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Joseph C. Lincoln bibliography
posted May 2005

Around the County

Peggy Eastman, staff writer
Cape Cod Times, Jun 23 1980

A Joe Lincoln tribute

    A Joseph C. Lincoln 10-question quiz?
    "Sho, sho 'tis! That's sartin."

    Think you could win it — and the hundred dollars? "I cal'late I could. I should like to, but I mustn't. Haven't time. Be a plaguey nuisance lookin' it all up."

*     *     *

    I never met Joseph Lincoln, but he was part of my childhood, and probably is the reason I am on Cape Cod today. Lincoln was my father's favorite author, and the charming picture that the Cape's best known writer painted of his native area, was devotedly believed by my father to be "the real Cape Cod."

    It was a Sunday afternoon ritual, whenever we did not go visitng and no one came to visit us, for my dad after Sunday dinner to unwrap his one-a-week cigar, light it and sit in the living room and read a "Joe Lincoln."

    Dad didn't just read a Joe Lincoln — "Our Village," "Mary Gusta," "The Postmaster," "Captain Eri," or one of the many others — he savored it. He read and reread them, laughing as heartily, if not more so, on his 10th time though as on his first.

    "Listen to this," he'd say to anyone who was near, and then he would read some particular passage that had pleased him. I never could see why he thought it funny, but I laughed anyway, because I could sense that it made my father happy when I shared the laughter with him.

    I inherited my dad's collection of Lincoln books, and although I have added to it over the years, I have never read one all the way through. That probably keeps me out of the Joseph C. Lincoln Fan Club!

    But I grew up with a deep respect for dad's Lincoln books — the books he told me were written about a wonderful place called Cape Cod where we would some day go to live — not just to visit relatives or spend a brief vacation — but to be a part of a community where everyone spoke in salty phrases (except, of course, the summer tourists) and all stories had a happy ending.

    During the difficult times of the Great Depression and the dark days of World War II, my father often escaped the harsh reality we lived in by reading "my Lincolns."

    To our landlocked lives, the sound of dad's voice reading passages from the Lincoln books was "the sound of the summer surf coming through an open window.''

    We moved to Cape Cod in 1944, the year Joseph Lincoln died. And we did find a few people that were, as dad put it, "right out of Joe Lincoln's 'Our Village'." But the ravages of the depression and the tragedies of war and personal calamities followed us even here. In the land where all stories have a happy ending, my parents found only brief happiness and sad, untimely deaths.

    Lincoln was considered as one of the last successful authors of local color novels. Although weakly plotted, the stories are sharply drawn characterizations — one of the reasons it is enjoyable to read portions of his books at random. I never felt I lost anything by not reading a whole book.

    In an article he wrote about the writing profession, Lincoln spurned the realistic school so popular during the 1920. He claimed that realism in books, as well as on the stage, was not possible. He said he found "realism" undesirable.

    He was probably right. Even with R-rated movies and books that should be X-rated, realism is as elusive to the pens of most writers today as it ever was — and is often much less a captive than in the times when writers had more so-called restraints.

    The details of the Joseph C. Lincoln contest, which is sponsored by the Cape Cod Book Club, ran in Sunday's Cape Cod Times. I don't plan to enter it, but I will find out how it goes, and check out the results when it is judged Aug. 19 in North Eastham. (Or is that North Orham?)

    The Cape Cod about which Joe Lincoln wrote, if it ever existed in reality, is certainly far different now. But the continued interest in Lincoln' writing indicated by this contest and in other ways, also shows that wherever Joseph Lincoln may stand in the realm of literature, he captured a timeless, human element.

    The Lincoln books still remain a touchstone for the Utopian ideal "Cape Cod."