Humorous Masterpieces from American Literature
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Artemus Ward



Mr. Punch My Dear Sir:–I was a little disapinted at not receivin a invitation to jine in the meetins of the Social Science Congress....

I prepared an Essy on Animals to read before the Social Science meetins. It is a subjeck I may troothfully say I have successfully wrastled with. I tackled it when only nineteen years old. At that tender age I writ a Essy for a lit’ry Institoot entitled, “Is Cats to be trusted?” Of the merits of that Essy it doesn’t becum me to speak, but I may be excoos’d for mentionin that the Institoot parsed a resolution that “whether we look upon the length of this Essy, or the manner in which it is written, we feel that we will not express any opinion of it, and we hope it will be read in other towns.”

Of course the Essy I writ for the Social Science Society is a more finisheder production than the one on Cats, which was wroten when my mind was crood, and afore I had masterd a graceful and ellygant stile of composition. I could not even punctooate my sentences proper at that time, and I observe with pane, on lookin over this effort of my youth, that its beauty is in one or two instances mar’d by ingrammaticisms. This was inexcusable, and I’m surprised I did it. A writer who can’t write in a grammerly manner better shut up shop.

You shall hear this Essy on Animals. Some day when you have four hours to spare, I’ll read it to you. I think you’ll enjoy it. Or, what will be much better, if I may suggest–omit all picturs in next week’s Punch, and do not let your contributors write eny thing whatever (et them have a holiday; they can go to the British Mooseum;) and publish my Essy intire. It will fill all your collumes full, and create comment. Does this proposition strike you? Is it a go?

In case I had read the Essy to the Social Sciencers, I had intended it should be the closin attraction. I intended it should finish the proceedins. I think it would have finished them. I understand animals better than any other class of human creatures. I have a very animal mind, and I’ve been identified with ’em doorin my entire perfessional career as a showman, more especial bears, wolves, leopards and serpunts.

The leopard is as lively a animal as I ever came into contack with. It is troo he cannot change his spots, but you can change ’em for him with a paint-brush, as I once did in the case of a leopard who wasn’t nat’rally spotted in a attractive manner. In exhibitin him I used to stir him up in his cage with a protracted pole, and for the purpuss of makin him yell and kick up in a leopardy manner, I used to casionally whack him over the head. This would make the children inside the booth scream with fright, which would make fathers of families outside the booth very anxious to come in–because there is a large class of parents who have a uncontrollable passion for takin their children to places where they will stand a chance of being frightened to death.

One day I whacked this leopard more than ushil, which elissited a remonstrance from a tall gentleman in spectacles, who said, “My good man, do not beat the poor caged animal. Rather fondle him.”

“I’ll fondle him with a club,” I ansered, hitting him another whack.

“I prithy desist,” said the gentleman; “stand aside, and see the effeck of kindness. I understand the idiosyncracies of these creeturs better than you do.”

With that he went up to the cage, and thrustin his face in between the iron bars, he said, soothingly, “Come hither, pretty creetur.”

The pretty creetur come-hithered rayther speedy, and seized the gentleman by the whiskers, which he tore off about enuff to stuff a small cushion with.

He said “You vagabone, I’ll have you indicted for exhibitin dangerous and immoral animals.”

I replied, “Gentle Sir, there isn’t a animal here that hasn’t a beautiful moral, but you mustn’t fondle ’em. You mustn’t meddle with their idiotsyncracies.”

The gentleman was a dramatic cricket, and he wrote a article for a paper, in which he said my entertainment wos a decided failure.

As regards Bears, you can teach ’em to do interestin things, but they’re onreliable. I had a very large grizzly bear once, who would dance, and larf, and lay down, and bow his head in grief, and give a mournful wale, etsetry. But he often annoyed me. It will be remembered that on the occasion of the first battle of Bull Run, it suddenly occurd to the Fed’ral soldiers that they had business in Washington which ought not to be neglected, and they all started for that beautiful and romantic city, maintainin a rate of speed durin the entire distance that would have done credit to the celebrated French steed Gladiateur. Very nat’rally our Gov’ment was deeply grieved at this defeat; and I said to my Bear shortly after, as I was givin a exhibition in Ohio–I said, “Brewin, are you not sorry the National arms has sustained a defeat?” His business was to wale dismal, and bow his head down, the band (a barrel origin and a wiolin) playing slow and melancholy moosic. What did the grizzly old cuss do, however, but commence darncin and larfin in the most joyous manner? I had a narrer escape from being imprisoned for disloyalty.–Works.

From the “Lecture.”

Some years ago I engaged a celebrated Living American Skeleton for a tour through Australia. He was the thinnest man I ever saw. He was a splendid skeleton. He didn’t weigh any thing scarcely,–and I said to myself,–the people of Australia will flock to see this tremendous curiosity. It is a long voyage–as you know–from New York to Melbourne–and to my utter surprise the skeleton had no sooner got out to sea than he commenced eating in the most horrible manner. He had never been on the ocean before–and he said it agreed with him.–I thought so!–I never saw a man eat so much in my life. Beef–mutton–pork–he swallowed them all like a shark–and between meals he was often discovered behind barrels eating hard-boiled eggs. The result was that when we reached Melbourne this infamous skeleton weighed sixty-four pounds more than I did!

I thought I was ruined–but I wasn’t. I took him on to California–another very long sea voyage–and when I got him to San Francisco I exhibited him as a fat man.

This story hasn’t any thing to do with my Entertainment, I know–but one of the principal features of my Entertainment is that it contains so many things that don’t have any thing to do with it....


I like Music.–I can’t sing. As a singist I am not a success. I am saddest when I sing. So are those who hear me. They are sadder even than I am....


I met a man in Oregon who hadn’t any teeth–not a tooth in his head–yet that man could play on the bass drum better than any man I ever met....


Brigham Young has two hundred wives. Just think of that! Oblige me by thinking of that. That is–he has eighty actual wives, and he is spiritually married to one hundred and twenty more. These spiritual marriages–as the Mormons call them–are contracted with aged widows–who think it a great honor to be sealed–the Mormons call it being sealed–to the Prophet.

So we may say he has two hundred wives. He loves not wisely–but two hundred well. He is dreadfully married. He’s the most married man I ever saw in my life....


I regret to say that efforts were made to make a Mormon of me while I was in Utah.

It was leap-year when I was there–and seventeen young widows–the wives of a deceased Mormon–offered me their hearts and hands. I called on them one day–and taking their soft white hands in mine–which made eighteen hands altogether–I found them in tears.

And I said–"Why is this thus? What is the reason of this thusness?”

They hove a sigh–seventeen sighs of different size.–They said–

“Oh–soon thou wilt be gonested away!”

I told them that when I got ready to leave a place I wentested.

They said–"Doth not like us?”

I said–"I doth–I doth!”

I also said–"I hope your intentions are honorable–as I am a lone child–my parents being far–far away.”

They then said–"Wilt not marry us?”

I said–"Oh no–it cannot was.”

Again they asked me to marry them–and again I declined. When they cried–

“Oh–cruel man! This is too much–oh! too much!”

I told them that it was on account of the muchness that I declined.–Works.


Bayard Taylor  •  William Allen Butler  •  John William De Forest  •  John Townsend Trowbridge  •  Oliver Bell Bunce  •  Charles Dudley Warner  •  Frances Lee Pratt  •  Louisa May Alcott  •  William Wirt Howe  •  Artemus Ward  •  Frank R. Stockton  •  Andrew Scoggin  •  Samuel Langhorne Clemens  •  Fitz Hugh Ludlow  •  Thomas Bailey Aldrich