he was accustomed, in the discharge of his duties as a reporter, to attend the performances of the various minstrel troups and circuses which visited the neighbourhood. At one of these he would hear some story of his own, written a month or two previously, given by the "middle-man" of the minstrels and received with hilarity by the audience. At another place he would be entertained by listening to jokes of his own invention, coarsely retailed by the clown of the ring, and shouted at by the public as capital waggery on the part of the performer. His own good things from the lips of another "came back to him with alienated majesty," as Emerson expresses it. Then the thought would steal over him—Why should that man gain a living with my witticisms, and I not use them in the same way myself? why not be the utterer of my own coinage, the quoter of my own jests, the mouthpiece of my own merry conceits? Certainly, it was not a very exalted ambition to aim at the glories of a circus clown or the triumphs of a minstrel with a blackened face. But, in the United States a somewhat different view is taken of that which is fitting and seemly for a man to do, compared with the estimate we form in this country. In a land where the theory of caste is not admitted, the relative respectability of the various professions is not quite the same as it is with us. There the profession does not disqualify if the man himself be right, nor the claim to the title of gentleman depend upon the avocation followed. I know of one or two clowns in the ring who are educated physicians, and not thought to be any the less gentlemen because they propound conundrums and perpetrate jests instead of prescribing pills and potions.
Artemus Ward was always very self-reliant; when once he believed himself to be in the right it was almost impossible to persuade him to the contrary. But, at the same time, he was cautious in the extreme, and would well consider his position before deciding that which was right or wrong for him to do. The idea of becoming a public man having taken possession of his mind, the next point to decide was in what form he should appear before the public. That of a humorous lecturer seemed to him to be the best. It was unoccupied ground. America had produced entertainers who by means of facial changes or eccentricities of costume had contrived to amuse their audiences, but there was no one who ventured to joke for an hour before a house full of people with no aid from scenery or dress. The experiment was one which Artemus resolved to try. Accordingly, he set himself to work to collect all his best quips and cranks, to invent what new drolleries he could, and to remember all the good things that he had heard or met with. These he noted down and strung together almost without relevancy or connexion. The manuscript chanced to fall into the hands of the people at the office of the newspaper on which he was then employed, and the question was put to him of what use he was going to make of the strange jumble of jest which he had thus compiled. His answer was that he was about to turn lecturer, and that before them were the materials of his lecture. It was then that his friends laughed at him, and characterised him as "a fool."
"They had some right to think so," said Artemus to me as we rambled up Euclid Street. "I half thought that I was one myself. I don't look like a lecturer—do I?"
He was always fond, poor fellow, of joking on the subject of his personal appearance. His spare figure and tall stature, his prominent nose and his light-colored hair, were each made the subject of a joke at one time or another in the course of his lecturing career. If he laughed largely at the foibles of others, he was equally disposed to laugh at any shortcomings he could detect in himself. If anything at all in his outward form was to him a source of vanity, it was the delicate formation of his hands. White, soft, long, slender, and really handsome, they were more like the hands of a high-born lady than those of a Western editor. He attended to them with careful pride, and never alluded to them as a subject for his jokes, until, in his last illness, they had become unnaturally fair, translucent, and attenuated. Then it was that a friend calling upon him at his apartments in Piccadilly, endeavoured to cheer him at a time of great mental depression, and pleasantly reminded him of a ride they had long ago projected through the South-Western States of the Union. "We must do that ride yet, Artemus. Short stages at first, and longer ones as we go on." Poor Artemus lifted up his pale, slender hands, and letting the light shine through them, said jocosely, "Do you think these would do to hold a rein with? Why, the horse would laugh at them."
Having collected a sufficient number of quaint thoughts, whimsical fancies, bizarre notions, and ludicrous anecdotes, the difficulty which then, according to his own confession, occurred to Artemus Ward was, what should be the title of his lecture. The subject was no difficulty at all, for the simple reason that there was not to be any. The idea of instructing or informing his audience never once entered into his plans. His intention was merely to amuse; if possible, keep the house in continuous laughter for an hour and a half, or rather an hour and twenty minutes, for that was the precise time, in his belief, which people could sit to listen and to laugh without becoming bored; and, if possible, send his audience home well pleased with the lecturer and with themselves, without their having any clear idea of that which they had been listening to, and not one jot the wiser than when they came. No one better understood than Artemus the wants of a miscellaneous audience who paid their dollar or half-dollar each to be amused. No one could gauge better than he the capacity of the crowd to feed on pure fun, and no one could discriminate more clearly than he the fitness, temper, and mental appetite of the constituents of his evening assemblies. The prosiness of an ordinary Mechanics' Institute lecture was to him simply abhorrent; the learned platitudes of a professed lecturer were to him, to use one of his own phrases, "worse than poison." To make people laugh was to be his primary endeavour. If in so making them laugh he could also cause them to see through a sham, be ashamed of some silly national prejudice, or suspicious of the value of some current piece of political bunkum, so much the better. He believed in laughter as thoroughly wholesome; he had the firmest conviction that fun is healthy, and sportiveness the truest sign of sanity. Like Talleyrand, he was of opinion that "Qui vit sans jolie n'est pas si sage qu'il croit."
Artemus Ward's first lecture was entitled "The Babes in the Wood." I asked him why he chose that title, because there was nothing whatever in the lecture relevant to the subject of the child-book legend. He replied, "It seemed to sound the best. I once thought of calling the lecture 'My Seven Grandmothers.' Don't you think that would have been good?" It would at any rate have been just as pertinent.
Incongruity as an element of fun was always an idea uppermost in the mind of the Western humorist. I am not aware that the notes of any of his lectures, except those of his Mormon experience, have been preserved, and I have some doubts if any one of his lectures, except the Mormon one, was ever fairly written out. "The Babes in the Wood," as a lecture, was a pure and unmitigated "sell." It was merely joke after joke, and drollery succeeding to drollery, without any connecting thread whatever. It was an exhibition of fireworks, owing half its brilliancy and more than half its effect to the skill of the man who grouped the fireworks together and let them off. In the hands of any other pyrotechnist the squibs would have failed to light, the rockets would have refused to ascend, and the "nine-bangers" would have exploded but once or twice only, instead of nine times. The artist of the display being no more, and the fireworks themselves having gone out, it is perhaps not to be regretted that the cases of the squibs and the tubes of the rockets have not been carefully kept. Most of the good things introduced by Artemus Ward in his first lecture were afterwards incorporated by him in subsequent writings, or used over again in his later entertainment. Many of them had reference to the events of the day, the circumstances of the American War and the politics of the Great Rebellion. These, of course, have lost their interest with the passing away of the times which gave them birth. The points of many of the jokes have corroded, and the barbed head of many an arrow of Artemus's wit has rusted into bluntness with the decay of the bow from which it was propelled.
If I remember rightly, the "Babes in the Wood" were never mentioned more than twice in the whole lecture. First, when the lecturer told his audience that the "Babes" were to constitute the subject of his discourse, and then digressed immediately to matters quite foreign to the story. Then again at the conclusion of the hour and twenty minutes of drollery, when he finished up in this way: "I now come to my subject 'The Babes in the Wood.'" Here he would take out his watch, look at it with affected surprise, put on an appearance of being greatly perplexed, and amidst roars of laughter from the people, very gravely continue, "But I find that I have exceeded my time, and will therefore merely remark that, so far as I know, they were very good babes—they were as good as ordinary babes. I really have not time to go into their history. You will find it all in the story-books. They died in the woods, listening to the woodpecker tapping the hollow beech-tree. It was a sad fate for them, and I pity them. So, I hope, do you. Good night!"
Artemus gave his first lecture at Norwich in Connecticut, and travelled over a considerable portion of the Eastern States before he ventured to give a sample of his droll oratory in the Western cities, wherein he had earned reputation as a journalist. Gradually his popularity became very great, and in place of letting himself out at so much per night to literary societies and athenaeums, he constituted himself his own showman, engaging that indispensable adjunct to all showmen in the United States, an agent to go ahead, engage halls, arrange for the sale of tickets, and engineer the success of the show. Newspapers had carried his name to every village of the Union, and his writings had been largely quoted in every journal. It required, therefore, comparatively little advertising to announce his visit to any place in which he had to lecture. But it was necessary that he should have a bill or poster of some kind. The one he adopted was simple, quaint, striking, and well adapted to the purpose. It was merely one large sheet, with a black ground, and the letters cut out in the block, so as to print white. The reading was "Artemus Ward will Speak a Piece." To the American mind this was intensely funny from its childish absurdity. It is customary in the States for children to speak or recite "a piece" at school at the annual examination, and the phrase is used just in the same sense as in England we say "a Christmas piece." The professed subject of the lecture being that of a story familiar to children, harmonised well with the droll placard which announced its delivery. The place and time were notified on a slip pasted beneath. To emerge from the dull depths of lyceum committees and launch out as a showman-lecturer on his own responsibility, was something both novel and bold for Artemus to do. In the majority of instances he or his agent met with speculators who were ready to engage him for so many lectures, and secure to the lecturer a certain fixed sum. But in his later transactions Artemus would have nothing to do with them, much preferring to undertake all the risk himself. The last speculator to whom he sold himself for a tour was, I believe, Mr. Wilder, of New York City, who realised a large profit by investing in lecturing stock, and who was always ready to engage a circus, a wild-beast show, or a lecturing celebrity.
As a rule Artemus Ward succeeded in pleasing every one in his audience, especially those who understood the character of the man and the drift of his lecture; but there were not wanting at any of his lectures a few obtuse-minded, slowly-perceptive, drowsy-headed dullards, who had not the remotest idea what the entertainer was talking about, nor why those around him indulged in laughter. Artemus was quick to detect these little spots upon the sunny face of his auditory. He would pick them out, address himself at times to them especially, and enjoy the bewilderment of his Boeotian patrons. Sometimes a stolid inhabitant of central New York, evidently of Dutch extraction, would regard him with an open stare expressive of a desire to enjoy that which was said if the point of the joke could by any possibility be indicated to him. At other times a demure Pennsylvania Quaker would benignly survey the poor lecturer with a look of benevolent pity; and on one occasion, when my friend was lecturing at Peoria, an elderly lady, accompanied by her two daughters, left the room in the midst of the lecture, exclaiming, as she passed me at the door, "It is too bad of people to laugh at a poor young man who doesn't know what he is saying, and ought to be sent to a lunatic asylum!"
The newspaper reporters were invariably puzzled in attempting to give any correct idea of a lecture by Artemus Ward. No report could fairly convey an idea of the entertainment; and being fully aware of this, Artemus would instruct his agent to beg of the papers not to attempt giving any abstract of that which he said. The following is the way in which the reporter of the Golden Era, at San Francisco, California, endeavoured to inform the San Franciscan public of the character of "The Babes in the Wood" lecture. It is, as the reader will perceive, a burlesque on the way in which Artemus himself dealt with the topic he had chosen; while it also notes one or two of the salient features of my friend's style of Lecturing:
"HOW ARTEMUS WARD 'SPOKE A PIECE.'"
"Artemus has arrived. Artemus has spoken. Artemus has triumphed. Great is Artemus!
"Great also is Platt's Hall. But Artemus is greater; for the hall proved too small for his audience, and too circumscribed for the immensity of his jokes. A man who has drank twenty bottles of wine may be called 'full.' A pint bottle with a quart of water in it would also be accounted full; and so would an hotel be, every bed in it let three times over on the same night to three different occupants; but none of these would be so full as Platt's Hall was on Friday night to hear Artemus Ward 'speak a piece.'
"The piece selected was 'The Babes in the Wood,' which reminds us that Mr. Ward is a tall, slender-built, fair-complexioned, jovial-looking gentleman of about twenty-seven years of age. He has a pleasant manner, an agreeable style, and a clear, distinct, and powerful voice.
"'The Babes in the Wood' is a 'comic oration,' with a most comprehensive grasp of subject. As spoken by its witty author, it elicited gusto of laughter and whirlwinds of applause. Mr. Ward is no prosy lyceum lecturer. His style is neither scientific, didactic, or philosophical. It is simply that of a man who is brimful of mirth, wit, and satire, and who is compelled to let it flow forth. Maintaining a very grave countenance himself, he plays upon the muscles of other people's faces as though they were piano- strings, and he the prince of pianists.
"The story of 'The Babes in the Wood' is interesting in the extreme. We would say, en passant, however, that Artemus Ward is a perfect steam factory of puns and a museum of American humour. Humanity seems to him to be a vast mine, out of which he digs tons of fun; and life a huge forest, in which he can cut down 'cords' of comicality. Language with him is like the brass balls with which the juggler amuses us at the circus—ever being tossed up, ever glittering, ever thrown about at pleasure. We intended to report his lecture in full, but we laughed till we split our lead pencil, and our shorthand symbols were too infused with merriment to remain steady on the paper. However, let us proceed to give an idea of 'The Babes in the Wood.' In the first place, it is a comic oration; that is, it is spoken, is exuberant in fun, felicitous in fancy, teeming with jokes, and sparkling as bright waters on a sunny day. The 'Babes in the Wood' is—that is, it isn't a lecture or an oratorical effort; it is something sui generis; something reserved for our day and generation, which it would never have done for our forefathers to have known, or they would have been too mirthful to have attended to the business of preparing the world for our coming; and something which will provoke so much laughter in our time, that the echo of the laughs will reverberate along the halls of futurity, and seriously affect the nerves of future generations.
"The 'Babes in the Wood,' to describe it, is—Well, those who listened to it know best. At any rate, they will acknowledge with us that it was a great success, and that Artemus Ward has a fortune before him in California.
"And now to tell the story of 'The Babes in the Wood'—But we will not, for the hall was not half large enough to accommodate those who came, consequently Mr. Ward will tell it over again at the Metropolitan Theatre next Tuesday evening. The subject will again be 'The Babes in the Wood.'"
Having travelled over the Union with "The Babes in the Wood" lecture, and left his audiences everywhere fully "in the wood" as regarded the subject announced in the title, Artemus Ward became desirous of going over the same ground again. There were not wanting dreary and timid prophets who told him that having "sold" his audiences once, he would not succeed in gaining large houses a second time. But the faith of Artemus in the unsuspecting nature of the public was very large, so with fearless intrepidity he conceived the happy thought of inventing a new title, but keeping to the same old lecture, interspersing it here and there with a few fresh jokes, incidental to new topics of the times. Just at this period General McClellan was advancing on Richmond, and the celebrated fight at Bull's Run had become matter of history. The forcible abolition of slavery had obtained a place among the debates of the day, Hinton Rowan Helper's book on "The Inevitable Crisis" had been sold at every bookstall, and the future of the negro had risen into the position of being the great point of discussion throughout the land. Artemus required a very slender thread to string his jokes upon, and what better one could be found than that which he chose? He advertised the title of his next lecture as "Sixty Minutes in Africa." I need scarcely say that he had never been in Africa, and in all probability had never read a book on African travel. He knew nothing about it, and that was the very reason he should choose Africa for his subject. I believe that he carried out the joke so far as to have a map made of the African continent, and that on a few occasions, but not on all, he had it suspended in the lecture-room. It was in Philadelphia and at the Musical Fund Hall in Locust Street that I first heard him deliver what he jocularly phrased to me as "My African Revelation." The hall was very thronged, the audience must have exceeded two thousand in number, and the evening was unusually warm. Artemus came on the rostrum with a roll of paper in his hands, and used it to play with throughout the lecture, just as recently at the Egyptian Hall, while lecturing on the Mormons, he invariably made use of a lady's riding- whip for the same purpose. He commenced his lecture thus, speaking very gravely and with long pauses between his sentences, allowing his audience to laugh if they pleased, but seeming to utterly disregard their laughter:
"I have invited you to listen to a discourse upon Africa. Africa is my subject. It is a very large subject. It has the Atlantic Ocean on its left side, the Indian Ocean on its right, and more water than you could measure out at its smaller end.
Africa produces blacks—ivory blacks—they get ivory. It also produces deserts, and that is the reason it is so much deserted by travellers. Africa is famed for its roses. It has the red rose, the white rose, and the neg-rose. Apropos of negroes, let me tell you a little story."
Then he at once diverged from the subject of Africa to retail to his audience his amusing story of the Conversion of a Negro, which he subsequently worked up into an article in the Savage Club Papers, and entitled "Converting the Nigger." Never once again in the course of the lecture did he refer to Africa, until the time having arrived for him to conclude, and the people being fairly worn out with laughter, he finished up by saying, "Africa, ladies and gentlemen, is my subject. You wish me to tell you something about Africa. Africa is on the map—it is on all the maps of Africa that I have ever seen. You may buy a good map for a dollar, and if you study it well, you will know more about Africa than I do. It is a comprehensive subject, too vast, I assure you, for me to enter upon to-night. You would not wish me to, I feel that—I feel it deeply, and I am very sensitive. If you go home and go to bed it will be better for you than to go with me to Africa."
The joke about the "neg-rose" has since run the gauntlet of nearly all the minstrel bands throughout England and America. All the "bones," every "middle-man," and all "end-men" of the burnt-cork profession have used Artemus Ward as a mine wherein to dig for the ore which provokes laughter. He has been the "cause of wit in others," and the bread-winner for many dozens of black-face songsters—"singists" as he used to term them. He was just as fond of visiting their entertainments as they were of appropriating his jokes; and among his best friends in New York were the brothers Messrs Neil and Dan Bryant, who have made a fortune by what has been facetiously termed "the burnt-cork opera."
It was in his "Sixty Minutes in Africa" lecture that Artemus Ward first introduced his celebrated satire on the negro, which he subsequently put into print. "The African," said he, "may be our brother. Several highly respectable gentlemen and some talented females tell me that he is, and for argument's sake I might be induced to grant it, though I don't believe it myself. But the African isn't our sister, and wife, and uncle. He isn't several of our brothers and first wife's relations. He isn't our grandfather and great grandfather, and our aunt in the country. Scarcely."
It may easily be imagined how popular this joke became when it is remembered that it was first perpetrated at a time when the negro question was so much debated as to have become an absolute nuisance. Nothing else was talked of; nobody would talk of anything but the negro. The saying arose that all Americans had "nigger-on the-brain." The topic had become nauseous, especially to the Democratic party; and Artemus always had more friends among them than among the Republicans. If he had any politics at all he was certainly a Democrat.
War had arisen, the South was closed, and the lecturing arena considerably lessened. Artemus Ward determined to go to California. Before starting for that side of the American continent, he wished to appear in the city of New York. He engaged, through his friend Mr. De Walden, the large hall then known as Niblo's, in front of the Niblo's Garden Theatre, and now used, I believe, as the dining-room of the Metropolitan Hotel. At that period Pepper's Ghost chanced to be the great novelty of New York City, and Artemus Ward was casting about for a novel title to his old lecture. Whether he or Mr. De Walden selected that of "Artemus Ward's Struggle with a Ghost" I do not know; but I think that it was Mr. De Walden's choice. The title was seasonable, and the lecture successful. Then came the tour to California, whither I proceeded in advance to warn the miners on the Yuba, the travellers on the Rio Sacramento, and the citizens of the Chrysopolis of the Pacific that "A. Ward" would be there shortly. In California the lecture was advertised under its old name of "The Babes in the Wood." Platt's Hall was selected for the scene of operation, and, so popular was the lecturer, that on the first night we took at the doors more than sixteen hundred dollars in gold. The crowd proved too great to take money in the ordinary manner, and hats were used for people to throw their dollars in. One hat broke through at the crown. I doubt if we ever knew to a dollar how many dollars it once contained.
California was duly travelled over, and "The Babes in the Wood" listened to with laughter in its flourishing cities, its mining-camps among the mountains, and its "new placers beside gold-bedded rivers. While journeying through that strangely- beautiful land, the serious question arose—What was to be done next? After California—where?
Before leaving New York, it had been a favourite scheme of Artemus Ward not to return from California to the East by way of Panama, but to come home across the Plains, and to visit Salt Lake City by the way. The difficulty that now presented itself was, that winter was close upon us, and that it was no pleasant thing to cross the Sierra Nevada and scale the Rocky Mountains with the thermometer far below freezingpoint. Nor was poor Artemus even at that time a strong man. My advice was to return to Panama, visit the West India Islands, and come back to California in the spring, lecture again in San Francisco, and then go on to the land of the Mormons. Artemus doubted the feasibility of this plan, and the decision was ultimately arrived at to try the journey to Salt Lake.
Unfortunately the winter turned out to be one of the severest. When we arrived at Salt Lake City, my poor friend was seized with typhoid fever, resulting from the fatigue we had undergone, the intense cold to which we had been subjected, and the excitement of being on a journey of 3500 miles across the North American Continent, when the Pacific Railway had made little progress and the Indians were reported not to be very friendly.
The story of the trip is told in Artemus Ward's lecture. I have added to it, at the special request of the publisher, a few explanatory notes, the purport of which is to render the reader acquainted with the characteristics of the lecturer's delivery. For the benefit of those who never had an opportunity of seeing Artemus Ward nor of hearing him lecture, I may be pardoned for attempting to describe the man himself.
In stature he was tall, in figure, slender. At any time during our acquaintance his height must have been disproportionate to his weight. Like his brother Cyrus, who died a few years before him; Charles F. Browne, our "Artemus Ward," had the premonitory signs of a short life strongly evident in his early manhood. There were the lank form, the long pale fingers, the very white pearly teeth, the thin, fine, soft hair, the undue brightness of the eyes, the excitable and even irritable disposition, the capricious appetite, and the alternately jubilant and despondent tone of mind which too frequently indicate that "the abhorred fury with the shears" is waiting too near at hand to "slit the thin-spun life." His hair was very light-colored, and not naturally curly. He used to joke in his lecture about what it cost him to keep it curled; he wore a very large moustache without any beard or whiskers; his nose was exceedingly prominent, having an outline not unlike that of the late Sir Charles Napier. His forehead was large, with, to use the language of the phrenologists, the organs of the perceptive faculties far more developed than those of the imaginative powers. He had the manner and bearing of a naturally-born gentleman. Great was the disappointment of many who, having read his humorous papers descriptive of his exhibition of snakes and waxwork, and who having also formed their ideas of him from the absurd pictures which had been attached to some editions of his works, found on meeting with him that there was no trace of the showman in his deportment, and little to call up to their mind the smart Yankee who had married "Betsy Jane." There was nothing to indicate that he had not lived a long time in Europe and acquired the polish which men gain by coming in contact with the society of European capitals. In his conversation there was no marked peculiarity of accent to identify him as an American, nor any of the braggadocio which some of his countrymen unadvisedly assume. His voice was soft, gentle, and clear. He could make himself audible in the largest lecture-rooms without effort. His style of lecturing was peculiar; so thoroughly sui generis, that I know of no one with whom to compare him, nor can any description very well convey an idea of that which it was like. However much he caused his audience to laugh, no smile appeared upon his own face. It was grave, even to solemnity, while he was giving utterance to the most delicious absurdities. His assumption of indifference to that which he was saying, his happy manner of letting his best jokes fall from his lips as if unconscious of their being jokes at all, his thorough self-possession on the platform, and keen appreciation of that which suited his audience and that which did not, rendered him well qualified for the task which he had undertaken—that of amusing the public with a humorous lecture. He understood and comprehended to a hair's breadth the grand secret of how not to bore. He had weighed, measured, and calculated to a nicety the number of laughs an audience could indulge in on one evening, without feeling that they were laughing just a little too much. Above all, he was no common man, and did not cause his audience to feel that they were laughing at that which they should feel ashamed of being amused with. He was intellectually up to the level of nine-tenths of those who listened to him, and in listening, they felt that it was no fool who wore the cap and bells so excellently. It was amusing to notice how with different people his jokes produced a different effect. The Honourable Robert Lowe attended one evening at the Mormon Lecture, and laughed as hilariously as any one in the room. The next evening Mr. John Bright happened to be present. With the exception of one or two occasional smiles, he listened with grave attention.
In placing the lecture before the public in print, it is impossible, by having recourse to any system of punctuation, to indicate the pauses, jerky emphases, and odd inflexions of voice which characterised the delivery. The reporter of the Standard newspaper, describing his first lecture in London, aptly said: "Artemus dropped his jokes faster than the meteors of last night succeeded each other in the sky. And there was this resemblance between the flashes of his humour and the flights of the meteors, that in each case one looked for jokes or meteors, but they always came just in the place that one least expected to find them. Half the enjoyment of the evening lay, to some of those present, in listening to the hearty cachinnation of the people who only found out the jokes some two or three minutes after they were made, and who then laughed apparently at some grave statements of fact. Reduced to paper, the showman's jokes are certainly not brilliant; almost their whole effect lies in their seemingly impromptu character. They are carefully led up to, of course; but they are uttered as if they are mere afterthoughts, of which the speaker is hardly sure." Herein the writer in the Standard hits the most marked peculiarity of Artemus Ward's style of lecturing. His affectation of not knowing what he was uttering, his seeming fits of abstraction, and his grave, melancholy aspect, constituted the very cream of the entertainment. Occasionally he would amuse himself in an apparently meditative mood, by twirling his little riding-whip, or by gazing earnestly, but with affected admiration, at his panorama. At the Egyptian Hall his health entirely failed him, and he would occasionally have to use a seat during the course of the lecture. In the notes which follow I have tried, I know how inefficiently, to convey here and there an idea of how Artemus rendered his lecture amusing by gesture or action. I have also, at the request of the publisher, made a few explanatory comments on the subject of our Mormon trip. In so doing I hope that I have not thrust myself too prominently forward, nor been too officious in my explanations. My aim has been to add to the interest of the lecture with those who never heard it delivered, and to revive in the memory of those who did some of its notable peculiarities. The illustrations are from photographs of the panorama painted in America for Artemus, as the pictorial portion of his entertainment.
In the lecture is the fun of the journey. For the hard facts the reader in quest of information is referred to a book published previously to the lecturer's appearance at the Egyptian Hall, the title of which is, "Artemus Ward: His Travels among the Mormons." Much against the grain as it was for Artemus to be statistical, he has therein detailed some of the experiences of his Mormon trip, with due regard to the exactitude and accuracy of statement expected by information-seeking readers in a book of travels. He was not precisely the sort of traveller to write a paper for the evening meetings of the Royal Geographical Society, nor was he sufficiently interested in philosophical theories to speculate on the developments of Mormonism as illustrative of the history of religious belief. We were looking out of the window of the Salt Lake House one morning, when Brigham Young happened to pass down the opposite side of Main Street. It was cold weather, and the prophet was clothed in a thick cloak of some green-colored material. I remarked to Artemus that Brigham had seemingly compounded Mormonism from portions of a dozen different creeds; and that in selecting green for the color of his apparel, he was imitating Mahomet. "Has it not struck you," I observed, "that Swedenborgianism and Mahometanism are oddly blended in the Mormon faith?"