The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XIX. Early Humorists

§ 14. Locke: “Petroleum V. Nasby”

Locke was born in New York State and became in turn journeyman printer, reporter, and editor in an Ohio town only a few miles west of Cleveland and Artemus Ward, whom indeed Locke began by imitating. In 1861 he began a series of letters in his paper over the signature “Petroleum V. Nasby.” These letters were supposed to come from a pastor of the New Dispensation with “Copperhead” sympathies. Shortly afterwards “Nasby” settled in “Confedrit X Roads,” Kentucky, where he drank whiskey, and preached to negro-hating Democrats of the type of “Deekin Pogram.” After the war he received a commission as postmaster from Andrew Johnson. “Nasby” is a type of the backwoods preacher, reformer, workingman, postmaster, and chronic office-seeker, remarkable for his unswerving fidelity to the simple principles of personal and political selfishness. To him the luxuries of life are a place under the government, a glass of whiskey, a clean shirt, and a dollar bill. No writer even achieved popularity more quickly. The letters were published in all the Northern papers, were as eagerly expected as news of the battles, and universally read by the Federal soldiers. “Nasby” was not only a humorist but he was a great force in carrying on the reconstructive measures of the Republican party after the war by his laughable but coarse and merciless pictures of the lowest elements in the Western States that had been opposed to the policy of equal justice.