Charles Farrar Browne (April 26, 1834 – March 6, 1867) was an American humor writer, better known under his nom de plume, Artemus Ward. He is considered to be America's first stand-up comedian. His birth name was Brown but he added the "e" after he became famous.
Browne was born in Waterford, Maine. He began his career as a compositor and occasional contributor to the daily and weekly journals. In 1858, he published in The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) the first of the "Artemus Ward" series, which, in a collected form, achieved great popularity in both America and England. Brownes' companion at the Plain Dealer George Hoyt wrote "his desk was a rickety table which had been whittled and gashed until it looked as if it had been the victim of lightning. His chair was a fit companion thereto, a wabbling, unsteady affair, sometimes with four and sometimes with three legs. But Browne saw neither the table, nor the chair, nor any person who might be near, nothing, in fact, but the funny pictures which were tumbling out of his brain. When writing, his gaunt form looked ridiculous enough. One leg hung over the arm of his chair like a great hook, while he would write away, sometimes laughing to himself, and then slapping the table in the excess of his mirth."
In 1860, he became editor of Vanity Fair, a humorous New York weekly, which proved a failure. About the same time, he began to appear as a lecturer and, by his droll and eccentric humor, attracted large audiences.
In 1863, Browne came as Artemus Ward to San Francisco to perform. Browne was an expert at publicity and by the time of his arrival, his manager had already been there for weeks advertising with notices in the local papers and talking with prominent citizens for endorsements. On November 13, 1863, he performed to a packed crowd at Platt's Music Hall. Ward played the part of Artemus as an illiterate rube but with "Yankee common sense." Writer Brett Harte was in the audience that night and he described it in the Golden Era as capturing American speech, "humor that belongs to the country of boundless prairies, limitless rivers, and stupendous cataracts--that fun which overlies the surface of our national life, which is met in the stage, rail-car, canal and flat-boat, which bursts out over camp-fires and around bar-room stoves.
"Artemus Ward" was the favorite author of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Before presenting "The Emancipation Proclamation" to his Cabinet, Lincoln read to them the latest episode, "Outrage in Utiky", also known as High-Handed Outrage at Utica.
Ward met Mark Twain when Ward performed in Virginia City, Nevada and the two became friends. In his correspondences with Twain, Browne called him "My Dearest Love." Legend has it that, following Ward's stage performance, he, Mark Twain, and Dan De Quille were taking a drunken rooftop tour of Virginia City until a town constable threatened to blast all three of them with a shotgun loaded with rock salt. Browne recommended Twain to the editors of the New York Press and urged him to journey to New York.
In 1866, Ward visited England, where he became exceedingly popular both as a lecturer and as a contributor to Punch. In the spring of the following year, Ward's health gave way and he died of tuberculosis at Southampton on March 6, 1867.
After initially being buried at Kensal Green Cemetery, Ward's remains were removed to the United States on May 20, 1868. He is buried at Elm Vale Cemetery in Waterford, Maine.
- A Visit to Brigham Young
- Women's Rights
- One of Mr Ward's Business Letters
- On "Forts"
- Fourth of July Oration
- High-Handed Outrage at Utica
- Artemus Ward and the Prince of Wales
- Interview with Lincoln
- Letters to his Wife
- Artemus Ward His Book (1862) (full text online)
- Artemus Ward His Travels (1865) (full text online)
- Artemus Ward Among the Mormons (1865) (full text online)
- Artemus Ward in London (1867) (full text online)
- Artemus Ward's Panorama (1869) (full text online)
- Artemus Ward's Lecture (1869) (full text online)