CapeCodHistory.us home page
Joseph C. Lincoln bibliography
posted May 2005

published Sunday, 21 Sept 1941
Boston Herald
by Alice Dixon Bond

Adventure in Living With 'Joe' Lincoln

JCL living room

Creator of Cape Cod Characters Tried Art and Poetry Before Young Wife Agreed to Courageous Career Which Has Produced 46 Volumes - -New England to Honor Author At Big Luncheon on Sept. 30

    Friendship is built on shared experiences, be they of the mind, the heart or the soul: Perhaps that is why Joe Lincoln counts his friends by the tens of thousands. For 40 years now he has been sharing the greatest adventure of all with the world—the adventure of living.

    He has placed that adventure in New England, mostly on Cape Cod, and he has found it chiefly among the people of the little towns, sometimes, inland, sometimes against the constant wash of the sea. But wherever he is, to read him is to be one with his people, to share their laughter and tears, to participate as no bystander could in their affairs; to relish at first hand the homely wisdom and pithy wit which permeate his pages and to identify experience, thought and feeling with one's own.

New England is honoring Joe Lincoln at a testimonial luncheon at the Copley-Plaza at 12:30 P. M. on Tuesday, Sept. 30, and since The Boston Herald is sponsoring this tribute I had gone down to talk with him about it.

    [It was one of] those rare September days when sumrner [ ] soft haze of a cloudless horizon and the warm sun turns garden and field into a riot of brilliant color The sea was a magnificent blue ribbon around our world, held in place here by great dunes of sand topped with gently waving grasses.

Mr. Lincoln sat contentedly puffing his pipe, gazing across the nodding heads of flowers to the line of  surf along the shore and beyond the limitless water to where Portugal was lifting her head from the sea, if we had had the magic eyes to see her.

COPIES NO CHARACTERS

    We were seated in the sun porch of his house at Chatham, Mass., a  Cape Cod house of gracious rooms and spacious views, filled with the treasures he and Mrs. Lincoln have collected, and I had been asking him about his newest book.

    "No," he said, "I do not feel that realism and sordidness are synonymous terms. I have wanted to tell of people I've known. By that I don't mean that I draw my characters from life, for I most certainly do not. If I did, I might hurt some one's feelings. I draw their characteristics from the people I've known. I believe that most people want to be decent according to their lights and capacities. I never could write a crusader book, for the extreme reformer sees only one side. There is always an excuse for any action, or if there is not, we can find one. Life contains both laughter and sorrow; and it seems to me that the one is as real as the other. I have chosen the cheerful side because I would much rather make people cheerful and keep myself cheerful at the same time I think tolerance is essential. I have written of the average man, for it is the average man who is the backbone of the nation."

    Mr. Lincoln has wanted to tell stories ever sincere can remember, and he still wants to tell them! He also wanted to draw. But because even artists must eat, he worked in his early days at his Boston job during the day (it was with a banking house) and studied art three nights a week. He tried to do advertising drawings, but he found they sold better if he wrote a jingle or joke to go with them.

    He shared a room with Howard Reynolds in Pemberton square (I believe their names are still on the door), and then Sterling Eliott made him an offer to be associate editor of the Bulletin of the League of American Wheelmen. Bicycling was in its heyday and, believe it or not, the Bulletin had 125,000 paying subscribers.

    But he continued to write verse, and the public liked the swinging meter of his rhymes of the Cape, and he began to sell. Then came the never-to-be-forgotten day (he said he felt as though the Lord had sent him a special telegram) when George Horace Lorimer asked him to contribute to the Saturday Evening Post, and the die was cast.

    But as his star rose, that of the bicycle declined. Pretty soon there would be no more bicycles, and consequently no more bulletins.

TOOK CAREER IN HANDS

JCl garden

COULDN'T STAY AWAY
from Cape Cod. Lincoln in his formal garden facing the sea.

    By this time Joe had taken unto himself a wife, and one night he followed her into the living room after the dishes were done and asked her a momentous question. It was a matter of courage— and of faith. New York was already the Mecca towards which young authors addressed their prayers, and everything published seemed to get its start there. "Florence," said he, "have we courage enough. to put our furniture into storage, to live in one room, to cut our ties here— and to see?"                               

    They both knew that the rent has a pretty monotonous way of coming due, but they did take the plunge together. They lived in one room in a boarding house in Brooklyn and in 1902 he published his first volume of verses, chosing the Cape for his milieu because it was in his blood.

    Both sides of his house were seafaring people, and he, himself, was born at Brewster. He believed then, and he has had no reason to change that belief, that one can only write with conviction about what one knows. So he put down on paper the feel of the Cape with the salty wind blowing across the dunes and the scrub vegetation leaning against it. He put down the people and their houses, their politics, their obstinacies, their generosities, their preoccupations, their unwritten laws, their strengths and their weaknesses. And as he wrote, the reader came to know that here was New England, outside the big cities as it was and as it is today. He has limned, for posterity a precious part of our American heritage. He has shown the foundations of that heritage in tradition, in manner, and, more than anything else, in the people who are the exponents of it. And he has. through these people, identified experience and thought with the reader himself.

NOVEL EVERY YEAR SINCE

    He loves the Cape, but that doesn't mean that he cannot laugh at its peculiarities. And he makes the reader laugh with him until finally he has created a world of laughter and another shared experience nets him an increasing number of friends.

    The world owes Ripley Hitchcock a vast debt, for it was he, back in those early days, who convinced Joe that he could write a novel. By the way, he is also the man who discovered David Harum.

    "Cap'n Eri" was published in 1904, and there has been a, book every year since then.

    "I could go through the Cape," he went on, "and find a great many mean people, as one could anywhere for that matter, but I haven't." In that fact lies one of the greatest charms of the Lincoln books. For they have kindness in them. His work is not brash, contemptuous or arrogant. His people are your people, impelled by the same longings, harried by the same troubles; and if they prove to have clay feet, well— Joe manages, in one way or another, to get them sea boots in which to weather the storm of life.               

ship model
Joe and Freeman
RIGGING of this 1850 ship model captured the fancy of seafarers' son. JOSEPH C. and Freeman Lincoln, whose family collaboration will produce another novel, "The Good Hope," in October.

    He talked of the history of the Cape, of the great fortunes which were made there. Many Cape men were in the Revolution, but the war of 1812 affected that section more directly when it fell under the blockade of New England's seaboard. There was a big frigate trapped in Provincetown, and another in Nantucket, and sloops patrolled the coast. Salt was one of the great businesses of the day. Chatham alone had 23 salt works. But during the blockade, he said, one authority states that 200,000 bushels of that necessity remained static there.

RECLAIMED BY CAPE

    After his son Freeman was born they moved to New Jersey, and today he has a lovely home in Villa Nova, Pennsylvania. But the Cape has reclaimed him, and like the tide he has turned again home. .            

    For now his official residence is here at Chatham, and he has become again a legal citizen of Massachusetts. It is a lovely place which he has chosen. A great hedge guards the house from the street, while the back opens to lovely gardens and gorgeous views of sea and sky. The living room reflects his taste and his affection, for here is the special loveliness of Cape Cod. Hooked rugs of varied pattern strew the floor; the chairs and couches are simple, practical, graceful in line and eminently comfortable. A miniature bureau, shining like satin, flanks a chintz-covered love seat, and one wonders what strange history belonged to it before it came to rest here.

Joe vase
HIS CHOICEST POSSESSIONS include this lustre pitcher and the Sandwich compote on the table, typical treasures of the author's New
COLLECTS CHINA

     Everywhere the lovely grain of maple and pine has been polished to a burnished gleam. A set of shelves supports a rare collection of old glass. In this room, too, is a Tobey jug from the Widow Nolan's collection, and among the lustre pitchers is a Leeds lustre resist in the Bird pattern.           
There is a sandwich glass salt dish with a cover—the only one Mr. Lincoln has ever seen—and the mantle is dotted with choice China ornaments collected here and there throughout the Cape. Among them were two extremely supercilious dogs with flower baskets in their mouths.

    The dining room holds some lovely pewter, together with vaseline sandwich glass, and everywhere throughout the house are paintings and models of old ships.

    Above the living room mantle is Harold Brett's painting of Silas Bradford's boy, while another one hangs above their bedroom fireplace. Upstairs, rooms filled with furniture made from maples which would turn an envious collector a delicate mauve, open into a spacious hall. The Lincoln suite is at one end, and there are some of the choicest objects in the house.

    To describe his collection of paper weights, his ships or his glass would take hours.

    For recreation the author plays golf and fishes. He has a carved bass in his dining room which was done by E. Harwick, the nationally known carver of birds. Since this is the first fish Mr. Harwick ever did, and because it was done at his instigation, Joe Lincoln treasures it accordingly.

    "The New Hope" is his latest book and will be published Sept. 29. It is another collaboration with his son, Freeman, their third. Counting these, his volumes of poetry, and his one play, this will be Mr. Lincoln's 46th book.

    Time never hangs heavily on his hands. He can't sleep, once the sun comes into his room, so he is an early riser. After breakfast, which is a modest one (every two years he takes off 15 pounds, for somehow they do keep returning,) he reads The Boston Herald—he volunteered this, and were we pleased! By 9' o'clock he is at his desk.

    The afternoons are spent on links or with rod and reel, while the evenings are given over to reading and the enjoyment of friends.

    What he has done for New England is priceless, for he has made her traditions, her manners, and her people a part of America's memcry, while his characters reach out into universal living.

    So New England does well to honor this grand old man whose spirit is one of the blithe ones of the world and whose kindly knowledge has helped so many.

    Joe Lincoln has truly "lived in house by the side of the road and been a friend to man."

    Tickets for the Joe Lincoln luncheon may be obtained at Boston book stores, the Copley-Plaza or The Boston Herald. Parties [should] make reservations for tables.