David Ross Locke


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born in New York state, became an itinerant printer and journalist mainly in Ohio, where he achieved fame during the Civil War as a humorist under the pseudonym Petroleum V. Nasby. The first Nasby letter appeared in the Findlay Jeffersonian (March 21, 1861), of which he was editor. “Petroleum Vesuvius Nasby, late pastor uv the Church uv the New Dispensation, Chaplain to his excellency the President, and p. m. at Confederate x roads, kentucky,” was a dissolute, illiterate country preacher, who intended to support the South by his foolish arguments and “advenchers,” but ironically made its cause appear ludicrously inept. In his caricature of this stupid and corrupt Copperhead, Locke followed the humorous style of Artemus Ward, using the devices popular among literary comedians of the time: ridiculous spellings, deformed grammar, monstrous logic, puns, malapropisms, incongruous juxtaposition of ideas, and anticlimax. In 1865 he became editor of the Toledo Blade, and later its owner, contributing to it his immensely popular letters until his death. Lincoln greatly admired Locke's humor, and even read the latest Nasby letters to his cabinet, as comic relief, before outlining the Emancipation Proclamation. The Nasby Papers (1864) was the first of several collections, and Locke also published a political novel, The Demagogue (1891), and other writings on politics, especially in favor of liquor prohibition.

Subjects: Literature.

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