Publishing in periodicals usually provided the quickest and most reliable source of income for the writers who gathered at Pfaff's (that is, when editors actually paid—something that Saturday Press editor Henry Clapp was notorious for not doing). Many of them also published books, with varying degrees of success. Fitz-Hugh Ludlow'sThe Hasheesh Eater (1857) attempted to capitalize on the fame of Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) from a generation earlier, and Thomas Butler Gunn's The Physiology of New York Boarding-Houses (1857) became part of an emerging genre of urban interest books as American cities grew and developed in the 1840s and 50s. Writers who would later become some of the most prominent authors in the postbellum United States—such as Thomas Bailey Aldrich and Edmund Clarence Stedman—published their first books during their time at Pfaff's, with Aldrich's The Ballad of Babie Bell, and Other Poems appearing in 1859 and Stedman's The Prince's Ball (which was adapted from earlier publications in Vanity Fair) coming out in 1860. The three women who were most central to the bohemian scene—Ada Clare, Elizabeth Stoddard, and Adah Isaacs Menken—all published books right as their time in bohemia came to an end: Clare's loosely autobiographical novel, Only a Woman's Heart (1866), was a commercial and critical failure, which led her to put aside writing and focus on her acting career; Menken's posthumous book of poetry, Infelicia (1868), continued to feed the public fascination with her larger-than-life persona; and Stoddard's The Morgesons (1862) was the first of three novels that would gain her a small but loyal following throughout the second half of the nineteenth century.
The most famous book to emerge from bohemian New York was the third edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1860). Whitman had published two earlier editions of his book of poems in 1855 and 1856 that were modestly well received, but neither gave him the success that he knew he deserved. When Whitman joined with the bohemians at Pfaff's in 1858, they rallied around him in the pages of the Saturday Press and Vanity Fair with reviews, homages, and parodies of his work that helped to attract the attention of the Thayer and Eldridge publishing firm. The 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass was the first to sell out its initial print run, setting the stage for Whitman's growing popularity throughout the rest of the century.
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The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015