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In Lincoln’s 1906 novel, “Mr. Pratt,” for example, one of the supporting characters is a father of seven who refuses to work due to claims of an incurable sickness, an ailment he calls “his never-get-overs”—in other words, a disease that will eventually polish him off. Lincoln used the Cape Cod vernacular; his characters “cal’late” (calculate) and “presume likely” when expressing their opinions.
In “Cape Cod Yesterdays,” a 1935 book of memoirs, Lincoln offers a humorous explanation of the many ways Cape Codders use the terms “haul” and “heave.” It is perfectly acceptable on the Cape, he wrote, to “haul” on a bowline, “heave” a baseball, or “heave and haul” bluefish from Monomoy Point. These touches that made Lincoln’s writing so distinct also made them accessible to readers of the time. “His books are so American, so upbeat,” Dalrymple says. “Of course the characters are interesting, the plots are fun, and Lincoln had a good eye for the descriptions of houses and furnishings.”
When he wasn’t writing, Lincoln’s favorite pastimes were fishing and golf, and he was a frequent visitor to the Monomoy and Eastwood Ho! golf courses. He never learned to drive—always had a chauffeur—and never attended college. He died of a heart ailment at age 74; his final resting place is in Chatham at Union Cemetery.
Today, Lincoln’s yarns, as they are sometimes called, are not very easy to come by. Many of his novels are out of print, and some of his paperback versions fetch a premium price. Local libraries, though, still have many of the writer’s novels on hand.
Despite Lincoln’s popularity, Coogan says he is not always remembered in English literature classes today; though well-written and entertaining, Coogan says Lincoln’s formulaic stories don’t rise to the level of classics. “He was,” Coogan says, “a writer of his time.”
The feeling of nostalgia Lincoln created in his writing, that which kept his readers awaiting his next novel or Saturday Evening Post installment—may still be craved by readers today. His sentiments may also serve as a reminder that not all has changed. Consider the following excerpt from “Out of the Fog,” which was published in 1940, just a few years before Lincoln’s death. “You see,” he wrote, “when summer does come down our way, the roads are a perfect jam of automobiles on pleasant days and evenings.” If Lincoln could see Cape Cod now.
For more information on Joseph Lincoln, visit the Chatham Historical Society at 347 Stage Harbor Road in Chatham.
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