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The Complete Works of Artemus Ward — Part 6: Artemus Ward's Panorama   By: (1834-1867)

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Artemus Ward (Charles Farrar Browne) Part 6



With a biographical sketch by Melville D. Landon, "Eli Perkins"



Artemus Ward's Panorama.

6.1. Prefatory Note by Melville D. Landon.

6.2. The Egyptian Hall Lecture.

6.3. "The Times" Notice.

6.4. Programme of the Egyptian Hall Lecture.

6.5. Announcement and Programme of the Dodworth Hall Lecture.




The fame of Artemus Ward culminated in his last lectures at Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, the final one breaking off abruptly on the evening of the 23d of January, 1867. That night the great humorist bade farewell to the public, and retired from the stage to die! His Mormon lectures were immensely successful in England. His fame became the talk of journalists, savants, and statesmen. Every one seemed to be affected differently, but every one felt and acknowledged his power. "The Honorable Robert Lowe," says Mr. E.P. HINGSTON, Artemus Ward's bosom friend, "attended the Mormon lecture one evening, and laughed as hilariously as any one in the room. The next evening Mr. John Bright happened to be present. With the exception of one or two occasional smiles, he listened with GRAVE attention."

The "London Standard," in describing his first lecture in London, aptly said, "Artemus dropped his jokes faster than the meteors of last night succeeded each other in the sky. And there was this resemblance between the flashes of his humor and the flights of the meteors, that in each case one looked for jokes or meteors, but they always came just in the place that one least expected to find them. Half the enjoyment of the evening lay, to some of those present, in listening to the hearty cachinnation of the people, who only found out the jokes some two or three minutes after they were made, and who laughed apparently at some grave statements of fact. Reduced to paper, the showman's jokes are certainly not brilliant; almost their whole effect lies in their seeming impromptu character. They are carefully led up to, of course; but they are uttered as if they are mere afterthoughts of which the speaker is hardly sure."

His humor was so entirely fresh and unconventional, that it took his hearers by surprise, and charmed them. His failing health compelled him to abandon the lecture after about eight or ten weeks. Indeed, during that brief period he was once or twice compelled to dismiss his audience. Frequently he sank into a chair and nearly fainted from the exertion of dressing. He exhibited the greatest anxiety to be at his post at the appointed time, and scrupulously exerted himself to the utmost to entertain his auditors. It was not because he was sick that the public was to be disappointed, or that their enjoyment was to be diminished. During the last few weeks of his lecture giving, he steadily abstained from accepting any of the numerous invitations he received. Had he lived through the following London fashionable season, there is little doubt that the room at the Egyptian Hall would have been thronged nightly. The English aristocracy have a fine, delicate sense of humor, and the success, artistic and pecuniary, of "Artemus Ward" would have rivalled that of the famous "Lord Dundreary." There were many stupid people who did not understand the "fun" of Artemus Ward's books. There were many stupid people who did not understand the fun of Artemus Ward's lecture on the Mormons. Highly respectable people the pride of their parish when they heard of a lecture "upon the Mormons," expected to see a solemn person, full of old saws and new statistics, who would denounce the sin of polygamy, and rave without limit against Mormons. These uncomfortable Christians do not like humor... Continue reading book >>

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