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Lincoln was born in 1870 in Brewster, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, and his mother moved the family to Chelsea, Massachusetts, a manufacturing city outside Boston, after the death of his father. Lincoln's literary career celebrating "old Cape Cod" can partly be seen as an attempt to return to an Eden from which he had been driven by family tragedy. His literary portrayal of Cape Cod can also be understood as a pre-modern haven occupied by individuals of old Yankee stock which was offered to readers as an antidote to an America that was undergoing rapid modernization, urbanization, immigration, and industrialization. Lincoln was a Republican and a Universalist.
Lincoln's work frequently appeared in popular magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and The Delineator. Lincoln was aware of contemporary naturalist writers, such as Frank Norris and Theodore Dreiser, who used American literature to plumb the depths of human nature, but he rejected this literary exercise. Lincoln claimed that he was satisfied "spinning yarns" that made readers feel good about themselves and their neighbors. Six films and a short were based on his work.
Upon becoming successful, Lincoln spent his winters in northern New Jersey, near the center of the publishing world in Manhattan, but summered in Chatham, Massachusetts. In Chatham, he lived in a shingle-style house named "Crosstrees" that was located on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Lincoln died in 1944, at the age of 73, in Winter Park, Florida.