Before trying his hand at writing, Charles F. Briggs spent several years working as a sailor on voyages to Europe and South America. He also spent a few years as a merchant in New York City. In 1839 he published The Adventures of Harry Franco: A Tale of the Great Panic, which was based upon his adventures as a sailor. Retaining the pseudonym Harry Franco, Briggs went on to publish The Haunted Merchant in 1843. In 1844 he created the Broadway Journal, for which Edgar Allan Poe first worked as a contributor. This working relationship seemed to link the two writers together in friendship. After his death, Briggs was described by R. H. Stoddard as one of Poe's "Bohemian friends" (Parry 3). This relationship with Edgar Allan Poe prompted the publishers of Encyclopedia Britannica to even request that he write a biographical sketch of the author. While running the Journal, Briggs accepted several of Poe's submissions and eventually made him an associate editor. Briggs ran the Journal for only one year before retiring in 1845. There is some uncertainty about the dates, but between 1844 and 1850 Briggs also published Working a Passage, or Life in a Liner and The Trippings of Tom Pepper; or, The Results of Romancing, an Autobiography. After Trippings, Briggs stopped writing fiction, largely due to the displeasure of his friends when they recognized themselves within the novel (H. Howland).
In 1853 Briggs became an editor at Putnam's Magazine, a feat not accomplished without the help of and “veteran Fourierists like Parke Godwin, George Washington Curtis [a fellow Pfaffian], and George Ripley” (Lause 68). He remained at Putnam’s for three years and returned to it again in 1866. During the ten year interim between his jobs at Putnam's Briggs worked as an editor at the New York Times under Henry J. Raymond. When Raymond traveled to Europe, Briggs was given temporary control of the newspaper. In 1870 he became financial editor of the Brooklyn Union. Three years later he briefly became editor in chief of the Union before moving on to the Independent where he worked "until a few hours before his death, which came suddenly at his home in Brooklyn" (H. Howland). In his lifetime Briggs' also held a position in the New York Customs House and was one of three men to sit on the first Board of Commissioners for Central Park. Briggs, it seems, “tried to elevate tastes in the city for years before joining the crowd at Pfaff's" (Lause 52). Perhaps not a constant figure around the tables in the beer cellar, Briggs was at least named by one source as a member of those who were described to rally at Pfaff's (A. Maurice 396).
He is mentioned as one of the "brightest and most popular humorous men of the day," known to rally around the book store of George W. Carleton. Derby notes that "the noonday hour frequently found most of them at Pfaff's celebrated German restuarant, in a Broadway basement, near Bleecker-street, the rendezvous at that day of the so-called Bohemians." Derby notes that his pen name was "Harry Franco" (239).
Parke Godwin and Briggs were the first co-editors of Putnam's Monthly Magazine in 1852 (312).
Briggs was also one of the "brilliant corps of assistant editors" hired by Henry J. Raymond of the Times in 1852, when the paper was able to double its size. Many of these editors were also the authors of books (354).[pages:239,312,354]
The "splenetic journalistic Fred" mentioned in the poem may be Charles Frederick Briggs.[pages:9]
Gunn describes an encounter with Briggs: "from Briggs, who tapped me on the shoulder one morning and complimented me on my(!) article in the Constellation. I believe he was trying the dodge in order to get confirmation, or information, as to the real writer, though he stuck to it that he supposed me the author. Shrewd man is Briggs, and an ugly."[pages:141]
Gunn describes Brigg's beast-like nature" "I had occasion to go up in that office on Saturday afternoon, having a portrait or sketch of John Leech to dispose of, with a bit of an article. Haney, Briggs and Smith were there. I had no sooner exhibited my drawing when the second exclaimed, like the insulting beast he is: 'I don't believe that is a portrait of Leech!' adding, more of the same sort in manner and speech. Its only his 'manner', says Haney. With a spice of thought about a certain Century editorial, too. I always felt that Briggs was a beast, tried to modify my opinion, and as usual, am confirmed in first impressions" (74-75).
A newspaper clipping containing a biographical sketch of Briggs (219).[pages:74-75, 219]
Gunn describes an encounter with Walt Whitman regarding Briggs: "Downtown, to 'Courier' Office. Walt Whitman came in, made a row about Briggs' attaching his (Whitman's) name to an article purchased of him, denounced Briggs as a trickster, a 'son of a b___h,' and talked about licking both him and Smith, finally modified his language, indeed withdrew it with respect to the latter" (97-98).
Gunn describes the personality and writings of Briggs: "That old rogue, Briggs. Briggs, Gayler and Rosenberg! a delightful triumvirate! Just the old story. From Addey's account, I could see how the first-named old fox had blarneyed him. 'He was delighted with the title!' said Addey. Now I heard Briggs' real sentiments on the matter; altogether condemnatory. He is as vulturous after a stray dollar or two as if he specially needed it; has sent his articles to 'Vanity Fair' and had them rejected, too. I don't believe in him as a humorist; he is on the fence in politics; like most of his class when past the age of forty, he don't believe in any good motive where a bad one can be attributed – and where can it not be? He's a non-committal, dough-face Republican, so one can conceive how brave his articles political will be. He goes in for office and other indirect bribery, don't believe in honesty and pluck, in short. Besides one regular, inevitable series of
papers of this sort I hold to be a mistake; he'll shirt his work – do it 'Courier' fashion. How greedy the old wolf is, too – has just assumed the 'editorship' of the 'Irving,' inaugurating it with a mean article against Thackeray, apropos of his noble tribute, in the 'Corn-hill' to Washington Irving. This is what Briggs loves to do, underhand depreciation of better men than himself. The man is an old hack literateur [sic] nothing better, my first instincts about him were right enough. He plays fast and loose with everybody. He is, forsooth, to take an arm-chair at the banquet, while we pick up the crumbs" (163-164).
This text identifies the following pseudonyms: Harry Franco (42), Tom Pepper (95).[pages:42, 95]
Listed here as "Harry Franco." In 1845, he was assisted by Poe at the Broadway Journal after Poe left the Evening Mirror. According to Hemstreet, "Briggs was the matter-of-fact 'Harry Franco,' a journalist with great ability who in another ten years was to edit Putnam's Magazine from 10 Park Place. More than one of Poe's friends said that the combination of Harry Franco and the poet must assuredly bring forth great literary results and financial success. But the partnership did not work at all well." Poe bought out Briggs through an arrangement with Horace Greeley and moved the paper's offices to Clinton Hall; the Broadway Journal under Poe was not as successful(159).
Briggs, as Harry Franco, is mention as being friendly with Charles Fenno Hoffman, who founded and ran the Knickerbocker magazine. During this time, he was also associated with William Cullen Bryant, Lewis Gaylord Clark, William L. Stone, the Duyckinck brothers, Frederick S. Cozzens, Park Benjamin, John L. Stephens, and others (174-5).[pages:159, 174-175]
Briggs was born on Nantucket to John and Sally Briggs. He had an early career as a sailor, but soon left that profession to become "engaged in mercantile pursuits in New York."
In 1839, he published the novel The Adventures of Harry Franco: A Tale of the Great Panic, which drew on experiences from his days as a sailor. "Harry Franco" would become a psuedonym used by Briggs in several later works. In 1843 he wrote The Haunted Merchant and in 1844 he founded the Broadway Journal.
In 1853, Briggs edited Putnam's Magazine with Parke Godwin and George William Curtis. He worked there for three years until the magazine stopped running, but was reinstated as an editor when it resumed ten years later. During the gap, Briggs worked as an editor at the New York Times and was put in charge of the paper when Henry J. Raymond when to Europe. Briggs also worked at the New York Custom House during this intirim. Briggs was made the financial editor of the Brooklyn Union in 1870, and worked there for three years before leaving to join the editorial staff of the Independent.
He wrote the "annual preface" for Trow's New York City Directory for twenty-four years. Briggs was also asked to write the sketch of Poe for the Encyclopedia Britannica because of their association, which he did under his psuedonym.
Briggs died a few hours after taking his job at the Independent. He died at home in Brooklyn and was survived by his wife and daughter.
Briggs, co-owner of the Broadway Journal with Edgar Allen Poe, is said to have written under the names "Henry Franco" and "Ferdinand Mendoza Pinto." (2).
Briggs later established Putnam's Magazine (68).[pages:52, 68]
He is described as one of the "others who rallied" at Pfaff's. His pen name is given as "Harry Franco."[pages:396]
A note announces that Mr. Briggs's "prominent feature" in the N.Y. Weekly Times is to be the "Literary Department" (2).[pages:2]
Decades after his death, Briggs and English were named by Stoddard as Poe's "Bohemian friends." According to Parry, this was "one of the first references, however indirect, to Poe as a Bohemian by any of his contemporaries" (3).[pages:3]
Appleton notes the body of Briggs' work as being humorous and dealing with life in New York.[pages:374, 375(ill.)]
Winter discusses a rumor orginated and published by Briggs/Harry Franco about O'Brien: "O'Brien was not the heir to a title, nor did he pretend to be. The clever, piquant, tart, and rather malicious writer, Charles F. Briggs, once prominent in New York journalism as 'Harry Franco,' originated and published the incorrect statement,--which was accepted by Aldrich and others,--that O'Brien was a relative of Smith O'Brien, at one time conspicuous as an Irish 'agitator,' and was an heir to the title borne by Smith O'Brien's brother, Lord Inchiquin. Fitz-James's father was a lawyer: his mother's maiden name was de Courcy" (102).
Winter notes that when he arrived in New York in 1859-'60, Briggs was publishing the "The Courier" using the pen name "Harry Franco." "The Courier," a weekly paper, was published on Spruce Street, the same street as "The Satruday Press." Winter also mentions that Augustin Daly got his start around this time writing for "The Courier" (137).
When discussing "The Literati" identified by Poe and the ties and animosties that existed among them, Winter mentions talking many times with "the tart, sprightly, satiric Charles F. Briggs" (296).
Winter mentions that Briggs has long since passed away and is buried at the old Moravian Cemetary on Staten Island (296).[pages:102,137,296]
Charles Frederick Briggs.
SOURCE: Wilson, James Grant and John Fiske. Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume I. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1888.
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015