As a source on the early evolution of Twain's humor, I recommend John
J. Pullen's 1983 book, Comic Relief The Life and Laughter of Artemus
Ward 1834-1867. The chapter entitled "Mark Ward and Artemus Twain"
will be of help to you. The name "Artemus Ward" is a pseudonym for
Charles Ferrar Browne, our country's really first national humorist
prior to Twain. He was instrumental in getting Twain's story "The
Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" published in the East during the
mid-1860s and the success of this story began Twain's rise to fame.
Further, by seeing Browne on stage in a humorous burlesque of the
serious lecture on December 22nd, 1863 at the McGuire Opera House in
Virginia City, Twain was awakened to the possibilities of pursuing
humorous writing and speaking professionally. Ward was an important
and forgotten impetus to Twain. Yet ironically, Twain called Ward's
lecture as the funniest thing he had ever heard.
I also recommend David E. Sloane's 1979 book, Mark Twain as a
Literary Comedian and his 1993 editorial collection, Mark Twain's
Humor Critical Essays. Edgar Branch's 1978 essay in PMLA 93.5 "'The
Babes in the Wood': Artemus Ward's 'Double Health' to Mark Twain"
will also be helpful. All these works should be on your college
Let me know if I can be of further help.
John Pascal, M.B.A., M.A.
Teacher of 9th & 11th Grade English
Seton Hall Preparatory School
West Orange, NJ 07102