Though many details about his early life are in dispute, scholars agree that Arnold was born in New York City and that his father may have been the Reverend George B. Arnold. The family relocated to Illinois and then to Monmouth County, New Jersey where Arnold enjoyed a country upbringing. Though he apprenticed himself to a portrait painter in New York in 1852, Arnold soon determined that literature would be his true calling. His artistic training did, however, aid him in illustrating his own work; he created the caricature of himself as "McArone," included with his Poems (1886), and a drawing of fellow Pfaff's regular, sculptor Launt Thompson, which is included in Ferris Greenslet's The Life of Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1908).
As McArone (his most successful of many personages--created for a series in Vanity Fair in 1860 and continued in the Leader and Weekly Review ), Arnold produced a flood of poems, stories, essays, satires, and editorials in the major literary venues of his day, including Harper's , Vanity Fair , and The Atlantic Monthly . He also published poetry and books on children's games. Arnold was "a very clever writer in prose and verse, a regular contributor to the Saturday Press , and remarkable for his versatility" (Browne 155). He was also "Clapp's closest friend and protégé" (Miller 37).
Arnold may have been responsible for Walt Whitman's defection from Pfaff's. After an impromptu reading of one of Whitman’s poems, there was discord among his listeners: “The poem Whitman shared that night, however, did not solicit the like-minded accord he had expected. Instead it sparked an unusually heated debate around the table about whether the federal government should continue its war, now that nearly six months had passed without a resounding Union victory” (Genoways 116). During the debate Arnold “rose from his chair and lifted his wine glass” proposing a toast to the success of the South (Genoways 117). The two poets then entered into a heated argument over the issue over Southern rebellion: "They were sitting opposite each other at the table, George [Arnold] was for rebellion and Walt [Whitman] was opposed...words grew hot. Walt warned George to be more guarded in his sentiments. George fired up more and more. Walt passed his 'mawler' toward George's ear. George passed a bottle of claret toward the topknot of the poet's head. Pfaff made a jump and gave a yell of 'Oh! mine gots, mens, what's you do for a dis?' Clapp broke his black pipe while pulling at Arnold's coat-tail; Ned Wilkins lost the power of his lungs for five minutes after tugging at the brawny arm of Walt; and we all received a beautiful mixture of rum, claret, and coffee on the knees of our trousers. Everything was soon settled, and Walt and George shook hands, and wondered much that they were so foolish" (qtd. in Lalor 135-136). Emory Halloway suggests that this brawl leads Whitman to distance himself from Pfaff's (Walt Whitman 157, 193). Years later, Whitman reportedly forgave Arnold, although he never returned to Pfaff's (Parry 43).
Like many of his Pfaff's compatriots, Arnold lived a brief and colorful life. Following suit of fellow Pfaff's regular Fitz-James O'Brien, Arnold joined the army when the Civil War broke out, but his health failed and he died at his family home in November 1865. His death at such a young age was unfortunate, but not entirely surprising: "From such a temperment [sic] as his, earnest and continued exertion was not to be expected. Like Voiture he trifled life away in pointed phrases and tuneful numbers; but gained a large circle of devoted friends. At three and thirty he slipped out of the World which had been much and little to him, and left behind him many sincere mourners who speak of him still with words of love and moistened eyes" (Browne 155).
One of these mourning friends, artist Elihu Vedder, recollects that Arnold used to visit him while he was painting: "I can recall his gentle, sad smile yet. Gentleness was his great charm. We both lived near Pfaff's, and it was there he read me his poem, shortly after it was written-- 'Here I sit drinking my beer.' He died young; I do not know of what he died, but he seemed to be worn out even when I first met him... He thought his life a wasted life; it was with him a gorgeous romance of youthful despair; but into that grave went a tender charm, great talent, and great weakness" (228). E. C. Stedman memorialized Arnold in The Ballad of the Prince, and Other Poems (1869), and William Winter wrote his eulogy. Winter explained that "those who met George Arnold... saw a handsome, merry creature, whose blue eyes sparkled with mirth, whose voice was cheerful, whose manners were buoyant and winning, whose courtesy was free and gay" (qtd. in Whicher) According to Winter, Arnold was "the most entirely beloved member" of the Bohemian group. He adds that Arnold's "manly character, his careless good-humor, his blithe temperment, his personal beauty, and his winning manners made him attractive to everybody" (Old Friends 94).
Arnold is mentioned as one of the "bright spirits" who met at Pfaff's.[pages:10]
Arnold is listed as a "satirical poet" who was one of Pfaff's "literary customers" who sat at the large, reserved table at the establishment's far wall (229). Of the gathered temperments, Allen notes that "Arnold, especially, was quarrlesome, but nearly everyone argued freely and sometimes violently" (230). Allen later notes that Whitman was "no match for the mercurial Fitz-James O'Brien, satirical George Arnold, or perhaps even his sardonic friend Henry Clapp" (270).[pages:229,230,270,494]
Arnold is described by Browne as "a very clever writer in prose and verse, a regular contributor to the Saturday Press, and remarkable for his versatility" (155). Browne mentions that Arnold was blessed with many "gifts," being "good-looking, graceful, brilliant" (155). Browne mentions that Arnold died three years prior to the publication of his text (about 1866), and that several of "his easy, almost impromtu poems" have been published posthumously (155).
Browne expresses what appears to be genuine praise for Arnold's work, stating that "he sang in a careless way the pleasures and pains of love, the joys of wine, the charm of indolence, the gayety and worthlesness of existence in a true Anacreontic vein" (155).
Browne seems to insinuate that a poet such as Arnold was not destined to live a long life: "From such a temperment as his, earnest and continued exertion was not to be expected. Like Voiture he trifled life away in pointed phrases and tuneful numbers; but gained a large circle of devoted friends. At three and thirty he slipped out of the World which had been much and little to him, and left behind him many sincere mourners who speak of him still with words of love and moistened eyes" (155).[pages:155]
He is listed as one of the "associates" of the Saturday Press. Derby notes that he is deceased at the time of his writing (232).[pages:232]
One of Henry Clapp's assosciates at Pfaff's when it was "a famous resort back in the fifties."[pages:3]
English claims O'Brien, Clapp, and Arnold "used to laughingly class themselves as Bohemians, speak of Pfaff, his beer; but they spoke of no club" (202). English states, "I remember very well saying to one of these gentlemen, with a feeble attempt at pleasantry -- 'As there are so many buyers of beer among your people it is quite proper that you should have a cellar to receive you'" (202).[pages:202]
Figaro mentions that Gerhard has sent his portrait of Arnold to the Academy for exhibition (4).[pages:4]
Figaro attributes part of his "indisposition" and trouble remembering anything to Arnold's being seriously ill at Riverside (168).[pages:168]
Figaro mentions "our good friend George Arnold" in reference to John Cooke. Figaro mentions that "we are soon to have a monument" to Arnold in the form of a book by Winter (8).[pages:8]
Figaro writes that "McArone won't believe it, but I positively feel young again" (152). Figaro also claims that Arnold should have been present at Miss Olive Logan's readings in order to hear how well his "Jolly Pedagogue" is read by a woman (153).[pages:152,153]
Figaro reports that McArone refers to Mr. Bateman as "Stonewall Bateman" (89).[pages:89]
Figaro lists "McArone" as one of the parties involved in the Saturday Press (56).[pages:56]
Figaro reports that Miss Olive Logan will be reading a selection from Arnold during her engagement at Irving Hall. Figaro adds that he encourages Arnold to "come up from Rasberry Farms and 'assist'" (137).[pages:137]
Mentioned as a writer Whitman met at Pfaff's.[pages:61]
Whitman befriended Arnold while at Pfaff's.
Arnold is mentioned as one of the "men of distinct talent" who patronized Pfaff's beer cellar (1).[pages:1]
Arnold is mentioned as one of "the best know writers who frequented that cozy corner [Pfaff's]," as well as a regular contributor to the Saturday Press.[pages:9]
Mentioned as one of the Bohemians at Pfaff's "gossiped" about by Rufus B. Wilson in a "reminiscent letter to the Galveston News."[pages:479]
He is mentioned as part of "a group of journalists and magazine-writers of great repute in their own day, but as remote as Prester John to ours" with whom Aldrich was familiar during his days in the "Literary Bohemia" in New York (38).
Greenlset describes him as one who has gone the way of the "journalists of yester-year." Greenslet notes that "Handsome George Arnold's sincere and melodious verse was collected after his early death by Mr. Winter, in whose introduction we may read the story of his kindly, ineffective life" (39).[pages:38, 39]
Hahn says he was a regular.[pages:20,28,32,35-36]
This text identifies the following pseudonyms: Chevalier M'Arone (23), George Garrulous (39), Graham Allen (40), Mc Arone (62), Pierrot (77).[pages:23, 40, 62, 77]
Hemstreet mentions that Arnold's poem about Pfaff's gives a good description of how the "company was 'very merry at Pfaff's.'" Arnold was a member of the group at Pfaff's when he was writing regularly for Vanity Fair (215).
"He has himself said that some of the poems were written in the late hours after an evening spent in the underground Broadway resort with Fitz-Hugh Ludlow, Mortimer Thomson, the famous 'Q. K. Philander Doesticks,' and a score of like writers" (215-16). Hemstreet also mentions that Arnold was friends with George Fararr Browne (Artemus Ward) (217).
Arnold caused "an hour of sadness when he took there [Pfaff's] the story of Henry W. Herbert, who was well-known to all the habitues" (216).[pages:215-216,217]
His toast to the "Success to the Southern Arms" leads to a response from Whitman that prompts a violent arguement between the two men. Whitman ends his Pfaff's association during the Civil War after Arnold grabs his hair during this argument.[pages:157,193]
Lalor desribes him as one of the "brightest lights" of the New York Boehmians (131). Lalor cites an "infamous indicent at Pfaff's" between Whitman and the "young poet-satirist" Arnold in 1862; "None of the participants emerged with much dignity":
"They were sitting opposite each other at the table, George was for rebellion and Walt was opposed...words grew hot. Walt warned George to be more guarded in his sentiments. George fired up more and more. Walt passed his 'mawler' toward George's ear. George passed a bottle of claret twoard the topknot of the poet's head. Paff made a jump and gave a yell of 'Oh! mine gots, mens, what's you do for a dis?' Clapp broke his black pipe while pulling at Arnold's coat-tail; Ned Wilkins lost the power of his lungs for five minutes after tugging at the brawny arm of Walt; and we all received a beautiful mixture of rum, claret, and coffee on the knees of our trousers. Everything was soon settled, and Walt and George shook hands, and wondered much that they were so foolish" (135-136).[pages:131,133,135-136]
Friends have remembered George Arnold as having celebrated "in a careless way the pleasures and pains of love, the joys of wine, the charm of indolence, the gayety and worthlessness of existence in the true Anacreontic vein" (50).
Arnold is said to have been part of a group of Saturday Press contributors who mocked Walt Whitman over his Leaves of Grass(53).
Arnold was known for his series of spoofs written for the Saturday Press titled "McArone." This "would-be hero" followed the troubles in Italy in the 1860's, and often recounted fights "from which he 'emerged from the fray, covered with mud, blood, and glory'" (112). By the spring of 1861, "McArone" moved on the cover the war in the United States.
Arnold was part of the group of men who restarted the Saturday Press after the war. But he didn't get to work on it long--less than three months after its revival, he "'slipped out of the World which had been much and little to him, and left behind him many sincere mourners'"(116).[pages:50, 52, 53, 67, 81, 115, 116, 124; and McArone, 111-12]
Levin notes that Arnold's "Cui Bono," was an endorsement of the critique of the Protestant Work Ethic. She cites the lines:
"A harmless fellow, wasting useless days
Am I: I love my comfort and my leisure
Let those who wish them, toil for gold and praise,
To me, this summer-day brings more pleasure" (39).
A member of Clapp's "cabinet" in the "Kingdom of Bohemia" and at the Saturday Press. Arnold died in 1866.[pages:192]
He is described as one of the "others who rallied" at Pfaff's.[pages:396]
Described as "Clapp's closest friend and protege." The two men "shared a common faith in Fourierism" (37).
Arnold was known for his "McArone Papers," which "satirized the reporting of war correspondents during the Civil War" (37).[pages:16, 37, 44-45, 68]
A writer for The Saturday Press.[pages:39]
The column announces that a volume of Arnold's poetry published by Ticknor & Fields is due in two weeks (4).[pages:4]
Arnold is described as a "poet of fame" who wrote as "McArone" for Vanity Fair. He was a regular at Pfaff's and had pre-deceased Clapp.[pages:7]
Arnold is mentioned as one of the "happy, careless children of Bohemia" who attended the "carnivals in Pfaff's cellar" (5).[pages:5]
Arnold is mentioned as a frequenter of Pfaff's who, along with others, found Nast "amusing" and "took him to theatres and other cozy resorts and 'showed him the town'" (22).[pages:22]
Parry writes that in the behavioral trends of the group, Arnold "attempted mild melancholy" (9). Of the poets who wrote about Pfaff's, Arnold wrote a poem about how "We were all very merry at Pfaff's" (24).
Parry writes about Arnold's fight with Whitman at Pfaff's:
"George Arnold was not of their camp in this war. His famous fight with Walt was really only a matter of quick temper, a mere misunderstanding. The trouble with Arnold was that though he, a pastor's son, knew his drinks and how to take them, he never learned to hold them properly. He became quarrelsome though not exactly drunk during more than one party. Once, George Augustus Sala, the visiting British writer, tried to make friends with the American frolickers by deriding Benedict Arnold. Before Arnold violently protested and it ruined the party. He said afterwards that the was not of Benedict's stock, but that he willingly misrepresented himself as his descendant the better to defend the memory of the man.
"George Arnold toll sides with unpopular issues merely for the fun of it. He was all for the Union from the very beginnning of the conflict, but he could not bear the sight of everybody protesting his loudest patriotism for the same cause. So he made his patriotism secret and came out with challenging speeches in defense of the South. One night at Pfaff's he made the error of toasting the Southern arms. Walt sprang up. For the moment he forgot his godlike benignity and broke out with a speech of patriotic vehemence. Arnold retaliated by bending his arm over and across the table and and pulling hard at the Jovian brush which Howells liked the best of all the Pfaffian scenery. The rivals were separated, and it was about then that Whitman shook the Pfaffian part of Broadway's dust from his soles forever. Years later he was to say about his role at Pfaff's: 'I was much better satisfied to listen to a fight than to take part in it'" (41-42).
According to Parry, Whitman would later forgive Arnold for this incident (43). According to Parry, Arnold's death, "whom Clapp dearly loved" began him a bout of "suicial drinking" (47). Arnold died of paralysis. An editorial written after Clapp's death titled "The Late Henry Clapp. A Bohemian's Checkered Life" (April 16, 1875, named Arnold as one of "many a young and promising writer" who he had ruined in addition to himself "by the example of his cynicism and intemperance":
"Without Clapp the Bohemia of New York would not have existed, and it was Bohemianism that slew Arnold and the rest. Clapp lived to preach in his own life a better temperance lecture than he ever delivered in his younger days" (47-48).
Arnold died of paralysis November, 1865. "Philistines hostile to Henry Clapp ascribed Arnold's end to the results of dissipation, nto which Clapp had allegedly enticed him. The accusation was probably groundless, but just the same it made Arnold's death so mansardish. The news was deemed important enough to be telegraphed to the chief newspapers of the land, and in distant San Francisco, young Bret Harte was moved to a tearful article in the Californian. Bret had never met George personally, but he knew his verses and burlesques. Now he shuddered as he imagined the poet-humorist's death. 'Phials and nauseous mixtures flanked his ink stand,'but 'his light, gossiping pen was never dipped in the ugly fluid.' Bret ended by bewailing the fate that compelled a humorist to smile even on his deathbed" (54-55). According to Parry, as the works of Pfaffians spread across the country, Harte would discover the works of Arnold and "follow in his footsteps" (212).
In the 1890s, a discussion of Arnold's life and poetry appeared in the Bohemian in the literary ntes; however, due to hestitancy to discuss Bohemianism, references to Pfaff's beer and his life were not referred to as such (96).[pages:9,24,41-42,43,47-48,54-55,61,96,125,212,222]
Arnold is not mentioned, but McArone is.
A regular in the bohemian circle at Pfaff's.[pages:142]
He is listed as one of the Pfaffian writers that "have fallen into obscurity." Stansell wonders how much influence these writers weilded on Whitman's literary career (108). As one of the "Pfaffian regulars" who did "serious writing along with journalism", Arnold wrote poetry (114).
Stansell notes that one of the political fights that occured at Pfaff's was between Whitman and Arnold; the two men had a falling-out over some pro-Southern remarks Arnold made (117).[pages:108,114,117]
Starr mentions that the impending Civil War caused tempers to flare among the exited crowd at Pfaff's. George Arnold wrote a series of "burlesques of war correspondence" by "McAroni" that were featured in Vanity Fair. In these pieces, Arnold "posed as one of 'the chivalry' defending the Southern Cause." This position would prompt an argument wiht Walt Whitman (8).[pages:8]
Arnold "wrote good newspaper poetry at a time when most newspaper poetry was bad" (469). The writer suggests, however, that the fond memory of Arnold, who died at a young age, "has softened, to the critic's eye, many rough and careless touches" (469).[pages:469,470]
"At the outbreak of the Southern rebellion Walt Whitman and George Arnold came to an unpleasantness while enjoying their usual after-dinner punch. They were sitting opposite each other at the table. George was for rebellion and Walt was opposed. George was full of 'treasonism' and Walt was full of 'patriotism'" (166).[pages:162, 166-167]
Watson lists George Arnold as a contributor to Vanity Fair (521).[pages:521]
Whitman records in his journal on August 16 that he met with Charles Pfaff for an excellent breakfast at his restaurant on 24th Street. "Our host himself, an old friend of mine, quickly appear'd on the scene to welcome me and bring up the news, and, first opening a big fat bottle of the best wine in the cellar, talk about ante-bellum times, '59 and '60, and the jovial suppers at his then Broadway place, near Bleecker street. Ah, the friends and names and frequenters, those times, that place. Most are dead—Ada Clare, Wilkins, Daisy Sheppard, O'Brien, Henry Clapp, Stnaley, Mullin, Wood, Brougham, Arnold—all gone. And there Pfaff and I, sitting opposite each other at the little table, gave rememberance to them in a style they would have themselves fully confirm'd, namely, big, brimming, fill'd-up champagne-glasses, drain'd in abstracted silence, very leisurely, to the last drop."[pages:5:21]
During the Civil War, Appelton mentions that Arnold was stationed in Staten Island.[pages:96]
Winter notes that Arnold was a member of Clapp's circle at Pfaff's. He is described as "handsome, gay, breezy, good-natured,--one of the sweetest poets in our country who have sung the beauties of Nature and the tenderness of true love; and he never came [to Pfaff's] without bringing sunshine" (64).
In response to Howells' criticisms of the Bohemians and in a discussion of their writing, Winter states: "Revelry requires money: at the time Mr. Howells met those Bohemians, -- with the 'damp locks' and the 'frenzied eyes,' -- it is probably that the group did not possess enough money among them all to buy a quart bottle of champagne. Furthermore, they were writers of remarkable quality, and they were under the stringent necessity of working continually and very hard: and it seems pertinent to suggest that such a poem, for instance, as George Arnold's 'Old Pedagogue,' or Fitz-James O'Brien's Ode in commemoration of Kane, or Charles Dawson Shanly's 'Walker of the Snow,' is not to be produced from under the stimulation of alcohol. Literature is a matter of brains, not drugs. It would be equally just and sensible for American criticism to cherish American literature, and to cease from carping about the infirmities, whether actual or putative, of persons dead and gone, who can no longer defend themselves" (93).
Winter describes him as "the most entirely beloved member" of the Bohemian group. He continues that Arnold's "manly character, his careless good-humor, his blithe temperment, his personal beauty, and his winning manners made him attractive to everybody" (94).
Of Arnold's writing: "His numerous stories have not been collected, but his poems (gathered and published under my editorial care) survive, and their fluent, melodious blending of rueful mirth and tender feeling with lovely tints of natural description, -- constituting and irresistable charm, -- have commended them to a wide circle of readers" (94).
Winter reports that "one of the saddest days of my life was the day when we laid him in his grave, in Greenwood" (94).
Winter quotes Arnold for a description of Fitz-James O'Brien on p.99. Arnold was among the dinner party that O'Brien held at Delmonico's using $35.00 that he borrowed from Aldrich. Aldrich was not invited, but wrote to Winter about the event. Aldrich claims that Arnold, Clapp, and possibly Winter were in attendance with O'Brien (101).
Of the poets associated with the Bohemian period, Winter states that Arnold's name is one among a list of "names that shine, with more or less lustre, in the scroll of American poets, and recurrence to their period affords opportunity for correction of errors concerning it, which have been conspicuously made" (292).
Arnold was one of the few members of the Bohemian group that Winter claims Stedman was acquainted with. Arnold and Stedman met in childhood at "The Phalanx," at Strawberry Farms, New Jersey. Winter claims that among Stedman's poems there is "a tribute to the memory of that delightful comrade and charming poet" (293).
Arnold died at the age of thirty-one, in 1861. Winter published his poems with a memoir of Arnold. Winter reprints a letter that he received from Longfellow dated July 23, 1866, that discusses these poems on p.350.[pages:64,88,93,94, 94(ill.),99,101,292,293,350]
Wolfe writes of his conversation with Whitman in the chapter "A Day with the Good Gray Poet" that upon "[m]entioning George Arnold,--'Doubly dead because he died so young,'--we find that Whitman loved and mourned him tenderly" (210).[pages:210]
Whitman mentions that he was a leader at Pfaff's. Also associated with The Saturday Press.[pages:17, 18, 27, 37, 45, 65, 118, 126, 128, 160, 168, 186, 191, 201-204]
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015