[Charles Farrar Browne, who became a highly-popular writer and lecturer under the pen-name of “Artemus Ward,” was born at Waterford, Maine, in 1834. His descriptions, in the Cleveland Plaindealer, of 30 his assumed natural-history and wax-figure show, attracted wide attention by their comical extravagance, and he soon became famous as a humorist. In 1860 he became editor of Vanity Fair, in New York. He went to England in 1866, and became very popular there, but died in the following year. We append some illustrative selections.]
MR. PUNCH: My Dear Sir, — I was a little disapinted at not receivin a invitation to jine in the meetins of the Social Science Congress. . . .
I prepared an Essy on Animals to read before the Social Science meetins. It is a subjeck I may troothfully say I have successfully wrastled with. I tackled it when only nineteen years old. At that tender age I writ a Essy for a lit’ry Institoot entitled, “Is Cats to be trusted?” Of the merits of that Essy it doesn’t becum me to speak, but I may be excoos’d for mentionin that the Institoot parsed a resolution that “whether we look upon the length of this Essy, or the manner in which it is written, we feel that we will not express any opinion of it, and we hope it well be read in other towns.”
Of course the Essy I writ for the Social Science Society is a more finisheder production than the one on Cats, which was wroten when my mind was crood, and afore I had masterd a graceful and ellygant stile of composition. I could not even punctooate my sentences proper at that time, and I observe with pane, on lookin over this effort of my youth, that its beauty is in one or two instances mar’d by ingrammaticisms. This was inexcusable, and I’m surprised I did it. A writer who can’t write in a grammerly manner better shut up shop.
You shall hear this Essy on Animals. Some day when you have four hours to spare, I’ll read it to you. I think you’ll enjoy it. Or — what will be much better, if I may 31 suggest — omit all picturs in next week’s Punch, and do not let your contributors write eny thing whatever (let them have a holiday; they can go to the British Mooseum) and publish my Essy intire. It will fill all your collumes full, and create comment. Does this proposition strike you? Is it a go?
In case I had read the Essy to the Social Sciencers, I had intended it should be the closin attraction. I intended it should finish the proceedins. I think it would have finished them. I understand animals better than any other class of human creeturs. I have a very animal mind, and I’ve been identified with ’em doorin my entire perfessional career as a showman, more especial bears, wolves, leopards, and serpunts.
The leopard is as lively a animal as I ever came into contack with. It is troo he cannot change his spots, but you can change ’em for him with a paint-brush, as I once did in the case of a leopard who wasn’t nat’rally spotted in a attractive manner. In exhibitin him I used to stir him up in his cage with a protracted pole, and for the purpuss of makin him yell and kick up in a leopardy manner I used to casionally whack him over the head. This would make the children inside the booth scream with fright, which would make fathers of families outside the booth very anxious to come in, — because there is a large class of parents who have a uncontrollable passion for takin their children places where they will stand a chance of being frightened to death.
One day I whacked this leopard more than ushil, which elissited a remonstrance from a tall gentleman in spectacles, who said, “My good man, do not beat the poor caged animal. Rather fondle him.”
“I’ll fondle him with a club,” I ansered, hitting him another whack.32
“I prithy desist,” said the gentleman; “stand aside and see the effeck of kindness. I understand the idiosyncracies of these creeturs better than you do.”
With that he went up to the cage, and, thrustin his face in between the iron bars, he said, soothingly, “Come hither, pretty creetur.”
The pretty creetur come-hithered rayther speedy, and seized the gentleman by the whiskers, which he tore off about enuff to stuff a small cushion with.
He said, “You vagabone, I’ll have you indicted for exhibitin dangerous and immoral animals.”
I replied, “Gentle sir, there isn’t a animal here that hasn’t a beautiful moral, but you musn’t fondle ’em. You mustn’t meddle with their idiotsyncracies.”
The gentleman was a dramatic cricket, and he wrote a article for a paper, in which he said my entertainment wos a decided failure.
As regards bears, you can teach ’em to do interestin things, but they’re onreliable. I had a very large grizzly bear once, who would dance, and larf, and lay down, and bow his head in grief, and give a mournful wale, etsetry. But he often annoyed me. It will be remembered that on the occasion of the first battle of Bull Run it suddenly occurd to the Fed’ral soldiers, that they had business in Washington which ought not to be neglected, and they all started for that beautiful and romantic city, maintainin a rate of speed during the entire distance that would have done credit to the celebrated French steed Gladiateur. Very nat’rally our Gov’ment was deeply grieved at this defeat; and I said to my bear shortly after, as I was givin a exhibition in Ohio, — I said, “Brewin, are you not sorry the national arms has sustained a defeat?” His business was to wale dismal, and bow his head down, the band (a barrel-origin and a wiolin) playing slow and melancholy 33 moosic. What did the grizzly old cuss do, however, but commence darncin and larfin in the most joyous manner? I had a narrer escape from being imprisoned for disloyalty.
Some years ago I engaged a celebrated Living American Skeleton for a tour through Australia. He was the thinnest man I ever saw. He was a splendid skeleton. He didn’t weigh anything, scarcely, — and I said to myself — the people of Australia will flock to see this tremendous curiosity. It is a long voyage — as you know — from New York to Melbourne — and to my utter surprise the skeleton had no sooner got out to sea than he commenced eating in the most horrible manner. He had never been on the ocean before — and he said it agreed with him. I thought so! — I never saw a man eat so much in my life. Beef — mutton — pork — he swallowed them all like a shark — and between meals he was often discovered behind barrels eating hard-boiled eggs. The result was that when we reached Melbourne this infamous skeleton weighed sixty-four pounds more than I did!
I thought I was ruined; but I wasn’t. I took him on to California — another very long sea-voyage — and when I got him to San Francisco I exhibited him as a fat man.
This story hasn’t anything to do with my Entertainment, I know; but one of the principle features of my Entertainment is that it contains so many things that don’t have anything to do with it.
[We add the following pathetic story mainly on account of its being in readable English, not in the Choctaw-like dialect of the bulk of the Artemus Ward productions.]
The morning on which Reginald Gloverson was to leave Great Salt Lake City with a mule-train dawned beautifully.34
Reginald Gloverson was a young and thrifty Mormon, with an interesting family of twenty young and handsome wives. His unions had never been blessed with children. As often as once a year he used to go to Omaha, in Nebraska, with a mule-train for goods; but, although he had performed the rather perilous journey many times with entire safety, his heart was strangely sad on this particular morning, and filled with gloomy forebodings.
The time for his departure had arrived. The high-spirited mules were at the door, impatiently champing their bits. The Mormon stood sadly among his weeping wives.
“Dearest ones,” he said, “I am singularly sad at heart this morning; but do not let this depress you. The journey is a perilous one, but — pshaw! — I have always come back safely heretofore, and why should I fear? Besides, I know that every night as I lie down on the broad starlit prairie, your bright faces will come to me in my dreams, and make my slumbers sweet and gentle. You, Emily, with your mild blue eyes, and you, Henrietta, with your splendid black hair, and you, Nelly, with your hair so brightly, beautifully golden, and you, Molly, with your cheeks so downy, and you, Betsy, with your wine-red lips, — far more delicious, though, than any wine I ever tasted, — and you, Maria, with your winsome voice, and you, Susan, with your — with your — that is to say, Susan, with your — and the other thirteen of you, each so good and beautiful, will come to me in sweet dreams, will you not, Dearestists?”
“Our own,” they lovingly chimed, “we will!”
“And so farewell!” cried Reginald. “Come to my arms, my own!” he said, “that is, as many of you as can do it conveniently at once, for I must away.”
He folded several of them to this throbbing breast, and drove sadly away.35
But he had not gone far when the trace of the off-hind mule became unhitched. Dismounting, he essayed to adjust the trace; but, ere he had fairly commenced the task, the mule, a singularly refractory animal, snorted wildly, and kicked Reginald frightfully in the stomach. He arose with difficulty, and tottered feebly towards his mother’s house, which was near by, falling dead in her yard with the remark, “Dear mother, I’ve come home to die!”
“So I see,” she said. “Where’s the mules?”
Alas! Reginald Gloverson could give no answer. In vain the heart-stricken mother threw herself upon his inanimate form, crying, “Oh, my son! my son! only tell me where the mules are, and they you may die if you want to.”
In vain! in vain! Reginald had passed on.
The mules were never found.
Reginald’s heart-broken mother took the body home to her unfortunate son’s widows. But before her arrival she indiscreetly sent a boy to burst the news gently to the afflicted wives, which he did by informing them, in a hoarse whisper, that their “old man had gone in.”
The wives felt very badly indeed.
“He was devoted to me,” sobbed Emily.
“And to me,” said Maria.
“Yes,” said Emily, “he thought considerably of you, but not so much as he did of me.”
“I say he did!”
“And I say he didn’t!”
“Don’t look at me with your squint eyes!”
“Don’t shake your red head at me!”
“Sisters,” said the black-haired Henrietta, “cease this 36 unseemly wrangling. I, as his first wife, shall strew flowers on his grave.”
“No, you won’t!“ said Susan. “I, as his last wife, shall strew flowers on his grave. It’s my business to strew!”
“You shan’t, so there!” said Henrietta.
“You bet I will!” said Susan, with a tear-suffused cheek.
“Well, as for me,” said the practical Betsy, “I ain’t on the strew much; but I shall ride at the head of the funeral procession.”
“Not if I’ve been introduced to myself, you won’t,” said the golden-haired Nelly; “that’s my position. You bet your bonnet-strings it is.”
“Children,” said Reginald’s mother, “you must do some crying, you know, on the day of the funeral; and how many pocket-handkerchiefs will it take to go round? Betsy, you and Nelly ought to make one do between you.”
“I’ll tear her eyes out if she perpetuates a sob on my hankercher!”
“Dear daughters-in-law,” said Reginald’s mother, “how unseemly is this anger! Mules is five hundred dollars a span, and every identical mule my poor boy had has been gobbled up by the red man. I knew when my Reginald staggered into the door-yard that he was on the die; but if I’d only thunk to ask him about them mules ere his gentle spirit took flight, it would have been four thousand dollars in our pockets, and no mistake! Excuse these real tears, but you’ve never felt a parent’s feelin’s.”
“It’s an oversight,” sobbed Maria. “Don’t blame us.”
The funeral passed off in a very pleasant manner, nothing occurring to mar the harmony of the occasion. by a happy thought of Reginald’s mother, the wives walked to the grave twenty abreast, which rendered that part of the ceremony thoroughly impartial.37
That night the twenty wives, with their heavy hearts, sought their twenty respective couches. But no Reginald occupied those twenty respective couches. Reginald would never more linger all night in blissful repose in those twenty respective couches; Reginald’s head would never more press the twenty respective pillows of those twenty respective couches, — never, never more!
In another house, not many leagues from the house of mourning, a gray-haired woman was weeping passionately. “He died,” she cried, “he died without signerfyin’, in any respect, where them mules went to!”
Two years are supposed to elapse between the third and fourth chapters of this original American romance.
A manly Mormon, one evening as the sun was preparing to set among a select apartment of gold and crimson clouds in the western horizon, — although, for that matter, the sun has a right to “set” where it wants to, and so, I may add, has a hen, — a manly Mormon, I say, tapped gently at the door of the mansion of the late Reginald Gloverson.
The door was opened by Mrs. Susan Gloverson.
“Is this the hose of the widow Gloverson?” the Mormon asked.
“It is,” said Susan.
“And how many is there of she?” he inquired.
“There is about twenty of her, including me,” courteously returned the fair Susan.
“Can I see her?”
“Madam,” he softly said, addressing the twenty disconsolate widows, “I have seen part of you before. And although I have already twenty-five wives, whom I respect and tenderly care for, I can truly say I never felt love’s holy thrill till I saw thee! Be mine! — be mine!” he enthusiastically cried; “and we will show the world a striking 38 illustration of the beauty and truth of the noble lines, only a good deal more so, —
They were united, they were.
Gentle reader, does not the moral of this romance show that — does it not, in fact, show that, however many there may be of a young widow woman — or, rather, does it not show that, whatever number of persons one woman may consist of — well, never mind what it shows. Only this writing Mormon romances is confusing to the intellect. You try it and see.