Robert Henry Newell

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Robert Henry Newell
Robert Henry Newell, circa 1864
Born(1836-12-13)December 13, 1836
New York City
DiedJuly 1901 (aged 64)
Brooklyn, New York
SpouseAdah Isaacs Menken (1862–65)
Parent(s)Robert Newell (1803–54) and Anne (Lawrence) Newell[1]

Robert Henry Newell (December 13, 1836 – July 1901) was a 19th-century American humorist.

During the U.S. Civil War, Newell wrote a series of satirical articles using the pseudonym Orpheus C. Kerr, commenting on the war and contemporary society. His articles appeared weekly in the New York Sunday Mercury, where he was the literary editor until 1862, and were published in a series of books. Among other newspapers he worked at, from 1869 to 1874 he wrote for the New York World.[2] From approximately 1862 to 1865, he was married to famous actress Adah Isaacs Menken.[3]

The name "Orpheus C. Kerr" was a play on the term "office seeker". At the time, political offices were seen as plums, involving relatively little work and regular pay, and were used by political parties as rewards for faithful party workers.

During the war, The Orpheus C. Kerr Papers was widely read and Newell enjoyed great popularity.[4] He was one of the favorite humorists of Abraham Lincoln. When General Montgomery C. Meigs admitted that he had never heard of Orpheus C. Kerr or his Papers, Lincoln responded, "anyone who has not read them is a heathen."[5][6][7][8]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • The Orpheus C. Kerr Papers (1862; Letters 1–52)
  • The Orpheus C. Kerr Papers (Volume II; 1863; Letters 53–79)
  • The Palace Beautiful and Other Poems (1864)
  • The Orpheus C. Kerr Papers (Volume III; 1865; Letters 80–108)
  • Avery Glibun, or Between Two Fires (1867)
  • Smoked Glass (1868)
  • The Cloven Foot (1870; a parody of The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens)
  • Versatilities (poems; 1871)
  • The Walking Doll; or the Asters and Disasters of Society (1872)
  • Studies in Stanzas (1882)
  • There was once a Man (1884)


  1. ^ The National cyclopaedia of American biography, Vol. 11, p. 528 (1901)
  2. ^ (July 13, 1901) Robert H. Newell Dead, The New York Times, Retrieved November 5, 2010
  3. ^ (July 14, 1901). Robert H. Newell's Life Romance, The New York Times, Retrieved November 29, 2010
  4. ^ (July 20, 1901). Derby, George. Orpheus C. Kerr: His Recent Death in Brooklyn and the True Facts in his Career, The New York Times, Retrieved November 5, 2010
  5. ^ Thomas, Benjamin P. "Lincoln's Humor: An Analysis," 3 Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association (1981).
  6. ^ The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature, p.817-18 (2003) (ISBN 0826415172)
  7. ^ Scott E. Casper, Joanne D. Chaison, and Jeffrey D. Groves, Perspectives on American Book History: Artifacts and Commentary, Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2002 (ISBN 1558493174)
  8. ^ THE ORPHEUS C. KERR PAPERS: The Humor of the War-Dashes at Military Life with a Free Pencil, The Missouri Republican, August 20, 1862.

External links[edit]