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Artemus Ward:
The Man Who Made Abraham Lincoln Laugh

 

I found the old feller in his parler, surrounded by a perfeck swarm of orfice seekers. Knowin he had been capting of a flat boat on the roarin Mississippy I thought I'd address him in sailor lingo, so sez I "Old Abe, ahoy! Let out yer main-suls, reef hum the fore-castle & throw yer jib-poop over-board! Shiver my timbers, my harty!"
                                                                    --Artemus Ward

Artemus Ward was the pen name that Charles Farrar Browne gave himself in 1858, when he published The Plain Dealer, which became popular in America and in England. He wrote for Vanity Fair and Punch. He is said to have influenced Mark Twain and was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln. He died at the young age of 33, in 1867. Little else is known of him. (Don C. Seitz was able to publish just 18 pages of biography on him in 1919.)

Artemus Ward
CDV of Artemus Ward

Two of Artemus Ward's works are associated with Lincoln lore. One because Lincoln read it to his Cabinet. The other because Lincoln is the story's subject.

 

Introduction to the Emancipation Proclamation

One imagines Lincoln's first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet to be a solemn occasion. In fact, Lincoln did tell his cabinet that he had made a promise to God to deliver the proclamation. But as only Abraham Lincoln could do, he actually started the meeting with a reading from a short humorous work by Artemus Ward.

The text he read was High-Handed Outrage at Utica, which is reprinted here from Google Books: Artemus Ward: His Book by Artemus Ward, 1862 (pp. 34-35). (Warning: Humor, like fashion, sometimes eludes understanding by subsequent generations.)


 

Interview with President Lincoln

Knowing that even before coming to Washington, President-Elect Abraham Lincoln would be besieged with men seeking favors including appointments to offices, Artemus Ward wrote a short fictional story, "Interview with President Lincoln." Because of the popularity of Artemus Ward, many recounted the story again and again so that some, in fact, upon hearing it thought it to be true.

Artemus Ward Interview with Abraham Lincoln

 








 

You can hear two works by Artemus Ward read by David Cort in this MP3 album from Amazon.com (click through to play samples on Amazon for free):


 

A short biography and the works of Artemus Ward from Amazon.com:

 

author of this article: Renee Gentry

sources:

Barton, William Eleazar. The Soul of Abraham Lincoln, "Appendix II, High-Handed Outrage at Utica," New York: George H. Doran Company, 1920, pp. 284-285, 307-308.

Ward, Artemus. Artemus Ward: His Book, New York: Carleton Publishers, 1862.


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