Joe Lincoln of Cape Cod / James Westaway McCue. 1949. The Cape Cod Publishers, Silver Lake MA. 76 pp.
B L737m


    This is a minor and uncritical biography, almost a hagiography, written shortly after Joseph Crosby Lincoln's death. It reminds me of the instant books that appear just after newsworthy events these days. I read a rebound library copy, but it was apparently published as a paperback, with cheap paper and a photograph cover. I know nothing about the author, but there is a list on the publication page of 11 other books he wrote, fiction and non-fiction, mostly about Cape Cod. This book's style is trite, affectionate, and unquestioning. It could have used an editor and proof-reader, because, besides the style issues, there are repeated anecdotes and many typos.

    The first 2 chapters are mostly cribbed from Hamlin Garland's 1921
Appreciation (or similar mini-biographies). They cover his family and professional background, and early successes. Other chapters are based on interviews in magazines and newspapers. Chapter 3 compares Lincoln to Irving S. Cobb, a writer of stories set in Kentucky, and has anecdotes of Lincoln's acquaintance with Sidney Porter (O. Henry). Chapter 4 reprises the Boston Herald interview by reporter Joyce Kilmer, in 1917. They discussed the issues of writing for money alone, and writing about things one does not care about, and whether writing for magazines degraded literature: Lincoln was fortunate to have a place and characters that had continued appeal, he felt that writing for money was normal and honorable, and that magazines provided good opportunities for newcomers to become known. Chapter 5 tells of Lincoln's Yankee focus, and he discusses Yankee stereotypes. Chapter 6: Shavings. Chapter 7: Lincoln's poetry, hobbies, inspirations, thoughts on writing. Chapter 8: Lincoln's house, his characters, The New Hope. Chapter 9: anecdotes describing his preference for Cape Cod over Maine. Chapter 10: nautical anecdotes, Lincoln writing mysteries with his son, Freeman. Chapter 11: Lincoln's thoughts and experience on getting published : (work hard and keep submitting manuscripts.) Chapter 12: Lincoln wrote a newspaper piece praising the Chatham Victory Market, in 1944. Chapter 13: Lincoln saw and regretted the Cape being overrun by developers, by 1935! Lincoln feted by the pols and academics (see the quotes below).

    What did I get out of this book? I have a better feel for Lincoln's personality and his business of writing. I see that he gave numerous interviews over the decades, and traveled quite a bit. I have not read his poetry, except incidentally, and the poem below inclines me to look into it. When I have time, I'll try to find the
Bulletin of the League of American Wheelmen, for which he was editor and writer, and a 1919 interview in American Magazine.



Quotes of interest:

Joe Lincoln's keen interest in anything having to do with the Cape was expressed in the following letter to the editor of the Boston Traveler on December 26, 1935, in which he wrote:

"The preserving of Cape Cod as Cape Cod is, in my opinion, a vitally important subject for consideration by Cape people. We are adding to our summer population each year. The great majority of the visitors to our county have been attracted to it because of its simplicity, the charm which is its own. There are thousands of seaside resorts, but only one Cape Cod.

"It seems to me that every Cape Codder and lover of the Cape should realize how important it is to save our towns and villages from becoming mere copies of towns and villages elsewhere. We come to the Cape in the summer to get away from all we remember and love Cape Cod as it used to be, we love it as it now is. We do not want to be an imitation. of anything. An original is always better than a copy. And this is not entirely a sentimental consideration.

"In my opinion for Cape Cod to lose its individuality would be very disastrous from a business standpoint. Cape Cod all-the-year residents, its shop-keepers and business men and hotel keepers, should, I am convinced, do everything in their power to save the old buildings and landmarks, to preserve the genuine Cape Cod flavor where it is possible. They will profit materially by doing so, I am sure. I am a Cape Codder born and bred, and even now I spend almost half of each year on the Cape.

"I want to keep on doing so. My summer neighbors are, many of them, importations -- they came to the Cape almost casually, were attracted by the charm and individuality I have mentioned, came again and again, and, at last built homes here. And they are now as staunch lovers of Barnstable County as the rest of us. They are the sort of people we want here as summer residents; they bring their families here, they spend their money here. If Cape Cod becomes something other than the Cape Cod they know and love, they will continue to do none of those things. So, when any movement is on foot to save and preserve the real Cape Cod it should have the support of us all. Let's get together and work for that end. That the work will he worth working for I am certain. This letter is longer than I meant it to be. I apologize for the length but--well, you see, Cape Cod, its people, its welfare and its future are pet subjects of mine."

The removal of the oldest windmill on the Cape, a 300-year-old structure at West Yarmouth, had set Joe Lincoln and the Cape Codders thinking that it was about time for them to band together to save the old landmarks of the Cape. The windmill which was bought by Henry Ford was moved off the Cape to be added to his collection of Americana.

At a reception on Sept 30, 1941, on the occasion of the publication of The New Hope, Massachusetts Governor Saltonstall said :

"The people of the Commonwealth--and I like to include myself among them--read Mr. Lincoln's books because he always writes a good story. But that is only one reason. As we have grown older, we have realized that a Joe Lincoln story has other and, perhaps, more important qualities ; an appreciation of the best and most enduring elements of the New England way of life, an ability to find the good which is in all of us. Mr. Lincoln, as you see, enjoys life, and he understands how to pass that enjoyment on to his readers. Massachusetts has given a great many writers to its reading public. But Joe Lincoln is the writer who, more than any other, has given Massachusetts to its readers."

A poem printed in the Boston Herald on January 31, 1915.

I remember when a youngster, all the happy hours I spent
When to visit Uncle Hiram in the country oft I went;
And the pleasant recollection still in memory has a charm
Of my boyish romps and rambles round the dear old-fashioned farm.
But at night all boyish fancies from my youthful bosom crept,
For I knew they'd surely put me where the 'comp'ny' always slept,
And my spirit sank within me, as upon it fell the gloom
And the vast and lonely grandeur of the best spare room.

Ah, the weary waste of pillow where I laid my lonely head!
Sinking like a shipwrecked sailor, in a patchwork sea of bed,
While the moonlight through the casement cast a grim and ghastly glare
O'er the stiff and stately presence of each dismal hair-cloth chair;
And it touched the mantle's splendor, where the wax fruit used to be,
And the alabaster image Uncle Josh brought home from sea;
White the breeze that shook the curtains spread a musty, faint perfume
And a subtle scent of camphor through the best spare room.

Round the walls were hung the pictures of the dear ones passed away,
'Uncle Si and A'nt Lurany,' taken on their wedding day;
Cousin Ruth, who died at twenty, in the corner had a place
Near the wreath from Eben's coffin, dipped in wax and in a case;
Ears askew and somewhat cross-eyed, but with fixed and awful frown,
Seeming somehow to be waiting to enjoy the dreadful doom
Of the frightened little sleeper in the best spare room.

Every rustle of the corn-husks in the mattress underneath
Was to me a ghostly whisper muttered through a phantom's teeth,
And the mice behind the wainscot, as they scampered round about,
Filled my soul with speechless horror when I'd put the candle out
So I'm deeply sympathetic with some story I have read
Of a victim buried living by his friends who thought him dead;
And I think I know his feelings in the cold and silent tomb,
For I've slept at Uncle Hiram's in the best spare room."


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David Kew, June 2001