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posted May 2004 at CapeCodHistory.us
The Men Who Make Our Novels
MOFFAT, YARD & COMPANY 1919
scanned from the book at Brown University Library
foreword and index are included after the Lincoln chapter
JOSEPH CROSBY LINCOLN
"Cape Cod?" said Mr. Lincoln. "Well, I ought to know the folk of Cape Cod. I was born there,—at Brewster, Mass., February 13, 1870—lived there all my youth, and since leaving I can't remember ever having missed visiting the Cape during the year. Sometimes I've only gone there for a few days, often for months; but I always go back; I suppose it's the call of my blood.
"My father was a sea captain, so was his father, and his father before him, and all my uncles. My mother's people all followed the sea. I suppose that if I had been born a few years earlier, I would have had my own ship. But when it came time for me to earn a living, the steamship was driving the old square rigger out of existence, and the glorious merchant marine that we had built up in the first part of the nineteenth century was fading into tradition.
"So when my mother and I were left alone in the world, since I was to be a business man, it was decided that I had better not waste time going to college. We went to live in Brooklyn and I entered a broker's office. It was not work to my liking, however, for I wanted to draw, and eventually, under the guidance of Henry Sandham, whose familiar signature was
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'Hy,' I went to Boston. There I took an office with another fellow and we started to do commercial work. We were not overwhelmingly successful, and often, to make the picture sell better, I wrote a verse or joke. Sometimes the verse or joke sold without the drawing. Shortly after this, Sterling Elliott, who was editor of the League of American Wheelmen Bulletin, sent for me and offered me a position as staff illustrator. I accepted. That was in the days when every one rode a bicycle, and the journal had a circulation of over a hundred and twenty-five thousand, so my verses and illustrations became known to a fairly large public.
"In the meantime I was back in Brooklyn, married to a Massachusetts girl, and doing considerable verse for various publications. They were mostly poems in dialect (that is, in the vernacular of the Cape), and I had almost unconsciously turned to the Cape for my inspiration. I sensed the fact that there is a subtle humor in the men and women of my own stock. Then, too, they were unusual characters, and the homes that made a background to their lives were picturesque to a superlative degree.
"It was about this time that I wrote my first short story. I went again to the Cape for my inspiration, drawing the type of man I know best for my central character, and the story sold to the Saturday Evening Post.
"And I have been writing fiction ever since. In 1904 my first novel, Cap'n Eri, was published. Other novels have followed with fairly annual regularity. They have all centered about Cape Cod and its people, for having thoroughly mastered the psychology of a
JOSEPH CROSBY LINCOLN
type of American that was known, appreciated, though through an economic law, fast becoming extinct, it seems best to keep on picturing these people. I have, of course, taken them away from the Cape, setting their individuality in various phases of life.
"The type of sea captain who figures in my stories has not necessarily an accurately corresponding type in my acquaintance. Going back to the Cape after having lived in New York and Boston, I was able to get varying angles on the lives of the men and women I had known in my childhood. The old sea captains that I remembered best as a child were of more than one character, classified according to their work. One was the dignified old man who had traveled to some far-away corner of the earth and returned prosperous, to spend the rest of his days as an autocrat among his own people. He had met strange peoples, he had been trusted with a ship, and, as in the days I write of there were no instantaneous means of talking across the oceans, he was shrewd at bargaining, and, being one of the owners of the ship, lost no chance to bring home a cargo that would bring rich returns. In other words, he was a shrewd trader as well as a sailing master. The same dignified bearing that he used in his trade followed him on land, and, though jovial in manner, he was developed in dignity and character.
"The other type of captain was more popular with the youngsters. He may have been as shrewd, and possibly made as much money, but he was filled with a greater sense of humor, and took life as a pastime. Men of this description would gather round the stove
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and tell wonderful stories, though all sea captains talk shop when they get together.
"Then too there was what are termed the 'longshore captains.' These were mostly engaged in fishing, or in trading with coast towns and cities. They were necessarily more limited in their views, for they spent more time ashore, often working a good-sized garden, fishing when the spirit moved, and running a schooner to New York or Boston if the chance came. . . .
"The old captain was a picturesque character, and I wrote of him—the man who sailed the seven seas. In drawing the type, I did not choose one man—the various captains that have figured in my books are entirely fictitious—for it seemed to me that it was hard to find one man who could fulfill all the characteristics of one fictional character. My captains are composites of many men, as I felt that it is hardly fair to accurately describe a living man, when writing fiction. . . .
"The same is true with the other characters of my books. My Cape women are generally true to type— big-hearted, motherly women who loved the sea. My other characters, with the exception of the Portuguese, whom I occasionally mention as Cape dwellers, are obviously drawn from the city types one sees in everyday life. ...
"After having studied the man, it is not difficult to imagine what he would do in certain society. In Cap'n Warren's Wards I took my Cape Codder to the city and showed that his high sense of what was right and wrong, and his saving sense of humor, were as much in evidence in one place as is another. In other
JOSEPH CROSBY LINCOLN
words, a good man is the same everywhere. And in Kent Knowles, I took my hero to England, and the contrast made the story a revelation of the Cape Cod type."
Elsewhere Mr. Lincoln has said: "I know there are people who can turn out a short-story in two or three hours and it will be good enough to sell, but I cannot help feeling that it would have been much better if the writer had devoted more time to it. In my case, doing work that is satisfactory to me in any degree means that I must fairly sweat it out, if I may use the expression."
And again, in an interview for the Boston Globe: "A man writes what he knows. If he tries anything else it must fall—show hollow. And I find that it is necessary to write to your audience—that one must consider that a large number of his readers are to be women, and he must write things that will appeal to the women of to-day."
But Mr. Lincoln is no Sir Oracle. "Sweating" over a story will not necessarily improve the tale. Mr. Edwin Lefevre wrote The Women and Her Bonds— "which, without any hesitation," says Mr. Arthur B. Maurice, one-time editor of The Bookman, "is to be ranked among the really big short stories of American fiction." Mr. Edwin Lefevre wrote The Woman and Her Bonds at a single sitting before breakfast . . . and Lincoln's Gettysburg speech is anything but perspirational.
So, too, when the author of Cap'n Dan's Daughter speaks of humor: "Perhaps I could write a story with gloomy situations and an unhappy ending, but I
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wouldn't like to try it. I would much rather try to make people cheerful and keep myself cheerful at the same time. There's enough sorrow in this world without finding it in books." Mr. Lincoln—and in this he is certainly one with the thoughtless folk who go to make up the great American reading public—would dismiss Othello and Lear as dismal and by no means as valuable as a torn and much-read copy of Puck. But I would not barter the tears of life for all the laughter of Cape Cod.
Mr. Lincoln lives at Hackensack, New Jersey, and is a member of the Hackensack Golf Club, and the Union League Club. He attends the Unitarian Church, and has been a member of its board of trustees for about ten years. For the past several years he has been a member of the Hackensack Board of Education. He is, so I hear on good authority, an extremely agreeable person, somewhat after the manner of the Justice in Shakespeare's Seven Ages, interlining his talk with quaint instances, proverbs of the sea, the natural wisdom of men who have learned from life rather than books. And, true to his endeavor, he keeps those about him cheerful and happy.
Mr. Lincoln's Works Include:
Cape Cod Ballads, Cap'n Eri, Farters of the Tide, Mr. Pratt, The Old Home House, Cy Whittaker's Place, Our Village, Kesiah Coffin, The Depot Master, Rise of Roscoe Paine, Mr. Pratt's Patients, Cap'n Warren's Wards, The Woman Haters, Cap'n Dan's Daughter, Kent Knowles, "Quahaug," Thankful's Inheritance, Mary 'Gusta, Extricating Obadiah.
IN LIEU OF A PREFACE
"All books should have a preface, to tell what they are about and why they were written," says Mr. Arthur Bullard, in the opening sentence of his first novel, A Man's World; continuing, "This book is about myself."
As is usual with books and prefaces alike, since no man can escape the prison of his personality to view the world with any eyes but his own; we cannot, like that Tiresias cited by Monsieur France, be men and at the same time have memories of having been women.
The present volume, presumably dealing with certain of those who make novels, was written on demand, and is, for the most part, concerned with the life and opinions of George Gordon. For this reason, despite Mr. Bullard's frank invitation, I am loathe to add (to so much) a preface on him. Rather am I of the opinion of the author who demurred when the first John Murray demanded a preface to his book. A preface (he said) always put him in mind of Hamlet's exclamation to the tardy player, "Leave thy most damnable faces, and begin!"
TABLE OF CONTENTS, pages v-vii
CHAPTER I PAGE
William Dean Howells.......... 1
chapter III William Allen White........ . 19
Ernest Poole.......... . . 27
Joseph Hergesheimer.......... . 33
Meredith Nicholson........... 64
Samuel H. Adams...........69
Stewart Edward White..........80
Samuel Merwin ,...........85
Allan Updegraff ...........92
Rex Ellingwood Beach..........97
Henry Blake Fuller...........107
James Branch Cabell..........113
Robert W. Chambers...........119
Edward Lucas White..........124
Newton A. Fuessle...........131
Thomas Nelson Page..........145
Robert Herrick .............148
Peter Clark Macfarlane......... . 159
Harry Leon Wilson.......... . 162
Henry Sydnor Harrison..........175
Joseph C. Lincoln...........179
Louis Joseph Vance...........190
Harold Bell Wright...........194