Page images
PDF
EPUB

96

'Artemus Ward.'

is now well known that the real name of 'Artemus' was Charles Browne, whose premature death in the spring of 1867, at the early age of thirty, was very generally deplored. The letters purporting to be written by an itinerant showman, under the name of 'Artemus Ward,' were long believed to be genuine. After the discovery of their true character, the author's popularity was rapidly established; and during the last year of his life, which was passed in England, the warmth of his heart and the geniality of his temper, independently of the eccentricity of his writings, secured for him a troop of ardent admirers. The letter in which he asserts the superiority of wax figgers' to the plays of Shakespeare is a very characteristic specimen of his style.

ONTO THE WING,
1859.

MR. EDITOR,-I take my Pen in hand to inform yu that I'm in good helth and trust these few lines will find yu injoyin the same blessins. I wood also state that I'm now on the summir kampane. As the Poit sez

ime erflote, ime erflote,
on the Swift rollin tied,

An the Rovir is free.

Bizness is scacely middlin, but Sirs I manige to pay for my foode and raiment puncktooally and without no

'Wax Figgers' v. Shakespeare.

97

grumblin. The barked arrers of slandur has bin leviled at the undersined moren onct sins heze bin into the show bizness, but I make bold to say no man on this footstule kan troothfully say I ever ronged him or eny of his folks. I'm travelin with a tent, which is better nor hirin hauls. My show konsists of a serious of wax works, snakes, a paneramy kalled a Grand Movin Diarea of the War in the Crymear, komic songs and the Kangeroo, which larst little cuss continners to konduct hisself in the most outrajus stile. I started out with the idear of making my show a grate Moral Entertainment, but I'm kompeled to sware so much at that air infernul Kangeroo that I'm frade this desine will be flustratid to some extent. And while speakin of morrality, remines me that sum folks turn up their nosis at shows like mine, sayin they is low and not fit to be patrernized by peple of high degree. Sirs, I manetane that this is infernul nonsense. I manetane that wax figgers is more elevatin than awl the plays ever wroten. Take Shakespeer for instunse. Peple think heze grate things, but I kontend heze quite the reverse to the kontrary. What sort of sense is thare to King Leer who goze round cussin his darters, chawin hay and throin straw at folks, and larfin like a silly old koot and makin a ass of hisself ginerally? Thare's Mrs. Mackbethsheze a nise kind of woomon to have round aint she, a puttin old Mack, her husband, up to slaying Dunkan with a cheeze knife, while heze payin a frendly visit to their house. O its hily morral, I spoze, when she larfs wildly and sez, 'gin me the daggurs—Ile let his bowels out,' or words to that effeck-I say, this is awl strickly propper I spoze? That Jack Fawlstarf is likewise a immoral old cuss, take him how ye may, and Hamlick is as crazy as a loon. Thare's Richurd the Three peple think heze grate things, but I look upon him in the lite of a monkster. He kills everybody he takes a noshun to in kold blud,

G

98

Pithy Letters.

and then goze to sleep in his tent. Bimeby he wakes up and yells for a hoss so he can go orf and kill sum more peple. If he isent a fit spesserman for the gallers then I shood like to know whare you find um. Thare's largo who is more ornery nor pizun. See how shamful he treated that hily respecterble injun gentlemun, Mister Otheller, makin him for to beleeve his wife was two thick with Casheo. Obsarve how Iargo got Casheo drunk as a biled owl on corn whisky in order to karry out his sneekin desines. See how he wurks Mister Otheller's feelins up so that he goze and makes poor Desdemony swaller a piller which cawses her deth. But I must stop. At sum futur time I shall continner my remarks on the dramer in which I shall show the varst supeeriority of wax figgers and snakes over theater plays, in a intellectooal pint of view.-Very Respectively Yures,

A. WARD, T. K.

A few specimens of pithy letters may here be introduced. The following quaint application from the queen of James VI. to George Heriot is still preserved among the muniments of the Hospital which bears the worthy jeweller's

name:

GORDG HERRATT,—I ernestlie dissyr youe present to send me tua hundrethe pundes vthe all expedition becaus I man hast me away presentlie. ANNA R.

During our ineffectual attempt to induce the Spaniards to accede to a cessation of arms in the year 1718, a powerful fleet was sent to the

A Naval Victory.

99

Mediterranean under Sir George Byng, who was ultimately compelled to execute the ample powers with which he had been invested. He accordingly engaged the Spanish squadron near the coast of Sicily, and took seven large ships, while eight others were captured by Captain Walton, who had been detached from the main fleet. The gallant captain sent the following terse announcement of his victory to the Admiral :

H. M. S. CANTERBURY,

Off Syracuse, August 16, 1718.

To Admiral Sir George Byng.

The

SIR, We have taken and destroyed all the Spanish ships and vessels which were upon the coast. number as per margin.—And I am, etc.,

G. WALTON.

On one occasion, when Sir Walter Scott was in the company of the late Miss Catherine Sinclair, knowing that she was descended through her mother from Alexander, first Lord Macdonald, he began jocularly to disparage the claims of that family, the Macdonalds of Sleat, or Slate, as he affected to call them, after an obscure parish in the Isle of Skye. 'Well, Sir Walter,' said Miss Sinclair, say what you please, you will always find the slates at the

100

Sleat v. Glengarry.

top of the house!' She then added, 'Did you ever hear of my uncle's reply when Glengarry wrote to say that he could prove himself the chief of the Macdonalds? "My dear Glengarry,-As soon as you can prove yourself to be my chief, I shall be ready to acknowledge you; in the meantime, I am yours, MACDONALD."' 'That letter,' exclaimed Sir Walter, 'is the most pointed that I ever heard or read of.'

The letter which the brave and proud Countess of Dorset addressed to the secretary of Charles II., in answer to a communication in which he pressed on her notice a candidate for Appleby, is a characteristic specimen :

I have been bullied by a usurper, I have been neglected by a Court, but I will not be dictated to by a subject. Your man shan't stand.

ANNE, DORSET, PEMBROKE, AND MONTGOMERY.1

1 A recent contributor to Notes and Queries refers to a silver medal of 'the triple countess,' who thus quaintly describes herself in her own True Memorial:-'The colour of mine eyes was black, and the form and aspect of them was quick and lively, like my mother's. The hair of my head was brown and very thick, and so long that it reached to the calf of my legs when I stood upright; with a peak of hair on my forehead, and a dimple on my chin; like my father, full cheeks; and round face like my mother; and an exquisite shape of body, resembling my father. But now time and age have long since ended all those beauties, which are to be compared to the grass of the field.'

« PreviousContinue »