Joseph C. Lincoln

Joseph C. Lincoln, W. W. Jacobs, and the Pursuit of Good Humour
Journal of Popular Culture 2(4): 649-664. 1968

Alice P. Kenney (1937-1985)
History Department, Cedar Crest College
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Joseph C. Lincoln, W. W. Jacobs, and the Pursuit of Good Humour

    The Progressives carried "muckraking" far beyond the exposure in popular magazines of evils in need of reform, for many of them saw the search for any kind of truth as the exposure of secrets whose only plausible reason for remaining secret was that they were unfit to bear enlightened scrutiny. These same Progressives, avowedly using their scholarly disciplines as tools to remodel every area of American life, constructed the nationwide school system with their customary efficiency and engineering skill. Although the tide of enthusiasm for progressive education has long since ebbed, there have been quite simply no other competitors in the large-scale training of teachers for all levels. As a result, the American mind has come to be shaped according to fundamentally Progressive patterns, and the vocabulary and methods of educated inquiry have become far better suited to the investigation of negative rather than positive questions and to the development of pessimistic rather than optimistic outlooks. Such views have in part been endorsed by Americans in general as giving a true picture of a much-tried world in which many things need reform, but it is becoming increasingly evident that they are by no means entirely representative of American popular culture. A long-needed restoration of balance may be initiated by studying

650 Alice P. Kenney

a writer of the Progressive era who deliberately, resolutely and consistently presented the good rather than the evil side of his material, and by so doing won the faithful devotion of a large popular audience.

    Joseph C. Lincoln earned his place among twentieth-century best-selling authors by writing forty novels, as well as short stories, verse and plays. His son Freeman Lincoln, also an author, wrote of him:

My old man was truly a person. Denied any vestige of formal education, [beyond high school --APK] he made a living with words, the tools of an educated man. He became one of the nation's most successful popular writers. He was the publisher's dream. Every year for more than four decades he put out a new book that sold from thirty to one hundred thousand copies. His product was so sure-fire that magazines guaranteed to pay top prices for the serial rights to his stories, sight unseen and as long as seven years before they were written. He was repeatedly cited as "the man who put Cape Cod on the map. " Every summer hundreds of tourists knocked at the door of his Cape Cod summer cottage--now my most cherished possession. I plainly remember a night when he read from his own material to a jampacked church in Harwichport, Massachusetts. After two hours, the audience gave him a standing ovation that lasted a full ten minutes.

What sort of man was this ? He was short, fat, laughing, and infinitely friendly. He loved Cape Cod, people and good food. A frank sentimentalist, he believed that humans are essentially decent, and that virtue wins out in the end. He often sat up all night telling stories, but I never heard one that was shady. No prude, I never heard him say so much as "damn. " I wasn't around if he ever was nasty in word or deed to anybody, or if he ever turned down a request for a loan. Money was a nuisance he refused to try to understand. If all this made him what is known today as a sucker, it's all right with me. 1

"The Pursuit of Good Humour" 651

Contemporary critics agreed with this estimate of the basis of Lincoln's popularity; for example, in 1925, at the height of his career, Arnold J. Patrick wrote:

Eugene O'Neill chooses to write of New Englanders and seafolk on the verge of insanity. Joseph C. Lincoln chooses the eminently sane. Each of these types of story is perfectly true. ... In these days of psychological meanderings on the part of authors, it is a relief to find an author as wholesome as Joseph Lincoln--and that the very fact that it is the wholesome authors which the public rewards by wide sales proves the fundamental soundness of the public mind.2

    Lincoln's combination of accurate depiction of the distinctive characteristics of his region, genial good humour and unshakable common sense, and strightforward, honest sentiment was so peculiarly his own that there is nothing comparable to it anywhere in American literature. The question of where Lincoln's audience learned to appreciate his type of stories is elucidated by the fact that a writer similar to Lincoln in both subject matter and approach became popular in England at almost exactly the same time. W.W. Jacobs won a wide audience--soon extended to America—with short stories, a few novels, and a number of plays depicting the sailor-folk of London and the small outports of southern England. Critics commended him like Lincoln, for his faithful portrayal of local idiosyncracies and his gentle good humour; in the words of St. John Adcock:

In all these novels and stories Jacobs has been as faithful to the docks and wharves and waterside districts of London and Essex as Hardy has been to Wessex and, allowing for some farcical extravagances of incident, his quaint old salts and the famous Night Watchman are as true to life as the peasants of the Wessex novels.3

Unlike Lincoln, he avoided the direct presentation of any sort of sentiment, detailing instead all kinds of ingenious roguery. Also unlike Lincoln, who concluded a novel about a released convict by revealing that his protagonist had never committed the crime for which he had accepted punishment to shield the reputation of his deceased kleptomaniac wife, Jacobs faced squarely the fact that

652 Alice P. Kenney

some people carried ingenious roguery too far and had to take the consequences. These dissimilarities reflect not only differences in the personalities of Lincoln and Jacobs, but also in the expectations of their readers.

    Both Lincoln and Jacobs began their careers by writing for existing audiences which had been enjoying "local-color" stories for at least a generation. In England this movement began with a wave of Irish novels, whose popularity diminished suddenly after the great potato famine turned picturesque Ireland into the problem area of the British Isles; a flood of Scottish tales prompted partly by the continuing admiration for the works of Sir Walter Scott, partly by Queen Victoria's attachment to her summer home at Balmoral, and partly by the transformation of the primitive, depressed Highlands into a fashionable resort easily accessible by rail; and finally a stream of nostalgic stories describing the traditional agricultural society of southern England which was being crushed out of existence by the influx of cheap grain from the mid-American breadbasket. In the meantime American magazines carried stories about the vanished graciousness of ante-bellum Southerners, the fading but still upright virtues of rural New Englanders, the bleak tenacity of settlers on the Great Plains, and the unsmelted golden hearts of Far Westerners. In writing stories of this type, however, both Lincoln and Jacobs differed in one very important respect from most other local-color authors, for though both described people undergoing difficult economic transitions, both depicted them developing a new means of livelihood and adjusting their way of life to preserve their most cherished values rather than sitting hopelessly by while livelihood, society and values together faded into memory.

    The basic economic problem of the sailor folk whom Lincoln and Jacobs described was the replacement of sailing vessels by steamships. A brief half-century separated the California and Australia clippers, the quintessence of hundreds of years of developing craftsmanship in shipbuilding, navigation and sailing technique, from superdreadnoughts, the quintessence of the inventive, technological and engineering skills produced by a few decades of the Industrial Revolution. As wages and working conditions on sailing vessels deteriorated in desperate competition with cheaper, faster steamships, American and British sailors gave up going to sea or found themselves involuntarily shorebound because the diminishing number of berths were filled by low-paid foreign crews controlled by brutal discipline. Neither Lincoln nor Jacobs was interested in exposing this evil in the manner of

"The Pursuit of Good Humour" 653

their naturalistic American contemporary Morgan Robertson, whose idea of a typical Cape Cod Cap'n seen from the fo'castle (in a story avowedly promoting legislative regulation of maritime conditions by depicting a "hellship") was

Cap'n Bilker, o' Cape Cod. Ever hear o'him ? First mate's another Cape Cod murderer, and second mate's a bran' new bucko just out o' the boys' room, I take it--not used to bossin' men, an' not more'n half a seaman, but a jim-hickey with his fists. ... I'd rather be in hell without claws than aboard of a Yankee ship wi' the mates down on me. 4

Jacobs' sailors, protected by the Plimsoll Act of 1876 (the Progressive La Follette Merchant Seaman's Act was not passed until 1916) sometimes protested against bad food or improper treatment by threatening their captain with prosecution, but more often--and more successfully--they brought him to reason by harassing him with practical jokes or playing on his superstitions. Lincoln's cap'ns preferred to leave the sea rather than command "hellships, " although one of them asserted that stories like Robertson's were highly exaggerated:

I know it's the fashion, judgin' by the sea yarns I've read lately, to have a Yankee skipper sort of a cross between a prize fighter and a murderer. Fust day out of port he begins by pickin' out the most sickly fo'mast hand aboard, mashes him up, and then takes the next invalid. I got a book about that kind of a skipper out of our library down home a spell ago, and the librarian said 'twas awful popular. A strong story, she said, and true to life. Well, 'twas strong--you could pretty nigh smell it—but as for bein' true to life, I had my doubts. I've been to sea, command of a vessel, for a good many years, and sometimes I'd go weeks, whole weeks, without jumpin'up and down on a single sailor. Fact! Got my exercise other ways, I presume likely.5

    Jacobs' seamen, working out of the booming port of London which at this time held together the trade of the entire British Empire, often met the challenge of steam by learning to be sailors on steamships, an alternative not always open to Lincoln's cap'ns

654 Alice P. Kenney

as the world trade of Boston shifted to New York and long-established Yankee shipping firms went out of business. Since the sandy soil of the Cape was unsuitable for ordinary farming and local industries such as salt works and the Sandwich glass factory had long since closed down, the young men who would once have gone to sea and come home between voyages to families on the Cape had no alternative but to seek their fortunes by settling elsewhere. Left on the Cape were retired cap'ns, experienced as traders and highly skilled in their craft but utterly untrained for any occupation on land, widows and spinsters struggling to maintain inherited homes on insufficient incomes, ne'er-do-wells without energy or ambition to leave, and the few storekeepers, ministers, doctors and lawyers whom these straitened communities were able to support. When Lincoln began to write they were just beginning to find a new means of livelihood in summer visitors. Lincoln depicted not only the obvious contrasts between "natives" and vacationers, but also the upheaval in property values, set off by the "shore development" schemes of local and external corporations, the problems encountered by local businesses in shifting from easy-going year-round service to a permanent community to the high-pressure competition of an annual transient "season," the development of such sports as fishing, sailing, automobiling, football, golf and even flying by and for visitors, and the emergence of "antiquers," connoisseurs, competitive-consumers, and fakers.

    Unlike Jacobs, who took the economic basis of existence for granted as part of the setting of his stories, Lincoln developed the drama inherent in the processes of work and achieved some of his most effective climaxes when his characters battled natural forces, hostile corporations, or both in the course of their usual occupations. This difference in emphasis demonstrates that Lincoln's and his characters' preoccupation with economic matters was far deeper than response to the extended pressure of everyday necessity. Under this pressure his characters directed many of their humorous shafts at sloth, taking it for granted that anyone who did not visibly work all day was disreputably lazy. But, in accordance with the Yankee tradition of singleminded "cuteness" in trade, Lincoln devoted a major effort to depicting the difference between shrewd trading and sharp practice. He considered fraud, particularly in the stock market, too serious to be entirely a laughing matter; his good humour could become almost grim when he depicted Cape Codders using their "cuteness " to get back their own from local operators or vacationing financiers who had led them to invest savings on which their present or future support

"The Pursuit of Good Humour" 655

depended in worthless shares. The characters who spoke for him regarded a secure and adequate livelihood as the first and indispensible (although by no means the last or most important) good, and, constantly warning against speculation, were or became content to live within the income they derived from their own small businesses.6

    Jacobs never found a congenial subject in the struggles between men and nature, business failure, or the temptation to get rich quick which consistently attracted Lincoln. His interest was rather in "artfulness, " a London lower-class term for roguish ingenuity which prided itself on getting away with as much as possible on the fringes of the moral code. Some artfulness, like that of Dickens' Artful Dodger, consisted of evading the well-deserved clutches of the criminal law, and in a series of rural stories Jacobs ridiculed England's outdated hunting regulations by depicting an artful poacher whose ingenuity in eluding gamekeepers delighted his cronies at the pub until he used it, as he invariable did, to take advantage of them. Jacobs' urban characters, however, as a rule took good care to give the police no occasion for interference in their mischief. His sailors used their artfulness to avoid repaying borrowed money, to refill their empty pockets, and to amuse themselves by playing practical jokes on friends or strangers; his shopkeeping folk used it to get back at annoying neighbors, to resolve domestic differences, and to turn aside or repay in kind the dodges of artful sailors. But Jacobs depicted with relentless grimness the effects of artfulness which overstepped fundamental moral bounds. Characters who violated their own or someone else's human integrity by acts which might or might not--as in Jacobs' most famous story, "The Monkey's Paw" --be accounted crimes by society suffered immediate retribution in the form of destruction of their personalities, often by their own superstitions, which usually made the intervention of the police superfluous. Some reviewers disliked these macabre stories and considered them to be inconsistent with Jacobs' gentle comedies, but they place his entire outlook in perspective by demonstrating his awareness of the moral limits of both gentleness and comedy.

    Lincoln and Jacobs agreed that relations between men and women were an essential part of their subject matter, but they differed in their treatment of them. Jacobs invariably handled love as another form of artfulness; as his most famous pundit, the Night Watchman [of a London dock] observed:

Don't talk to me about love, because I've suffered enough through it. There ought to be

656 Alice P. Kenney

teetotalers for love the same as wot there is for drink, and they ought to wear a piece o' ribbon to show it, the same as the teetotalers do; but not an attractive piece o' ribbon, mind you, I've seen as much mischief caused by love as by drink, and the funny thing is, one often leads to the other. Love, arter it is over, often leads to drink, and drink often leads to love and to a man committing himself for life afore it is over. Sailormen give way to it most; they see so little o' wimmen that they naturally 'ave a high opinion of 'em. Wait till they become night-watchmen and, having to be at ome all day, see the other side of 'em. If people only started life as night-watchmen there wouldn't be one 'arf the falling in love that there is now. 7

He told exceedingly funny tales about breach of promise, real, threatened or supposed bigamy, and marital discord, traditional subjects of humor which Lincoln very seldom exploited. Also unlike Lincoln, Jacobs developed many comic scenes between pert servant girls and their admirers, along lines suggested by Jerome K. Jerome:

They are always very rude to one another, the comic lovers.... In the various slanging matches and bullyragging competitions which form their courtship, it is always the maiden that is most successful. Against her merry flow of invective, and her girlish wealth of offensive personalities, the insolence and abuse of her boyish adorer cannot stand for one moment.8

All of Jacobs' lovers, whatever their social station, amused themselves with an elaborate and highly-developed technique of conversation innocent and trivial enough on the surface, but given teasing, provoking levels of meaning by tones of voice, looks and gestures which the author merely sketched in to guide his readers' imaginations. Such a form of heterosexual communication was completely outside the range of Lincoln's lovers, who were too busy working to have time to spare for it and to whom, in any case, the slightest suggestion of flirtation endangered a girl's reputation.

    Jacobs considered the sentiment which attached lovers--often through extended engagements and the long separations in-

"The Pursuit of Good Humour" 657

evitable in seafaring communities--to be a fundamental necessity like working for a living and respecting human integrity, taken for granted to the point that it did not require explicit discussion. Lincoln's lovers explained their feelings to each other rather fully, but one of his most engaging qualities was his ability to salt love scenes with common sense and humor so that they depicted homely and sincere human feeling without falling into the extremes of either passion or sentimentality. Jacobs developed a number of amusing stories out of incongruous meetings, but to Lincoln love at first sight was insignificant in comparison to relationships which grew out of common efforts to overcome misfortune. His young lovers, often brought to Cape Cod temporarily by their employment, were likely to be conventionally romantic; much more memorable were salty retired cap'ns and tart widows who found marriage their best refuge from loneliness.

    The readers of these stories were the subscribers to the mass-circulation magazines which proliferated on both sides of the Atlantic just before the turn of the century. Many of Jacobs' stories appeared in Strand, the leading English periodical on this level, in its American edition, and in its American counterparts, Harpers and Cosmopolitan. Lincoln wrote most of his short stories for ten-cent monthlies including McClure's, Munsey's and Everybody's, which in the same years attracted much attention by their muckraking articles. The readers of all of these magazines were working people, many of whom had taken advantage of the opportunity to acquire literacy offered by the expansion of common schools in both England and the United States after 1870. Lincoln's readers were potential vacationers rather than Cape Codders, and Jacobs' were shopkeepers and clerical workers rather than sailors, but many of them had achieved their middle-class status by their own efforts and expected their children, like the young people in the stories, to acquire more education than their parents as a tool for attaining even higher status. Lincoln's older characters actively exhorted their younger friends--and through them his younger readers--to apply themselves in school if they wished to better themselves, but Jacobs took it for granted that they would do so and then would use their learning not only for social and economic advancement, but also for the human purposes of amusing themselves and broadening their understanding of other people by reading his stories.

    Such an audience, whose formal schooling ended at the elementary or, as was true of both Lincoln and Jacobs, at the secondary level, and whose further education came from experi-

658 Alice P. Kenney

ence far more than from books, considered stories containing many literary references pretentious. They were willing and even eager to learn about unfamiliar people and their way of life, but they much preferred that the ideas about which they read should be those which they had already accepted. It was not necessary, however, for their authors to confine themselves to ideas previously expressed in print. Both Lincoln and Jacobs drew elements of their stories from oral folk traditions; for example, both the Yankee sailor and the British tar were already important comic symbols of national character. The nineteenth-century prototype of Uncle Sam was "Brother Jonathan, " usually depicted as an itinerant peddler, tinker or hoss-trader but not uncommonly as a sailor, while in England Jack Tar was as familiar as John Bull. They were embodied in ballads, folk tales, popular drama, and other forms of oral tradition which were important before the days of mass media for reminding the community of the nature and implications of its communal self-image as well as for sheer entertainment.10

    Besides drawing upon such well-known traditions of folk humor, Lincoln and Jacobs also made use of their readers' familiarity with the stage--the form of entertainment most popular among their characters. Jacobs modelled his short stories--some of which he later turned into plays--on the domestic comedy "entertainments" developed especially for family audience in mid-Victorian England. 11 Organized like the scenarios of skits, they consisted mostly of humorous dialogue building to a decisive bit of action rather than to a punch line. His novels were a succession of such skits, all concerning the same people and arranged one after the other; his characters might have stepped out of his friend Jerome K. Jerome's "Stageland. " Unlike Lincoln, who vividly described the physical environment of Cape Cod, even in novels Jacobs gave only stage directions concerning setting, which he left to be suggested by the inimitable illustrations of Will Owen or by his readers' imaginations.

    Lincoln organized his short stories, and many episodes in his novels, within the dramatic framework of the yarn, developed informally by storytellers at New England winter firesides and formally by platform humorists of whom Mark Twain was one of the best known and Lincoln himself became well known. For his novels he took the more complex form of the nautical melodrama, which one of his cap'ns summarized:

Then I went to see a play named "The Heart of a Sailor. " .... It's a wonder of its kind.

"The Pursuit of Good Humour" 659

I learned more things about life-saving and 'longshore life from that drayma than you'd believe was possible.... The poster pictured a bark ashore, on her beam ends, in a sea like those off the Horn. On the beach was a whole parcel of life-savers firin' off rockets and blue lights. .. . The bark wa'n't more'n a hundred foot from 'em, and if all hands on board didn't know they was in trouble by that time, then they deserved to drown. ... I wished some of the folks from home had been there, for the whole business was supposed to happen on the Cape, and they'd have realized how ignorant we are about the place we live in. The hero was a strappin' six-footer, sort of a combination fisherman and parson, seemed so. He wore ileskins in fair weather and went around preachin' or defyin' folks that provoked him and makin' love to the daughter of a long-haired old relic that called himself an inventor.... And there was a rich squire, who made his money by speculatin' in wickedness, and a mortgage, and --I don't know what all. And those Cape Cod folks ! and the houses they lived in! and the way they talked! Oh, dear, oh dear! I got my money's wuth that afternoon. "

    "What about the wreck? How did that happen?"

    "Don't know. It happened 'cause it had to be in the play, I cal'late. The mortgage, or an 'invention' or somethin' was on board the bark and just naturally took a short cut for home, way I figgered it out. But, Jim, you ought to have seen that hero! He pelled off his ileskin-slicker--he'd kept it on all through the sunshine, but now, when 'twas rainin' and rainin' and wreckin' and thunderin' he shed it--and jumped in and saved all hands and the ship's cat. 'Twas great business ! No wonder the life-savers set off fireworks ! And thunder ! Why, say, it never stopped thunderin' in that storm except when somebody had to make a heroic speech; then it let up and give 'em a chance. Most considerate thunder ever I hears. And the lightnin! and the way the dust flew from the breakers ! I was glad I went.12

660 Alice P. Kenney

Lincoln adapted this popular structure to his own use by salting it thoroughly with common sense and limiting his choice of incidents to those which had in fact happened on Cape Cod--some of which can even be documented. Like Jacobs', his characters were familiar dramatic types; his Irishmen, servants and Wall Street magnates generally remained so, but his Cape Codders and some summer residents in sympathy with their fundamental values achieved a remarkable range of individuality within their respective types.

    Finally, Lincoln and Jacobs could assume that their readers were more or less familiar with the most popular Victorian novelists. Students of American culture often lose sight of the tremendous quantities of English fiction consumed in nineteenth-century America, particularly since sales statistics are untrustworthy in the absence of international copyright legislation. The works of Scott and Byron had been particularly popular earlier in the century; in its later decades Thackeray and Dickens were widely read. Thackeray, with his satire of the upper classes, appealed particularly to college graduates and the upper middle class--for example, the comic magazine Life, whose audience of would-be sophisticates was roughly equivalent to that of The New Yorker today, considered his works the standard of gentility to which it encouraged its readers to aspire. The lower middle class for whom Lincoln and Jacobs wrote aspired to respectability rather than to gentility, which they were inclined to ridicule. They laughed and wept with Dickens, whom they remembered not only as a best-selling novelist and a socially-conscious editor, but also as a successful playwright, actor, and platform reader of his own works. Jacobs, born in 1863, was old enough to have heard Dickens read; Lincoln, born in 1870, was not too young to have heard vivid first-hand accounts of his sensational visits to New England in his last years, and their readers were of the same generation. It is by no means insignificant that the rare quotations uttered by both authors' characters are mostly from Dickens.

    Lincoln's words are therefore closer to the English than to the American literary tradition--on its level of popular entertainment, which in England is far less separated from literary art than is the case in America. It is for this reason that his similarity to Jacobs and the relationship of both to Dickens are important guidelines in determining his significance as an exponent of popular culture. This similarity was partly a result of similar ethnic background--Lincoln's ancestry was entirely English and there had been no significant non-English influence in the entire history

"The Pursuit of Good Humour" 661

of Cape Cod--partly of similar environment in seafaring communities, and partly of similar self-education in the classics of English popular fiction. There is no evidence at present to indicate whether they influenced each other, except that Lincoln, as a young freelance writer struggling to break into the periodical market, must have been familiar with the American magazines in which Jacobs' stories were appearing. Lincoln's second novel, Partners of the Tide (1905), included Cap'n Ezra Titcomb, conditions on whose ship resembled those on Morgan Robertson's "hellships" and whose involvements with women resembled--distantly—those of Jacobs' Captain Fred Flower in A Master of Craft (1900). One of Lincoln's other cap'ns, hero of an earlier novel, said:

I like Cap'n Ez. He does love to git the best of a bargain, and he's a "driver" on a vessel, and perhaps he likes to shave the law pretty close sometimes. Ez is a reg'lar born gambler for takin' chances, but I never knew him to do a mean trick. 14

Nevertheless, Lincoln avoided developing fully Cap'n Ezra's shipboard life and love affairs, and the best parts of the novel concerned the struggles of the small wrecking concern for which he abandoned his "hellship" to survive on a shoestring and the difficulties of his young partner in reconciling the needs of his works and his girl. Furthermore, Lincoln's audience much preferred shrewd, salty, sentimental, sincere cap'ns like Elisha Warren in Cap'n Warren's Wards (1911). By the time that Lincoln had produced a body of work sufficiently significant to have influenced Jacobs, the English author, quite possibly shaken from the world he knew by the changes of World War I, had almost ceased to write. Lincoln, however, went on to achieve his greatest success in the 1920's, confronting the pessimistic "realists" of that decade directly in a story called "The Realist, " in which one of his cap'ns remarked, "A wedding is as much a part of life as a funeral, seems to me. And there are happy marriages."15

    The relationship between Lincoln, Jacobs, their audience and Progressivism as it is usually defined is complex. The most conspicuous concern of the Progressives and their English counterparts the Fabian Socialists was reforming and redesigning the machinery of government so that the people could use it to regulate and control economic and social processes more effectively. Lincoln and Jacobs were self-made men, writing for a self-made

662 Alice P. Kenney

audience. They had succeeded in raising their own status within the framework of the existing social and political system and were teaching their children to use the resources available within that system to raise their status still farther. Their education was insufficient to permit them to visualize the possibilities of an entirely different system, and they were not, like their proletarian countemporaries, excluded from the benefits of that system so that they could see little reason for supporting it. For them, therefore, the pursuit of happiness lay less in change--too much of which forced itself upon them uninvited--than in preserving such stability as they could be maintaining a perilous human balance amid conflicting political, social and economic forces. As Lincoln in his own person concluded "The realist, " speaking of a novel which depicted Cape Cod as a depressed area ripe for social reform, "Nothing was exaggerated, nothing was glossed over, nothing omitted except--well, those things which the eyes of Mr. Sergius Hartshorn, the 'realist,' were not fashioned for seeing. "16

    The refusal of Lincoln and Jacobs to devote their stories to the exposure of social evils must not, however, be interpreted to mean that they and their readers were indifferent to such evils. In his novels Lincoln considered such issues as the morality of "society" and high finance, international understanding, and the nature of Americanism. He viewed all of these as Cape Codders would have seen them, in which respect his position was comparable to that of other rural Americans--in his day still a majority of the American people--and not far distant from that of the many city-dwellers who had been brought up in rural areas. Jacobs carefully avoided discussing political and social issues, perhaps partly to prevent confusion between his public image and that of his wife, a militant suffragette. Furthermore, readers of the magazines in which their stories appeared found many articles about social problems in other pages of the same magazines. Lincoln and Jacobs encouraged their readers to put humanity's ills in perspective by thinking about its good qualities part of the time. They encouraged them further to cultivate a broad and generous rather than a narrow and bitter frame of mind by laughing genially with characters who took life's follies and absurdities with salt as well as pepper. Finally they encouraged them to respect the integrity of every individual, including those whose actions seemed humorous to others. In thus engaging in the pursuit of good humour, both Lincoln and Jacobs approached directly the end for which their fellow-Progressives proposed to

"The Pursuit of Good Humour" 663

reform the structure of politics and society—to enlarge the range of human activity and to enhance the dignity of humankind.


1 Freeman Lincoln, ed., Joseph C. Lincoln Reader (New York, 1959), Introduction.

2 Arnold J. Patrick, "Getting Into Six Figures, " Bookman 60:593, Jan. 1925.

3 St. John Adcock, Glory that was Grub Street (London, n.d.), 150.

4 Morgan Robertson, Masters of Men (New York, 1909), 107, 123.

5 Joseph C. Lincoln, Cap'n Warren's Wards (New York, 1911), 107.

6 For further discussion of this subject see Alice P. Kenney, "The Realistic Regionalism of Joseph C. Lincoln", New England Galaxy, Spring, 1966.

7 William Wymark Jacobs, "The Third String", in Odd Craft (New York, 1903), 269.

8 Robert Hutchinson, ed., Humorous World of Jerome K.Jerome (New York, 1962), 48.

9 For further development of this subject see Alice P. Kenney, "$tar-Cro$$ed Lover$", New England Galaxy (forthcoming), Fall, 1969.

10 Constance Rourke, American Humor (New York, 1931), ch. 1.

11 Jane W. Stedman, ed., Gilbert Before Sullivan (Chicago, 1967), Introd. Allardyce Nicoll, History of Late Nineteenth Century Drama, 1850-1900 (Cambridge, Eng., 1946), I, 8-9, 125, 146-7, 186, 208.

12 Cap'n Warren's Wards, 249-51.

664 Alice P. Kenney

13 John T. Flautz, "Life under John Ames Mitchell, 1883-1918" (Ph. D. diss., Western Reserve Univ., 1963), 281-88. Dr.Flautz has kindly elaborated further on this point and others in this paper in personal conversation. I am also indebted to him for suggesting the relevance of Morgan Robertson, to Leslie J. Workman for introducing me to Jacobs and pointing out his similarity to Lincoln, and to Sandra Wolf for essential research assistance.

14 Joseph C. Lincoln, Partners of the Tide (New York, 1905), 43.

15 Joseph C. Lincoln, "The Realist", in All Alongshore (New York, 1931), 482.

16 Ibid., 486.