Puslapio vaizdai
[merged small][graphic][subsumed][merged small]

THE village of Waterford, Maine, is a place of about one hundred inhabitants, nestled under the shadow of Mount Tir'mso named from the Indians, who, in climbing its steep sides, were wont to say, "Tire um Injuns." It is on the west shore of Tom Pond, so called from Thomas Chamberlain, the "Leatherstocking" of the East, who killed Paugus in Lovewell's famous fight, and who, tradition says, being once hotly pursued by the Indians, concealed himself under a shelving rock on the east shore. The site of the village, a level plain known as Waterford Flat, affords room for only a small number of buildings, and in this sequestered nook, on the 26th day of April, 1834, Charles Farrar Brown, better known as "Artemus Ward," was born. A generation ago this quiet village was one of the liveliest places in the State. Many emigrants passed through it on their way to the West, and the stages were crowded with passengers in pursuit of business or pleasure. Upon the arrival of the stages the hotels presented a busy scene, while the several stores had a large trade in furnishing supplies to lumbermen. Now all is changed: travelers go to the north over the Grand Trunk Railroad, or to the south over the Ogdensburg, and a rural quiet pervades the place. It lies among the foot-hills of the White Mountains, which extend downward

toward the sea, forming the extensive ridges separating the valleys of the Androscoggin and the Saco, and is the last town among them to the south-east. Within the limits of the "town" are Mount Tir'm, Little Bear Mountain, Vernal Hill, and the several peaks of Beech Hill, and among these twelve lakes and ponds, with deep ravines forming the courses of brooks and rivers. Flowing through the town is a river, "Crooked" both in name and nature. Indeed, while the town is only seven miles in width, this remarkably "crooked" river succeeds in running eighteen miles, and all this in short bends-affording just the kind of navigation to draw volumes of profanity from the raftsmen of the olden time. The hills of Waterford command magnificent views of the surrounding country. Westward, towering above all, are the White Mountains, southward are Long Pond, Sebago Lake, and Casco Bay.

When Hawthorne was fourteen years old, he was sent to a farm in Raymond for his health. This was near Sebago Lake, and his eyes were open to the sublime and picturesque scenery-not to admire and subdue it to his own use, but to be overawed and held captive by it, for he declared in after years that it was there he "first got his cursed habits of solitude." Mr. Whittier, in his poem entitled "The Funeral Tree of the

[blocks in formation]

"The solemn pines along its shore,
The firs which hang its gray rocks o'er,
Are painted on its glossy floor.

"The sun looks o'er, with hazy eye,
The snowy mountain-tops which lie
Piled coldly up against the sky."

Mr. Seba Smith's "Life and Letters of Major Jack Downing," printed in 1833, doubtless made a wider acquaintance, at the time, for this lake region than any other publication. The author found convenient illustrations for his political hits among the lumbermen who were rafting logs down the Crooked River and across Sebago, and from this business came the phrase "j'ining drives," since adopted by Solon Chase, the eccentric Greenback speaker, and thus brought into frequent use in the recent canvass in Maine.


The Brown family came from Massachusetts in 1783, and has a history of its own. Jabez, who surveyed the town, was a lieutenant in the French and Indian war and an adjutant in the Revolutionary war. was something of a wit, as became one in this ancestral line. His son Thaddeus, the grandfather of Charles, who was the first of the family that located in Waterford, was also a soldier in the Revolutionary war. He had five sons: Daniel, Malbory, Jabez, Levi, and Thaddeus. The last, now known as "Uncle Thaddeus," is the only surviving member of this family. He is in his eightythird year, in good health, active, and with memory unimpaired. He was recently called as witness in a lawsuit involving a boundary question, and described accurately certain surveys made sixty years ago. A retentive memory is, in fact, characteristic of the family, being locally alluded to as the "Brown memory." Levi Brown, the father of Charles, died in 1847, at the age of fifty. He kept a store at Waterford, and was also engaged in farming and occasionally in surveying. He was also selectman, town clerk, and member of the State legislature. He was a Democrat in politics and a Universalist in religion. He was one of the first to engage in the temperance movement in Maine, and became one of the strongest advocates of prohibition. But his florid countenance did not advertise well

his temperance principles. While on a trip to that far-away region known as "Down East," being engaged on the State Valuation Commission, he stopped at a way-side inn where mine host, thinking he would like something, invited him to "smile." Mr. Brown politely declined, saying he was a teetotaler. The landlord stared at him with undisguised astonishment, and finally said, as if still doubting: "Well, you haven't taken in your sign." He was full of quaint sayings and "little eccentricities," such as characterized the family during several generations, and for which his two sons were noted in later years. His son Charles took pride in being a descendant of a very ancient English family, in deference to whom he added a final "e" when writing his name (Browne), though he also claimed that his relatives in Waterford were among the most genuine and primitive Yankees. Though people of intelligence and active in commercial and other business pursuits, he knew of no persons so little affected by cosmopolitan ideas and fashions.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
[graphic][merged small]

conducted by Dr. Shattuck. Mr. Farrar site the street on the north side of the built "the old homestead" now occupied by his daughter, Mrs. Caroline E. Brown, the mother of Charles. The old " Brown house," as it was called, where Charles was born, was burned in 1871, but the family had some time before this made the old homestead their place of residence. It is a plain two-story house, with "L," painted white, with green window-blinds, a plan of structure common in our Maine villages. The building occupies a pleasant site oppo

village green, and under sheltering elms. Mrs. Brown,though seventy-five years old, is the sole occupant of her dwelling, doing all of her own housework and entertaining her friends with ready hospitality. Visitors usually find her engaged at her housework, which is quickly put aside when mention is made of Charles, that she may tell all that is known about him; what a "good boy" he really was, how many friends he had, how many sent her words of sympathy when he


ways of newspapers in that lively village, failed. He then went to Augusta, where he remained a few weeks, and then to Skowhegan, where he worked in the "Clarion " office for some time. Either the climate or something else did not agree with him, so one night he lowered his valise with his bedcord from an upper window and silently departed from the town, soon to astonish his good mother by appearing unexpectedly at the old homestead. He again applied for work to Mr. Rix, who, though he had "forgiven the boy," was unable to employ him, but gave him a letter recommending him to Messrs. Snow and Wilder, of Boston, publishers of the "Pathfinder," and at whose office Mrs. Partington's (B. P. Shillaber's)

died, and how his "funny sayings and doings," of which she never dreamed anything would come, went "clean round the world," to the delight of all English-speaking people. Mrs. Brown is best known in Waterford as "Aunt Car❜line," and it is sufficient praise to know that all her neighbors speak of her as a most estimable old lady. A mistake has been made by Mr. Ryder and others in saying that Charles inherited his peculiar vein of humor from his mother. She has her quaint ideas and her Yankee idioms, but the wit and humor is the undisputed property of the Brown family. The proof of this is readily furnished. Just across the way from the old homestead, in a little old-fashioned mosscovered house, lives Daniel Brown, a cousin" Carpet Bag" was printed. Here he re

of Charles's, and who personally resembles him so nearly that the two might readily have been taken for twins. There is the further resemblance in action and speech,-the same witty expressions, the same apparent unconcern while telling a story, with the faculty of constantly bringing forth the marvelous and unexpected; moreover, when anything amuses him, Daniel chuckles and shakes as Charles was wont to do when writing his "goaks."

Mrs. Brown had four children. Cyrus, the eldest, was fitted for college, but was prevented from going by his father's death. He afterward learned the printer's trade, and gained considerable reputation as a journalist. Charles, with whom we are most concerned in this narrative, was only thirteen years old at the time of his father's death, and may be said to have taken care of himself ever afterward. Indeed, we might almost say he had always taken care of himself, being one of those persistent small boys born to make his own way in the world. Finding that the various sketches of his life hitherto published are more or less inaccurate, we have thought a brief history, as given by his friends at Waterford, might not be amiss. When about fourteen years old, he was apprenticed to Mr. John M. Rix, who published the "Coos County Democrat," at Lancaster, New Hampshire. He remained with Mr. Rix about a year, when, hearing that his brother Cyrus was about starting a paper at Norway, a town adjoining Waterford, he determined to leave Mr. Rix and gain employment on the new paper. Mr. Rix opposed his leaving, but was so good as to give him a dollar to help him on his way. He worked for his brother at Norway until the paper, following the VOL. XXII.-5.

mained three years. Then, leaving Boston, he traveled westward in search of employment. After some wandering, he reached the little city of Tiffin, Ohio, where he worked for some months in the "Advertiser" office. From Tiffin he went to Toledo, where he became one of the staff of the "Commercial," and where he remained until late in the fall of 1857. He then moved to Cleveland, where he became local editor of the "Plain-Dealer." In this journal were published the first of his sketches signed "Artemus Ward." It was also while at Cleveland that he first thought of taking the field as a public lecturer. His friends, however, persuaded him for the time to abandon the idea. In 1860 he went to New York, and became the editor of "Vanity Fair," a position which he held but a brief period. Here the idea of lecturing again seized him, and, fully determined now upon making the trial, he brought out his "Babes in the Woods," at Clinton Hall, December 23d, 1861. His first volume, entitled "Artemus Ward; His Book," was published May 17th, 1862. In 1863 he visited San Francisco, and, returning overland through Utah, he made a study of the Mormons which furnished him a theme for his most popular lecture. In 1866 he visited England, whither his fame had already gone, and where he became exceedingly popular, both as a lecturer and a contributor to "Punch," and where he remained until his death.

Waterford is full of recollections of Charles's boyish pranks, and his fellowtownsmen take pride in relating them, though time was when they caused not a little ominous shaking of the older heads, bringing forth repeatedly the prediction that he would never come to any good. One

[ocr errors]

of his earliest exploits was the organizing of a circus-that moral institution dear to the heart of the small boy. Dressed in one of his mother's gowns, his head ornamented with her best bonnet, the future "genial showman" acted as clown, ring-master, and manager-in-chief, with his village cronies as assistants. His father's red cow, covered with blankets and provided with a stuffed coat-sleeve for a trunk, served as the elephant, and by long and careful training was brought into the ways of the circus trick-mule. The occasion of all others was the initiating of some country greenhorn into the mysteries of the "show business," by permitting him to ride the elephant. When such a youth was found and brought in, he was placed on the back of the animal with great ceremony, to be as surely tossed "sky high." Upon this, Charles would express the greatest surprise that the elephant should act so, and would commiserate the poor victim with much concern. (Charles continued all his life a friend and patron of the circus.) He found place, too, for the cultivation and exercise of his peculiar talents in the school exhibition and debating society. His business was to raise a laugh, and in this he usually succeeded. It is said that while discussing the question: "Resolved, that a boy had better be a farmer than a sailor," of which he took the negative side, he made "such a funny speech that the audience laughed until they were tired out." This was when he was about twelve years old. Among his youthful diversions was the writing of letters to prominent persons in all parts of the country whose names he happened to see in print-entire strangers to him. These usually referred to some prospective business arrangement. Thus he would write to some gentleman in New York: "Dear Sir-I'm sorry to say I sha'n't be able to get that harness done on the day I promised;" or, "I will not be able to call at your house, as you requested," etc. In this mystification of unsuspecting people he was not unlike the German Owlglass, who, while always playing the fool, never lacked fools upon whom he might try experiments. Nothing seemed to please him more than to get the better of his brother Cyrus. One very cold night in the winter, when he had come home at a late hour from an entertainment, instead of going quietly to his room, for which his mother had provided by leaving the doors unfastened, he stationed himself in the street and called to his brother as if in deep

distress about something. Cyrus was slow to wake and appear. Charles continued calling, and with more agony, "Cy! Cy! Ho! Cy!" When Cyrus at last came to the window, he solemnly asked, "Do you really think, Cyrus, that it is wrong to keep slaves?"

He kept up these pranks in after years whenever he was about the village, as, in fact he did in other places, not excepting New York and London. Dr. Shattuck relates that, hearing something like an Indian war-whoop early one summer morning, he looked across the village green and saw Charles standing on the door-step at the old homestead, clad in a long dressing-gown, gorgeously flowered, with a scarlet smokingcap, ornamented with a large white tassel, perched on the side of his head. The doctor went across the green to see him, when he whooped again and again, declaring the world about him perfectly delightful. His mother, alarmed at the noise, now appeared upon the scene, saying, "Charles, what on earth ails you ?" "Why, mother," said he, "it is because I feel so well." Saying this, he whooped again, then turned a hand-spring and stood on his head beside the door.

His best friends did not escape being victimized. Whenever Dan Setchell, the comedian, came to town, something was sure to happen. There was living at the time, some miles from the village, in a wretched hovel, and in most primitive fashion, a family of very simple-minded people. Charles made account of these poor folks by telling Dan that there was living a few miles away, among the hills, a retired actress, rich and accomplished, with two charming daughters. This lady would doubtless be pleased to make his acquaintance, and would, in all probability, entertain him most royally. When Dan's imagination was wrought up to the proper pitch, Charles drove out with him and introduced him to the family. It is needless to say that actor and audience were alike astonished. One day the two drove from Portland to Waterford, and had, as they reported, a "solemn time" of it. Charles had tied a great rope about Setchell, and represented that he was an insane man whom he was bringing home from the asylum at Augusta. He called at a number of houses for mixtures of pepper and vinegar and other condiments, which he purposed giving as medicine to the "insane" man. While taking these, Setchell would affect great aversion to them, and struggle as if resisting to the utmost, and roar and howl like the wild beasts in a

« AnkstesnisTęsti »