Lying Jim Townsend

Lying Jim Townsend

James William Emery Townsend (1838-1900), more commonly known as Lying Jim, was the original of Bret Harte’s “Truthful James,” the source of Mark Twain’s Jumping Frog story, and much more. According to The Western Literature Association, Townsend “was one of the most talented and notorious liars of the Comstock, no small accomplishment. He was famous for his ability to spin elaborate and elegant yarns at a moment’s notice. Twain mentions him in Roughing It as being hoaxed by an even greater lie than he could compose, but this was early in his career. In later life he participated in one of the most creative scams in Comstock history when he singlehandedly printed a regular newspaper in a deserted mining town, peopling it with imaginary citizens and reporting in detail about them and fictional mining operations, so that foreign investors could be inveigled into buying stock in nonexistent companies. Some of his journalism has been collected, but more needs to be known about Townsend and his literary prevarications.”

SOME “TOWNSENDISMS”

Mill Creek is so crooked in one place that it is difficult to cross it. We waded it half a dozen times the other day and came out on the same side every time.

The Waters of Mono Lake are so buoyant that the bottom has to be bolted down, and boys paddle about on granite boulders.

Wild onions are plentiful hereabouts, and eaters thereof smell like the back door of a puppy’s nest.

“When thieves fall out honest men get their dues.” But when honest men fall out lawyers get their fees.

The editor of the Pioche Record says “Mrs. Page’s milk is delicious.” We shall soon hear that her husband has weaned him with a club. He knows too much.

REFERENCES

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