Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Charles Farrar Browne

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 2
Charles Farrar Browne

by Edward Peter Spillane


(ARTEMUS WARD).

Humorist, b. at Waterford, Oxford County, Maine, U.S.A., 26 April, 1834; d. in Southampton, England, 6 March, 1867. He went to school in his native town and at the age of fourteen was apprenticed in the printing office of "The Skowhegan Clarion". A year later he was employed in a like capacity on "The Carpet-Bag" of Boston, edited by B.P. Shillaber (Mrs. Partington), and to which Charles G. Halpine (Miles O'Reilly) and John G. Saxe were at that time contributors. In this journal appeared his first humorous article, a burlesque description of a Fourth of July celebration in Skowhegan. After his Boston experience, Browne traveled the Eastern States as a journeyman printer, sojourning for a while in the town of Tiffin, Ohio, where as reporter and compositor he received in wages four dollars a week. Going thence to Toledo, he contributed to the columns of "The Commercial" of that city. Already his reputation was gaining ground. Though vigorously assailed in a series of articles in "The Toledo Blade", he treated his opponents with unfailing courtesy and humor.

In 1858, at the age of twenty-four, his reputation first assumed a national character as a reporter of "The Cleveland Plaindealer"under the sobriquet of "Artemus Ward". His best work at this period consisted in burlesque descriptions of prize-fights, races, spiritualistic seances, and political meetings. Towards the close of 1860, he accepted an engagement in New York with "Vanity Fair", a comic paper edited after the manner of the London "Punch" and ere long succeeded the editor Charles G. Leland (Hans Breitmann) as editor. In this paper some of his best contributions were given to the public. It was, however, as a lecturer that "Artemus Ward" acquired both fame and fortune. His first appearance on the lecture platform in New York was in a travesty called "Babes in the Woods". His next hit was in a lecture on "Sixty Minutes in Africa", given in Music Fund Hall, Philadelphia. In 1866 he sailed for England where success far beyond his expectations awaited him. His stay in London is spoken of as "an ovation to the genius of American wit". He became at once a great favorite with the "Literary Club" of London and his letters in "Punch" recalled the days of "Yellowplush". But sickness brought his brilliant career to an unexpected close in the seventh week of his engagement at Egyptian Hall in London, and his death occurred a few months later. When he felt the end was near, he asked his friend Arthur Sketchly to procure him the ministrations of a priest. "So Sketchly", Clement Scott informs us, "took steps to carry out his friend's instructions." His remains were brought to his native land and laid to rest beside his father and brother in the little cemetery at Waterford, Maine.

Artemus Ward was a consummate humorist and represented a type distinctively American. His fun was a fountain that always bubbled, ministering naturally to the happiness of himself and others. In leading up to the joke whatever art was employed was carefully concealed, and the joke itself when it came was always a surprise but never an awkward or unwholesome one. The depth and strength of his character are revealed as well in the interest excited by his lectures and sayings as in the friendships he formed and retained to the end.

KNIGHT, Artemus Ward and his Humor with SWINBURNE'S poem, Putnam's Monthly, February, 1907; LANDON (Eli Perkins), The Complete Works of Artemus Ward, with a Biographical Sketch (New York, 1898); CLEMENT SCOTT, The Drama of Yesterday and Today (New York, 1899), I, 325.

EDWARD P. SPILLANE