Maine humor, dry, often self-deprecating, was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to Editor/ compiler W. Storrs Lee, Mark Twain was influenced by Maine’s Artemus Ward (born Charles Farrar Browne just over the hills in Waterford). Ward practiced Maine humor. Lincoln wanted him in the room with him during the Civil War–at least he wanted Ward’s words there, opening a meeting of the cabinet.
I found exquisite humor and style in George S. Wasson’s “Standing Room Only” where night life at Cap’n Simeon’s Store is described. Here old salts gather round the stove, and youths atop barrels and meals sacks listen while simple wisdom and lore unjaded come forth from the humor of experience.
All this is in accordance with one of my themes, a place in transition. These traveled old ships’ captains argued that the world is flat because flat charts are used in navigation and the Chinese do not stand on their heads. The moon can’t be inhabited because its residents would have a hard time moving and living crammed up on it as it wanes to the quarter and eighth. High ground seems to attract falling stars best, but they have landed sizzling into the creek and could be easily seined and sold to summer visitors.
This sort of humor is worthwhile because self, although often portrayed as bloated, is shown to be no big thing when put in the correct perspective.
For more on the subject of self’s proper place, one could read the essays of John M. Todd suggested in the LITERARY CHRONICLE. He was a barber for 62 years, born poor and “unwelcome” owing to poverty and hard-ship, but he learned deference and respect, excellent spiritual attributes. He read five hours a day or more, wrote books and articles “between shaves and hair cuts…” supporting his family “with but little capital, either mental or financial.”
I publish this more for a guide, advice and encouragement to those who live in the humble walks of life than to those who have all the advantages that wealth can bestow, who have more power and opportunities to do good than they properly use. And if I can save only one poor fellow by…pointing out to him a more acceptable way, I shall feel I have not lived in vain.
This quotation and others here are from MAINE: A LITERARY CHRONICLE (1968). It’s full of selections pertaining to historical succession. Reading this I plainly see the transition of humor in its New England and American succession.