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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Artemus Ward (Charles Farrar Browne) (1834–1867)

A. W. to his Wife


From “Complete Works of Artemus Ward”

DEAR BETSY: I write you this from Boston, “the Modern Atkins,” as it is denomyunated, altho’ I skurcely know what those air. I’ll giv you a kursoory view of this city. I’ll klassify the paragrafs under seprit headin’s, arter the stile of those Emblems of Trooth and Poority, the Washington correspongdents:


The winder of my room commands a exileratin’ view of Copps’ Hill, where Cotton Mather, the father of the Reformers and sich, lies berrid. There is men even now who worship Cotton, and there is wimin who wear him next their harts. But I do not weep for him. He’s bin ded too lengthy. I ain’t goin to be absurd, like old Mr. Skillins, in our naborhood, who is ninety-six years of age, and gets drunk every ’lection day, and weeps Bitturly because he hain’t got no Parents. He’s a nice Orphan, he is.


Old Mr. Fanuel is ded, but his Hall is still into full blarst. This is the Cradle in which the Goddess of Liberty was rocked, my dear. The Goddess hasn’t bin very well durin the past few years, and the num’ris quack doctors she called in didn’t help her any; but the old gal’s physicians now are men who understand their bisness, Major-generally speakin, and I think the day is near when she’ll be able to take her three meals a day, and sleep nights as comf’bly as in the old time.


The State House is filled with Statesmen, but sum of ’em wear queer hats. They buy ’em, I take it, of hatters who carry on hat stores downstairs in Dock Square, and whose hats is either ten years ahead of the prevailin stile, or ten years behind it—jest as a intellectooal person sees fit to think about it. I had the pleasure of talkin with sevril members of the legislatur. I told ’em the Eye of 1,000 ages was onto we American peple of to-day. They seemed deeply impressed by the remark, and wantid to know if I had seen the Grate Orgin.


This celebrated institootion is pleasantly situated in the Barroom of Parker’s, in School Street, and has poopils from all over the country. I had a letter, yes’d’y, by the way, from our mootual son, Artemus, Jr., who is at Bowdoin College, in Maine. He writes that he is a Bowdoin Arab. & is it cum to this? Is this Boy, as I nurtered with a Parent’s care into his childhood’s hour—is he goin to be a Grate American humorist? Alars! I fear it is too troo. Why didn’t I bind him out to the Patent Travelin Vegetable Pill Man, as was struck with his appearance at our last County Fair, & wanted him to go with him and be a Pillist? Ar, these Boys—they little know how the old folks worrit about ’em. But my father he never had no occasion to worrit about me. You know, Betsy, that when I fust commenced my career as a moral exhibitor with a six-legged cat and a Bass drum, I was only a simple peasant child—skurce 15 summers had flow’d over my yoothful hed. But I had sum mind of my own. My father understood this. “Go,” he said—“go, my son, and hog the public!” (He ment, “knock em,” but the old man was allus a little given to slang.) He put his withered han tremblin’ly onto my hed, and went sadly into the house. I thought I saw tears tricklin down his venerable chin, but it might hav been tobacker jooce. He chaw’d.


I went over to Lexington yes’d’y. My Boosum hov with sollum emotions. “& this,” I said to a man who was drivin a yoke of oxen, “this is where our Revolootionary forefathers asserted their independence and spilt their Blud. Classic ground!”

“Wall,” this man said, “it’s good for white beans and potatoes, but as regards raisin wheat, ’t ain’t worth a dam. But hav you seen the Grate Orgin?”


I returned in the Hoss Cars, part way. A pooty girl in spectacles sot near me, and was tellin a young man how much he reminded her of a man she used to know in Waltham. Pooty soon the young man got out; and, smilin in a seductiv manner, I said to the girl in spectacles, “Don’t I remind you of somebody you used to know?”

“Yes,” she sed, “you do remind me of one man, but he was sent to the penitentiary for stealin a Bar’l of mackril—he died there, so I conclood you ain’t him.” I didn’t pursoo the conversation. I only heard her silvery voice once more durin the remainder of the jerney. Turnin to a respectable lookin female of advanced summers, she asked her if she had seen the Grate Orgin.

Richmond, May 18, 1865

The old man finds hisself once more in a Sunny climb. I cum here a few days arter the city catterpillertulated.

My naburs seemed surprised & astonisht at this darin bravery onto the part of a man at my time of life, but our family was never know’d to quale in danger’s stormy hour.

My father was a sutler in the Revolution War. My father once had a intervoo with Gin’ral La Fayette.

He asked La Fayette to lend him five dollars, promisin to pay him in the fall; but Lafy said “he couldn’t see it in those lamps.” Lafy was French, and his knowledge of our langwidge was a little shaky.

Immejutly on my ’rival here I perceeded to the Spotswood House, and callin to my assistans a young man from our town who writes a good runnin hand, I put my ortograph on the Register, and handin my umbrella to a bald-heded man behind the counter, who I s’posed was Mr. Spotswood, I said, “Spotsy, how does she run?”

He called a cullud person, and sed:

“Show the gen’l’man to the cowyard, and giv him cart number 1.”

“Isn’t Grant here?” I sed. “Perhaps Ulyssis wouldn’t mind my turnin in with him.”

“Do you know the Gin’ral?” inquired Mr. Spotswood.

“Wal, no, not ’zacky; but he’ll remember me. His brother-in-law’s Aunt bought her rye meal of my Uncle Levi all one winter. My Uncle Levi’s rye meal was——”

“Pooh! pooh!” sed Spotsy. “Don’t bother me,” and he shuv’d my umbrella on to the floor. Obsarvin to him not to be so keerless with that wepin, I accompanied the African to my lodgin’s.

“My brother,” I sed, “air you aware that you’ve been ’mancipated? Do you realize how glorus it is to be free? Tell me, my dear brother, does it not seem like some dream, or do you realize the great fact in all its livin and holy magnitood?”

He sed he would take some gin.

I was show’d to the cowyard, and laid down under a one-mule cart. The hotel was orful crowded, and I was sorry I hadn’t gone to the Libby Prison. Tho I should hav slept comf’ble enuff if the bedclothes hadn’t bin pulled off me durin the night by a scoundrel who cum and hitched a mule to the cart and druv it off. I thus lost my cuverin, and my throat feels a little husky this mornin.

Gin’ral Hullock offers me the hospitality of the city, givin me my choice of hospitals.

He has also very kindly placed at my disposal a smallpox amboolance.

There is raly a great deal of Union sentiment in this city. I see it on ev’ry hand.

I met a man to-day—I am not at liberty to tell his name but he is a old and inflooential citizen of Richmond, and sez he, “Why! we’ve bin fightin agin the Old Flag! Lor’ bless me, how sing’lar!” He then borrer’d five dollars of me and bust into a flood of teers.

Sed another (a man of standin, and formerly a bitter rebuel), “Let us at once stop this effooshun of Blud! The Old Flag is good enuff for me. Sir,” he added, “you air from the North! Have you a doughnut or a piece of custard pie about you?”

I told him no; but I knew a man from Vermont who had just organized a sort of restaurant, where he could go and make a very comfortable breakfast on New England rum and cheese. He borrowed fifty cents of me, and askin me to send him Wm. Lloyd Garrison’s ambrotype as soon as I got home, he walked off.

Sed another: “There’s bin a tremendious Union feelin’ here from the fust. But we was kept down by a rain of terror. Have you a dagerretype of Wendell Phillips about your person? and will you lend me four dollars for a few days till we air once more a happy and united people?”

Robert Lee is regarded as a noble feller.

He was opposed to the war at the fust, and draw’d his sword very reluctant. In fact, he wouldn’t hav draw’d his sword at all, only he had a large stock of military clothes on hand, which he didn’t want to waste. He sez the colored man is right, and he will at once go to New York and open a Sabbath School for Negro minstrels.

Feelin a little peckish, I went into a eatin house to-day and encountered a young man with long black hair and slender frame. He didn’t wear much clothes, and them as he did wear looked onhealthy. He frowned on me, and sed, kinder scornful, “So, sir—you cum here to taunt us in our hour of trouble, do you?”

“No,” sed I, “I cum here for hash!”

“Pish-haw,” he sed, sneerin’ly, “I mean, you air in this city for the purpuss of gloatin over a fallen peple. Others may basely succumb, but as for me, I will never yield—never, never!”

“Hav suthin to eat?” I pleasantly suggested.

“Tripe and onions!” he sed furcely; then he added, “I eat with you, but I hate you. You’re a low-lived Yankee!”

To which I pleasantly replied, “How’ll you have your tripe?”

“Fried, mudsill! with plenty of ham-fat!”

He et very ravenus. Poor feller! He had lived on odds and ends for several days, eatin crackers that had bin turned over by revelers in the bread tray at the bar.

He got full at last, and his hart softened a little to’ards me. “After all,” he sed, “you hav sum peple at the North who air not wholly loathsum beasts!”

“Well, yes,” I sed, “we hav now and then a man among us who isn’t a cold-bluded scoundril. Young man,” I mildly but gravely sed, “this crooil war is over, and you’re lickt! It’s rather necessary for sumbody to lick in a good, square, lively fite, and in this ’ere case it happens to be the United States of America. You fit splendid, but we was too many for you. Then make the best of it, & let us all give in, and put the Republic on a firmer basis nor ever.

“I don’t gloat over your misfortins, my young fren. Fur from it. I’m a old man now, & my hart is softer nor it once was. You see my spectacles is misten’d with suthin very like tears. I’m thinkin of the sea of good rich blud that has bin spilt on both sides in this dredful war! I’m thinkin of our widders and orfuns North, and of yourn in the South. I kin cry for both. B’leeve me, my young fren’, I kin place my old hands tenderly on the fair yung hed of the Virginny maid whose lover was laid low in the battle-dust by a Fed’ral bullet, and say, as fervently and piously as a vener’ble sinner like me kin say anythin’, ‘God be good to you, my poor dear, my poor dear.’”

I riz up to go, & takin my yung Southern fren kindly by the hand, I sed, “Yung man, adoo! You Southern fellers is prob’ly my brothers, tho’ you’ve occasionally had a cussed queer way of showin it! It’s over now. Let us all jine in and make a country on this continent that shall giv all Europe the cramp in the stummuck ev’ry time they look at us! Adoo, adoo!”

And as I am through, I’ll likewise say adoo to you, jentle reader, merely remarkin that the Star Spangled Banner is wavin round loose agin, and that there don’t seem to be anything the matter with the Goddess of Liberty beyond a slite cold.