The Showman’s Courtship: Guest Post By Artemus Ward

Artemus Ward, who wrote this piece circa 1858, was a showman and writer who toured these great United States with his artistic exhibition, which consisted of “three moral Bares, a Kangaroo,…wax figgers of G. Washington Gen. Tayler John Bunyan Capt Kidd and Dr. Webster in the act of killin Dr. Parkman, besides several miscellanyus moral wax statoots of celebrated piruts & murderers, &c., ekalled by few & exceld by none.” This is his recollection of proposing to his girl.

Thare was many affectin ties which made me hanker arter Betsy Jane. Her father’s farm jined our’n; their cows and our’n squencht their thurst at the same spring; our old mares both had stars in their forreds; the measles broke out in both famerlies at nearly the same period; our parients (Betsy’s and mine) slept reglarly every Sunday in the same meetin house, and the nabers used to obsarve, “How thick the Wards and Peasleys air!” It was a surblime site, in the Spring of the year, to see our sevral mothers (Betsy’s and mine) with their gowns pin’d up so thay couldn’t sile ’em, affecshuntly Bilin sope together & aboozin the nabers.

Altho I hankerd intensly arter the objeck of my affecshuns, I darsunt tell her of the fires which was rajin in my manly Buzzum. I’d try to do it but my tung would kerwollup up agin the roof of my mowth & stick thar, like deth to a deseast Afrikan or a country postmaster to his offiss, while my hart whanged agin my ribs like a old fashioned wheat Flale agin a barn floor.

‘Twas a carm still nite in Joon. All nater was husht and nary a zeffer disturbed the sereen silens. I sot with Betsy Jane on the fense of her farther’s pastur. We’d bin rompin threw the woods, kullin flours & drivin the woodchuck from his Nativ Lair (so to speak) with long sticks. Wall, we sot thar on the fense, a swingin our feet two and fro, blushin as red as the Baldinsville skool house when it was fust painted, and lookin very simple, I make no doubt. My left arm was ockepied in ballunsin myself on the fense, while my rite was woundid luvinly round her waste.

I cleared my throat and tremblin sed, “Betsy, you’re a Gazelle.”

I thought that air was putty fine. I waitid to see what effeck it would hav upon her. It evidently didn’t fetch her, for she up and sed,

“You’re a sheep!”

Sez I, “Betsy, I think very muchly of you.”

“I don’t b’leeve a word you say—so there now cum!” with which obsarvashun she hitched away from me.

“I wish thar was winders to my Sole,” sed I, “so that you could see some of my feelins. There’s fire enuff in here,” sed I, strikin my buzzum with my fist, “to bile all the corn beef and turnips in the naberhood. Versoovius and the Critter ain’t a circumstans!”

She bowd her hed down and commenst chawin the strings to her sun bonnet.

“Ar could you know the sleeplis nites I worry threw with on your account, how vittles has seized to be attractiv to me & how my lims has shrunk up, you wouldn’t dowt me. Gase on this wastin form and these ‘ere sunken cheeks”—

I should have continnered on in this strane probly for sum time, but unfortnitly I lost my ballunse and fell over into the pastur ker smash, tearin my close and seveerly damagin myself ginerally.

Betsy Jane sprung to my assistance in dubble quick time and dragged me 4th. Then drawin herself up to her full hite she sed:

“I won’t listen to your noncents no longer. Jes say rite strate out what you’re drivin at. If you mean gettin hitched, I’M IN!”

I considered that air enuff for all practicul purpusses, and we proceeded immejitely to the parson’s, & was made 1 that very nite.

(Notiss to the Printer: Put some stars here.)

* * * * * *

I’ve parst threw many tryin ordeels sins then, but Betsy Jane has bin troo as steel. By attendin strickly to bizniss I’ve amarsed a handsum Pittance. No man on this footstool can rise & git up & say I ever knowinly injered no man or wimmin folks, while all agree that my Show is ekalled by few and exceld by none, embracin as it does a wonderful colleckshun of livin wild Beests of Pray, snaix in grate profushun, a endliss variety of life-size wax figgers, & the only traned kangaroo in Amerika— the most amoozin little cuss ever introjuced to a discriminatin public.


  1. Speed

    Not much has changed in 153 years.

  2. jae

    tsi seay ot loflow rowds wenh lal hte tletres rea htere, tub tno hwen htey rae smsispeldl!

  3. DAV


    I dunno. Nowadays you would rarely see (or hear) this long winded expression meaning, of course, “Get Lost!” 🙂 More likely an expression for self-procreation would be substituted in its place.

    Then into the two-horse wagon this fair maiden got and knavely telling the “perlice,” to embark by the first packet for an unromantic land where the climate is intensely tropical, and where even Laplanders, who like fire, get more of a good thing than they want …

    The selection Briggs made must be really hard on those not familiar with English dialects and accents. When I read, I don’t normally hear the words in my head but I had to to pronounce nearly every word in the post. Takes too long.

    I think Sam Clemens took Browne’s writing to a more dazzling height , though. The influence is pretty clear all the same.

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