It was one which I had heard attributed to every humorous person who had ever stood on American soil, from Columbus down to Artemus Ward
. It was about a humorous lecturer who flooded an ignorant audience with the killingest jokes for an hour and never got a laugh; and then when he was leaving, some gray simpletons wrung him gratefully by the hand and said it had been the funniest thing they had ever heard, and "it was all they could do to keep from laughin' right out in meetin'." That anecdote never saw the day that it was worth the telling; and yet I had sat under the telling of it hundreds and thousands and millions and billions of times, and cried and cursed all the way through.
As several critics have noted, the story's first 1865 incarnation "as an epistolary piece in which the regional wit 'Mark Twain' addresses his nationally renowned colleague 'Artemus Ward
'" supports the identification of the unnamed external narrator of subsequent versions with the persona of Mark Twain (Hurm 2003, 81).
Martin goes on to end his chapter on the meeting between the American bohemian and comedian Artemus Ward
and a young Mark Twain with the unforgettable image of the pair drinking French wine, climbing on top of the roof of a miner's shack, and "as dawn broke over the Sierra Nevada, the pair just kept leaping.
The Quote Verifier, a useful reference book by Ralph Keyes, lists still other dubious originators: Yogi Berra, Eubie Blake, Kin Hubbard, Charles Kettering, and Artemus Ward
. With each misattribution, the sentiment is creatively reworded.
Auburn was known as Ward, named after Revolutionary War Major General Artemus Ward
, from 1778 to 1837.
John Pascal, Seton Hall Preparatory School Title: Artemus Ward
: The Gentle Humorist and His Lecture Influence on Mark Twain
One might well apply to it the words of Artemus Ward
: 'The researches of so many eminent scientific men have thrown so much darkness upon the subject that if they continue their researches we shall soon know nothing.
I believe he maybe as important as Artemus Ward
or Mark Twain for establishing a particularly American brand of humor.
To steal a line that's been attributed to Artemus Ward
, among others, those are the things I didn't know, and the things that I knew (but just weren't so).
Sorcerers' Apprentices: 100 Years of Law Clerks at the United States Supreme Court by Artemus Ward
and David L Weiden (New York: New York University Press, 2006) pages i-xiv, 1-358.
[a popular nineteenth-century American humorist used that trick a good deal; then when the belated audience presently caught the joke he would look up with innocent surprise, as if wondering what they had found to laugh at.
Friendships--or at least acquaintanceships --with Artemus Ward
, William Dean Howells, the Reverend Joseph Twichell, and others are touched upon, as is the contretemps with Matthew Arnold resulting from Arnold's denigration of Mark Twain in Civilization in the United States, in which he singled out the humor of Mark Twain as being representative of the philistine tastes of people of a lowly caste.